Let us pray: Dear Savior, for us to really appreciate and grasp the beauty and blessings of life we need surrender our all to You, the Lord and Creator of life. Today, teach us to do exactly that! Teach us to give our hearts, souls, bodies and minds to You, trusting in Your goodness and guidance. And then we will truly reap eternal blessings and earthly joy! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE DEFINITION OF SACRIFICE
TEXT: Romans 12: 1-8
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
I don’t like the celebrity-driven culture we are living in. I don’t like the envy it breeds. I don’t like the unrealistic expectations of life it spawns. I don’t like how it gives kids the mindset that unless their parents have at least one vacation home, a boat, and a high-priced new car in the garage—those parents are losers not to be listened to or followed. When was the last time you watched a program about real people, and no, reality TV is fake!? When was the last time you viewed a special on people getting up each day and going off to work without complaint, paying the bills on time, being ethical and having high standards in their lives? When was the last time hard work, thrift, and being neighborly was celebrated? I rest my case.
We all need to put aside the media-created world of the unreal and get back to reality. If we do, the silly decadence, the sad drug/alcohol abuse haze of unsatisfied lives, and the lethargy gripping our nation will recede. Yes, turn back to God, Who created life itself, and you’ll learn about:
REAL PEOPLE, REAL WORSHIP, AND REAL BLESSINGS
St. Paul begins today by reminding us that we live under God’s grace. That is, we live enveloped by His love and mercy given us in Christ. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
When America was founded, generally speaking, people looked up to Christians. If you go back and read, as I have, the literature of the time, you’ll see that Christians were held in high esteem. Pastors were usually considered the leading citizens of most New England towns. People wanted to emulate their Christian neighbors. Why? Because they were real people. Real people know that life is tough. Real people know that hard work is rewarded in life. Real people understand that you don’t get something for nothing. Real people realize that life isn’t about the size of your bank account, but the strength of your character. And Christians epitomized such real people because they knew they were answerable to God Almighty for what they thought, said, and did. These real people Christians weren’t showy, flashy, or unduly envious of others. No, they quietly went about the business of life steeped in the knowledge that God would bless them and make everything right in the end. They trusted in God, Who had saved their souls in and through Jesus Christ. They believed in the bodily resurrection from the dead and thus, the best was yet to come. They didn’t have to prove their value to themselves through hype, for they knew that in Christ they were eternally valuable to God. And contrary to popular opinion, such real people still exist today. Thank God for it! In fact, I’m looking at them, at you, sitting in the pews today.
Real people know who they are. And they know why God gave them life.—To worship Him. And so, they seek to engage in real worship. And what is real worship? Is it the smorgasbord of: “all beliefs are the same, so go ahead and pick and choose from the Bible depending on your personal preference” served by many churches today? Is it about shifting values, pop music to appear more “hip”, and hearing sermons about how to become wealthy by following some six-step program loosely based on clichés? How many churches today teach that true worship is about honoring God first and foremost because He has honored us in Christ? How many expect self-sacrifice and repentance? Listen to how Paul describes real worship: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will…Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” And then he goes on to remind us that Christians belong to each other, we are one body in Christ, and should therefore treat each other with respect and appreciation for to do otherwise is to denigrate and disrespect ourselves, others, and most of all: God.
Those words are jarring to the modern ear. First, they tell us that real worship is not merely a “thing” we do, but an entire lifestyle. Second, they tell us that real worship is about fleeing from media hype, celebrity status, the idea that financial wealth makes the man, and that what we currently own defines us. Real worship is about embracing humility, self-sacrifice, and celebrating the fact that it is a good thing to be “other-worldly.” It is about shunning the attitude expressed on various bumper stickers that say: “The One Who Dies With the Most Toys Wins.” Real worship is about being bigger than your carbon footprint because by God’s grace you can and will have an impact on human life far beyond your three-score and ten.
I say all this because Real Worship leads to real blessings, blessings which impact lives right now and which last into eternity. Again, listen to Paul: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously, if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
Most people live in a world of disconnects. We act one way at church and another way at home. We adopt a certain persona in the workplace and another one around those we love. We speak one way to our kids and use other words, often bad ones, around other adults. We go to church and sing praises to God and then go home and act just as ruthlessly as the non-believer down the street. But, God didn’t create us to live disconnected lives. He wants all His children to reap His blessings all the time, 24-7. Otherwise, personal conflict and unhappiness will be our lot in life.
So, recognize the specific gifts God has given you and use them all the time! Some of Christians are blest with the gift of proclaiming Godly truth, or prophesying. Some are great at using their big hearts to assist others in need. Some are wonderful teachers of time-tested values and Godly morals. Some are very good at building up others via encouragement. Some have the ability to use worldly wealth to contribute to those who have genuine needs. Some are wise leaders. And still others are especially good at extending a consoling heart to those who have had theirs broken by sin.
In every case, when we apply our spiritual gifts out of cheerfulness and appreciation for Christ’s giving them to us in the first place, real blessings will flow! Real worship will occur! And real people will be revealed!
One last thought. Popular opinion says that Christians live in their own unreal world. It says that we’re “pie-in-the-sky” idealists. But it is dead wrong! We are the most real people on this planet! We know evil exists, we know we’re tainted by it, we know our unhappiness results from it, and we know that God has overcome it for us by sending Christ to suffer our evil and rise above it. We also know that if we live for Him first and use His gifts daily to touch others, our lives will be filled with meaning and purpose that will last an eternity. Yes, our reality is that we’re living tools in the hands of the living Master Builder. Who can ask for anything better? Amen