Presenting Your Body in Worship to Make the Beauty of Jesus Visible in the World
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Sunday, December 21, 2008 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1232
Pastor Don Horban

Romans 12:1-2 - ďI appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Ē

There have been three previous teachings in this series covering three foundational truths. First, we saw that renewed minds come from somewhere not from nowhere. The word ďthereforeĒ links up the practical instruction of chapters 12 through 16 with the doctrinal teaching of chapters 1 through 11. This is Paulís way (and the Holy Spiritís way) of reminding us that if the church ignores doctrinal instruction and relies on self-help and therapeutic instruction she will miss the roots and source of her future life and strength.

Second, we saw that the nature of spiritual renewal and transformation canít just be external and mechanical, but must be internal and organic. Renewed spiritual life canít be attached from the outside, like the ornaments on a Christmas tree. It must grow from the inside out, like tomatoes on the vine. This is so important. Spiritual life canít just be copied from Paul, or Jesus, or anybody else. Do you remember how we talked about the need for a comprehensive change on the inside of the heart? The Christian life canít be adapted as the answer to some specific problem in life. It is like the flu. Once you have it you have it in every part of your being.

And finally, the renewed spiritual life is fueled by the mercies of God - ďI appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God....(12:1). Apart from the mercies of God we are driven by nothing more than duty and obligation in our Christian walk. Itís grasping and savoring and contemplating the mercies of God that makes godliness a delight rather than a chore. Do you remember the account of the wicked woman and the Pharisee with Jesus? Recall how the Pharisee didnít do any of the things for Jesus that the wicked woman did. Then Jesus explains why. This woman had a sense of how vast and blessed was the grace of Jesus. The Pharisee was driven by his religious duties. The wicked womanís devotion flowed out of a burning awareness of divine mercy. ďI urge the mercies of God to present your bodies....Ē

Thatís where we are in our study of this rich passage. Today we pick up the next idea. Paul says, in view of Godís mercies, we are to do something very specific. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Why and how are the topics of this teaching:

1) BIBLICAL TRUTH ISNíT UNDERSTOOD AND DEVOTION TO CHRIST ISNíT REAL UNTIL THE ACTIONS OF THE BODY ARE TRANSFORMED - True enough, the root of transformation is a renewed mind, and the motive of transformation is the mercies of God, but the effect of all this is fleshed out in the actions of the physical body - ďI appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice....Ē(12:1). It is in the offering of the physical body to the Lord in sacrifice and service that one moves from pretend Christianity to authentic Christianity.

Paul picks an image that, while almost totally removed from our senses, would be very potent and meaningful to these Christians at Rome, both Jews and Gentiles. Everyone had seen people coming to the priest to offer their worship to God. They brought animals when they came. The priest did something that would be against the law in North American society today. Animal rightís people would be up in arms. The priest would take that perfect, usually young, innocent animal and wring its neck and slit its throat. Blood would flow all over the sacrifice. The priest, on behalf of the one approaching God, would offer the sacrifice of the body of this animal. The priest presented the body of the animal as a sacrifice. Of course, those sacrifices pictured something that was fulfilled in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the cross. All of those animal sacrifices were offered as a covering and atonement for sin and were given their meaning and substance through the Lamb of God, sacrificed to take away the sin of the world.

So when Paul talks about offering our bodies today as living sacrifices he doesnít mean we can, in any way, earn the favor of God through anything we do. We donít offer ourselves in that sense. But there were other kinds of sacrifice offered in the Old Testament as well. There were sacrifices offered in thanks for the mercies of God received, sacrifices that celebrated harvest and deliverance and mercy.
These are the sacrifices Paul is thinking of. We offer our bodies as sacrifices because of mercies already accomplished and received through Christ Jesus - ďI appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice....Ē(12:1).

We talk so much about being forgiven. We talk so much - and rightly so - about the ďamazing graceĒ of God in Christ toward us. We look back in fondness on that day or moment when we were ďsaved,Ē or when ďJesus came into our heart.Ē And Paul wants to press a little beyond that. He writes to these people - these Christians - at Rome and says, ďWell and good. Youíre saved. I want to urge you to test those claims. Has this all reached your physical bodies? See those people coming to the temple to worship? Do you see the animals going in with them but not coming out? Thatís how much your body belongs to me.Ē

True, weíre not laying down our lives in the sense of experiencing physical death. But we must, considering all the mercies of God received in Christ Jesus, come to an end of life lived for ourselves, on our own terms. I know youíve given your heart to Jesus. Now the rest of your body must come along with it.

2) WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF HAVING A PHYSICAL BODY? - God created many other creatures without them. Angels are real beings - actual entities - but without physical bodies. God Himself is a spiritual being, not possessing a physical body. He could have made you and me in any fashion He chose, but He gave us physical, material bodies. Why?

We - you and I - as physical, personal beings - beings made in the image of God - have the greatest capacity to glorify God for His mercy in Jesus Christ. Angels canít because they have never experienced redemption. The rest of the physical creation canít because, not sharing Godís image, it canít possibly relate to God as we persons can. So we have the most stunning opportunity to glorify God with physical bodies for the greatness of His mercy in Christ Jesus.

Do you get it? We are Godís first choice to advertize His greatness. We are Godís first choice to advertize His boundless grace and mercy. God gave you a body to use as an instrument to visibly - externally - magnify and demonstrate how great He is and how worthy of devotion and service and sacrifice He is. Only we can, with the outward acts of our bodies, show how praiseworthy and prizeworthy our God is.

None of this is accomplished with merely an inward forgiveness. None of this is accomplished merely by agreeing with certain doctrinal truths. You were redeemed, and God desires to transform your life continually, in order to manifest His greatness through the choices and actions of the body youíve placed at His disposal - not because you had to but because you were delighted to in view of His marvelous mercies. Through the actions of your body people can see how lovable and desirable God is.

What does all this talk about sacrifice and history and why we have physical bodies really have to do with daily life? In other words, what difference does it make if we forget why God created us with physical bodies? What difference does it make that God created us with physical bodies in order to manifest His mercy and beauty though them? I think you can see the difference it makes - more and more as you watch the news and read the papers. What difference does it make when young men and women come to believe that their bodies exist to look good to the opposite sex rather than display Godís redeeming, Christ-exalting mercy? What happens is you end up with a world crowded with eating disorders and plastic surgeons because young women especially have fallen for the lie that they were made with bodies for the cover of Glamour magazine rather than being vehicles of Godís mercy. You end up with a world full of mixed up, pathetic people who work more on their abs than their souls.


Perhaps now weíve framed an idea with enough theological background to make it crisp and clear. We can start to see why, throughout the Scriptures, as the people of God worship Him, they are called to specifically involve their physical bodies - raised hands, lifted heads, bended knees, voices lifted in audible praise. None of these is reserved as the worship territory of Pentecostals as opposed to Baptists. This is how all Godís people are to come and approach God.

Why? Because worship, at its heart, teaches us about our relationship to God in our physical bodies. Itís the focal point of how we meet God. And everything in the Bible tells me that my relationship with God doesnít just limit itself to my mind or my heart. He calls for the offering of my body.

But Iím prone to not want to do this. I want to honor God devotionally more than I want to eat and play and date and talk and work in honor of Him. So God has a plan. Every time He calls me specifically to deal with Him He makes it more physical than Iím comfortable with. When Iím baptized I get wet. When I remember Christís death I actually eat and drink.

So weíre called to worship in ways that reinforce physicality - the offering of our bodies. Of course people can lift their hands in church and not honor God on the way home. And thatís a very common criticism against visible forms of worship. But it really misses the point. Rather than be upset about hypocrites who demonstrate a pattern of worship they donít live out, Iíll make sure, as much as I possibly can, that Iíll present my body in the sanctuary in preparation for the offering Iíll make all week long. God can worry about the hypocrites. Iíll offer my whole life - body and all - to His transforming power and grace.