September 13, 2020: 15th Sunday of Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we start a new year at church with a full schedule after a virus-driven hiatus.  Thus, we offer ourselves anew to You so that can more fully grow in Your grace, wisdom, and truth.  Keep us safe as we do so.  And move us to once more relearn what offering ourselves to You as living sacrifices really means.  Amen


TEXT:  Romans 12: 1-8

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

          The first sacrifice recorded in the Bible wasn’t that of Cain and Abel.  Think about it.  A sacrifice is something you do or offer to another when you don’t have to.  It’s an expression of love.  With that in mind, the first sacrifice occurred in Genesis 3 after the Fall into sin and God’s judgment upon Adam and Eve.  We’re told that: “He took animal skins and sewed garments for them to wear.”  He didn’t have to.  He wasn’t offended by their nudity.  But He knew they were now ashamed of their naked state and with clothing tried to help alleviate it. 

          In Genesis 4 we’re told of their sons, Cain and Abel, offering sacrifices to God.  Cain offered animals from his flocks.  Abel offered the first-fruits of his harvest.  We’re also told that Cain’s offering was displeasing to God because His heart wasn’t in it, while Abel’s was pleasing because his heart was in the right place—centered on God. 

          Then comes the rest of the OT and the countless sacrifices or offerings given to God and proscribed by Him—all which prefigured God’s ultimate offering to us: His Son, Jesus Christ our Savior of pure Love and complete mercy.


          Now, after spending 11 chapters in Romans laying out for us everything Jesus has done to save our souls, Paul says this: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual 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.”

          Once a human-designed sacrifice is done, it is gone.  It is dead.  It is completed.  But since we’ve been reborn from sin and made alive through Christ by faith, God desires us to be living sacrifices.  That’s why He redeemed our body, soul, and spirit.  He has given His best to and for us and now expects us to give loving sacrifices to Him that are animated and alive—Just as Jesus is! This is the meaning of Christian service. 

          I remember entering fresh vegetables for judging at the county fair.  You needed 3 alike specimens.  I remember walking the garden plot, picking them, placing them side-by-side and trying to get them to mirror the images in the seed catalogues.  You never picked your worst to enter the fair.  You picked your best.  Likewise, you never make a fabulous meal and then give your guests 3 day leftovers, keeping the fresh meal for yourself. 

          When people think about “giving to God” they usually turn to money.  That’s important as it helps show what’s in their hearts.  But I submit that in our modern world, there are other vital offerings, too.  We all have unique Godly talents.  We all are given a time of grace.  So, when it comes to your time and schedule, does God get first dibs at it?  Or, does He get leftovers!  Rally Day and the Sundays following it are a time provided to give Him the first-fruits of you time, your energy, and your focus. That’s what being a “living sacrifice” means. 


          Now, Paul provides some practical application on how this is accomplished.  “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: 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.  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  In other words, we give ourselves to God, the Head of the Church.  In the process, we also give ourselves to each other in loving sacrifice.

          “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying (giving and  applying God’s wisdom and insight), let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving (helping his or her believers with their time and talents around the church and the home), let him serve.  If it is teaching (having the knack of training others in Godly manners), 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.”

          That’s quite a list of what being a “living sacrifice” means, isn’t it?  But, I’ll conclude by pointing it one thing:  In the Greek language, when it comes to lists, the first and last items listed are the most prominent.  The first (prophesying) we can totally get.  But note the final one: showing mercy.  Mercy is forgiving love in action.  It is exactly what Christ has done to save us on the cross.  He died so that we might live and become living sacrifices!  And also, like Christ, we should do this cheerfully, willingly, and make and take the time to let His mercy flow through us from our hearts into another’s life.  Mercy is the ultimate result of God’s prophesying.  This takes energy on our part.  And it also takes time.  Sometimes a lot of time, in that it needs constant reinforcement.  But then, God is constantly patient with us, isn’t He? 

          What a glorious text to kick-off Rally Day!  Take Paul’s words to heart and run away from being a dead sacrifice to a living one by God’s grace and power!  Amen THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

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