Sunday, May 26, 2013

Do You Really Love Him?

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [which is] your reasonable service.       Romans 12:1  NKJV

I listened this week to an interview with a well known pastor which entailed many questions surrounding the state of the church in America today.  Some of his answers as to the causes for why the church is in the state it is in had to do specifically with how many young people under the age of thirty, who consider themselves to be Christians, seem to have adopted many of the moral standards of the world we live in rather than living according to God’s standards. I was amazed at some of the figures he shared that were the result of surveys which showed just how many of these young people are totally ignoring God’s commandments on morality and sexual purity.

As I listened to what he had to say, my thoughts went immediately to this passage from the book of Romans, mostly because it is one of the first I ever memorized as a child, but also because it certainly has a lot to say about what our love for God is supposed to look like. Three things came to mind as I read this verse and I want to share them with you today in the hope that you will better understand what God wants from us, and what our relationship with Him should be like.

The first thing I thought of was the word "present". Now obviously in this context it is used to mean "to give", as in give away, but I also thought of the idea of our bodies being a present as in a "gift" which we give to someone else. It seems to me that Paul is saying that we should give our bodies to God as a living gift for Him to use as He sees fit. I'm sure all of us have received a gift for one reason or another, and so are familiar with the feeling of joy that is produced when given something of value. So why do we "give" a gift of value to someone else? First we do it because we care about that person, and second because we want to see the joy it produces when received. Why do we care enough to give a gift to God? Well, one of the first things I was taught about studying the Bible was when you see the word "therefore", you look at the verses that come before to see what it's "there for".

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable [are] His judgments and His ways past finding out!  "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?" "Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?" For of Him and through Him and to Him [are] all things, to whom [be] glory forever. Amen.                                                                                           Romans 11:33-36  NKJV                  

You see, it's because of His riches and all that He has done for us that we want to give something back of value to Him. Paul tells us that our bodies, as a "living sacrifice", is the thing that God will find most "pleasing" so we give it as a gift knowing that God will never "take" it but rather patiently waits for us to give it.

The second thought that came to mind was that when you give a gift to someone, you release ownership of it. It no longer belongs to you, but to the person you gave it too. Now of course, some have tried that and we know there is a term for people who give things away and then try to take them back, but the whole idea here is to give away without wanting back. That's what makes it a sacrifice. Yet if our bodies are to be a "living sacrifice", the question must be asked just how often do we take it back in order to do what we want rather than what God wants? If we truly give our bodies to God, we should never want them back, but completely surrender our desires to Him and allow Him to use us as He will. As much as I wish I could say I have never taken my body back I can't, and I expect there are a lot of you who have to join me in saying that.

 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.  Matthew 20:28  NKJV

Have you ever had the thought of what our relationship with God would be like if He could take back His sacrifice for us any time He wanted?  We would be walking around constantly looking over our shoulder in fear that we would do something that would cause Him to stop loving us.  Fortunately for us, God has promised us that He will never do that, and His love for us and the sacrifice He made by giving His own Son to die for our sins is eternal.  Have you ever worried about if someone really loved you or not?  Have you ever been hurt when someone you thought loved you did something to cause you pain?  How then does God feel when we promise to give Him our lives and then constantly hurt Him by ignoring His commandments and doing what we want based on our own desires and not His?

Our thoughts should always be, if we truly love Him, to do whatever will please Him in any situation and to always seek His will and follow His commandments.  As Paul has said here in this passage, giving your life to Him as a “living sacrifice” is our “reasonable service”.

The third thought that came to me is that our "present" to God must be "acceptable". Now that scares me on the surface because I know there is no way I could make my body in any way "acceptable" to God so that He would be pleased with it. But if you read on you find that Paul isn't telling us that "we" do the cleaning to make our lives "acceptable".

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.                                                                                   Romans 12:2  NKJV

The point Paul is trying to make here is that God does the work for us when we allow Him to transform our minds, which then results in us becoming acceptable. But we have to make the choice to allow our minds to be transformed. How do we do that? Well, this verse seems to make it clear that it is really a question of black and white. Either we are concerned with the things of this world, or doing the will of God. There doesn't really seem to be any middle ground here. Paul says it's one or the other. Most of us would agree that the spirit of this age is obviously the advancement of self. It's all about what we have, what we can get, what makes me happy, what's in it for me?, etc. What Paul is telling us is that we need to be transformed so that our thoughts are about what God wants, what will glorify Him, what does He want me to do? Just the opposite of what the world says we are to be concerned with.

 I want to share with you some words from Ray Stedman on this passage, and what he feels God is telling us when He says “do not be conformed”.

 First, "Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world." Literally, this means "the schemes of this world," the schemes that men come up with, by which they regulate and run their lives. The word of the Lord is, "Stop being conformed to that." "Oh," you say, "I know what that means. I know exactly what you are talking about. That means you should not smoke or drink or play cards or, if you are really, really spiritual, you sell your television set and never drink coffee or tea again." You say that is being spiritual and not being conformed to the world.
There are a lot of Christians who have thought that. I grew up thinking that if you stopped all these things that the world does you were being spiritual. And there was always a particular list of forbidden activities. A lot of other things the world did were not on the list, but the things mentioned above were always on it. And if you stopped doing those things you were not being conformed to the world. I had to learn, through rather painful experience, that has nothing do with spirituality at all. Those things are neither good nor bad in themselves.
I know people who have given up all of them, and yet they are still saturated by the spirit of the age. That is what this word really means. It doesn't mean "be not conformed to this world," it means "be not conformed to the pattern of this age, the spirit of the age, the philosophy of thought and of life that surrounds us on every side." God says, "Don't give way to the schemes of men, the schemes by which they live their lives."
The spirit of the age, you see, is always the same. It never changes from generation to generation. The basis of it is clearly the advancement of self. Everybody in the world lives to advance himself. Just listen, and you will see how true that is. You hear them talk about it. "What do I get out of this? What is in it for me?" That is the spirit of the age. "What's my angle; how can I work this for my benefit? Unless there is something in it for me, I'm not interested!" That is the spirit of the age.
What the Word is saying to us is "Don't be stuck in that kind of thinking, because that is what is wrecking life among men. That is what brings the heartache and ruin and disaster into our lives. Don't live on that basis anymore. Don't get sucked into that kind of thinking; it's wrong! It is an approach to life that is twisted and distorted, and it won't work. Don't be trapped by it."
What is the spirit of this age? We all know what it is. It is my personal happiness. If the advancement of self is the basis for all life, then the goal of all life is my happiness. You hear that on every side. Unfortunately, it has infiltrated the church as well. Christians talk this way just as much as anybody else. They say, "The reason why I am working and living is so I can have my needs met, my desires fulfilled."

Have you truly sacrificed yourself? Are you so thankful for the mercy God has shown to you that you want to give Him the gift of your body? Do you love Him enough that you won't try to take it back, and instead allow Him to use you as He will? Have you allowed Him to transform your mind so you think only of what He wants, rather than what you want? God says our bodies can be a pleasing gift to Him, and one that He will be happy to receive if we truly are willing to be transformed.

Have you sacrificed your body to Him?

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