A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on September 25, 2011 The Christian Faith One Word at a Time: SacrificeRomans 12:1-10What are you expectations in coming here to New Hope? Probably the most important we want God’s Word to be taught in its truth and purity; because what matters is not what man thinks, it’s what God thinks. At the end of our earthly life, we will not be judged according to what the majority has said is right and wrong; we will be judged according to God’s standards. This fact increases our desire to hear His Word taught in its truth and purity, because only God can give us the holiness we need to enter heaven. He does this through His Son, and through His Word He gives us faith to trust in His Son. A second expectation we have in coming to New Hope is we want comfort and guidance in our daily life. These come to us, again, through the Word. But comfort and guidance also comes to us through our fellowship with other believers. It’s important then that everyone here be working together and encouraging each other. However, when God cursed the ground because of sin, work in God’s Kingdom, whether done by called workers or volunteers, became hard. The simple reason is sin – our sins and the sins of the people we serve and work together with. Our text this morning is about how God strengthens us for this. We have been following a sermon series called: The Christian Faith One Word at a Time. Today’s word is sacrifice. Being a Christian and serving the Lord always involves sacrifice. 1. We rejoice in Jesus’ sacrifice for us. 2. When we do this, we rejoice in sacrificing for others. Sacrificing for others does not make us holy before God. In Romans 3 God says: Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. (Romans 3:19-20) God’s Law requires that we have perfect love, patience and forgiveness for all. So, let’s say we sacrifice some of our time, talents and sleepless nights to serve others. What is our attitude if we see no return for our efforts and no appreciation? Do we get an attitude like Jeremiah had in our Old Testament reading? He started thinking, “This is a waste of time, and God’s Word doesn’t work!” However, what does the Law say should be our attitude? That we have perfect love, patience and forgiveness for all! That’s a high standard. But does it really matter if we fall short of it? Here’s what Romans chapter 3 says: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 Falling short of God’s glory is falling short of God’s saying to us that we’re fit for heaven. But we might say, “That’s not fair; we’re good people and we know the Gospel!” Then all the more God has a right to expect of us that we will be lights of love, patience, and forgiveness in this sinful world. And how this world needs that!But let’s get back to the point that sacrificing ourselves in service to God’s Kingdom doesn’t make us holy before God. Actually it just makes us realize when we’re trying hard, that we’re coming up short. This is where believers can start to burn out, which of course is what the devil wants. But let’s not let this happen. Instead let’s shift our focus from our sacrifices to Christ’s sacrifice. Again reading from Roman 3: And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. Romans 3:24-25a Christ was perfect in love, patience, and forgiveness. For example when He was at His trial, the very people, who should have seen that He was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies, rejected Him. But they didn’t just send Him back to Nazareth. They blind folded Him and struck Him on the face over and over. They falsely accused Him before the Roman governor to get a death sentence on Him. Yet what did Jesus do in response? He commended Himself into His Father’s hands. He basically prayed, “Father, this is wrong, but you work it out.” In the meanwhile Jesus kept loving His enemies. He even took their sins upon His back and whipped in their place and our too. Then He was nailed to a cross, and He prayed for them and for us, “Father forgive them!” By His perfect life and by His innocent sacrifice, Christ has made us holy before God. As a result all who trust this will enter eternal life. This fact comforts our hearts. Unfortunately our sinful hearts will often then come up with a new reason to be afraid: What if my trusting isn’t sincere enough, and how do I prove to God and to myself that it is? Whatever you do, don’t stay in that fear! Instead ask yourself, “Am I baptized and what did God promise to me through my baptism? Romans chapter 6 answers that for us: Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4) Through Baptism God gave us His Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit God gives us faith. By the same Spirit God creates holy desires in us and leads us to struggle against our sinful desires. Whenever we fail in this struggle, through the Word the Spirit leads us back to Christ’s sacrifice for us. And so, our strength to keep on believing and our strength to keep on serving is HIS love, patience, and forgiveness for us. But how can we thank God for all this? Paul answers that in our text: 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. Romans 12:1 Being a living sacrifice is hard on the one hand hard, because it’s every day. At the same time it’s also a joy, because we’re living a life that’s truly worth living. We read on in our text to see what being a living sacrifice means: 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. Romans 12:2 Is it hard to not keep up with the Jones? We often say we could care less about it. Yet every day we have to make choices: Is this way of spending some money or is this way of spending some time pleasing to God or is immoral? And if it’s not immoral, is it important for my mental, emotional and physical health, or is it selfishness? We can discover the answer to these questions by daily renewing our minds through the Word. And then when we follow up the Word with praying, “Hollowed be Thy name” and “Thy Kingdom come”, in our inner self we will know which is the right decision in how we’re using our time and money. Another way we are “living sacrifices” is by using the gifts God gives us. Our text reads: 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 encouraging, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is leading, do it diligently; if it is showing mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:6-8. Each of us has different gifts in different amounts. Which are your gifts? If yours is prophesying which is telling others what God says in His Word, make sure everything you say is really is in the Bible. Or, if your gift is serving in some way, never look down on yourself, because you’re just serving. In God’s eyes your service is vital, and that’s why He gave you that gift. Or, if your gift is teaching, then give it your all, because that IS a main mission of the church. Still, how effective would the church’s teaching be, if there weren’t also people to encourage others with just the right words at just the right moment? The gift of contributing is the ability to give joyfully without being afraid, because you know God is taking care of you; and He does! The gift of leadership is being quick to see the needs of the body and what to do about it. It’s also being quick to spot and defuse dangerous situations. Finally showing mercy is the gift of doing just that when it’s truly helping someone and not enabling him to not take care of himself. As you think about Paul’s list of spiritual gifts, perhaps you already have a pretty good idea of which ones you have. But which gifts does our congregation need more of? Maybe all of them! Or, maybe what we need is to rejoice more in the gifts God has already given our congregation. You see, just as a body has many parts and they are all important, so each person’s gifts are important to the whole body of Christ. Also, God gives each person the gifts He does according to His wisdom, and according to His mercy for the sake of getting the Gospel to more and more people. And so, let’s never look down on another’s gifts, or feel bad we don’t have more of this or that gift, or get frustrated with those who don’t have the same or as many gifts as we do. Rather in view of God’s mercy, let’s offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. This means using our gifts as best as we can to do what needs to be doing, with no other reward in mind other than to help others both spiritually and physically, who are just as precious to Jesus as we are. So, then, in view of God’s mercy to us, in view of His love, patience, and forgiveness for us, why wouldn’t we pray to be able to do more and more? With this approach toward life, we are living the life that’s truly worth living. Also even if we don’t see many results right away like what Jeremiah went through in the Old Testament reading, being a living sacrifice means trusting that God will bless in His way and at His time. Finally being a living sacrifice to God means more than having good intentions. It’s actually following through on those good intentions. In your service folder is a sheet listing various opportunities for serving the Lord here at New Hope. Please take it out and look at it for just a moment. Please study this list at home, pray about it, fill it out as the Lord leads you, and bring it back next week and put it into the offering plate. As we each rejoice in Jesus’ sacrifice for us, may God grant us rich joy and blessings as we now sacrificing for others! Amen.

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