I had the privilege of preaching this Sunday on Romans 12:1 - "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship".
It was the first of a series that five of us are doing entitled, 'If this were my last sermon'. The idea is to pretend this is the last one we've got, and choose a passage accordingly. I wanted to find something that both encourages people in the finished work of Christ, while challenging them to become more like their Saviour.
Romans 12:1 does that brilliantly, acting as a kind of fulcrum of Paul's letter. In the first 11 chapters Paul takes us through the doctrinal hard yards of sin, sovereignty, law, unbelief and judgement, and on through the unspeakably great wonder that is Jesus paying the price for the sins of his people, dying the death we should have died after living the life we should have lived, so that we can be made right with God.
His overture finds its crescendo in 11:36 - "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen." "Yes, and Amen again", I thought to myself as I got to that point, ready to sit and ponder some more, but he apostle hasn't finished...
God has a bunch of "Therefore's" in his Word, and this is up there with the most life-changing of them. Paul doesn't command devotion, or berate folks for the lack of it, he urges it, as a natural response to the nature and work of the God of the universe, and his grace through Christ in our lives.
"...I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices..."
And if you've been listening to what God's been saying about himself in Romans before this point, you've got nowhere to go now but "Yes". More importantly, you've got nowhere you even WANT to go apart from "Yes". Why wouldn't I be a living sacrifice? How much of my life am I prepared to give?
How much is too much to give to God? What part of your life can you reasonably hold back from him and say, "Mine"?
"Christ says, 'Give me all. I don't want some of your time and money, I want you." (CS Lewis)
CT Studd was a very rich and famous international sportsman in the 19th century, who played cricket for England and enjoyed a high position in society. Much to the derision and confusion of many, he gave it all up to be a missionary in China (then India, and finally the Belgian Congo), and he had this to say about it:
"I had known about Jesus dying for me, but I had never understood that if He died for me, then I didn't belong to myself. Redemption means buying back, so that if I belonged to Him, either I had to be a thief and keep what wasn't mind, or else I had to give up everything to God. When I came to see that Jesus Christ had died for me, it didn't seem very hard to give up all for him."