One Body (11/9/2017)

A hen and a pig were strolling down main street in town. They passed a restaurant that advertised “Delicious ham and eggs: $2.75 cents.” “Sounds like a bargain,” said the hen. “That owner obviously knows how to run her business. “It’s all very well for you to be so pleased about the dish in question,” observed the pig with some resentment. “For you it is all in a day’s work. You just have to make a contribution. Let me point out, however, that on my part it represents a genuine sacrifice.”

The pig made an important point. Laying an egg would inconvenience the hen. It might even take a little more of her time than she’d like. But once she was done, she could go on about her business. The pig wouldn’t get off so easy. It required him to give everything.

This is how sacrifices work. In the Old Testament, people routinely sacrificed animals to God. How many times could an animal be sacrificed? One time. It was impossible for it to be offered more than that.

As followers of Jesus, we’re commanded to offer everything we have as well as everything we are to Jesus. But in a different way. In Romans 12:1-8, the Apostle Paul says, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”          

God calls you and I to be a living sacrifice every day. This isn’t supposed to just inconvenience us or take some of our time. Being a living sacrifice involves giving everything to God – our mind, body, finances, marriage, health, careers, children and everything else in our lives.

This goes against everything our society tells us we should be doing. From a very early age, we’re engrained with the idea that we need to make money or accumulate possessions so we can be happy. Society doesn’t tell us we should make money so we can help the poor.

We’re encouraged to feed our pride and egos by rising to positions of power and prestige. We’re not told to seek these positions so we can help others. Our American society teaches us to look out for #1 – even if it’s at the expense of someone else.

If we live by these rules, there’s no way we’ll be living sacrifices for God. We’ll be too focused on our own comforts and wants. God knows this. That’s why the Bible tells us not to conform to the world’s pattern for success. We’re to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, which is the definition of the word “repentance.” We’re to repent of this type of thinking and live for God. As disciples of Jesus, we can’t let the world determine how we act.

If we look at Romans 12:1-8 closely, we see that being a living sacrifice is different from other types of sacrifices. Instead of dying, we’re do the opposite. We come alive with new life once we put to death the thinking of this world.

It’s important that we don’t take this scripture out of context. It’s part of a long letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome telling them that new life is found in following Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We can’t manufacture our own godliness. It only happens when we open ourselves up to Jesus and the Holy Spirit and allow them to change us from the inside out. We can’t fake this, no matter what we do. As Scottish preacher Duncan Campbell said, “The Kingdom of God is not going to be advanced by our churches becoming filled with men (and women), but by men (and women) in our churches becoming filled with God.”

Once we’ve given ourselves to Jesus, we become part of his body. Verses 4-5 tell us, For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”         

Every part of our human body is unique. For example, an eye is not like a hand at all. They look nothing alike and have different functions. Yet both are necessary if the body is to function at peak performance. The whole body is affected if a piece of dirt gets on the eye and there is no hand to remove it. It’s hard for the hand to pick something up if the eye can’t see it.

It’s important to remember every part of the body has to have the same goal or it never accomplishes anything. It doesn’t work if one leg wants to walk to the kitchen and the other one tries to take the body to the bedroom. They have to work together.

The body of Christ is the same. Our congregation is made up of males and females who come from different backgrounds. We have unique personalities with different political views, theological perspectives, interests, goals and spiritual gifts. Yet, we have the same goal – to follow and serve Jesus Christ. This keeps us moving in the same direction.

We need each other. We simply can’t be committed disciples of Jesus if we’re off doing our own thing. Even though it goes against the American ideal of rugged individualism, God created us to be in community with each other. Author Leslie Ludy sums up Paul’s teaching in Romans 12 when she writes in When God Writes Your Life Story: Experience the Ultimate Adventure, “In our culture it is seen as a sign of weakness to actually seek help from someone else. And yet, as Christians, God designed us to need each other – He designed us to lean upon the body of Christ for support, prayer, wisdom, and even practical help.”

Since you are a unique part that God has brought together to be his body, be the person God created you to be. Don’t compare yourself to others and try to be them. Figure out who you are in Christ and be yourself. That’s the person we need you to be.

As we work together and serve one another, we must remember the most important thing we’re called to do. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 tells us, If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

As we live in community and work at being living sacrifices together, the main question that should always be in our minds is, “If I say or do this, will it show love?” If the answer’s no, then we shouldn’t do it.

The world is watching to see if love is our top priority. It responds favorably when it is and condemns us when it isn’t. In his article, The Reason I Won’t Go To Your Church, Chris Kratzer writes, “You want to change me, I just need you to love me. You want to convert me, I just need you to love me. You want to confront, castigate, correct and conform me, I just need you to love me. There is nothing in all my heart and soul that couldn’t be overcome, if you’d just truly and simply love me. But sadly, you don’t—and even more tragically, because of your faith understanding—you won’t.”

Ouch.

When the world sees you and me, does it see love? Does it see people sold out to Jesus? If the answer is yes, then we’re on the right path. If it doesn’t see this, then we need to admit that we’re willing to be inconvenienced for Jesus but not willing to be living sacrifices.

Romans 12:1-8 makes the qualifications for being a living sacrifice very clear. Repent of your sins. Don’t allow the world to tell you how to live as a Christian. Serve God and each other with your gifts. Be the part of the body that God created you to be.

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