"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1)
This morning I had a number of errands to get to, so I left quite early. I ordered a breakfast sandwich and a coffee at a chain restaurant, and spent just under a half hour reading and thinking about Romans chapter 12. It was a really good way to begin the day! Wow! I'd read Romans 12 before; I've taught Bible classes and Sunday School lessons about Romans 12 and I've preached a sermon or two from Romans 12. But just sitting there reading it and pondering the chapter was very rich today.
The first eleven chapters of Paul's Epistle to the Romans are very deep and very theological. It's the kind of stuff doctoral students in seminaries write dissertations about. In fact, Romans 11 closes with the word "Amen". But then we're on to chapters twelve through sixteen which is the really practical stuff in the Book! You know, it doesn't matter how much theology you can write dissertations about if you aren't living out your faith in practical ways!
Verse 1, quoted above, really seems like an oxymoron, for it calls each of us to be "a living sacrifice"! A sacrifice is slain on the altar- it's dead! So, how can one be a living sacrifice?! Well, there are really two things to consider here: 1. It's easier to die for the Lord than to live for Him! 2. It's totally unnatural and against everything we would desire to live life as a living sacrifice, but it's what God has called each Christian to do!
Tomorrow is the First Sunday of Advent. I think most Christians would say that Romans chapter 12 has nothing to do with Advent, but I'd say it has everything to do with it! For, the Lord Jesus Christ came to do for us what we could never do for ourselves! He came to bring us the free gift of eternal salvation (if we will only receive that free gift) and then He came to give us all the help and power we need to live for Him which we could never muster up on our own!
Today, December 1 would have been my father's ninety-sixth birthday. He passed away in 2000. Many, many times I remember my father asking in frustration, "Where does the time go?!" He never seemed to have enough time to do all the things he wanted to do, and once he got into his sixties, his health rapidly went downhill.
Frankly, December is always a very tough month for me. I always feel stressed and frazzled; unable to keep up with responsibilities, and feeling like no matter how hard I push myself I just can't accomplish what I want to accomplish. So, my father's birthday and the start of Advent and the start of the month of December have had me in a sort of intense and challenging place today.
But Romans 12, believe it or not, was perfect for me to read this morning! It spoke to me. It was what I needed, and it helped me with perspective. I could write my own dissertation here, commenting liberally about each verse of the chapter and pouring out all sorts of "stuff". But I don't want to do that. You're probably very busy, and you probably can't imagine spending twenty or thirty minutes with a coffee and a sandwich and Romans chapter 12. I just want to encourage you to do exactly what I did this morning, and see if it doesn't speak to you and help you in some way!