Living Sacrifice: Its MotiveRomans 12:1-2Theme: God’s mercy.This week’s lessons teach us the nature of God’s mercy and grace to us in Christ Jesus. LessonIn his earlier days Paul was called Saul, and he was a fierce opponent of Christianity. He was a Pharisee, the strictest sect of the Jews, and he was zealous for the traditions of his fathers. This led him to participate in the martyrdom of Stephen, and he followed that by arresting and otherwise persecuting many of the early Christians. Having done what he could in Jerusalem, Saul obtained letters to the leaders of the synagogues in Damascus and went there to arrest any Christians he could find and carry them off to Jerusalem for trial and possible death.
On the way Jesus stopped him. There was a bright light from heaven, and when Saul fell to the ground, blinded by the light, he heard a voice speaking to him. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the voice replied.
At this point Paul must have had feelings similar to those of Adam when God had appeared to him in the garden of Eden. True, God had not told Paul that he would die if he persecuted Christians. He was persecuting them in ignorance, supposing that he was serving God. But he had been terribly mistaken. He had done great harm, and he had even participated in the killing of Stephen. In that first moment of Paul’s dawning apprehension, when he recognized that it was Jesus of Nazareth who was speaking to him, he must have thought that Jesus had appeared to him to judge him. He certainly deserved it. He must have expected to be struck down and to die.
Instead Jesus sent him to Damascus where he would be told what he should do. When the message came to him by a disciple named Ananias, it was that he was to be God’s “chosen instrument to carry [God’s] name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:1-15).
Mercy? I should say it was. Paul never forgot it.
That is why, years later, he could write to his young friend and co-worker Timothy, saying, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15-16). It was because he knew himself to be a sinner saved only by the mercy and grace of God that Paul joyfully gave himself to God as a living sacrifice and worked tirelessly to please him.
Now I come to you. Up to this point I have been asking you to put yourself in the places of Adam and Paul, trying to feel what they must have felt as an awareness of the greatness of the mercy of God swept over them. But if you are a Christian, you should be feeling the same things yourself even without reference to other characters.
Ephesians 2 describes your experience. It says that before God revealed his mercy to you, you were “dead in your transgressions and sins” (v. 1). You “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (v. 2) and were “by nature [an object of God’s] wrath” (v. 3). “You were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and [a foreigner] to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (v. 12). That was your condition.
But now listen to what God did.
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (vv. 4-7).
That is the nature of the goodness, love, grace, and mercy of our great God. If you are a Christian, shouldn’t it motivate you to the most complete offer of your body to him as a living sacrifice and to the highest possible level of obedience and service? How can it do otherwise? In my opinion, you can never understand and accurately appreciate what God has done in showing you mercy in Christ without replying wholeheartedly,
Love so amazing, so divine,Demands my soul, my life, my all.
According to Ephesians 2:1-3, what was our condition before Christ?
From Ephesians 2:4-10, list all the benefits Christ has brought to us.