Intro: This is a continuation of last Sunday’s message in relation to the sacrifice Jesus gave for you and me. Jesus laid down His life that we sinners might live and have eternal life, the righteous for the unrighteous by reconciling us to God. What should those who have received this most precious gift of eternal life give to God to express their debt of gratitude? I believe God does not expect us to give up our lives to die for that would be a dead sacrifice or give up all our possessions though it may be a sacrifice but it is not a living sacrifice. Possessions like money, has no life except when we give to obey in tithing and as directed by the Lord and when we do sacrifice the sacrifice ought to be given out of our love for God. Here’s the sacrifice that does not please God. “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:3
There are many who died as martyrs for different reasons, like dying for their country in protest. Gandhi went on hunger strike and some Buddhist monks burned themselves to protest their cause but have no love relationship with Christ. What did they gain? Nothing. They are heroes to those who benefited from their death but what they gave was a dead sacrifice. What then is this living sacrifice that pleases God? Let me quote again the passage where we will pick up for our message today. “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.” Rom. 12:1
I found no appropriate title of this message except the closing song we sang.
“Living for Jesus”
“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Cor. 5:11-15
Before I became a Christian, I confess to you that all I lived for was what was good for me. This is what we call a self-centered life. I was independent minded and did everything my way unless I had no choice, like studying while I was in school and doing my job so that I don’t get fired. And most of all, it was all geared to pursuing my happiness and living for my pleasure. In short my life was all about me. Of course when I had my family I added that to my purpose to care and be responsible to meet their needs. In all aspects of my life I had control. Giving up control is one of the hardest especially when it came to marital relationship. We can give in and even consider that a sacrifice but in the end it was done just to have peace. Of course this changed after I got saved.
The context of our text is what drove Paul to give up his life totally to live for Christ in His service. This was now Paul after his encounter with Christ and got saved. The paragraph before this Paul was writing the Corinthian believers of this blessed and endless hope of their heavenly dwelling and made this conclusion. “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” 2 Cor. 5:6-9
When Paul was on trial after he was falsely accused by the Pharisees of breaking the law, he was given a chance to defend himself and share his testimony. Here’s what the Governor said of him. At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” Acts 26:24
Have you been criticized as being crazy for Jesus? This may be expressed in different ways but when you start telling people about your faith in Christ, you could either be mocked or welcomed. Some would say that you are crazy to give up the pleasures you use to enjoy. One time someone said to me, after giving up your life to Jesus, what if it is not true? My reply was, if it is not true, I still have no regrets because it made my life better, but what if it’s true? Here’s what Paul said of those who thought him to be out of his mind, “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.”
Finally, Paul made this as his primary and ultimate purpose of living for Christ to continue His work of seeking His lost ones by sharing the gospel. “For Christ’s love compels us.” Paul was driven to do what he did for this very reason. Christ’s love for him because he was fully convinced that if Jesus Christ did not call him on the road to Damascus he would spend eternity in hell. Paul was a very religious man, and not just a Sunday worshiper but a Pharisee who was zealous for his religious belief and fully convinced that there is life after death. And this is what he based it on and referred to this in his letter to the Roman believers? He was reminding them of the first Adam in his first letter and the consequence of his sin. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Rom. 5:12
But now there is the good news, “And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Cor. 5:15
Can you imagine if Christ did not leave heaven and became flesh in order to die for our sins, what hope would we have of escaping God’s wrath and punishment in hell forever. No hope and no escape from hell. For thirty nine years I lived my life for myself. Paul must have been younger before he was saved by the grace of God. You may have been saved when you were younger but what really matters is you and I are saved to spend eternity with God in heaven. Is there anything that has happened in your life that is greater than this? But those who will and are already in hell will give everything up to be saved but it is too late. Here’s what Jesus said. “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:36-37
When one is already in hell it is too late. He cannot give anything from all his possessions to get him out of there nor can any of his love ones, relatives and friends do anything like prayers and masses to get him out of hell. But because you have been saved from hell, what will you give out of gratitude for this salvation that was given to you for free without having done anything good to deserve it because it was all by the grace of God. We owe a debt to God that we can never repay by anything material or even by working according to what we want to do. Here now is the offering that is acceptable and pleasing to God, the offering of our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Keep in mind that our body that has been saved from hell is no longer ours. It has been bought, fully paid with a price beyond our comprehension, yet we are given the privilege to offer it to God by our own will and not be forced in doing it. That’s why Paul had to urged all believers to look back at how God has been merciful after we have been saved to withhold from us consequences of sin we may have committed unintentionally day after day. He is practically pleading and begging us that we do not miss out on this opportunity and privilege to show our debt of gratitude to God for his mercies.
In offering our body to God, we are actually giving up every right to anything and everything. The only right that we can keep and hold on to is the right of being God’s child. The first thing to give up is control of what to do with our daily life. To whom do we give this up to? To Christ Jesus who is the Lord. This is our response to His Lordship by deciding this daily to His invitation. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
When Jesus used the word “if” to precede any of His commands, this means that we are given the privilege to choose. It is not forced but a willing obedience to his invitation. After deciding to come after him, these are the terms that must apply. This is a must otherwise it will not work out. “He must deny himself.” What does this mean? This means giving up all our rights to ourselves, our interests, ambitions, plans and most of all desires that leads to sin. The other must is to take up our cross. Cross to Christ meant death and should mean the same to us. His body died physically but not spiritually. His body was raised after the third day as was prophesied meaning that He was vindicated and His sacrifice was accepted by God His Father. How then are we to die? We die to self and the sinful nature in us. By faith we consider ourselves dead to sin but alive in Christ. This is what Paul meant when he said as inspired by the Holy Spirit that he has been crucified with Christ. This was his choice and decision to put to death his sinful nature and by doing so, Christ can now live His life in him and have full control as Lord. “I have been crucified and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” What made him do this? This was revealed to him as the will of God by the Holy Spirit, likewise this is the will of God for all of those who have been saved how we ought to live our lives. This is a decision that we need to do daily. This does not come automatically with our salvation but this comes as we grow to know the will of God in order to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. By dying to self, we also have died to sin for Christ and sin has no fellowship. This is when we offer our bodies to God as our spiritual act of worship. This is when God will use us for His purpose in Redemption to bring glory to His Son.
This is the only way we can be conformed to the likeness of His Son. When our bodies have been offered to God as a living sacrifice, we surrender and abandon ourselves to God for Him to do as He pleases. And He may allow circumstances to come into our lives to develop our character and endurance.
When we no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died for you and for me, then Christ continues to seek and save those whom His Father is giving to him in Redemption. This is the ultimate purpose every follower of Christ is to do, “to make Christ known by preaching the gospel.” This is what he came for and this is what He continues to do through us His offspring, as was prophesied and written “Yet it the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hands.” Isa. 53:10
Every offspring of Christ will have his days prolonged not only here on earth but for eternity. And what is the will of the Lord? That we be conformed to the likeness of his Son and the gospel is preached to seek and draw those whom God the Father will give to His Son. And who is going to continue the work of Christ? By everyone who has been saved by Christ. Is every one of His saved ones doing this? Not all. That’s why God has combined those whom He has given to His Son as His church, His body that His work of redemption continues till the end. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of God.” Eph. 4:11-13
This is the purpose of the church which is the body of Christ that we all mature growing into the fullness of Christ. Then God’s purpose in Redemption continues. As members of the body of Christ, we were saved by the gospel, we live by the gospel and we are to share the gospel.
Living the gospel daily means we die to self as Christ died so that after we have died He is free to live His life in us as Lord. This is the sacrifice that we offer to God, a body that is alive in Christ, totally surrendered and abandoned to Christ where He is the one living in us. This is our daily spiritual worship that is pleasing to God for the glory of Jesus Christ. Here is their promise. “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
We love because he first loved us. And because of this love aren’t we compelled to do whatever is His will? Do we love God as we should? Are we willing to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice as an expression of our love out of a debt of gratitude for salvation we cannot repay? This is the truth that really matters, we have but one life and what we do for Christ is what will last. Let’s not waste it.
You may be here today and have not surrendered your life to Jesus Christ as your Lord and for Him to save you. He alone has the authority to give you eternal life. This is what He came to do for you. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
Believe this truth and give Him all your sins to pay as an act of repentance and then receive Jesus into your heart as your Lord.