Sermon Starter: Acceptable Sacrifice
Scriptures for August 21, 2011
Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 128; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20
Romans 12 is perhaps one of the most difficult passages on which to preach because it deals with two very touchy subjects; sacrifice and change. They say change is inevitable, even for those who resist it. But intentional change can be hard. There must be a change in each of us in order for Christ to be present in us. We must make room for him. This is what makes sacrifice necessary. Every aspect of our lives must be sacrificed, given over to God, so much so that worship is something we live out, not something we attend once a week.
We are called to give our bodies to God, and that means everything we do physically, including our work and our leisure. What God asks us to submit to is for the good of Christ’s body, the church. We are called to give our minds to God, and in doing so resisting the pressure of the world, we are transformed from the inside, renewing our minds into the obedient mind of Christ. Finally, we are called to surrender our will, because even if we have committed our bodies and our minds to God, our will still has the driving force to do what we want. We don’t pray “Thy will be done” with our fingers crossed behind our backs, hopefully.
Only through submitting ourselves to God’s will can we know what his will is for us. Part of discerning God’s will is accepting the spiritual gifts we have been given and using them. To do that requires spiritual formation, a shoring up of our faith through the process of learning to trust God through a process. We are all in the process of spiritual formation because every thought, every decision, every action, every emotion, every reaction, little by little, shapes us spiritually. If we choose our independence, we become formed into something other than the image of Christ.
It is only through his help that we are able to be what he wants us to be. A living sacrifice is fairly easy to understand, but being holy does not come naturally. It takes time and it takes work, and when we do it correctly, it actually becomes a natural response to God. That is the meaning of spiritual worship. True worship is offering up not only the body, but also the person inside. Real worship is the offering of everyday life to God, not just an hour on Sunday.
Remember these four words – living, sacrifice, pleasing, acceptable. That is what God requires of us. We achieve it by refusing to conform, and striving to be transformed. Constant sacrifice, constant renewal. It goes on all the time, consciously or unconsciously. Consciously is preferred, of course, because it involves choices. Difficult choices, yes, but what a result!