I came across a story recently about the Wisconsin town official that found a 6 point buck dead in the city square. The buck “lost his head” in a head butting match with another buck. The sad reality is that the other buck was a concrete statue! I wonder if many times we are “beating our heads against a wall” by pursuing change(s) that cannot really help us. The good news is that God will help us, but we need to allow Him!
Let me let you in on a secret, “Not all self-help promises work!” The truth is that many promises are nothing more than a scheme to take your money. But God desires to help you; all that He asks is that you take His advice seriously. I was reminded of this in my recent studies for our new sermon series “Transformed” based on Romans 12. This truth jumped out to me as I focused on the first verse in this chapter, ““And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” (Romans 12:1) After 11 chapters of discussing our need and God’s provision through Jesus, Paul moves into how these truths should impact our day to day lives. What stood out to me was that genuine transformation only happens when I am wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus. Now, stop and let that statement sink in for a few moments. If you disagree, read Romans 12:1 again. Paul’s statement that we must “give your bodies to God” stood out to me.
The verbal picture here has to be something that the Jew would have known all too well, the Old Testament sacrificial system. When I read this passage I think of the brazen altar that stood in the courtyard of the Tabernacle. It reminds us of the importance of a right or clean heart before God. There was only one way into the tabernacle and one of the first two pieces of furniture was the brazen altar where the sacrifices were made by the worshiper. When we see the sacrificial system as only economic exchange, the payment of a debt, we miss the whole point. I am reminded of the Prophet Samuel’s words to King Saul, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22) The sacrifice that was offered represented the heart of the worshiper. The life that was taken represented the worshiper’s life and the blood split was figurative of the worshiper’s blood. The sacrificial system was to reflect the whole-hearted devotion of the worshiper.
Paul’s words remind us that we too, because of God’s mercy and grace in our lives through Christ, are to now make living sacrifices. Our sacrifices no longer involve dead animals but instead are our life choices. Our living sacrifices are revealed in our godly character. Romans chapters 12-14 provide us of practical examples of these living sacrifices.
The challenge for you and me is to be wholly devoted to Jesus. The Christian life is all or nothing. It is easy to hold back, be partially committed, wanting to nurture a specific ungodly behavior or play games with God. When we chose to hold back we compromise God’s help and blessing in our lives. We, in many ways, are no different than that six point buck! The question has never been, “Will God help me?” but “Will I let God help me?”
-Pastor Joe Parkinson