On March 26th, I preached a sermon titled, “Where are All the Dinosaurs?” In that sermon, I tried to summarize the first six chapters of Genesis to show you how things went from bad to worse the moment Adam and Eve sinned and rebelled against God in the Garden when they ate the fruit God told them not to eat because of their belief and desire that if they did so, they would be like God (see Gen. 3:1-13). The Apostle Paul wrote of Adam and Eve’s sin: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come”(Romans 5:12–14).
Over time, God increasingly revealed how he would fix the problem of the human heart. In Isaiah 44:3, God promised his people: “I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” In Ezekiel 36:26-27 we are told how the pouring of God’s Spirit would affect his people: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezek. 36:26-27). God would fulfill his promise to fix the sin problem of His people by giving them His Spirit to enable them to love God and obey his commandments. This promise is known as the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was the Law given to the Hebrew people through Moses, but the New Covenant would be given to both Jews and Gentiles through someone greater than Moses, namely Jesus Christ (see Deut. 18:15; Heb. 31-7).
For this reason, Jesus was born and lived a sin-free life, died for our sin-cursed selves, and then rose from the grave (1 Cor. 15:3). Jesus said that the reason he had come into the world, was to, “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and to, “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). Before he willingly subjected himself to be crucified for our sins, he promised:
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:15–20)
After Jesus died and then rose from the grave, he told his disciples what would happen when they received the Helper he had promised: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Act. 1:8). What kind of power? The kind of power that enables a person to love God, keep his commandments, follow Jesus, and engage God’s mission to redeem the nations.
How Does the Holy Spirit Help?
The moment you believe in Jesus Christ, you are baptized by the Holy Spirit. This is not a mystical event where you feel something strange, but it is a supernatural event where upon your belief in Jesus you experience the promise of the New Covenant where your heart is made to be able to love and obey God; this is also known as the circumcision of the heart. The supernatural phenomenon that happens with the baptism of the Holy Spirit is that you are now able to respond to God in love and faith in a way you were unable to previously.
The moment you believe in Jesus and then receive the Holy Spirit as the promised Helper, he then begins a work in your life known as regeneration. If you are a Christian, what has happened to you is that you are now a new creation that is experiencing a transformation of life, resulting in living out a practical righteousness coupled with a desire to be holy as God is holy (2 Cor. 4:16-18; 5:16-17; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 13-16). The Holy Spirit empowers you to live a life that with each passing day, will be more reflective of his character.
What I am about to say, I say often, and do not believe that I can say it enough: If you are a Christian, you were baptized (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:1-10), indwelt (John 14:16-17; 1 Cor. 3:16), and sealed (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13-14) by the Holy Spirit. All of the Holy Spirit that you will ever need already indwells you. When it comes to living a life that is holy, pleasing, and victoriously reflective of God’s power over the patterns of your life, it has more to do with the Holy Spirit getting more of you. One of the other ways the Holy Spirit is empowering you is gifting you with at least one supernatural gift from a list of spiritual gifts listed for us in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and Romans 12:3-8 that is given to each Christian for the purpose of engaging God’s mission to redeem the nations through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19-20).
Now, with that being said, we can now turn our attention to Romans 12:1-8.
You Were Saved to Live Worshipfully (Rom. 12:1-2)
There is an important principle you must remember when reading and studying your Bible, and that principle is that you must consider the context of any verse, paragraph, or chapter you read in the Bible. There are certain words that clue you in to your need to consider what is about to be said in light of what has been said, and one of those words is “therefore.” We encounter that word in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…”. The way the NIV translates this verse is helpful: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy…”
Romans 12 marks the beginning of his application for the Christian in light of all that he had written in chapters 1-11. It is because of the great mercy of God that you have been saved from his wrath over your sin because of his great love for you. Even though you were unrighteous, Jesus died for your sins to provide you with his righteousness (Romans 3). When you were an enemy of God, he loved you anyway and sent his Son to die for the purpose of reconciling you to himself (Ch. 5-6). When you were far off, God called you, predestined you, justified you, will one day glorify you, and will keep you and will never disown you (Ch. 8-9). You who were not considered the people of God are now the people of God; you who were once not beloved by God, are now loved by him; you who were once a child of his wrath, are now sons and daughters of the living God (Ch. 10-11). In celebration of those realities that only the Christian experienced and continues to experience, Paul concludes Romans 11 with these words: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33–36).
In light of everything Paul wrote in Romans 1-11 that is true of the Christian today, we are to live differently because we are no longer dead but alive to Christ. So, in light of the mercy you have experienced by the God who had every right to pour out his wrath upon you, Paul wrote: “present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God” (12:1). Worship, since the beginning, involved a sacrifice that was not based on paying God back for his grace and mercy, but instead served three primary purposes:
- A sin offering. There was a shedding of blood of an animal that was a sacrifice for the atonement of one’s sins, which ultimately pointed to the sacrifice Jesus would make in our place upon a cross (see Lev. 4; Heb. 9:22).
- A Thank offering. There was also the type of sacrifice that acknowledged the goodness of God in one’s life, which is known in the Old Testament as a Thank Offering. The Thank Offering could come in all forms, shapes, and sizes (see Psalm 107:21-22).
- The Tithe offering. The third type of sacrifice given in the Old Testament was the tithe offering which served as a way to acknowledge that all a person had was provided by God. Giving back a portion or “tithe” was and continues to be a way of acknowledging the goodness of God (see Mal. 3:8-10).
To present your body as a living sacrifice is to present yourself to God both as a thank offering and a tithe offering as a way of acknowledging his goodness to you and what really belongs to him in the first place. Where are we to present our bodies as a living sacrifice? On the altar of his will for your life. What is his will for your life? Paul tells us in verse 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.”
So Christian, how do you discern God’s will for your life? For starters, it begins with the “renewal of your mind…”. We discover what God’s will is for our lives first through his Word, which is the Bible. This is what Paul prayed for in his letter to the church in Colossae: “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…” (Colossians 1:9–10). God’s will for your life is sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3), and the way you pursue it is to listen to his word, know his word, and then obey his word. Anything that you are doing or participating in that God’s word prohibits is not his will for your life! R. C. Sproul offered great wisdom on the will of God in light of Romans 12,
It doesn’t matter what your job is or whom we marry or what city we live in. If we are not growing in sanctification, seeking God’s will about such things is worthless. God’s will for each of us is that we grow into spiritual maturity, that our lives become more fully set apart and consecrated by the Holy Spirit, and that our minds are changed. After that we will be able to tell what is pleasing to God. Then we will be able to know what He wants us to do—that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
You Were Saved to Live Sacrificially (Rom. 12:3-8)
As you seek the will of God for your life what you will discover is that his will for your life is not only to be changed by the agency of his holy Word and the power of his Holy Spirit, but to use you to accomplish his will among his people who are called to engage his mission in the world. Timothy Savage, in his book on what it means to be the Church, wrote: “God strategically distributes the gifts among his people, ensuring that local churches are vested with the resources necessary to thrive for his glory; he arranges ‘the members of the body, each one of them, just as he desires’ (1 Cor. 12:18).”
In Romans 12:3-8 Paul lists seven of thirteen spiritual gifts given to the Church. Before he provides us with his list, he writes: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function…” (Romans 12:3–4). In other words, we collectively make up his Church and we each have an important part to play in our service within the local church. So, how is it that I present myself as a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God? The answer is in verses 3-8.
Paul was playing his part in the Church by giving the Christians in Rome an apostle teaching these Christians what it meant to be a Christian. The Holy Spirit gifted Paul in this way not so that he could fill his own head with knowledge, but to give his gift away as an apostle out of love for his brothers and sisters for their good and God’s glory. He also reminds these Christians that not everyone has been gifted to do what he was called to do: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, through many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (vv. 4-5). So, what are the spiritual gifts listed for us in Romans 12?
Prophesy: The supernatural gifting to speak forth God’s message to his people to aid them in understanding what his will is for their lives.
Service: The supernatural gifting to identify those things that need to be done however menial such things appear and to use whatever resources needed to accomplish such needs.
Teaching: The supernatural gifting to instruct others in the Bible in logical, systematic, and inductive ways to effectively communicate God’s word clearly to grow understanding for the spiritual life and health of God’s people.
Exhortation: The supernatural gifting to come along someone to encourage, comfort, console, and counsel them with the word of God to help them grow in their relationship with God.
Giving: The supernatural gifting to share material resources God has blessed you with for the good of others and the glory of God.
Leadership: The supernatural gifting of leadership to give direction for certain tasks to the body of Christ with diligence and courage and the ability to motivate others to get involved in the accomplishment of those tasks.
Mercy: The supernatural gifting of sensitivity towards the physically, emotionally, and spiritually hurting and needy. This person is gifted in his/her ability to care with words of compassion and tangible acts to alleviate their suffering.
The list we receive in 1 Corinthians 12:1-30 includes the gifts of administration, discernment, faith, knowledge, helps, tongues, and the ability to interpret the gift of tongues. I do not have the time here to elaborate on the gifts listed for us in 1 Corinthians 12, but we do spend two hours unpacking what each of these gifts are and how they are used in the Meadowbrooke Partnership Pathway course that we offer, and will be offering again soon.
The point is that each of you were gifted with at least one of these gifts for the purpose of giving them away as part of a local body of believers called the church. Using the gift(s) that God gifted you through the Holy Spirit is not only part of how you present you body as a living sacrifice, but giving your gift(s) and talent(s) away as part of the local church is how you do Romans 12:9-13, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (Romans 12:9–13).
For those of you wondering how to discover your spiritual gift(s): the best way to learn how God has gifted you is within the fellowship of other Christians in the context of a local church as you prayerfully look for ways to love and serve your brothers and sisters as you engage the mission God has called Meadowbrooke into here in Cheyenne.
The best way to decern God’s will for your life is by listening to his Word, so that it shapes your thinking, and the only way to present yourself as a living sacrifice is through actively giving away what God has gifted you, such as the life, talents, and spiritual gifts he has given to you. My mentor and spiritual father in the faith said to me once that the best way to decern the will of God is like steering a car, the steering wheel turns easiest when the car is moving forward. If you want to discover what God’s will for your life is, you will not be able to decern it clearly if you are not listening to him as you actively engage what he is doing in the world through his Church. This is why the author of Hebrews wrote something that sounds strangely similar to what Paul wrote in Romans 12, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:23–25).
Each and every Christian in this room has been given a spiritual gift through the Holy Spirit along with a host of talents and abilities to be used to encourage and equip his people to accomplish his kingdom purposes in the world. You present yourself as a living sacrifice when you actively give yourself away for the glory of God and the good of his people.
 R. C. Sproul. Romans: An Expositional Commentary (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing; 2019), p. 377.
 Timothy Savage, The Church: God’s New People (Wheaton, IL: Crossway; 2011), pp. 16-7.