Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (August 27, 2017)
- First reading and Psalm
- Exodus 1:8-2:10
- Psalm 124
- Alternate First reading and Psalm
- Second reading
Romans 12:1-8 | New Living Translation (NLT)
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Just before Paul writes the words above, he writes:
Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory….
Then Paul says, (my paraphrase) “Therefore, because of his mercy and grace (because of all he has done for you…give your bodies to God. Let your body be a living (as opposed to a dead) and holy (separated, consecrated) sacrifice – the kind that God wants and is acceptable.” So I’ve already taken a few words out of this passage that I would like to highlight.
Paul tells us because of all that God has done and over the course of this letter to the Romans, Paul has told us about grace and Christ’s sacrifice and God raising him from the dead…because of this, we should – it should be a natural act – live our lives to God, not for ourselves, but for God. I like the fact that Paul says we should be a living sacrifice. This echoes Jesus’ words that we need to pick up our cross daily and follow. Because of what God has done through Jesus we are made new. We shouldn’t look like our old selves, instead we should look like Jesus. As we give our lives over daily to follow the cross of Christ, be become more like him and this is our spiritual act of worship.
We often think that worship is the songs we sing, but it’s only a small part of worship. We worship Christ with our very lives when we do the things that are pleasing to him. Paul tells us that this is truly the way to worship him. To expand that thought a little further, Paul then goes on to say, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
We struggle with that word perfect. When we think of perfect, we think of something that has no room for improvement. In most cases, that is not what the scriptures are getting at. This perfect means an action – a pressing on – a maturing – a moving on toward completeness. It means that today I am more like Christ than yesterday, and tomorrow I will be more like Christ than I am today. In Philippians Paul writes, “Not that I have already attained it, but I press on! Paul presses on toward the goal, which is heaven.
How does Paul tell us that we are to worship? Paul tells us to be humble as Christ was.
- Don’t think you are better than you really are.
- Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves
- Measure yourself by the faith God has given you.
Paul is telling us how to relate to each other. I think many times in the church, we think that we are all that. Paul reminds us that we aren’t. Paul reminds us that Christ showed humility. The body of Christ is made up of many parts – we aren’t all like each other. If we were all the same, some of us would be unnecessary. We are reminded that there are many parts to the body of Christ and we all belong to each other.
Sometimes we are jealous or envious of gifts that God has given to others. Don’t be! Paul writes, “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.” I love it. This really is the picture of the body of Christ – it is the picture of the church. It seems there are those who are always looking for the limelight. I don’t know about you, but as a leader, I don’t enjoy the limelight. Yes, there is great satisfaction in being a leader, but there is also great responsibility. Many want the great satisfaction without the responsibility. That’s why God gifts us in certain ways.
This passage in Romans gives us just a short list of God’s gifts, but let’s take a look:
- If you can prophesy – speak with as much faith as God has given you.
- If you can serve – serve them well
- If you can teach – teach well
- If your gift is encouragement – be encouraging
- If it is giving – give generously
- If it is leadership – lead well – take the responsibility seriously
- If you have the gift of kindness – do it gladly.
As we wrap this up. These are truly the way to worship God. We can’t worship God when we are all wrapped up in ourselves. We can only worship God when we humble ourselves – when we do all we do to the glory of God.
The last thing I want to share is in verse 9, which isn’t in today’s reading, but I think it is important and it is connected to the text:
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
This is truly the way to worship!uncat