Worship is a Spirit-empowered response to the greatness of God in Christ as revealed in and according to God's Word for His glory. This week, you'll be a bit relieved. We get to the response. Finally, the response, right? Worship is a Spirit-empowered response. We must--'must' is a keyword there- we must respond to the greatness of God. Worship involves responding. As we looked at last week, the response is enabled by the Holy Spirit as we behold the glory of Christ from Scripture. But now, we need to ask what response pleases God. What response makes sense, if you will. Well, the Apostle Paul answers that question for us in Romans 12: 1 and 2, and he says that the proper response to God's greatness is complete devotion to Him for His glory. The proper response to God's greatness is complete devotion to Him for His glory. Paul's making an appeal. He says, "I appeal to you, therefore, brothers" as a gentle appeal (Rom. 12:1a). it's an appeal that it is pastoral in tone. Paul is writing to them with, a pastor's heart. But the appeal is also urgent. The word 'appeal' that we see in [Romans 12] verse 1 in the ESV can also be translated 'exhort', which is how it's translated in verse 8 of Romans 12. It can also be translated as 'urge'. The Christian Standard Bible and the NIV both translate it as, 'urge'. So, Paul is... He's making an appeal. He is urging them. There is some pastoral urgency to what Paul is going to call his readers to do.
And his appeal is made... This is very important. His appeal is made to the brothers. The brothers and sisters in Christ. The appeal is for "those who are loved by God and called as saints" (Rom 1:7a). That's how he begins the book of Romans in Romans 1. Paul is writing to all the Christians in the church at Rome, and by extension, he's writing to us, today. For all Christians. In verses 1 and 2, this is not another level of Christianity. It's not like there's a junior varsity, where I spent most of my time in high school. Junior varsity. And then, there's a varsity. Alright. And, then some... Most people stay in junior varsity, and then, the super-spiritual, they make it to the varsity Christian level, and they get their letter jacket. No, it's for all of us. This is Christianity in a nutshell.
And the basis or the foundation of Paul's appeal is the "mercies of God" (Rom. 12:1a). Notice that it's plural... "Mercies". The manifold "mercies of God". And Paul is referring to everything he's already written in chapters 1 through 11. All of it. The totality of it. So, based upon the manifold mercies of God found in these chapters, there is a right response. God's mercies call for a response. It's important to note this because Paul is not starting a new section of the letter without any reference to the last section of the letter. We don't want to read it that way. So, Paul, starting something new. Let's just forget everything we've already heard. That doesn't matter anymore. What we need to do now is just... let's just do what Paul is telling us to do, without connection to the first 11 chapters. That's not what Paul's doing. He's saying that in light of all that God has done for you, as merciful as God has been to you, this is how you should respond. And there are 315 verses in chapters 1 through 11. And 308 of those 315 are in the indicative, which means Paul is making statements. He's not making commandments. He's making statements. Paul is stressing the great realities about the Christian and God's work on their behalf. He's not telling them what to do. He's telling them who they are in Christ and what they possess because they are in Christ.
So, before we get to the response, we should answer, what are these great mercies that Paul is talking about in this verse? What are the mercies that God has given to us? Well, I listed 7, but there could be many, many more. First, we meet justification in chapter 3 of Romans. We were dead in sin and God's enemies, but in Christ, we have been justified. God declared us righteous through faith in Christ. God now sees us as he sees Christ. Christ lived the life we could not live. He died the death we deserved. And God credited Christ's life, death, and resurrection to our account. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). Second, we see union with Christ. Romans 6, I think, is one of the most beautiful passages in all of Scripture about this great reality. We were baptized into Christ Jesus in His death, and through His resurrection, we walk in newness of life. When Jesus comes again, we will be resurrected with him. Our old self was crucified with Christ, so the old man no longer lives. Therefore, we are dead to sin, and we are alive to Christ. Third, sanctification. Now that we are in Christ, the Holy Spirit is making us more like Christ. Everything we face is working for our good because the good is conforming us to the image of Christ. Fourth, adoption. We are sons and daughters of God in Christ. We are sons and daughters of God, not, you will be. You are right now, in this moment, and forever because of Christ. Number five, we are recipients of the work of intercession of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. In Romans 8, we are told the Holy Spirit is helping us to pray when we don't know how to pray (Rom. 8:26). Later on in the chapter, Paul says that Christ is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us on our behalf (Rom. 8:34). Number six, election. Before the foundation of the world, God decided he would set his love upon us in Christ. Number seven, glorification. One day, we will be like Jesus, and we will see him face-to-face. And if that's all Paul had written about, there would be a lot. But, there's more. These are the mercies God has given to us. And in light of these mercies, Paul is making his appeal. The appeal is only for those who are in Christ. They are the only ones with the ability to heed and obey the appeal Paul is about to make.
So, because God has been merciful to us, we should respond, we must respond. And, the response Paul calls for is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. We are to present all of us. Everything about us is to be presented to God as a living sacrifice. This word "present" was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, for when the priest would present the sacrifice on the altar. He's bringing the sacrifice to the altar he's laying it there. And likewise, we are presenting ourselves as an offering of thanksgiving to God because of the manifold mercies he has given to us. John MacArthur writes "such soul-saving mercies should motivate believers to complete dedication." So living sacrifices, we could put it this way we are to be completely and totally devoted to God. Devoted to God.
We are a living sacrifice. This wording, if we think about it is a little unusual. After all, as we read the Old Testament, the sacrifices in the Old Testament weren't living, they were dead. They were killed. Then they were placed on the altar, and then they were offered as a burnt offering. We are those who were dead but are now alive. Therefore we are living sacrifices. Because of our new life in Christ. We offer everything to him. We sacrifice our selfish desires, our selfish wants, our selfish dreams. for His glory. And we have an example of this in the Old Testament with Isaac. He was a living sacrific., Isaac was on the altar. Abraham has raised the knife, getting ready to plunge it into Isaac and he stopped. It's that living sacrifice, we are on the altar.
This concept is not new for Paul. We see it in Romans six when he writes "do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness." Because of our union with Christ, we no longer have to sin. We don't have to present our hands and our feet in our mouth and our eyes to sin. We must present them to God as instruments for righteousness. So we use our bodies for holiness. We don't hit, when we want to hit. We don't lust, we want to last with our eyes. We watch our tongue. We use our mouth in a way that pleases God in a Holy way. We present everything to God, for righteousness for his glory. And present is not a one-time act. So Paul is not saying you are going to reach a crisis in your life and that's when you need to present yourself as a living sacrifice to God it is a continual action. You have to continually do this, again and again, and again and again and again. Paul is just describing the Christian life: we're to be devoted to God. The Christian life is about giving ourselves to God as a response to the great mercy He has given to us.
Well, what is a sacrifice, this living sacrifice to be like? Paul uses two words to describe it. He says "holy and acceptable to God." The sacrifices God required in the Old Testament had to be without blemish. They had to be without defect. So if an Israelite was to bring a sheep without an eye, it would be rejected. It had a blemish, it had a defect. Likewise, we are to be holy, living sacrifices that are devoted to God. We must be holy, holy. For us to be holy, God must first set us apart for himself, which he does in salvation, and we must be completely devoted to him in every area of life. And if I could add this: this is about your holiness, you, the individual Christian, not the person sitting next to you. Their holiness is important but right now you need to think about your holiness. I think it's important to stress that because we, in this social media-driven world, it's so easy to see "such and such organization" just said this, or "such and such organization" just said that and they're good Christian organizations, and we're all tempted to get worked up and we're so worried about what T4G's going to do next time, right? Look, it's about our holiness, your holiness. I'm afraid some of us, myself included, do not progress in holiness because I'm so worried about other people's holiness. I never looked at my own life, to see where am I lacking and holiness? Where am I not being completely devoted to God? And this holy sacrifice is the sacrifice that God will accept. It is impossible to say we are devoted to God and to live an unholy life and to say God will accept it. He won't. He can't. His own holiness demands that he doesn't. We must continually offer all of who we are to God, and we must continually pursue holiness.
The foundation or the basis for presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is the mercies of God. That's the foundation. And Paul concludes verse one, with the rightness or the properness of this response of presenting ourselves, our bodies as living sacrifices. The ESV translates this last phrase, "which is your spiritual worship." The word translated "spiritual" in Greek is logikḗ, which is where we derive our word for logic. Other translations such as the King James Version translates "this word, which is your reasonable service." We could translate this "as your reasonable service of worship," or "just reasonable worship." JB Phillips, in his paraphrase, puts it like this, "an act of intelligent worship." R. Kent Hughes helps us, he writes "for Paul, true worship and offering ourselves to God is reasonable or logical because it is consistent with a proper understanding of the truth of God, as revealed in Christ." So Paul is saying the only logical, the only reasonable, the only proper, the only right response to the mercies of God that He has given to you is complete and utter devotion. And this logical response, Paul says is worship. The most holy, pleasing and acceptable worship you can offer God is a life that is lived in complete devotion to him. That's the only right response. Anything less than this response is not worship. So, in view of God's mercy, it is right to think this is the proper response. We acknowledge with our mind that it is logical to respond this way. Because of God's mercy.
Worship is about all of life, complete, total devotion to God. But then there are also individual acts that we do that we call 'worship.' So we've been worshiping this morning, we sing. That's an act of worship. You've listened to God's word being read. That's an act of worship. Right now, as you're listening, and being attentive and engaging, that's an act of worship. But all of these acts of worship flow from this supreme act of worship, which is devoting our lives to God. Throughout the week, Monday through Saturday, if I'm not devoting my life to God, and I come here on Sunday and trying to sing, I'm just singing, I'm not worshiping. Why? I'm not devoted to God. I'm just a clanging cymbal. It's not worship. And this supreme act of worship is a tool for examination.
We could also look at it from the negative side. So if you could come to church on a Sunday and week after week after week, and you never sing, you should ask yourself, "Am I living in total devotion to God?" Your silence says more about you than you think it does. How you listen to the sermon is evidence of your total devotion to God. How you work, you work heartily for the Lord and not for man. Or you're just in it for the paycheck. For those who are in school, how you do your schoolwork, how you listen in class, how you respect your teachers. In the home, how we treat our wives, how we treat our husbands, how we treat our children, and how we got to think about how we treat our dog. The right response to God's mercy is worship and the worship that is acceptable and pleasing to God is worship that comes from a life that is completely and totally devoted to him.
Now, we all must admit, we fall way short. So we should be thankful that Paul didn't stop at verse one. He went to verse two. Verses one and two are interrelated. If we could put it this way, verse one is the poetic, or maybe a symbolic explanation of the proper response of the mercies of God. Verse two is the realistic or maybe we could say the boots-on-the-ground explanation of what verse one looks like. Okay? We could also say that verse two is perhaps the starting point, this is where we start so that we can live a life that is totally devoted to God. And Paul gives two commands in verse two, both of which are, here's a little more Greek for you, it's important though, they're present, passive, imperative verbs. So present, meaning it's ongoing. We're not just doing this one we're forgetting it, right? We're doing it day in day out minute by minute second by second, hour by hour. Imperative. It's a command. You have to do this. There's no option. Passive. Victoria was so gracious this week as I kept asking her how in the world can have come in and be passive? How can you have a passive imperative? She's like, "honey, I've never taken Greek, I have no idea." I was like, "well, come on, help me." It's passive in the sense that something from the outside is affecting us. We're allowing something from the outside to affect us.
So we see this first with the negative. Paul says, "Do not be conformed to this world." So we are not to allow ourselves, so we're not conforming. We're not to allow ourselves to be affected by the schemes of this present evil age. So we're not to be conformed to the culture’s way of thinking. We don't allow ourselves to fall into that trap. If you think about it, the only thing you need to do to think like a non-Christian as a Christian is nothing. Stop engaging your mind stop engaging scripture and eventually, you'll think like a non-Christian, you'll think like the present schemes of this present evil age. So Paul says don't do that.
Whereas we're telling Molly right now all the time, the dog, "eh-heh." Paul's saying "eh-heh. Don't. Stay away. Don't be conformed." The positive, still present passive imperative, is we are to be transformed. We are to be continually transformed, or as Sinclair Ferguson explained it "be being transformed." Be being transformed. Well, how are we passively transformed? If we know how we're passively conformed, which is doing nothing, how are we passively transformed? We see the answer in the text. But first, let's look at Second Corinthians 3:18. We looked at this last week, too. But Paul uses the same word, "transformed" in the same way in this passage. Second Corinthians 3:18. He writes, "and we all with unveiled face are beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed." There it is 'transformed,' "being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another for this comes from the Lord who is the spirit." So in this verse, Paul is saying we are passively transformed by the Holy Spirit as we behold the glory of Christ. The glory of the Lord, as we behold it, the Holy Spirit works and we are transformed. We are passive, in the sense that the Holy Spirit is the one doing the transformation. We're not doing the transformation.
Well, here in Romans 12, Paul says, "be transformed by" That's the means, "be transformed by the renewal of your mind," which is the work of the Holy Spirit, through Scripture. Responding to God in worship starts with the mind. If I know nothing about God, mentally, I can't respond to God. It just follows. It's the consistent teaching of Scripture. So the Holy Spirit uses Scripture to change our thinking, to renew it and this renewal transforms us so that we can continually present ourselves as living sacrifices to God. As the Holy Spirit transforms us through the renewal of our mind, we will be more and more and more and more and more and more devoted to God.
Do you know that right now is an example of passive transformation? Preaching is an example of passive transformation. One man gets up here and preaches. And everybody else gets to sit and listen. And as we listen, as the Word of God is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit uses it to transform us to make us more into the image of Christ. And as we're transformed, we become more devoted to God in our mind, and as our minds are renewed, as they are changed, it leads to changed affections. One writer put it this way... "there is in fact, no road to the human heart, other than that which runs through the head and consciousness." That's why in our preaching,, we go for your head. We go for your head. We're concerned about your heart, and our concern about your heart shows up in us going for your head. Why? Because the Holy Spirit will do the rest. He's the one that changes your thinking. I can't change your thinking. I can't. I can't do it. I can't do it with my children. I'm learning, you can't do it with a dog. I can't do it. I can't change your thinking. Well, if I can't change your thinking if our pastor can't change your thinking, what's the point of preaching? The Holy Spirit. He changes your thinking. He renews your mind. He is the one who transforms you from one degree of glory to another. Therefore, you will worship by being completely and utterly devoted to God. And we need this renewal, we need this work of the Holy Spirit, in order to be living sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to God.
But, in the end, we know that this life of total devotion to God is not really mainly about worship. It's about God's glory. Romans 11:36: "To him be glory forever." Why? Because "for from him and through him and to him are all things" (Rom. 11:36a). "All things" includes your worship. He deserves all the glory. God is glorified when we live completely for him. He delights in our obedience because He delights in Christ. This life of total devotion is worship, which is always for God's glory.
So, has God been gracious to you? Has God been merciful to you? Has God bestowed His love for you? The right and logical response then is for you and me to be completely devoted to God in every area of life. Just think of the most menial thing. Taking the trash out, changing the diaper, warming the car up on a cold morning, looking for the TV remote, again. Even in the most menial task, the most mundane thing you can think of, that taking the trash out, should be devoted to God. Even taking the trash out can be worship. Are you living a life completely devoted to God? But, here's the hope. One pastor said, "Because Jesus Christ has already made the only dead sacrifice the New Covenant requires, all that remains for worshipers today is the presentation of themself as living sacrifices." Jesus has paved the way. Jesus made it possible for us to be devoted to God. He made this life of worship possible. So, we must answer the question: Will we choose to worship God in the right logical way for His glory? As the hymn writer puts it, "love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all."