Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 August 16, 2020
Things as widely different as baseball and Old Testament sacrifice share one thing in common: Sacrifices die. A batter in baseball gives himself up in order to advance, or to score, a baserunner—via the sacrifice fly, sacrifice bunt, or a strategically placed ground ball. In the worship life of God’s Old Testament Church, bulls, goats, and birds—obviously—died as sacrifices to the Lord. God, through the Holy Spirit, calls us to present ourselves as sacrifices unto Him. Though we are sacrifices unto God, we die not bodily. We yet live. Let’s hear more of this in the preaching of today’s text from God’s Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The Apostle Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, appeals to us (or beseeches, or exhorts, Greek parakaleo [parakalew]) for certain actions—in view of God’s mercies. Most of Paul’s letters have an introductory doctrinal section (what we are to know and to believe) followed by an ethical section (what we are to do in light of what we now know and believe). The letter to the Romans has an eleven-chapter doctrinal section, and now, as the twelfth chapter opens, we come to how now we shall live.
Look at all the mercies of God parades before us in the first eleven chapters of Romans. The very Gospel itself (Romans 1:17)—a righteousness by faith in Christ Jesus, contra righteousness by works—is a supreme mercy in our lives. From it flows justification (Romans 3:21-5:21), by which we are pardoned from sin (because Christ atoned for it) and are accepted as righteous in God’s sight (because God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us). From the Gospel also flows sanctification (Romans 6-8), or set-apartness unto God. Through sanctification we are enabled more and more to die unto sin and more and more to live unto righteousness. Finally, we read important truth, in the knotty problem of Israel’s partial hardening concerning the Gospel, concerning election (Romans 9-11). Indeed, we chose not Christ, but He chose us (cf. John 15:16). In fact, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). These are mercies all and mercies indeed.
Therefore, God calls us, in view of His mercies, to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. God calls us to be holy, because He is holy (Leviticus 11:44). We are, and are to be, a holy sacrifice unto Him. Such a sacrifice is acceptable (literally pleasing) to God. This presentation—this renunciation of all self-claim for our lives in view of God’s just claim upon them—is our spiritual, rational (or reasonable) worship unto Him. Such a living sacrifice—a life increasingly given and yielded to the Lord and increasingly dead to the world and forsaking it—is at the core of who we are in Christ, pleases Him, and glorifies Him.
God also calls us, in view of His mercies, “Be not conformed to this world.” By world, we mean both a set of people estranged from and hostile to God and a set of beliefs and practices contrary to His will. To such beliefs, practices, and persons espousing them, we are not to agree—and we are not to attempt to fit ourselves closely to them. Instead, God calls us, in view us His mercies, to be transformed by the renewal of your mind. The Greek word here rendered transformed in English is a near cognate to the English word metamorphosis. Let us, then, be metamorphosed. Let us be made radically different by the work of the Holy Spirit—and that in the arena of change listed in Romans 12:2: the mind, and its renewal. By mind we mean the seat of our thinking, deciding, and so forth. Renewal here means changed for the better. Hence, may our mental faculties ever be changed to resemble those of Christ Jesus more and more.
The end of all of this is that we may discern the will of God. We discern His will by testing—which, in this context, means by experiential examination as we walk by faith. Depending upon your translation, we discern the will of God, and the will of God is that which is good, pleasing, and perfect—or we discern the will of God, which itself is good, pleasing, and perfect. Here now follow some things which will fit either translation sense. In general, God’s will is for us to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever, according to the rule given by the Word of God. In particular, God’s will is for us to discern and discharge our individual giftings, ministries, and stations in life. Let us, then, present our bodies living sacrifices, and the rest, in order that we may test, discern, and embrace God’s will for our lives.
Never forget, amid all of this, that Jesus is the living Sacrifice. Truly He died as the necessary penal, substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. Jesus, by such a death, atones for the sin of every elect soul—every soul that the Father commits into His loving grasp. Yet Jesus is no longer dead. Truly He lives—and that never to taste of death again. He lives to reign evermore, to intercede for us, and to return (as Essentials of the EPC states) visibly and bodily to consummate history and God’s eternal plan. Likewise, God calls us by His Spirit to be sacrifices, yet spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Him through Christ. Our example in this matter is the Apostle Paul, as He wrote some years earlier to the Galatian Christian households, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). May God, by His Spirit, make it so in us—for His glory and for our good.
 The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question and answer 33.
 Ibid, question and answer 35.
 Greek metamorphoomai (metamorfoomai)