Printable PDF: 09-13-2020 Pentecost 15 Sermon
Pastor Jacobson ~ Pentecost 15 ~ September 13, 2020 ~ Romans 12:1-8
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. 2Do 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. 3For 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. 4For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
WHEN IN ROME DON’T DO AS THE ROMANS DO (Week Two)
GOD LIKES COMPLETE &
When you are watching those videos on the YouTube channel, what causes you to click like or dislike? And what causes you to go “MEH” to neither like the video nor dislike the video? What’s the criterion? Is it based on the level of helpfulness of the video? If it helps, Like. If it doesn’t help, Dislike. If it kind of, sort of helps, MEH. Is it based on the level of entertainment? If it makes you laugh, Like. If it makes you groan, Dislike. If it does neither, MEH.
What if God were to turn the camera on you? Would God like or dislike what he sees and hears from you? MEH is not an option for God. God has strong feelings. Would God see your service as helpful? Does your worship cause God to smile? Is your service made of the kind of quality where God would actually make a comment like, “Well done, good and faithful servant” or might God type in all CAPS, “YOU WICKED, LAZY SERVANT”?
- Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.
In keeping with our sermon series, “When in Rome don’t do as the Romans do,” my eyes immediately look for the “dos” and the “do nots” of our text. And in our text the “do nots” immediately jump out. In verse 2 Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.” To conform is to comply, to behave in a manner that is set by others. The ‘others’ in this verse is the pattern of this world. The pattern of this world ever since the fall into sin has been rebellion. And admittedly, sometimes, our rebellion is outright rebellion. If I don’t care for the person in charge or what I’m being told to do, then my sinful nature doesn’t care to do what is said. Sometimes our rebellion is outright rebellion. Other times our rebellion is aided by a carrot. “If you eat this fruit, you will be like God knowing good and evil.” Does that sound familiar? How about, “So they counted out for him 30 pieces of silver?”
What carrot aids your rebellion? Does a desire to keep up with the Joneses foster a coveting desire for material possession that are not yours? Does a suggestive movie scene or internet image stir up lustful desires for a person who is not your spouse? Does someone’s harsh words kindle resentment in you? The carrot method still works, doesn’t it? And so does the bully method. The bully method forces you to do what you don’t want to do. I may not even be speeding in my car. I might be 5 miles below the speed limit, but if I see a policeman with his radar gun, I instinctively slow down. The force of the law works; it gets results in our nation. The force of the law gets results in the church, too. Do you come to worship to worship or do you come to worship to be seen? Do you help out at home to be helpful or do you help out at home so you don’t get in trouble. When we serve like we are supposed to only because we think someone is watching us like a bully, we are not serving like we are supposed to. King David realized these motivations brought out by the bully method were wrong. In his Psalms he wrote, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.…Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar” (Psalm 51:17 & 19).
The Apostle Paul tells us in God’s Word, “To offer your bodies to the Lord as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” God only likes our singing voices when our hearts love to sing as well, and God only likes our help at home when our minds are thinking about how great it is to be helpful at home. This complete service of body and soul cannot be conformed or forced. We can’t be peer-pressured to love God. We can’t be disciplined to want the best for all people. The complete service God likes can only be caused by God.
Paul writes, “Be transformed by the renewing of the mind.” Whenever pastors preach on Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration and on Romans 12:2 they are obligated to talk about metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is the Greek Word for transformation. Metamorphosis is what happens when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. Metamorphosis, or transformation, is also what happens when unbelievers are changed into believers. God and only God causes transformation. The tools God uses for transformation are the means of Grace. The means of grace are God’s Word and sacraments. Through baptism sinners are reborn into saints. Through the Lord’s Supper, God’s children are strengthened to be more like their heavenly father and their ascended brother. The means of grace put us into the view of God’s mercy, not the radar gun of God’s law. In view of God’s mercy we see Jesus born in Bethlehem to save us, and in view of God’s mercy we see Jesus die on Calvary’s cross to take away our sins. When God works faith in our hearts through the means of grace, the Gospel in Word and sacrament, not only are we going to grow up to be helpful sons and daughters, responsible moms and dads, obedient citizens and hard workers; we also are going to want to be those people and more. When God works his Gospel in us, we want to tell our coworkers and classmates about what we learned in church on Sunday, and when God works the Gospel in us, we want to take our allowances and our paychecks and think about how much we can give to the Lord. God likes complete service. God likes it when we do what is good because we want to do what is good. God also likes complementary service.
- Each member belongs to all the others.
Complement with an “e” is different from compliment with an “i”. If I compliment you on your shirt, that probably means we ate spaghetti together, and you didn’t splatter sauce on it. You might compliment me on my multi-colored shirt. But if your pants complement your shirt, that means your pants either learned how to talk and said something nice about your shirt, or more likely, that your shirt is of a color and style that coordinates well with your pants. God likes complementary (with an ‘e’) service. God likes when my service is well coordinated with your service. In order for that to happen, Paul teaches us what not to do. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” What gives Paul the right to talk like that to us? Paul says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.”
Paul first received grace when God struck him blind on the way to Damascus. Paul, who was then known as Saul, was intending to persecute the Christians who lived in that city. Paul didn’t believe Jesus was true God and so Saul felt that it was his God-given duty to exterminate the world of Christians. God corrected Paul’s faith and his vision. Then God commissioned Paul to preach the good news of Jesus as an Apostle. Later in his ministry Paul received a similar measure of grace. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul describes a moment when God allowed Paul to experience the paradise in heaven, but as a result of that experience God didn’t want Paul to become conceited, so God allowed Paul to suffer what Paul called ‘a thorn in his flesh’. Paul prayed three times to have this ‘thorn in the flesh’ removed so that Paul could carry out his ministry in a more productive way. Finally, God answered Paul’s prayer and said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12).
Paul with God’s help did not think of himself more highly than he ought. Paul with God’s help wanted to help the Romans, too. Paul illustrates complementary service with the human body, “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.”
Your heart pumps blood, but the blood would have nowhere to go if it were not for the arteries and veins. Your eyes see, but those images would mean nothing to you if it wasn’t for the optic nerve telling your brain what those images mean. Every member of your body complements all the other members of your body. Even seemingly insignificant parts have a role to play. Do you really want fingers without fingernails? I don’t think so.
In the same way the body of Christ is made up of many Christians, and the body of Christ works best when Christians complement each other. In verses 6 to 8 Paul says, “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.”
All of us have these seven gifts to a certain extent. You can’t tell your spouse, “I don’t have the gift of encouragement,” or your sibling, “I don’t have the gift of showing mercy,” or your church “I don’t have the gift of giving.” We all have these gifts, but we all have these gifts in different amounts. Who has made a difference in your life with these gifts? Which gift or gifts do you have? These two questions would be a good topic of discussion with your family and friends, wouldn’t they? As God’s people we want to use our gifts to complement the gifts of others. And that makes sense because God has made himself to be complementary. God is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is God, but God also had to become man in order to save us from our sins. And God who is all-in-all, lovingly chose to be the head of the church only because he wants us to serve with him as his body. God likes complete and complementary service, and when we see that is exactly how God has served us, we like to serve God with complete and complementary service, too. Amen.