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Andy Bustanoby
(C) 2007

                    Called To Be A Living Sacrifice
                          (Romans 12:1-8)

Why do Christians hurt?  This is the subject of my series with you.  I
have spoken on the subjects "Called To Trial" and "Called To Suffering."
Now I speak of another calling that hurts--"Called To Be A Living
Sacrifice."  The text is Romans 12:1-8.

In order to understand this concept, we must understand a fundamental
difference between the Old Testament and New Testament.  The Old
Testament required animal sacrifice in which the life blood of the
animal was shed.  The sacrifice that most closely parallels the living
sacrifice in the New Testament was the Old Testament Burnt Offering of
the animal.  The blood of the Burnt Offering was sprinkled on and around
the altar of fire.  It was not, as other offerings, consumed by anyone
but entirely burnt on the altar before God.  It belonged wholly, and
solely, to God.  Most important to understand is that the Burnt Offering
was expressive of entire self-dedication of the offerer to God.

We too are called to make an offering expressive of entire
self-dedication to God.  Paul in Romans 12 calls it "a living sacrifice."

Perhaps someone will say, I'm glad you're not telling us that we need to
die.  Well, I don't know if that's comforting or not.  After the anima
had his throat slit, there was no more pain.  The pain of the living
sacrifice, however, goes on and on.

As with the call to trial and the call to suffering this sacrifice has
the same three features:  a calling, an attitude and a benefit.

               Our Calling To Be A Living Sacrifice

Let me speak first of our calling to be a living sacrifice in Romans 12:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your
bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--which is your
spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1 NIV).

To understand Paul's exhortation here we must remember that previously,
in Romans 1-11, Paul has explained God's mercies to us--justification,
sanctification and glorification.

Note that yielding our bodies as a sacrifice is called "our spiritual
worship" in the NIV.  The KJV calls it our "reasonable service."
"Spiritual worship" is a better translation.  It parallels the Burnt
Offering of the Old Testament.  It's an act of worship to God--entire

Are you a Christian?  Do you want to make a sacrifice to God that speaks
of your entire dedication to Him?  Then listen to what I say about your
calling to be a living sacrifice.  But listen carefully.  It's not a
part-time thing, like going to church every Sunday and running your life
the way you want the rest of the week.  This is a full-time commitment.
It is saying to God, You can use me as you see fit, seven days a week,
twenty-four hours a day.

As we shall see in the context, God's way of "using" us as living
sacrifices is in the exercise of our spiritual gifts.  A spiritual gift
is the ability to serve God.  The gift was given when you were saved and
baptized by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ.  The body of Christ
is the living church.  It is like a living body, with many members
having different functions.

Let me caution you, however.  Don't think for a moment that you are
being called to fame and fortune as a great Christian leader.  We'll get
into this later.  Just stand warned that Paul is talking about a living

The first thing I want you to note about our calling is the fact that as
a living sacrifice we are "holy and pleasing to God."  This follows the
Old Testament requirement of the Burnt Offering.  It had to be a perfect
animal, at least eight days old--full of life.  God doesn't accept
flawed sacrifices.

You may say, Well, I am flawed.  I'm not free of sin.

I must disagree with you.  When you were saved you were given a new
spiritual position called "in Christ."  You were not only saved, you
were sanctified--made holy.  This is why Paul addresses the Ephesians as

Now it is true that in your behavior you sin.  But we deal with sinful
behavior by faith in our position in Christ.  By faith, our position
becomes our possession.  The holiness of our position is, by faith,
possessed and shown in our behavior.

But you may still insist that you are flawed and say to me, But I'm
blind.  I have learned from my friend Grant Metcalf that blindness is
not necessarily a flaw to the dedicated Christian.  In fact, my being a
sighted person really is a flaw in proof reading my writings.  Grant is
a better "proof-reader" than I am.

Let me explain.  I do what speed readers usually do.  I look at the
first and last letters of a word, and unless the word is really messed
up, I move on.  When Grant listens to what I've written, he picks up
typographical errors that I miss.

I will be dealing with physical liabilities in my next message, Called
To Weakness.  But for now, I want you to understand that our position in
Christ is perfect holiness.  A holy walk comes by the power of the Holy
Spirit when by faith we rest or abide in the truth that in Christ we
are holy.

This is what Paul gets into in the first part of the next verse:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be 
transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2a NIV).

The mind has already been renewed by our perfect position in Christ.  We
are a new creation.  However, the mind, as far as possessing that
holiness, is in the process of being renewed.  This is why Paul can say
that as living sacrifices we are holy and pleasing to God, but we are
also called, by faith, to show it in our behavior.

As we walk by faith, our position gradually becomes our possession.

Now Paul says that this renewing of the mind involves our 
"transformation."  This has to do with our behavior.  Does the world see
Christ in us?  The word "transformed" would be better translated as

Do you remember the gospels where Christ went into the mountain with
James, Peter and John and was "transfigured" before them?  His face
shined like the sun and His clothes were as bright as light.  The word
"transfigured" there, _metamorphoom, is from the same Greek root,
"transformed," _metamorphoo.  We get our word "metamorphosis" from this.

The difference between transformed and transfigured is this.  Something
can be transformed by shining a light on it.  Take a crystal chandler
for example.  If you shine a light on it, the crystals will shine and
look pretty.  But if your turn on the light inside the chandler it will
blaze with glory as the light comes through the crystal.  The Christian
who lets the light of Christ shine from within is what Paul is talking

Paul illustrates this in 2 Corinthians where he contrasts us to Moses.

Therefore, since we have such a hope [our position in Christ] , we are
very bold.  We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to
keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.
... But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now
the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory,
are being transformed [transfigured] into his likeness with
ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit
(2 Cor. 3:12-13; 16-18 NIV).

We who are called to be living sacrifices can live up to the calling
when by faith we let the glory of Christ shine forth.  By faith our
position becomes our possession.

I have already used the illustration of having a bank account in another
state.  It's there, and I know it's there, but I have to make a
withdrawal if I want to use it.

So it is with the riches of grace in Christ.  It's there!  By faith,
make a withdrawal!  How?  Pray this prayer:  Jesus, I know the old sin
nature is dead because I've been crucified with you.  Let me experience
freedom from sin right now.

I should say one other thing about the renewing of the mind.  The Bible
speaks of our immaterial nature as made up of soul, spirit, mind, and
heart.  I tend to agree with the theologian Chafer who says that these
add up to the human ego or who I am.

This is reflected in Paul's frequent use of the expression, "Not I, but
Christ."  The renewing of the mind involves the gradual conforming of
the human ego to the likeness of Christ.

Our daily spiritual walk has nothing to do with our own effort.  Just as
you are saved by an act of faith, holiness is your experience as day by
day you rest in the truth that we are, in Christ, dead to sin.

                   Our Attitude As A Living Sacrifice

This is why Paul speaks next of our attitude as a living sacrifice.

For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you:  Do not think of
yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with
sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given
you (Rom. 12:3 NIV).

When Paul talks of God's grace to him here he is speaking of his own
spiritual gift as an Apostle, which makes him responsible to teach us
something about our attitude toward our spiritual gift.  He says, Don't
be conceited.  Be humble about your gift.

It is clear that both the type of gift and the extent or power of it are
both established by God.  We don't decide how great a gift we have.
We may teach a home Bible study, but we may not be good enough to teach
the Bible in seminary or on TV.

When Paul says that we are to judge the extent of our gift according to
the measure of faith God has given us, we may think, Is God limiting our
faith?  Suppose I believe I'm a good enough teacher to be on TV.  Won't
that kind of faith give me more power in my teaching?

No, this isn't what Paul is saying.  He is saying that God decided what
your gift is and its extent or power.  God has given all believers faith
to understand not only what their gift is but how big it is!

Paul is saying, In faith, ask God what and how big your gift is and He
will tell you.  Imagine God saying, "Now I'm giving out the gift of
teaching and something to measure it by."  You see him give Jack a ten
foot tape measure.

Joe thinks, I'm as good a teacher as Jack.  But God hands him a one foot,
that's a twelve-inch wooden ruler.  Can you handle that, Joe?  Maybe
your problem with teaching is your attitude.  You're the only one in
your Bible study who thinks that you're a great teacher.

You know what?  If you accepted God's estimate of your gift, and let Him
deal with your conceit, it might change your attitude and improve your
Whenever I think of this I think of a man I know who has a tremendous
passion to become a teacher or leader in the church.  He told me that he
once asked the pastor and another staff member to teach him how to be an
elder.  He said, "They just laughed at me."

I know why they laughed.  This man has an attitude problem--he thinks
more highly of himself than he ought to think.  He said that he went
home and said to himself, "I don't need them, but they need me."  He now
is working in the church, but I hate to think of the results.

Paul says, Don't be high-minded but sober minded.  The word translated
"sober" literally means "to be in one's right mind."  Conceit over our
spiritual gift is treated as a species of insanity.

I remind you that Paul, speaking of his Apostleship, said that he is the
least of the Apostles.  He also said that he is the least of the saints.
All of this, in spite of the fact that he contributed more to the
writings of the New Testament than any other Apostle.  Now that is

Paul now continues his discussion of spiritual gifts as they relate to
the church, the body of Christ.  When he speaks of the attitude we are
to have, it is not only humility, but we must also realize that we are
not independent of the other members of the body of Christ.

So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to
all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given
us (Rom. 12:5-6a NIV).

Note what he says:  "Each member belongs to all the others."  We
function as a body, together, with many different members, each
dependent upon the other.

The toes keep the body in balance; the fingers pick up things for the
body to use.  The toes don't try to pick up things and we don't walk
with our hands and fingers.

I often tease my granddaughter telling her, "Tia, you're supposed to
have feet that run and a nose that smells not feet that smell and a nose
that runs."

When we think of our attitude toward our gift we want to remember
Christ's parable of the talents.  Both the man with the five talents and
the man with the two talents invested their talents and gained more.
They both were told, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."  The man
with one talent said, "I only have one talent, so I hid it so I wouldn't
lose it."  The Lord called the man with one talent "wicked" and "lazy"

If you are a one talent person and consider yourself a nothing in the
body of Christ because you have only one talent, beware.  That's not
humility.  It's sin.  You are holding back something that belongs to the
rest of us in the body.  You, as a nonfunctioning member of the body,
are keeping the body from being all it can be.

          The Benefit of Our Calling To Be Living Sacrifices

Paul now tells us about the benefit of our calling to be living
sacrifices.  Remember the letters CAB:  Called, Attitude, Benefit.  Our
Calling is to be a living sacrifice, wholly belonging to God.  Our
Attitude is to be one of humility about our spiritual gift.  Now the

Paul identifies some of the gifts that God has given.  Here are the
benefits of being a living sacrifice--a gift or talent from God to
function as a member of the body of Christ.

I say that the list here is some of the gifts that God has given because
some of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible are temporary gifts.
I have in mind the gifts of miracles, healing, tongues and the
interpretation of tongues.  The are often called "sign gifts."  They are
signs of God's working in an unusual manner.  At the birth of the church
on the day of Pentecost this was the case.  After the sign gifts were
no longer necessary, they ceased.

Let's now look at the gifts Paul lists, which are permanent spiritual

If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his
faith (Rom. 12:6b NIV).

We not only are given a gift, but God's gives us a sense of our
limitations--to use it in proportion to the faith God gives.

The first gift, the gift of prophecy, often raises disagreement.  Is
this a temporary or permanent gift?  My position is that the other six
gifts in this list are permanent, and for Paul to start with a temporary
gift doesn't fit the context.

It's important that we understand this is the gift of prophecy.  Do not
confuse this with the office of prophet.

We make the same distinction between the gift and office of Apostle.
The office of Apostle involved those who were inspired to write
scripture.  The Bible is now complete, so there is no more need for the
office of Apostle.

But the word "apostle" means "a sent one." This has to do with a gift
not the office of Apostle.  It is likely that the gift of apostle is
that of carrying the gospel throughout the world, different from the
gift of pastor-teacher who is usually in one location, teaching

Likewise, the gift of prophecy is not the same as being a prophet or
having the office of prophet.  In First Corinthians this gift has to do
with "strengthening, encouragement and comfort" (1 Cor. 14:3 NIV).  It
was "forth-telling," or speaking out God's word already given.  It did
not have to do with "foretelling."  It was not new revelation.

The gift of prophecy was not the teaching of doctrine, which is a
different gift.  This gift has to do with encouraging believers to act
upon God's word and to be comforted by it.

The second gift, serving.

If it is serving, let him serve ... (Rom. 12:7a NIV).

The word translated "serve" is the Greek word from which we get "deacon."
This is not the office of deacon but one who serves the body of Christ
in any manner.  It has to do with action rather than talking.

We tend to think of service in the body of Christ as doing "spiritual
things," such as praying with or for people, or reading the Bible to
them.  Yes, these are forms of service.  But how about taking food to a
shut-in who has no family or anyone to help?  How about taking care of
the children of a sick mother until she gets better?  Sometimes we are
so spiritually minded we are no earthly good!

The third gift is teaching.  

... if it is teaching, let him teach (Rom. 12:7b NIV).

This gift has to do with giving people an understanding of God's word
and how we might fulfill God's will for our lives.  It could involve
teaching scripture or older people teaching younger people how to make
their marriage work or how to raise children.

Some people are not good teachers because they live in an ivory tower,
away from reality.  They are caught up in the complexity of an idea, and
when they go to teach it they tell you more than you need to know and
confuse you.  I believe we need to use the KISS principle in
teaching--Keep It Simple, Stupid.

The fourth gift is encouraging.  

... if it is encouraging, let him encourage ... (Rom. 12:8b NIV).

This is the same word translated "exhortation" by those with the gift of
prophecy.  Why is this listed here if it's part of the gift of prophecy?
I think that exhortation is so important that we need it to be used more
frequently as a separate gift, and not just part of the gift of prophecy.

Exhortation, called here, "encouraging," is an action word.  Those with
the gift of exhortation are able to get people moving or acting on what
the Bible teaches.  Many believers are well-taught in what they should
do but don't act on it.  The exhorter is able to move them to action.

The fifth gift is contributing to the needs of others.

... if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give
generously ... (Rom. 12:8c NIV).

Contributing to needs can be money or it can be physical labor.

How about spending your energy to visit a shut-in and give him a nice
meal?  How about mowing the grass for that poor widow living alone.

Once again, the contribution is not talk.  It's action in meeting 
needs--not necessarily spiritual needs but practical needs.  I said it
before, and I'll say it again:  Sometimes we are so heavenly minded we
are no earthly good.

It's interesting that these last three gifts are followed with
directions on how they should be done.  For example, the gift of
contributing to the needs of others should be done with generosity.

The sixth gift is leadership.  

... if it is leadership, let him govern diligently ... (Rom. 12:8d NIV).

Leadership is to be done diligently.  How many of you have seen people
in positions of leadership be more concerned with keeping their high
positions than doing the job it calls for.

This is my biggest gripe about government, whether it be national or
local.  It seems that a lot of our leaders are more interested in
getting re-elected than in doing their job.  And when they do their job
it's often to get congress to spend "pork money" in their district so
the people in their district will like what they are doing.

The same thing happens in the church.  Leadership often is occupied with
keeping the job.  I say, do your job and then maybe they'll keep you on
in your job.

The seventh gift is showing mercy.

... if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully (Rom. 12:8e NIV).

Perhaps you've read my blog called "Hilarity At the Hospital."  I say
this in my blog:

I really feel sorry for hospital patients who get visitors who don't
have a clue as to what a visitor should do. What is the protocol for a
hospital visitor? The Apostle Paul tells us that if you have the
spiritual gift of mercy, "do it cheerfully" (Rom. 12:8).

I'm afraid that some visitors take Paul quite literally, for he uses the
Greek word, _hilarotes, from which we get the English word, hilarity.
Believe me, if the patient has had an abdominal incision, cracking jokes
and making him laugh is the last thing you want to do.

What is Paul getting at when he says this? He's addressing the thinking
of the pagan Greek.  The Greeks in the first century connected the idea
of mercy with fear.  They felt that when we see someone suffering, it is
reasonable to fear for ourselves because we may suffer the same fate.
Therefore, we show mercy.

The Stoic Greeks, on the other hand, regarded mercy as a human flaw, a
sickness of the soul.  Their philosophy was that people should be free
from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to
unavoidable necessity.

Into this culture comes these Christians with a radically different
approach to mercy for those in pain and suffering.  Instead of fear, the
Apostle Paul urges hilarity or cheerfulness. ... The Greeks must have
been saying, What's with these people? Suffering doesn't provoke mercy
and fear. It provokes a mercy that brings cheerfulness and happiness!

Before you go off for a hospital visit to cheer up a friend, let me
offer this perspective. The New Testament view of suffering is
beautifully illustrated by the story of Job in the Old Testament.  God's
purpose in permitting Job to suffer at the hands of Satan was to teach
him, and all of us, that whatever happens, it comes from a loving God
who knows what He's doing.

The difference between the Christians and the pagan Greeks was that the
Christians believed in a God who loved them and knew what He was doing.
Suffering wasn't something to be met by a mercy gripped with fear or
borne by grim self-determination.  It was an attitude of quiet
confidence in their God that brought peace to the soul.

Several years ago I underwent surgery for a cancerous prostate gland.
When I went to the hospital, I told my wife to discourage anyone from
visiting. I was taking with me all the comfort I needed. I was going
with the knowledge that God loves me and knows what He's doing.

Friends, please take note and act accordingly.

Now let me summarize what we have seen in Romans 12.  We are called to
be living sacrifices to serve God with our spiritual gifts.  We are to
do it with an attitude of humility.  We enjoy the benefit of God's using
our spiritual gift as a member of the body of Christ.

If you have experienced rejection and hurt in the exercise of your
spiritual gift, be encouraged.  Why?  Because it teaches humility, which
is essential to our calling as a living sacrifice.  You may have a
wonderful gift in large measure.  But rejection still hurts.

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