A Living Sacrifice for God :: By Nathele Graham

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

That’s quite a challenge. When we accept Christ we know that our sin has been forgiven and our souls are acceptable for eternity with God. What about our life here on earth? Is the way we live our life acceptable to God? The way we conduct our life from day to day is important.

The above verse admonishes us to present our body as a living sacrifice. This isn’t a call to be a martyr. A martyr is a person who’s killed for his or her faith in Jesus Christ. A living sacrifice means that we live daily in a manner that honors our Lord. We turn away from the temptations that come our way instead of giving in. We make choices in life that are based on “What would Jesus do?” instead of “What’s in it for me?”

One step in being a living sacrifice is to be humble and not puff ourselves up in order to gain recognition from people.

“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)

Paul wrote this letter to Christians and urged them (and us) to not let self-importance get in the way of serving Christ. Each person in the body of Christ is important and nobody is more important than anyone else. Pride is a very self-centered attitude and gets in the way of living for Christ.

As Christians we must understand that the women who organize charitable events are as important to the Body of Christ as the man who preaches to the congregation. We all have abilities and gifts which need to be used to help brothers and sisters in their own walk with the Lord.

“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5)

We are all one in the Lord. When you do what you can for the entire Body of Christ then you’re being a living sacrifice and giving a reasonable service to the Lord. Our love toward fellow Christians should be sincere.

“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Romans 12:9-10)

Most congregations get together on Sunday, sometimes on Wednesday, and once in awhile for a potluck. Other than that we go our separate ways and blend in with the non-Christian world around us. We seldom abhor evil and usually see no problem in having friends who aren’t Christians. As long as it’s not on Sunday morning we join them in their ungodly activities rather than abhorring the evil, non-Christian activities they espouse.

On the other hand our love for our fellow Christians is oftentimes hypocritical. We smile and say kind words on Sunday mornings, but come Monday we couldn’t care less about their troubles. Recently I’ve been having some medical problems and some dear Christian friends who live many miles from me have shown true Christian love in my time of need and their kindness is a living sacrifice. Too often, we forget that we are admonished to care for our fellow Christians with the love that Christ showed to us.

The way we conduct our daily lives is an indication as to whether we are dying to self or not…whether we are a living sacrifice for Christ.

“Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” (Romans 12:11-13)

There are many Scriptures translated in the King James Version which can be misunderstood simply because language has changed over the years. The phrase “not slothful in business” is better translated “not lagging in diligence” (NKJV) or “do not lag in zeal” (NET).

Paul exhorted the Christians in Rome to have joy in their salvation and extend that joy to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Every Christian has troubles in his or her life (King James uses the word tribulation). Sometimes we can’t physically help, but we can always pray. I have dear friends I pray for who are dealing with illness in their family, facing the death of a spouse, going through marital troubles, and making decisions as to a career that will honor God.

How is prayer a living sacrifice?

Thoughts are taken captive and moved from worldly thoughts to focus on the needs of fellow Christians and turning to God for His provision. This is true of all the exhortations in the above passage. Are you patient when troubles come your way? Do you see the needs of fellow Christians and help as you can? Hospitality takes time and effort on your part, but by welcoming others to your home for dinner or Bible study you’re giving yourself as a living sacrifice.

One of the most difficult sacrifices we make is mercy toward others:

“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” (Romans 12:14)

Human nature wants revenge upon someone who has done us wrong, but when you think of the mercy God has shown you and the blessings He gives so abundantly, then it’s understandable why Christians should bless someone who has persecuted us.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

How God deals with a person is up to His perfect love. How many times have you been shown mercy when you deserve vengeance? Jesus gave His life so all who accept His sacrifice can be saved…He doesn’t want anyone to perish. Be a living sacrifice and let go of the desire for revenge upon someone and maybe you can turn an enemy into a brother or sister in Christ.

“Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” (Romans 12:17)

Is that easy? No, but when living for Christ, that’s a sacrifice we should make for His glory. It’s easier to “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15). It’s easier unless we allow jealousy to make us desire what others are rejoicing over. If a friend gets a promotion that you wanted, do you rejoice with them?

Let’s reverse that. What if you get a promotion that your friend really wanted, can you weep with them or do you gloat? When we live for Christ we die to our own selfish interests and care about others. The way we handle various situations is an example of Christ’s love. Other people watch us and if they can see Christ living through us we can strengthen the walk of fellow Christians, or we can be God’s instrument to lead someone to salvation. Let the Holy Spirit guide all your actions.

As Christians we need to be unified. There are many denominations and each one focuses on a different aspect of God’s Word. Some focus on the spiritual gifts while others look more to legalism and structure in worship. Should one look down upon the other?

“Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” (Romans 12:16)

Rich or poor liberal or conservative we are all one in Christ. You shouldn’t view it as a sacrifice to mingle with fellow Christians who aren’t of the same denomination or “social status” as you because in God’s eyes we’re equal. Sacrifice arrogance and conceit and live for Christ. This will bring peace among the brethren.

“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18) Be a living sacrifice. Do Christians have enemies? Yes, and it’s easy for us to want our enemies to suffer. That’s not an attitude for a Christian to embrace. Doing good for someone who has persecuted you is a sacrifice we all have to make.

“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” (Romans 12:20)

When we see our enemy in need, we need to sacrifice our feeling of victory over their plight. Before you became a Christian you were an enemy of God, but He still provided for you. You had air to breath, water to drink, and so on. God has provided for the needs of our enemy so how can we say we follow Christ if we choose to ignore the needs of others, even the needs of our enemy?

“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Until the final battle there will always be evil in the world. Satan has already lost, but he’s in denial. There’s no love in him, only hatred. Our only defense is Jesus Christ. By choosing to be a living sacrifice we choose to do good no matter how others treat us. What’s directed towards us that’s meant for evil can be used for good if we make the choice to follow Jesus in all we do. As we grow in our walk with the Lord, there should be changes that are evident for all to see.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2.

we conform to the world we deny Christ. The word “transformed” means to change into another form. We become new when we accept Christ and have a fresh start in life. Worldly attitudes should be done away with. This change won’t take place if you continue in your sin. Your sin has been forgiven, but that doesn’t give you the license to continue sinning.

If you’re conformed to the world you aren’t transformed by Jesus. Examine your life and see if you’ve become a living sacrifice for Jesus, or if you’re still dead in your sin. If you haven’t truly accepted Christ for salvation, then you’re still dead in sin. If you have truly accepted Him, then start making choices that reflect your love and appreciation for what Jesus did for you on the cross.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

Christ died for you so the very least you can do is be a living sacrifice for Him.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

All original Scripture is “theopneustos” (God breathed).

 

The Lost Souls Around Us :: By Nathele Graham

Many Christians go through life with little concern for the salvation of others. No matter where you live there are people you know or ones you pass on the street daily who don’t know Jesus as their Savior. Many Christians just don’t care enough about other people and don’t bother to share the message of salvation to the lost souls around us.

Too often we take salvation for granted and don’t feel our spirits stirred to reach out to others. One great exception to this attitude was Paul. His desire to share Jesus with others is a blessing to us because we have a record of his travels, his example of missionary work, and many letters he wrote to encourage those he had brought to salvation. Today we live in a very pagan world, but so did Paul. That didn’t stop him from taking every opportunity to share Christ wherever he went. One such place was Athens.

Paul had stirred up trouble in Thessalonica because he taught the gospel and his friends sent him on to Berea. Once again there was trouble because he shared the gospel and he was sent to Athens. This city was filled with people who needed to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and Paul’s spirit was stirred over the idolatry that was everywhere.

“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.” Acts 17:16-17.

Brothers and sisters, is your spirit stirred over the idol worshipping lost souls around you? Scripture says the city was “wholly given to idolatry” and that isn’t any different than Washington D.C., London, or Paris. Paul began his “dispute” in the synagogue, and today we might be drawn to a synagogue as well as a Mosque or a mega-church.

Don’t be fooled by “devout persons” who don’t really know Jesus, but witness to everyone who is caught up in religion rather than faith. Paul openly witnessed in the market but do you pray over your food in a restaurant, or are you afraid someone will be offended? Paul never looked down on people who weren’t saved, but his spirit was stirred by the Holy Spirit to tell them about Jesus. Paul’s message was met with a bit of curiosity, but they thought he was just introducing a new god, not God Almighty.

“Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.” (Acts 17:18)

The Epicurean’s main pursuit was pleasure and the Stoicks believed in pantheism. Both groups were sincere in their beliefs, but they were lost souls in need of salvation through Jesus. These two groups sound a lot like people today. Selfish pleasure and “god is in everything” attitudes are seen everywhere. Why don’t more Christians desire to share Christ with the people who need to hear the Truth?

We can use Paul’s example of how mission work should be done. He didn’t go to Athens to build houses or plant gardens. He was there spreading the gospel. He didn’t start by saying how misguided these people were, but piqued their interest by talking about Jesus. These people were curious. They probably didn’t have a huge desire to repent and embrace Jesus, but they just wanted to know more and Paul was ready to share. He knew Scripture and he also was aware of the beliefs of the people he spoke to.

“And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)” (Acts 17:19-21)

What a dreary life they lived. Rather than being committed to their beliefs they wanted to hear something new…something that would be their next fad. Sounds like many people today. No real faith in anything, but always looking for the newest trend. These lost souls were about to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Unlike the Epicureans and the Stoicks, Paul knew exactly what he believed and why. He also knew how to talk to these people so they would listen. He didn’t compromise the gospel but spoke what they needed to hear.

“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17:22-23)

He didn’t mince words. They certainly were too superstitious. They had a god for this and a god for that and just in case they missed a god, there was an altar to the UNKNOWN GOD. They needed to be introduced to Him. Paul went on to explain that God created everything and doesn’t dwell in temples. They were probably surprised to learn that God is near to everyone and in Him we live, move, and have our being.  He told them that we are the offspring of God, but they shouldn’t think that God dwells in any manmade idol.

Paul knew how to talk to these men. The Holy Spirit was guiding him just like He will guide each of us when we talk to the lost souls around us. Make no mistake, there are idol worshippers in the world today just like in years past. Anything that is put ahead of God Almighty is an idol, and sadly many Christians have idols. We need to put aside our sports idols, music idols, work idols, pleasure idols, and any other idol that gets ahead of our Savior. Paul finished by saying:

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

Do you know who “that man” is? If you don’t know then you need to learn about Jesus. There truly is coming a day of judgment. You don’t want anyone to face God’s judgment without the blood of Jesus to take sin away.

It isn’t easy to be the only Christian standing amidst pagans, but Paul was prepared. He wasn’t ashamed of the gospel and he was compelled to share the Truth. We never know how people will react to the gospel but we should never back down from sharing it. Paul was beaten and jailed many times because he shared the gospel, but he never denied Christ. On Mars’ hill he met with mixed attitudes.

“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them.” (Acts 17:32-33)

There’s a good chance that when you speak of Christ to a crowd of lost souls you will be mocked. That doesn’t mean you should keep silent. Some will think about what you say and those seeds you plant will grow. Some will believe, just as some believed Paul’s words.

“Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.” (Acts 17:34)

These names don’t come up again in Scripture, but God knows what became of them and any others who accepted Christ for salvation. Because Paul was willing to share the gospel in terms they could understand, there were some who gave up their idolatry and turned to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul was prepared. He knew of the saving power and forgiveness only found in Jesus. He was well studied and knew what the Athenians believed and therefore was able to talk to them in a way they could understand. More than that he knew the Truth. He studied Scripture and knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

Are you sure enough of your faith to explain to a Mormon friend why they aren’t saved unless they accept Christ as God Almighty instead of a lesser god? Can you explain to your very kindhearted neighbor why no matter how many good things they do, they are still a sinner in need of Jesus for salvation.

Many Christians today don’t know how to witness to others because some pastors don’t feel the need to equip the saints. Don’t wait for someone to teach you but study your Bible. Know why you believe what you believe.

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Unless you study you cannot answer questions or give a reason for your faith. It can be intimidating to defend your faith. You don’t need to be eloquent, but you do need to be able to share the gospel with confidence.

“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (1 Peter 3:13-16)

Peter urged us to always be ready with an answer when asked about our faith in Jesus. You may face persecution and even be put to death, but be ready to share the gospel. Peter was prepared and so was Paul. So were many Christians throughout the ages and even today. There are many people who would rather serve Satan than serve the Living God who gave His life to purchase our Redemption.

People who persecute and kill Christians are lost souls who need to hear the gospel. Are you prepared to explain why Allah isn’t the god to follow? Only Jesus Christ shed His own blood to bring eternal life to all who believe. Start studying so you won’t be ashamed by stuttering over an answer that should be sanctified in your heart and always on the tip of your tongue.

There are many lost souls around us. Be a witness for Christ by the way you conduct your life, the way you speak, and always be ready to answer questions.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

All original Scripture is “theopneustos” (God breathed).