Category Archives: Sanctification

Living sacrifice: All that you are

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

God did an amazing thing for us in sending Jesus. He not only redeemed us and saved us from eternity in hell by forgiving us, but He adopted us into His family and now calls us His own children. Because we’re now His, He’s ours, we are not our own, we have been bought with a price. And our response to His mercy and grace is to give Him the one thing He wants – ourselves, to glorify God with our bodies. Our thoughts, our words, our work, our actions, our desires, our time, our talents, and our treasures. Not just all we have, but all we are. This may sound unreasonable, but trust me, the trade we make works in our favor. Like the man in the parable who sold all he had to buy a field where a great treasure was buried, our lives are so much richer with Jesus than with anything we’re unwilling to trade for having Him.

Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Submitting ourselves to Him pleases Him and brings about a transformation that we could never accomplish on our own. Jesus is better than anything we trade for Him.

Living sacrifice: Presenting your heart

Matthew 19:21-22 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

What is it that you want in life? Better question: is it what God wants for your life? I think this is the big hang up for people when it comes to presenting our whole bodies as a living sacrifice. The human heart wants what it wants, and sometimes that something destructive or sinful, and yet we can’t let go of it. Our desires can be very powerful. Look at the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19. He asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved. He said he kept the whole Law and obeyed God. Jesus told him the one thing he still needed to do was let go of what he was holding on to – his possessions. He couldn’t do it, and he missed out on something better. Some people interpret this story all wrong. It’s not about selling all of our stuff. It’s about giving our all.

We do surprising things to get what we want, things we’d never have thought we’d do. Our motives are shaped by what’s in our hearts. What are you holding on to that’s keeping you from being transformed? If Jesus is better than anything else we can have; what’s stopping you from letting go and trading what you want for what God wants?

When we submit our motives, God gives us desires that please Him. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

Living sacrifice: Presenting your feet

Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Have you ever thought you knew what you were supposed to do, only to have it all fall apart and just not work out? I’ve been there with my life. I thought I had a future in politics. It seemed promising, but the deeper I got into things, the more frustrating it got and the less I seemed successful. It was only when I started letting go of what I wanted and letting the Lord direct me that I realized He had something greater planned.

It can be hard to let go of having our own way. We put in a lot of hard work to move in the direction of our own goals. When it comes to surrendering those for the sake of what God wants for us, it’s an incredibly humbling experience.  His plans are always better than ours though.

Think about what you want out of life. Where are you going and how are you going to get here? Now ask if your goals fit into God’s bigger plan. If you can’t answer yes, what will you do to align with Him?

When we submit our moves, God gives us destinations.

Living sacrifice: Presenting your hands

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Ministry: This is the work of your hands. The things you choose to do. One who’s been transformed works as though they’re working for the Lord and not for man. If you’re transformed, you care about what God wants you to do more than about your hobbies and personal ambitions. You set to work for what matters, not just for what you want.

I’ve often heard pastors talk about how God wants our time, our talents, and our treasures. These are all related to the hands. With our hands we can hold on to things, or we can share things. We can use our talents for ourselves or for God. We can spend our time doing selfish things or on things that matter. Where are you spending your most valuable assets?

I did a lot of fruitless things in my life before realizing what the Lord wanted me to do. The problem was I was trying to do things without allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through me. Nothing was succeeding because of my unwillingness to submit and trade what I wanted for what He wanted. When I finally recognized that His way is better, I traded in false gods and gained purpose.

When we submit our ministry, God gives us duties to accomplish. We all want to do something worthwhile, but what God gives us to do is far greater than anything we can think up.

Living sacrifice: Presenting your mouth

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

We praise God with our words. We represent God with our words, for better or for worse. We can make Him look good or make Him look bad. As an example, think of Christians you know who are always encouraging and sharing the gospel and Christians who are always griping or complaining. Think about someone like Billy Graham and compare them to some grumpy old guy in church, or maybe a group of protestors who claim to speak for God. Who makes you want to hear more about God?

We don’t like being told what we can and can’t say. We have freedom of speech to say whatever we want! Yes, we CAN say whatever we want, but not everything that can be said should be said. Out of the heart the mouth speaks, so if there are ugly things being said, then it’s not a mouth issue, it’s a heart issue. A transformed heart leads to words that build up, not destroy, encourage, not hurt, praise God, not defame Him.

I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm. You say something to me and I will likely have some smart comment to throw back at you in relatively quick fashion. I’ve got to watch it, because sometimes I can hurt others, even though I didn’t intend that to be the outcome. I have a daily responsibility to submit my mouth to God. Can you relate?

Have you laid this down before God and said, “Lord I want to speak words of life. May the words of my mouth be pleasing to you?”

When we submit our mouths, God gives us declarations. He’s not about giving us a script, but He empowers us to speak life.

Living sacrifice: Presenting your mind

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

There are many of you reading this who have tasted and seen what a transformed life in Jesus is all about. You know just how good it is. But there are some of you, maybe even some who have sat in church services for years, who remain the same as always. Untransformed. You’ve never been changed and maybe you’re wondering why. That was me too for a long time. I knew the truth and I believed it, but I was unchanged. When I finally surrendered my will for God’s I was truly transformed. That was my fresh start.

So let’s talk about presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice as an act of spiritual worship. God doesn’t want all we have. He wants all we are. We display what we value with our bodies. If we’re followers of Jesus, we use our bodies to make Christ known. That’s why we sacrifice what we are.

Presenting your whole body, your whole self, is comprised of 5 things, maybe more, but I’m going to talk about 5. Your Mind, your Mouth, your Ministry, your Moves, and your Motives.

Mind: So much begins with a single thought. Attitudes, feelings, actions – they can all go wrong if our thinking is wrong. That’s why Paul urges us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. It’s the beginning of it all.

Sometimes we, I think men especially, try to compartmentalize things. We think, “Sure, I’ll work for God, I’ll give to God’s work, and I’ll try to talk in a way that’s pleasing to God. But I’m not willing to give up my sinful thoughts. I’m gonna hold on to those.” We can’t separate all of these things from each other, though. We’re being told to present our whole selves, not just some aspects. If we’re unwilling to let God have lordship over our thoughts, we can’t be transformed. This means I need to not just have positive thoughts, but submit my thoughts to the authority of Christ.

If you’re thinking right now, “I could never do this. My thoughts are outside of my control!” That’s exactly my point. It’s not about you controlling your thoughts, it’s about saying, “God, I want to think with a renewed mind and I want my thoughts to please you.” And letting Him be the Lord of your thoughts.

When we submit our minds, God gives us discernment. He doesn’t control our thoughts like we’re robots, He helps us to think with a healthy mind to please Him.

Living sacrifices

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Let’s look at the key word “living” in the phrase “living sacrifice.” It’s easy to just move right past that, but we have to think like the Romans here as we read this. The Jews back in the Old Testament had a sacrificial system where they killed an animal in order to meet the requirements God had put on them for forgiveness of their sins. Even the Pagans had a sacrificial system that involved death. The concept of a living sacrifice is new. It’s foreign. I can seem them going “What does he mean “living sacrifice?” It sounds like 2 words that contradict each other. How can something living be a sacrifice?

Paul says we have only 2 choices. Sacrifice ourselves for righteousness, that is life, or for sin, which is death. There are no other options.

A living sacrifice is two things, it’s spiritual because only one who has been made alive by Christ can BE a living anything, and it’s ongoing. It’s not a one shot deal. We’re living out our sacrifice.

Romans 6:13 says, Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

The sacrifice we’re called to doesn’t bring us salvation or forgiveness. That’s finished. Jesus already did that. God found a way to be merciful to sinners in Jesus Christ. He sent Him on a mission to earth to redeem mankind through His sacrifice. But our sacrifice is in response to His and that’s what makes it, as Romans 12:1 says, “acceptable to God.”

Falling from grace

Galatians 5:1-6 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

What does it mean to “fall from grace”?  We have this impression in our minds that when someone commits a serious sin or gets found out for some secret sin, that all of a sudden grace is gone and the person is left to the wolves, unable to be saved.  But when that person is already saved, when that person has already been forgiven for every sin they’ll ever commit…how can they “fall from grace?”  This is contradictory to the gospel.

I was reading a book earlier today called Jesus + Nothing = Everything (I highly recommend reading it), and one part in particular struck me.  It struck me because I had never thought of things in the terms of the author, but they were no less true.  He pointed out the passage I’ve quoted up above and caused the reader to look at the part where Paul tells the Galatians that some have fallen from grace.  Notice he doesn’t say that they fell from grace because of some heinous sin.  He says they fell from grace because they accepted legalism as a way to salvation.  Legalism is the enemy of grace.  It is literally the WORST enemy of grace.

For those of us who have been redeemed by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, those of us who have saved by grace through faith, we have been set free.  That freedom means we’re not under legalism anymore.  We’re not under the yolk of slavery that legalism brings.  We’re free to obey the law, not oppressed by it.  So when we fail and miss a step, either intentionally or unintentionally, it doesn’t mean that Jesus’ grace doesn’t still cover us.  His grace is sufficient for all our sins, for all time.  No sin can separate us from Him once we’ve already been justified and found not guilty.  He already paid the price for our sin, so we can’t just fall away from His grace because we did something wrong.  No, we can only fall from grace in one way.  If we don’t trust in Him alone for that justification.

When we begin to think that it’s Jesus plus some other act or ritual that gets us to God, we’re not accepting grace, we’re trying to win God’s favor through our actions.  That’s just not the way things work.  He forgives us in one way and it’s through Jesus.  When Christ died, the holy, sinless Son of God took on the sin of the whole world and bore the punishment for us all.  In exchange, when we believe in Him for our salvation, we gain His righteousness, the perfect standing before God that only someone who has lived a perfect life can every receive.  Because He already won the victory, we don’t have to worry about losing His grace.

God’s grace is powerful.  It’s so powerful that once we’ve received it, we’re set free in a way that nothing else could achieve.  His grace is enough.  We don’t have to add to it.  We’re not only saved by His grace, He continually works on us through His grace (sanctification) and ultimately brings us to Himself through grace.  We can depend on that, we don’t need to depend on ourselves to earn standing with God.

New Law or Gospel Freedom?

Colossians 2:20-23 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

What is Christianity all about?  Have we vowed to follow Christ only to replace the Old Testament law with new law?  Is this new life just about more rule-following?  Observing some of today’s churches, you would think so!  Sermons so often focus on behavior modification or bettering the life of the Christian through specific actions. We trade in the true power of the gospel for the belief that being a good Christian means listening to the right music, wearing the right T-shirts, not swearing or drinking, and being “nice.” Congregants lack the joy of Christ because they fail to keep up with all of the things they are “supposed” to do.  Moralistic, therapeutic deism fails to deliver.

The truth is that no formula for behavior modification will ever work because the root of sin is in our hearts.  No amount of keeping up with strict law or disciplines or rituals will keep us from being what we are: fallen and sinful.  Religion seeks to justify the believer through their actions. True justification comes from Christ (Romans 4:25). Only He can liberate us from sin.

It can make us feel good for a while to try to earn our own merit, but in the end we will always fall short (Romans 3:23). We’ll never be good enough, do enough, deprive ourselves enough to be free from sin. If we fully rely on Jesus it means we trust that His sacrifice was good enough, that we don’t need to be under the law in order to receive forgiveness from God for our transgressions, that He died once, and for all (Hebrews 7:27-28).  Nothing we could ever do could make Him love us more.  And nothing we fail to do could ever make Him love us less.

 

Godless: Part 4

Romans 1:28-32 “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.”

I can’t imagine the pain Christ endured on the cross for my sin, let alone the entire world. When I read the scripture above, it’s like I’m looking out my front window at the world we live in, and Paul is describing it. There’s nothing new under the sun. Man has had the same sinful heart since Adam, and there is nothing we can do to change it, no matter how hard we try. No amount of self-help, therapy, or inward meditation will ever heal the brokenness. Nothing we can do.
But there is something He has done. As awful as the above scripture makes me feel, I rejoice in what Christ has done. Christ has made all of the above statements not apply to me or anyone who believes in His name. And through His grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, every day as we submit ourselves to Him, He molds us more and more to His likeness. Christ is patient with us and wishes none of us to perish, but all of us to be saved. Why? Because He loves us.
Some of us who call ourselves Christian would read the above scripture and think of the world with judgement. With a smugness we would say the people of this world deserve what’s coming to them. I’m a big fan of Clint Eastwood and all the westerns he starred in. One of my favorite quotes of his was from the movie The Unforgiven. He’s waiting under a tree to collect a bounty on some men he and his partner just killed. The young man who is with him is struggling with what they have done. Trying to comfort himself he says “Well, I guess that he had it coming” to which Clint replies “We all have it coming kid”.
We all have it coming. There’s not one of us that hasn’t fit the above scripture at one point in our life or who wouldn’t slip back into our sinfulness without the power of Christ living in us. What we should feel when we read the above scripture is pity. We should feel pity and our hearts should be broken. As broken as the world that surrounds us.
The focus of this devotion series is to bring attention to one thing. This world is broken and there is no fixing it. There is no saving this country, or the world for that matter. The world will keep going through this cycle of sin until the day the Lord returns to put an end to it all. The only hope the people of this world have is in the Gospel and it’s power to redeem those who don’t deserve redeeming. This world may be godless, but thankfully we serve a God who love’s it anyway. So much so that He sent his only Son, that whosoever shall believe in His name, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
I’m just a weak man and I’m not sure how He’s going to do it, but would you join me today and pray this prayer. “Lord Jesus, use me as you may. Use me to show the world your mercy, your love and your glory. Use me to show a godless world, that a godless man such as myself could call on your Holy name and become a child of God. Amen.”