Romans 12:1-2 – A life’s worth sacrifice


Romans 12:1-2




Not coincidence that we come to Romans 12 this morning! To coincide with Fraser Bell going to Sudan with MedAir. Why would a young man with a Masters degree in International Human Rights Law want to go and work for little remuneration in the back end of Africa.

He could be pursuing a Job with a prestigious Legal practice – being the climb up the ladder of the judiciary. He could be embarking on a career that would give him both finacial reward and social prestige.

Am I scorning such a career? NO! Is it wrong to have a good job and earn a high salary? NO! not in itself!! The issue is — what is the motivation for such a pusuit and what do you do with the money and position when you have it???


This passage before us calls for an avoidance of selfish ambition and a pursuit of the will of God. This is seen in the wholeheart giving of ourselves to God in response to God’s wholehearted giving of himself to us!!


Paul contrasts two value systems in these verses: The world and the Will of God




Romans 12:2 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, …


What does Paul mean?

“World” used in three basic ways in Bible

  • the earth // the created order —
  • the nations //the human communities of the earth
  • humanity as it is alienated from God // in its fallen, sinful state


The first two – the earth // the created order AND the nations //the human communities of the earth — are good and areas that we should be involved in. As human beings made in God’s image we are stewards/custodians of creation // so we should be concerned with green issues and the conservation of the enviroment. We are also part of humanity and are responsible to live moral lives, showing care and compassionate to the afflicted, the poor and the marginalised — being good children, parents, husbands, wives, members of the community both local and global. //–// This is what the Bible means when it says we are to be ‘… in the world …’

The third sense of the word is what Paul has in mind here [12v2] // human society in its refusal to accept God order of things // its refusal to bow before God giving him the honour that is due to him. Humankind in its arrogance, in all its thoughts and plans and desires and pleasures ignoring God and his will.


It is a philosophy of life that puts self as a substitute for God – a life characterised by self –

  • self-centredness
  • self-righteousness
  • self-aggrandizement
  • self- satisfaction
  • self-promotion
  • and a corresponding distaste for self-denial.

This is the kind of world that Jesus prayed that God would save his disciples from – it was this aspect of worldliness that Christ Himself was alienated from –

John 17:14-18 14 I have given them [DISCIPLES] your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (NIV)

It is quite clear that Christians are therefore to live in the world and yet to maintain a distinctiveness.

There are, and always have been, two extremes to which Christians can go in realtion to the world in which we live

  • we can become so “otherworldly” that we separate ourselves from society to the point that contact, if any, is superficial and meaningless // we can have zero effect for the gospel – thus you can have some groups that are so exclusive that they are the means of their own ineffectivness.
  • OR we can become so immesed in the society, taking on board its values and lifestyles that any distinctiveness is blurred or completely lost. Thus rendering us totally ineffective for the sake of the gospel.


To use Stott’s phrase, God calls us to “radical non-comformity” Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, … — Why not? because the pattern of this world is on a direct collision course with the will of God.

The Society/community/world in which we live has a profound affect on how we think and act. Added to that we are born with a sinful nature – a bias to be selfish – a desire to put self before others and before God. Society is in constant change so the world today is different to 30/50/100 years ago – but the basic principle remains ‘Do I follow that pattern society set OR the pattern God sets?’


We live in a society characterised by a number of things

  • tolerance – in the area of religious belief and morality // [a tolerance that basically says you must tolerate me] – ‘I can believe what I like an acts as I like as long as it is covered by the catch-all phrase “I am not hurting anyone”’  – as if ‘I am not hurting anyone’ makes any belief or practice acceptable and true.
  • moral boundaries are blurred // in many cases have vanished all together — READ David Wells p.48 —-
  • the passionate pursuit of things — materialism — Why is it that the Shopping Centre seems to have become the Nation’s new centre of worship – “Shop till you drop” // Why has the Lottery be so successful that a second weekly draw has to be introduced // Why is it that national governments seem to make all decisions on economic principles // that the sole reason for big business decisions is the profits of the share holders.
  • On and on we could go  …..

What are we talking about here? — a way of thinking and acting that is contrary to God’s way!!

Paul warns {JBP Translation ‘don’t allow the world to squeeze you into its own mould’}




Romans 12:2 …….. able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)


What stands in contrast to the world system is the will of God – the will of God covers very much the same areas as the world system – the purpose and meaning of life, ambition, community, religion, sex, money …..


test and approve – to discern/ understand and appreciate what God’s will is.

Paul doesn’t tell us here HOW we are to know God’s will but he does in other places – there are two things that help us know God’s will – the SPIRIT OF GOD who having brought us to Christ is at work renewing everypart of our humanness that is damaged by sin/the fall // AND the WORD OF GOD – the Bible which is God’s message and direction for life!


We often want to know the specifics about ‘My Life’ – the danger is that often we are so concerned about what we don’t understand that we neglect to obey what we do understand! There is more than enough that is easy to understand – don’t lie to each other// pray for each other// help each other// care for each other// serve each other// put others first // care for the sick, lonely, oppressed ……

this is the will of God!!




Paul talks about two aspects of worship in this passage: Our Bodies and Our Minds.


Romans 12:1     ……. offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. (NIV)


The language Paul is using is plainly that of sacrifice — in the OT sacrificial system would have been clearly understood by Paul’s readers — the animal that OT law required had to be without defect physically and a fragrant aroma

Leviticus 1:3

3 ” ‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD.

Leviticus 1:9 9 ….. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. (NIV)


God doesn’t want burnt animals – he wants us – living sacrifices // ‘living’ and ‘sacrifices’ sound contradictory put together [like saying a “giant midget”]  The whole point of a sacrifice is that it is dead – so how can you have living dead? If you are living you are not sacrificed; if you are sacrificed you are not living. Better to think of sacrificial lifestyle – not isolation /withdrawl from the mainstream BUT godly sacrificial living/lifestyle ///


– he wants our love, our service, he wants us to live life that are in accordance with his pattern // his will – so that we begin to live unselfishly, sacrificially, spiritually — this is our spiritual act of worship.

spiritual – can equally be translated ‘reasonable’ or ‘rational’ this ties in with the renewal of mind in the next verse –

Worshipping and serving God is not a purely emotional exercise – [emotions are involved BUT so too is the mind – when we worship we are to use our minds – offering ourselves to God is not a mindless exercise but an act of intelligent worship. It is what ALL humans should do.

There is a lovely comment from a 1st Century Stoic Philosopher, Epictetus, “If I were a nightingale I would do what is proper to a nightingale. If I were a swan I would do what is proper to a swan I fact I am LOGIKOS [lit. rational being] so I must praise God.”


Similar to the Children’s song we sing ‘If I were a butterfly, I’d thank you Lord for giving me wings…’


This spiritual worship that God requires of us is not offered in a Temple Court or a Cathedral BUT in our home life, school/college life, our work life, …

We talk of giving our hearts to Christ – he wants all of us!!

Worship that is purely inward and abstract and mystical – if that is all it is then it is not true worship — it must express itself in concrete acts of service performed by our bodies.


There was a view in NT times that taught that the body was not important – only the soul – this led to all kinds of immorality – NO says Paul the body is important so sexual immorality, gluttony, masochism is to be avoided and we are to care for our bodies [not worship them] and use them in the service of others for God’s sake.


Romans 6:13-19 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. …… 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? …….

19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (NIV)


Not instruments of wickedness but instruments of righteousness so that our feet will walk God’s way, our lips will speak his truth, our hands will lift those who have fallen, and perform the mundane tasks of cooking, cleaning, washing-up and mending -[even spring-cleaning the Church building and cutting the Church grass and hedge!!! — going to Broadwater Lodge and singing hymns with the old Folks some of whom don’t know whether its Christmas or August], our arms will embrace the lonely and the unloved, our ears will listen to the cries of the distressed [and go to Sudan to do something about it – or across the street].



Romans 12:2 … be transformed by the renewing of your mind. .

This is not simply a fleeting whimp – a brief bright idea and then back to the old ways — this is Metamorphosis — it is a process — but it is permanent — it is a revolutionary change brought about by the work of God’s Spirit and the Word of God.

When we become Christians we are born again – born spiritually [JUSTIFIED]– this is a work of the Holy Spirit — BUT this is just the beginning now the Spirit and the Word work together to change us to be more and more like Jesus [SANCTIFICATION]

2 Corinthians 3:18 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV)

Ephesians 5:26 26  … make her [CHURCH -including us]  holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, (NIV)


God wants to change us – he wants to change the way we think – ‘Thinking right always proceeds acting and speaking right’.

“You are not what yu think you are BUT what you think, you are!”


We make a big mistake if we think God will be satisfied with second best – he wants ALL that we are!! We can’t doff our caps to God on Sunday morning and live the rest of the week as we please!


We have this strange notion sometimes that if we give ourselves to God – body and mind – then somehow we are loosing out//we will miss something ///    “What plans do you have for the rest of your life?” “Is God tagged on the end OR is He at the centre!”

Young People – as you think about your future – University, marriage partner, career are you considering how this all fits with God’s purposes/kingdom –


Why should we be living sacrifices to God???




Romans 12:1     1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, ..


ILLUS. Stuart Briscoe in one of his books tells how while staying with an elderly widow on one of his preaching tours she told him that she was not inclined to be a living sacrifice – He suggested that she read through Romans 1-11 ans make a list of all God’s mercies to her. Next morning she accused him of being the cause of her sleepless night but confessed to being willing to give herself unreservedly to God in view of his mercies to her.


If you have difficulty with ‘sacrificial lifestyle’  I suggest you read ch.1-11!!

  • we deserve God’s anger/judgement
  • God’s mercy shown in Christ’s life/death/resurrection/
  • offers salvation

If Christ suffered and die for me – gave everything/his life for me — surely it is not too much that I should serve him whloeheartedly!!  Not grudgingly but eagerly.


What motivates Fraser to go to Sudan – he has understood something of the mercies of God!!

God may not ask you to go Abraod BUT he does ask you to follow a sacrificial lifestyle!!

NB Paul says 1 Therefore, I urge you, … to offer ….  God wants us to love him and serve him willingly.


End with a story of a little girl whose attitude demonstrates the willingness to give to God!


ILLUS.: A little girl was given 10 bright new pennies. Instantly she began to part with them. “This one is for Jesus. This one is for you, Mummy. This one is for Daddy, ..” and so on until she only had one penny left. “And this one is for Jesus.” she said again. “But you have already given one to Jesus” said the mother. Yes, Mummy, but that one belonged to Jesus. This one is a present!”




Romans 12:1-2.




      “ Do not conform … to the pattern of this world”

            (“world” – humanity against / not obeying God )




          “ test and approve what God’s will is”




      Bodies >

         “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy & pleasing to God”

      Minds >

          “this is your ‘rational’ act of worship”

           “ be transformed by the renewing of your mind”




           “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy”


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