The greatest gift that a person can receive is salvation. The fact is that all people are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. Every person is unrighteous apart from Christ - they are not in a right relationship with God. It is for this reason that Jesus came to make redemption and forgiveness available to the world. Turning from sin and accepting salvation by placing one's faith in Him is the most important decision that anyone can ever make. If you have never done that, I urge you to do it today.
Like the believers in Rome to whom Paul wrote centuries ago, most of us to whom I am now speaking are already saved. And just as I praise the LORD for my own salvation, I also praise Him for your salvation, and the fact that He has adopted us as Christians into His family. There is no better feeling on earth than to know that you are saved, bought and secured by the blood of Jesus, and heaven bound!
In Luke 17:11-19 we find an interesting story that happened during the ministry of Jesus Christ. One day as He was traveling to Jerusalem the Lord encountered 10 lepers. They cried out for to Him for mercy. Jesus told them all to go show themselves to the priest, and that they'd be healed as they went. Sure enough, along the way all 10 lepers were cleansed from their disease. While all of them must have been truly amazed and thankful for the miracle that Christ had performed in their life, only one returned to express his gratitude by worshiping and prasing the Lord.
In a sense, we are all like these lepers. All of us were at one time covered by the tender and painful sores of our own sin. Yet, when we came to Jesus in faith, He forgave us of our festering sin and washed us white as snow. I would venture to say that almost every person who has ever been truly born again is genuinely thankful for their salvation. But the queston is, how do we express this gratitude? Do we celebrate the gift while neglecting to acknowledge the Giver? How can we live our lives to apprectiation to God for the salvation that He has given to us through His Son?
I. PRESENT YOUR BODY (Romans 12:1)
Up to this point, Paul has been thoroughly exploring the doctrinal truths of salvation. Chapter 12 begins with the word "Therefore" which refers back to what he has been teaching. We can rightly understand this transition to mean, "Because you have been saved..." As Christians, we have already experienced and still are experiencing the spiritual wonders of salvation. Because we have been saved, we now are under obligation to live accordingly.
The first admonishion we are given is to "present our bodies" as a "living and holy sacrifice" to the God. In the Old Testament times, the Jews offered sacrifices to God for several different reasons. While many of these offerings involved the slaying of animals in order to secure the forgiveness of sin, the grain offering was given purely as an act of worship and acknowledgemnet of God's provision. It was often presented after the burnt offering. The sacrifice that Paul is describing in this verse is like that of the grain offering. Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God, has already laid down His life as the sacrifice that secured our forgiveness of sin. Now we should present ourselves to Him as a living and holy sacrifice in appreciation and praise for the salvation He has granted us.
The offering of our bodies must be "acceptable" to God. One of the things that angers the LORD and makes Him most disgusted is the presentation of unacceptable or defiled offerings. The Jews were not supposed to bring second-rate animals or grains to the priests in order to be sacrificed. Instead, they were to give of their very best. Therefore, we should strive to keep our bodies as clean, pure, and wholesome as possible. While all of us will have seasons of sickness and weakness in our lives, we should never inflict these conditions upon ourselves through reckless living.
The presenting of your body to God requires your physical presence. It doesn't get more basic than this - the first step in authentic Christian living is simply to show up. Whether it be for church services, for ministry opportunies, or for a host of other activities that God is calling you to - your attendance is of utmost importance. Simply by coming you are presenting your body to the LORD as an act of service. While there are certainly some legitimate excuses for being gone at times, for the most part presistently abstentee and in-active Christians are useless to Kingdom of God and to His church.
II. RENEW YOUR MIND (Romans 12:2)
If we intend to truly serve the LORD, we must go an additional step beyond just presenting our bodies. We must also renew our minds. In other words, we must be both phsically available and mentally engaged for Christian service. The actions of our hands and feet are determind by the thoughts in our heads, and therefore if we seek to do the work of Christ we must also share in the mind of Christ.
Such thinking requies a radical transfomation from our natural conformity to this world. We all tend to conform to the prevailing norms of our society and culture. Sadly, these are deeply marred by sin and corruption. The things that we see and hear have a profund effect on how we think. It is imperative that we guard our hearts and minds from things that will enslave our thinking to worldiness. Instead we must discover and embrace the attitude of Jesus Christ, and submit our personal ambitions to perfect His will.
If we are to renew our minds, we must continually fill them with the words and truths of God. Such a renewal takes extreme discipline, as we commit ourselves to the frequent and intentional study of Scripture. We must replace the corrupt lusts of the world with the pure and righteous thoughts of God. By immersing ourselves in His word through listen to it, reading it, studying it, meditating on it, memorizing it, and so on, we can transform our minds slowly over time and begin to take on a godly perspective.
III. CHECK YOUR EGO (Romans 12:3-5)
Because we have received such a great salvation, we should aspire to serve God both physically and mentally. As we do so, we are increasingly molded into the image of Christ through the process of sanctification. What a wonderful journey! Nevetheless, as we mature in the faith and in our dedication to service we must be careful to avoid the pride that often creeps in.
As we grow closer to God, it can be tempting to point the finger at others who we perceive to be farther way from Him than we are. Our thoughts can become haughty and arrogant, and we become "puffed up" with inflated egos. Christian service should never be considered as a way to score points with God or to earn His approval. While the work we do in His name certainly pleases Him, it does not make us more worthy of His affection or more valuable than anyone else. Such lofty thinking impairs sound judgment and is a recipe for disaster!
Paul uses an analogy to demonstrate that while we are all one body in Christ, each member has been given a different function. God allots to each one of us a measure of faith in accordance to and appropriate for our particular function. Thus, every ministry and every minster is uniquely different. All to often, we begin to make inappropriate comparisons between ourselves and others in an attempt to measure our success. These types of thoughts can lead to either pride or discouragement, both of which can serverely damage your service to God.
IV. EXERCISE YOR GIFT(S) (Romans 12:6-8)
Not only has God given you a unique ministry, but He has also gifted you in a certain way that enables you to accomplish that ministry. God has equipped you to do the work which He has called you to do. He has provided you with the necessary spiritual ability to live out your calling in life. It is up to us all to discover what our gift(s) is/are and to use them for the furtherance of His kingdom.
There are numerous spiritual gifts listed in various places throughout the New Testament, but in this passage Paul names these seven - prophecy (preaching), service, teaching, exhorting (encouraging/motivating), giving, leading, and mercy (caring). Perhaps you possess one or more of the traits. May I ask - how are you using your gifts to the glory of God?
If your desire is to become stronger and healthier physically, you must exercise strenuously and frequently. Occasional and/or non-challenging workouts are not much use. In the same way, if you want to become stronger and healthier in Christ, you must exercise your gifts to the utmost. Spiritual laziness and idleness will never take you to the places where God wants you to be.
You are saved to serve. As a born-again Christian, you have been employed by the King of Kings and are now at His service. And beloved, there are many things that He desires for you to do. It is time to roll up your sleeves and get to work for Jesus!
You can begin by surrendering your body to His service. This means that you will take care of yourself and allow God to use you for His purposes. Secondly, you can work to renew your mind by showering it constantly in the Word of God so that you begin to see the world through the eyes of Christ. Next, you can check your ego and take on a humble and contrite spirit. Such an attitude will contribute to your ability to serve God effectively. Finally, you can discover and exercise the spiritual gifts and talents that God has expressly given you.
You are saved to serve. God wants to use you to accomplish His will and way.
You are saved to serve. Embrace His calling and give Him your very best.
You are saved to serve. By doing your part, the entire body of Christ benefits.
You are saved to serve. This is the very essence of abundant life.