Intro: Last Thursday, Gina and I went to look for something at the surplus store and as always we prayed that the Lord will encounter us with a Filipino and we did. We got into a conversation and exchanged asking questions what we are doing and why we are here. He is very active in a Catholic religious group called BLD. After we said we are missionaries, he invited us to attend their meetings. I then felt it was time to ask him the diagnostic question. If you were to die today, God forbid, do you know for certain that you will go to heaven? His reply was, I think so but God is the only one who knows that. This is the most common reply for anyone who is not saved. Other answers are, I hope so, maybe because I am not so bad. And there are those who say they are sure but when asked the reason why, they have different answers and Jesus is not even mentioned. We shared with him that he can know for certain of going to heaven but sensed that he is not ready to listen so we just told him to call us when he is ready to hear.
He does not realize that he is like being on death row. There is already a judgment hanging on his head and will be carried out the moment he dies. God’s law says that the “wages of sin is death.” All of us who are already saved were on that death row once upon a time. In this country there are crimes that carry the death penalty. And once you have been sentenced to die, you just wait for the day of execution. The only way one can be saved from death is when the State Governor holds the execution. I suppose it is the most horrible time for any person to wait for the clock to strike midnight when the lethal injection is applied. But the Governor can call on his hot line to stop the execution. That’s when he receives mercy.
With God everyone who has sinned will receive the penalty of death and is already on death row just waiting for the time of execution. But if God has mercy on him, judgment is withheld in order to save him from death and hell. This is the first act of God and then follows His grace to give him what he does not deserve, the forgiveness and full pardon of his sins. God is then justified to forgive sinners because of the sacrificial death of His Son as the full payment for our sins. But here’s the condition how God works this out.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18
I’m sure we all had a near death experience in the past. And when that happened to me I felt the greatest fear of my life and it scared me to death. I was afraid because I was not sure I would go to heaven. I also felt in my heart that I was certain of going to hell because I knew I was a sinner. But I received mercy, and God saved me from death by sending a missionary to tell me the good news. I heard the answer to my greatest need the salvation of my soul. After I repented of all my sins and received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I received full pardon for all my sins, past present and future sins. This was by the grace of God, His kindness to me who did not deserve to be saved.
There are pastors and teachers who are hesitant to say that when one receives forgiveness even his future sins have already been paid for and covered. The one who is truly saved and realized the horrible consequence of his sins will not continue to sin against God. If we have received mercy and grace will we take sin lightly and use it as a license to sin? Of course not, since we gave them up. But will we never sin? We will because there are sins we commit that we may not be aware of yet. Unintentional sins. That’s why we cannot claim to be perfect and sinless. Here’s what God says.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8
But will we love to sin and continue to sin and sin again? Certainly not! And because we have received mercy, how are we going to respond to this truth to show our gratitude to God?
In Luke’s gospels, Jesus was invited by a Pharisee to have dinner at his house and Jesus used what happened there as an object lesson.
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at his table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me teacher,” he said. “Two men owed money to a certain money lender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.” Luke 7:36-43
I am using this as a parallel lesson to our text that Paul urged believers. In our language we describe this as “Utang na loob,” a debt of gratitude. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he urged them and from the Amplified Bible, it says he begged them to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice. Now the body here is referring to the whole physical being not material blessings that we give as an offering. This body also refers to those who have already been saved. If a person is not saved, even though he sacrifices his body and martyred for the good of his country or his god, this will not get him to heaven. An example of this is Gandhi of India, he died for the good of his country. The Jihadists who sacrificed their own lives, hijacked planes and crashed them at the Twin towers to kill many innocent lives. They are already condemned even before they did that because they are sinners.
The reason Paul is appealing to believers is to point to them how God had mercy on them who were already condemned to die. God withheld what they deserved and saved them from going to hell. This was not just for them but also for us today. If God did not have mercy on me, I would be burning in hell now. What he said, “in view” should be the driving factor, motivation and the highest reason to offer our bodies to God. Why did God have mercy on you and me? God said this in the OT as quoted by Paul.
“For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” Rom. 9:15-16
And this was what Paul wrote to Titus revealed to him by the Holy Spirit.
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7
When I look back more than thirty years ago, I was on death row awaiting my execution, and one day a messenger from God came with the good news, just like the call of the Governor to cancel my execution. God had mercy on me and saved me from death and His sure judgment in hell. I received my full pardon after I believed and accepted the message. And God was justified in giving me full pardon because someone took my place, punished for all my sins as payment in full. This is what He offered.
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifices and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, “Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God.” Heb. 10:5-7
Jesus knew this from the Psalms what He was to offer. He did the will of God by offering His body as a living sacrifice. Animals that were sacrificed had to die first before they were offered. Jesus offered Himself while He was still alive. He was willing to be punished in order to take away the sins of the world. Why? Because God required this in order for Him to be justified to forgive sinners through someone who had no sins to pay the penalty for their sins. God the Son came down in the flesh to die for you and me.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21
We will end here for now and will continue the remainder of our text as to how we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God.
God may be speaking to you saying that He had mercy on you on many occasions when you would have died but He extended your life to this day. If He is speaking and revealing this to you by His Spirit, see me after the end of the service to explain to you the terms of your pardon.
If you have already experienced God’s mercy and grace and he is speaking to you about something that he is inviting you to join Him in His work, respond to Him. He may be calling you to become a member of this church or to serve Him in a particular way. However He is speaking to you, come willingly and offer yourself to God.