Totally Committed to Christ and My Church
The twelfth chapter of Romans begins a new division in the book. It is here where Paul switches his focus from doctrine to duty, from believing to behaving. The remaining chapters of the book deal with practical application of biblical doctrines he has previously described in chapters 1-11; doctrines such as: salvation, sanctification, and the sovereignty of God. These exhortations are in large measure summarized by a comprehensive appeal to commitment in 12: 1-2.
When the Bible speaks of one’s commitment, it is not calling us to commit to a program. Heaven knows we don’t need to add other programs and activities to an already busy life. The Bible commands us to be committed to a person not a program, and that person is Jesus Christ. When the Christian is totally committed to Christ, then he/she will likewise be totally committed to Jesus’ church.
What has happened to our commitment to our church? More and more Christians are opting out of church today. Or, they are shifting their church attendance to a less demanding church. That is the reality of church life in today’s culture. Listen to Dr. John McArthur’s observation
I’m committed with all my heart to the church. And it is a total commitment of my life. I was always in the church. I was as soon as I could be declared a believer and made my public profession and became a member of the church with all of the responsibilities that went along with that. I was faithful to the church. I didn’t know any other life. I didn’t know any other way to be than to be totally committed to the love and life of the church of Jesus Christ. These were my people. This is my family. These are the ones that God has brought into my life for my own spiritual benefit and blessing and the ones I am to serve.
That’s the only way I ever understood the church. It was everything in my life. We have a very different kind of attitude in evangelicalism today … very, very different. For many, commitment to the church is at an all-time low. And across the board it is in many ways at an all-time low. That’s partly the fault of so-called churches that don’t require anything. They’re vast number of churches that ask for nothing, except money in the offering. They’re not expecting membership. Many of them don’t even have such a thing as membership, that they don’t expect you to conform to a certain doctrinal statement, many of them don’t even have a doctrinal statement, don’t even have some kind of creedal articulation of the truth. They don’t expect you to be accountable to elders and leaders who watch for your souls. They don’t expect people to have that kind of accountability, they fear that will drive people away.
They’re not asking people to do anything they don’t want to do, as if service with some kind of random whim, rather than a duty-bound on every believer and affirmed by the Word of God and by our giftedness from the Holy Spirit.
There was a time in the world that I grew up in, there was a time when coming to Christ meant joining the church and belonging to a church and be faithful to the church and being a part of the life of the church and growing together with the people in that local assembly, that local congregation, the fellowship of believers was a permanent identification. And all of that has changed dramatically. People bounce around from event to event.
The first two verses of address four aspects of our commitment to Christ and His Church.
I. The Call to Total Commitment (12: 1a)
A. The Burden in the Call— “beseech”
The Greek word parakaleo indicates that the call to commitment is both urgent and personal. Paul is literally saying, “I beg you to come along side of me and take a stand for the Gospel.” This is no time for half-hearted devotion to Christ or His church.
Now is the time for committed Christians to appeal with urgency to their half-hearted brethren to totally commit their lives to Jesus Christ and His church.
B. The Basis of the Call— “mercies of God”
Paul boldly states the truth of God, but here he comes to pleading with us. I see him lift the pen from the paper and look around at us and say, “I urge you, in view of the mercies of God, God’s great mercy to you, his many mercies, his continued mercies.” What stronger plea could the apostle have? And what are we to do? We are to present our bodies to God, not our souls alone, to make real practical work of it.
What is mercy? Mercy is God NOT giving us what we deserve. The “mercies of God” is God’s deep awareness of and sympathy for our deep suffering under the burden of our sins. His great love for us moves Him to show us mercy, even though we deserve punishment. God shows compassion on us who deserve eternal death and damnation.
Mercy there was great and grace was free.
Pardon there was multiplied to me.
There my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.
A half-hearted Christian is one who has forgotten the price Jesus paid so that he could be forgiven of sin and live a life of victory in Christ. He has taken for granted the continued mercies of God bestowed upon him daily.
II. The Character of Total Commitment (12: 1b)
The tell-tell sign of a totally committed Christian is described and declared as sacrifice and service.
A. A Living Sacrifice Described. It is...
1. A Consecrated Sacrifice— “present”
This verb is in aorist tense implying a definite, decisive act of total surrender. No one else can present you to God, you must willingly present yourself, as Jesus did for you.
2. A Complete Sacrifice— “bodies a living sacrifice”
The Greek word for “bodies” is soma which means a person’s whole being, both physical and immaterial. In the OT, lambs sacrificed on the altar were totally consumed by the sacrificial flames.
3. A Clean Sacrifice— “holy, acceptable unto the Lord.”
Holy speaks of purity of life. Holiness is not a denomination. Holiness is the mark, the price, the priority of a surrendered life.
Someone said, “The only problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar.”
B. A Logical Service Declared,
The word “reasonable” is better translated logical. The word “service” is best translated “act of worship, especially understood as the performance of religious duties.”
Kent Hughes commented,
Total commitment is the only rational course to take when you really see who God is. Nothing else makes any sense. Halfway commitment is irrational. To decide to give part of your life to God and keep other parts for yourself—to say “Everything is yours, Lord, BUT this relationship, this business deal, this pleasure”—is beyond spiritual logic.
The logical act of worship is a life lived totally committed to Christ and His church.
Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.
III. The Commands of Total Commitment (12: 2a)
III. The Commands of Total Commitment (12: 2a)
Notice in verse 2 there are two commands. The first command is negative and the second is positive. These are the two sides of commitment.
A. The Negative Command— “Do not be conformed to this world...”
A command with a prohibition carries the idea of “Stop what you are doing!” Literally, Paul is telling his readers, and us, to stop letting the world system determine life’s values and conduct. The behaving side of the Christian life is not concerned with being politically correct, but is concerned with being biblically correct. Jesus said, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” Worldliness is a big problem in Christian living today. Worldliness overflows into our churches as well.
B. The Positive Command— “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The Greek word for transformed is the same word we get our English word metamorphosis. The word means to change from one form into another, as in the transformation of a tadpole into a frog or a caterpillar to a butterfly.
The word be is a passive imperative which means transformation must be done to you by someone or something other than you. You cannot transform yourself, rather the Holy Spirit transforms you into a new person. We are to submit to the Holy Spirit who brings about transformation through the renewing of the mind. The true follower of Christ is given a new way of thinking which transforms his beliefs and behaviors.
IV. The Consequences of Total Commitment (12: 2b)
The New English Bible says: “Then you will be able to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect.
A committed life has the power to perceive what God’s will is.
To know beyond doubt what I ought to do, and knowledge to do it, seems to me to be heaven on earth, and the man that has it needs but little more.
A committed life has the power to do God’s will. The committed Christian has an excellent moral character, a pleasurable/satisfied life in Christ, and lives genuinely for Jesus and His church.
Nothing but total commitment of our lives to Christ and His church makes any sense.
God’s people are not to sit with folded hands waiting for their transfer to heaven. So long as they remain on earth there is work to do, battles to fight, and suffering to endure. Believers are not pictured in the New Testament as shrinking violets waiting to be plucked and carried into heaven. They are slaves of Christ who must be busy at his work. They are soldiers of Christ who stand in the fray as He battles against the forces of evil.
Total commitment is the only logical way to live as a Christian.
Years ago, a 12 year old girl who had lost her arms and legs to a terrible disease heard Billy Graham preach on the radio from this text. She responded, “Lord, there’s not much of me left, but what there is I give to you.” She learned to write with the use of a harness and devoted her life to sharing her faith in Christ by writing hundreds of letter sharing the Gospel. She lived to be 27. At her death, over 1,500 people had come to faith in Christ through her letter writing. Folks, that 12 year old girl presented her body a living sacrifice to God and God did much through her life.
Are you totally commited to Christ and His church?