The Foundation for Life in the Body of Christ

I’m so grateful for this opportunity to share God’s Word with you this morning. I’m excited about what His Word has to say to us through these verses, but my heart has also been heavy with how the Lord is dealing with me in my own heart, and where He wants to get me to regarding these verses I’m going to preach on this morning.

Several of us men will be preaching through Romans 12, which deals with how we are to function as individual members in the body of Christ. Today I would like to set a foundation for how Christ is wanting us to relate to one another, the work He is calling us to do as individual members in the body of Christ. 

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:1-5)

Paul had already spent eleven chapters unfolding doctrine after doctrine of the Christian faith before he starts chapter 12 with the transition word “therefore,” which shifts his emphasis from the doctrines of the faith to their practical implications in our lives. From doctrine to practical application. This is where the rubber meets the road. Now that does not mean there was no practical application in chapters 1-11; there was, but Paul’s main emphasis in those chapters is doctrine. By the same token, we do also find doctrine in chapters 12-16 while Paul’s main emphasis in those chapters is practical application.

Before we go any further, we need to spend a little time on the doctrines contained in the first eleven chapters of Romans, so that we can get some sense of the magnitude of what God has done for us. This is a very high-level overview of these truths. Many faithful preachers of God’s Word who preach line by line and verse by verse have taken a year or two to preach through Romans chapters 1-11. Mine will not be adequate to give you all you need to get, but I would encourage you this month to read through Romans 1-12 as chapter 12 is being preached.

Paul lets us know that before we are saved, we first must realize we are in need of a savior. Paul lays out for us the reality that we are all sinners, both Jew and Gentile, and as such we were all under the wrath of God and in desperate need of a savior. Romans 1-3 covers that to great effect. All have sinned and fall short of glory of God (Romans 3:23). Paul explains God’s love for us as it is displayed in His mercy and grace, and the great lengths which God went to in order to provide a way of salvation for us helpless sinners who were enemies of God. You and I who did not deserve it, yet we have been saved through the blood of Christ, His death, burial, and resurrection.

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

So you and I, who were enemies of God, we have had our sins forgiven, and we no longer live under the wrath of God, but we have been reconciled to God. We have been brought into a right relationship with Him, and that means eternal life, heavenly citizenship, and a heavenly inheritance. But that’s not all God has done for us. You and I had no interest in God or salvation, it was God’s idea and plan to save you and I for His great purposes.

There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God (Romans 3:11)

God is sovereignly at work in us and He is sovereignly in control of all that happens to us and He is using every pain, every trial, every challenge, every hurt, and every heartache to perform in us this glorious end, which is to become like Jesus.

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:28-29)

If we rightly understand the truths of God’s Word, all that He has done for us, those truths demand a response from us. The correct understanding of who God is: His majesty, that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, holy, righteous, and just. He had the right to cast us into hell to be burned for eternity in its fire, but instead He poured out on us His mercy and grace, even at the cost of His Son’s suffering and death. As a result of what Jesus has done, you and I have been made sons and daughters, adopted into the family of God.

I would like to read to you the last 4 verses of Romans 11, which will give us a sense of the majesty of God.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 11:33-12:1)

As a result of who God is and all that God has done for us, Paul does not start the practical discussion of what our lives should look like in the body of Christ with a command to us, but he comes alongside us in our same boat, as a parent would to a child, pleading with us, begging us by the mercies of God to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice. And what are these mercies?

Love – Chapters 5 & 8
Grace – Chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6
Holy Spirit – Chapters 5 & 8

Romans 5:5 says, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Just in that one verse we see God’s mercy towards us in hope, in love, and in the gift of the Holy Spirit!

His mercies also include:
Peace – Chapter 5 verse 1
Faith – Chapters 4, 5, and 9
Reconciliation – Chapter 5
Kindness – Chapters 2 & 11

So because of all that God has done for us and given to us, the only logical and rational response would be to present our bodies to the Lord for His use as a living sacrifice unto Him. To do anything less would be irrational and foolish. 

Under the law, animals were brought to the temple to be sacrificed. The priest actually sacrificed the animal, but the animal was presented to the priest by the offerer. In presenting the animal to the priest he was transferring all rights, claims, and interest he had in that animal over to God. Today we no longer sacrifice animals, but we present our own bodies to the Lord, transferring all rights and claims and interest over to him. And just as under the law the offerer of the sacrifice would present the best animal he had, an unblemished animal, clean, so too when we come to God and present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him, we should never present ourselves to the Lord and say, “Lord here I am, I want to do your will, but you know I have a bad temper and that’s just the way I am.” No, the Lord wants us to come to Him holy. That means we need to be turning away from sin, repenting of it. I want to encourage you that we do not have to live as slaves of sin, God has freed us from that. If we come to God confessing our sins, repenting of them, we don’t have to walk in them any longer, and we can serve God in the way He wants us to serve Him.

11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (Romans 8:11-12)

You and I can live victorious lives in Christ. That’s what His Word says, and that’s what the power of the Holy Spirit in us is able to accomplish. If we genuinely are presenting our bodies to the Lord as living sacrifices then our bodies will be used by God for sacrificial service toward one another. So if we are not actively, consistently serving others in the body of Christ, we need to examine ourselves to see if we have fallen into one of the two traps Paul warns us about.

The first trap that can keep us from living rightly in the body of Christ is the push and the pull, this pressing the world does against us. Patterns of sinful thinking and behavior that the world presses on us to try to mold us into its own image. That is the first trap.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

He gives us a picture of being squeezed and pushed and shaped into a mold that does not look anything like the image and likeness of Christ. I remember as a kid we had a mold you could use to make popsicles. You can pour juice into the mold, stick it in the freezer, and after a while it will become a popsicle, conformed into a new shape. That’s what the world seeks to do in us. We are God’s, we are His possession, but the world tries to shape and mold us into something we are not, and something God doesn’t intend for us to be. This world is under the control of Satan, so we are warned to be careful.

We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)

This world seeks to appeal to our flesh, to try to entice us into conforming to its image. 

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. (James 1:14)

The world uses the flesh that remains in us to try to draw us away from God. But Exodus 23:2 tells us “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil.”

And Paul not only warns us about the trap of being conformed to this world, but he provides us with the way we can avoid the trap; he gives us the remedy, the antidote for that. Paul tells us to renew our minds. We have already seen that we are to put off the outward pressure the world puts on us, but the renewing of the mind Paul is talking about is about a change. It’s not a change from outward pressure, but this renewing of our minds is to be a change from the inside out. So that how we think does not just look different, but is different. As we are renewed in our minds, we are radically changed. Just like a caterpillar that goes into a cocoon and comes out a butterfly. No longer a caterpillar, but something new and totally different. That is the kind of radical change the Lord wants from us.

A renewed mind is no longer consumed with wanting others to submit to its will, a renewed mind is no longer consumed with getting what it wants, and making sure those around it pay a heavy price when it doesn’t get what it wants. Whether it’s displaced in angry words or actions, or icy silence. But a renewed mind is saturated in the Word of God, studying it, meditating on it, putting it into practice in our lives. When you and I do that we become consumed with submitting our bodies to Christ to do His work. With a renewed mind we are now consumed with meeting the needs of others. With a renewed mind, what is important to God becomes important to us. With a renewed mind we are willing to present our bodies to the Lord to be used as He desires, no matter the cost.

Recently in the news there has been discussion about the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The most important thing he said in that speech often goes overlooked. He said, “I just want to do God’s will.” That was the most important thing he could have ever said, and it’s what you and I need to say as we present our bodies to Him. As we sacrificially serve others, we prove in our own lives that God’s will is good and acceptable and perfect. It is always that way, but you and I get to prove it as we live it out.

I remember as a teenager my grandmother talked about the goodness of God, the things God has done and what He will do. She talked about it with such confidence. As a new believer I knew I loved the Lord, but I didn’t quite get the same thing. She used to say, “I know that I know that I know who God is, and that He has saved me.” That kind of living out God’s will is where God wants us to be, and it’s where we can be.

In verse 3 Paul warns us about the second trap we can fall into if we are not careful. Just like the first trap, this is a trap that can prevent us from offering our bodies as living sacrifices, serving as He wants us to serve.

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

Paul is now commanding us with the authority of the office of an apostle, but even in that he still does it with great humility when he says that he is speaking to us through the grace given to him. Not that he had anything to do with the authority and revelation and wisdom and truth that he shares with us.

7 I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. 8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:7-8)

So when Paul talks about the grace given to him he lets us know that it is God’s power and God’s message that we all must hear and obey. And the command that he shares applies to everyone without exception, and that command is this: “I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment.”

Matthew Henry says, “Pride is a sin that is bred in the bone of all of us, and we have therefore each of us need to be cautioned and armed against it.”

This temptation we have to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, each of us must examine our hearts in this regard. And it should be a continual examination, day by day.

I would like to walk us through a few ways we can think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

The first is that we can become self-sufficient, or so we can think. The Lord has designed us for relationship with Him and with each other. We may never come out and say, “I don’t need anybody,” but men, do you live like you don’t need other godly men in your life, all in your business? Or are you actively pursuing and cultivating relationships with other godly men in this local body of Christ? Not for their benefit, but for yours? If you do not see the need for other godly men in your life, you may be thinking more highly of yourself then you ought to think. On Friday I was so encouraged to hear from a brother who wanted to go out to lunch. It is encouraging to know that someone wants to take time to spend with you, because we need each other.

Ladies, are you actively pursuing and cultivating relationships with other godly ladies in our local body of Christ? If not, I would encourage you to examine your heart to see if you might be thinking more highly of yourself then you ought to think. 

The same goes for you teenagers and young adults. Do you see and understand the need you have for your fellow brothers and sisters in your life? If you do not, you may be thinking more highly of yourself then you ought to think.

There are times when we all need to be taught, admonished, encouraged by others, prayed for, and there are times when we need others to bear our burdens.

You may be saying, “I work well over forty hours a week, and I just don’t have time,” or, “I have small kids at home,” or, “I have so much schoolwork I just don’t have time.” I would ask you to consider a couple thoughts. The first is that I am not unsympathetic to the realities of the busyness of life. But we all make time for the things in our life that are important to us. And if we really believe that we need each other, then we will make time to get to know one another and be involved in each other’s lives. Second of all, relationships in the body of Christ are not a matter of convenience, they are meant by God to be sacrificial. So to establish and grow godly relationships in the body of Christ will take humility and sacrifice.

Here is another area were we might be thinking more highly of ourselves then we ought, which is the area of wisdom. Do you make important decisions without trusting the Lord and seeking the counsel of other believers? Or are you in the habit of just making your own decisions by your own wisdom?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:7)

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5)

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel. (Proverbs 12:15)

Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. (Proverbs 19:20)

Do you have a habit of trusting the Lord and seeking the wise counsel of other believers? If so, are you also willing to truly listen and follow the counsel you have been given? Or do you find yourself, even after receiving wise counsel, just going your own way?

Another area we can think more highly of ourselves then we ought to think is when we begin to use the gifts that God has given us, when the Lord is using us to minister to others, and if we’re not careful we can get puffed up. We can began to think it is us and not the Lord in us doing the work. We can try to take credit for God’s work.

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)

If we think rightly of ourselves, we will have sound judgment about who we are, where God has placed us in the body, the things He’s called us to do. We will know and live like we need other believers, and we will also understand that our spiritual gifts have nothing to do with us and everything to do with the Lord. We will also not be afraid to use our spiritual gifts to minister to others, because the Lord has given to us the measure of faith that we need in order to function in the roles He has given us. He not only gives the gift, but also the freedom to use it through faith.

4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5)

Without exception, each one of us who love God and have been saved by Him has been uniquely gifted by God for ministry in the body of Christ. All of us have an important role or function within the body of Christ. No one has been left out! Just like in the human body each cell and organ and member has a vital purpose, so too in the body of Christ. In the positive, when each of us is doing in the church what God has gifted us and placed in the body to do, then the body is healthy and functioning well. Just like our human bodies when each cell and organ is working the way it’s supposed to, then we are in good health. Stated negatively, when any one of us is not serving in the way God has gifted us and placed us in the body to serve, then the body is not well and the body suffers.

The dynamic of serving in the body of Christ is expressed two ways. The first is how we function as we look at the global body of Christ. Within that global body, God may move us to various places at various times. For example, when we go to Joni and Friends or Project 61 and we join with other believers from other churches to minster to each other and to those who have a need. The Lord can use us to be a great blessing as we connect and partner with other believers that are scattered throughout the global body of Christ. That may be throughout the Dallas area, or scattered throughout Texas, or the United States, or anywhere in the world. 

Christian Cook’s missionary trip to Japan is a great example of that. Believers who probably came from all parts of the United States came together to go halfway around the world to minister to and with other believers. And Christian got to see that the body of Christ is working in Japan, just as it is here.

At times God will move us around the world to serve and minister to others. There are significant ways that we can individually function in the gifts that God has given us in a very broad and sometimes global way. So I would ask you as I have been asking myself: how are you doing with that? Have you been presenting your body to the Lord and saying to Him, “I will sacrificially minister wherever and whenever you want”? Are we willing to do that? 

The primary way you and I serve is in this local body. I would ask again: how are you doing with that? Are you using the gifts God has given you in this body? The other place we use our gifts prominently is within our homes. Are you using your spiritual gifts in your home? Are you actively and consistently using the spiritual gifts that the Lord gave you to serve sacrificially in your home and in this church?

The Lord is wanting us to present our bodies continually before Him, for His use and purposes, so we are to continually be serving. So if you find that your service is sporadic, I would lovingly say that you need to be obedient to God’s call for you to be a living sacrifice. If we’re not actively serving the body, we’re sinning. God gave us each gifts because the body needs those gifts!

I would encourage you to consider today your level of commitment to service, as you ask Him what He wants you to do, as you present your body to Him for service.

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:1-5)