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Matthew 28
posted August 9, 2012

Revelation 13
posted August 16, 2012

THE COUNSEL OF PAUL - June 6, 2010


Romans Chapter Twelve

In the twelfth chapter of the book of Romans, Paul gives some valuable counsel for the Christian’s life in the Church. He begins by saying, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

People will do almost anything for their religious convictions. They will fight for it, argue for it, write for it, preach for it, teach for it, pay for it, die for it, do anything for it, but live for it. Present your bodies a living sacrifice unto God.

The body of the Christian is very important. For one thing the Apostle Paul tells us, “Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?”

If your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, be careful what you put in the temple. Filling the temple of your body with nicotine, fatty food or alcohol, doesn’t seem like a very good idea.

Now the Lord lived in a human body like ours. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and Jesus presented His body a dying sacrifice for us, therefore He wants us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him, by first dying to sin, then buried with Christ in baptism, and then rising to walk in the newness of life.

And after that, to provide a continuing witness of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross by the sacrifice of your eyes to the Lord as you refrain from looking at porn in magazines, movies and computers.

Present your feet at the disposal of the Lord, especially the right foot. The right foot is the one used in exceeding the speed limit. Don’t let your feet take you away from the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day. Place your tongue at the Lord’s disposal. Say nothing you would not want Him to hear you say, and remember the words of Jesus, “By thy words thou shall be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

Present your body as a living sacrifice. If you are gifted in music, put your talent at the Lord’s disposal. Don’t let the Devil have it. If you are a great intellect, put your brain at the disposal of the Lord. Don’t let the Devil have it. Whatever your gift, put it at the Lord’s disposal. Don’t let the Devil have it.

It is our body that the Lord wants in this battle against the Devil. Paul said, “Let no man trouble me, I bear branded in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” We may not have physical scars like Paul, but some have psychological scars.

The world will pay top-dollar if you use your talented members for your own selfish glory. Don’t let the Devil have it. Present your body a living sacrifice.

Many are willing to present their bodies as a living sacrifice at a time of illness. A preacher’s presence is called for. Someone has observed that the Sunday bulletin is like an organ recital. Prayers are asked for hearts, livers, and kidneys. We have scriptural evidence for prayer for the sick, but don’t forget to pray for lost souls.

Some may under-estimate the value of their body as a pile of dirt. The value of the body of the Christian is magnified in the words of Paul regarding the resurrection of the Christian when he said, “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” Our earthly body of that little pile of dirt has a glorious future.

Hear Paul again in Philippians, “We wait for a Savior, even our Lord Jesus Christ who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory.” John says in his first epistle, “We know not what we shall be, but we know that when He appears we shall see Him as He is and we shall be made like Him.”

So presenting our body as a living sacrifice is most important when we consider how Jesus said, “The Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then shall He render unto every man according to his deeds.” And remember also the words of the Apostle Peter how he said, “Abstain from fleshly lust, which war against the soul.” So how you live in that body, is equally important with the doctrine of faith, repentance, and baptism. Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Some live in a state of conformation with the world. Like the chameleon that constantly changes its color to fit the surroundings, they are constantly changing their style in dress, in speech, and even in what they believe, to fit in with what is acceptable with the majority in the world at that moment.

Be not conformed to this world. Some people go into the armed services, and get uniformed. Some go on drugs, and get deformed; some go to college to get informed. Some preach a social-gospel to get reformed. Some give their lives to pleasure, and get chloroformed. Some believe in denominationalism, and get misinformed. Paul says we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Present your bodies a living sacrifice.

Now listen as Paul gives us his counsel as to the Christian’s regard for self, “For I say, through the grace of God that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man a measure of faith.”

He said every man has received a gift to be used in the Kingdom of God, but we are not to have an exalted opinion of ourselves. Some folk are like that woodpecker that was pecking away at a tree, working as hard as he could: Rat-a-tat-tat, Rat-a-tat-tat, Rat-a-tat-tat. A storm came up and a bolt of lightning split that tree right down the middle. When the woodpecker awakened, he looked around, rustled his feathers, and when he saw all that fallen timber, he said, “Boy, look what I did.” Rat-a-tat-tat. Yet we are to regard ourselves in sober contemplation as we regard the gifts God has given unto us. As Paul would say in another place, “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” Whatever ability you have, it is yours because God gave it to you. You did not invent it yourself.

But at the same time we must not have false modesty. Recognize what gift the Lord through His grace has given you. Look at the example of Paul when he said, “By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace that was bestowed upon me was not found vain; for I labored more abundantly than they all.”

It sounds like Paul is bragging. He says, “I did more than all the Apostles.” Did he mean individually, or collectively? It would be hard to argue with his conclusion either way. However he did not stop there, he then said, “Yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

He continues this thought as he further explains, “For even as we have many members in one body, and all have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another.”

A body has many members and all the members are important. You may be a toe in the Body of the Church. Someone recently saw a person having a hard time keeping his balance because his toes had been surgically removed. Are you the big toe in your church? Congratulations, that congregation cannot be a well-balanced church without you. We need to remember that we are all part of the Body of Christ, and every member is important.

“And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us….” One of the gifts given to the Body is prophecy. While we have no inspired prophets today, we can profit by the prophecies of those who have gone before. Being a prophet was a scary business if the audience did not like the prophecy. In the book of Jeremiah, Zedekiah the king of Judea called Jeremiah out of the dungeon and said, “Is there any word from the Lord?”  Jeremiah said, “There is: for said he, Thou shalt be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon.” Zedekiah did not like that prophecy, and sent Jeremiah back to the dungeon where the floor was mud, mire, muck.

While I cannot make any predictions of my own, I can tell you about some of the prophecies made in the Word of God. When Jesus ascended to heaven after the resurrection, two angels prophesied, “This Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye beheld Him going into heaven.” Another prophecy that will surely come to pass is when Jesus predicted in Matthew 13:43, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” While I cannot make any prediction when it will be, I can predict that some day both shall come to pass.

Another gift mentioned is, “He that ruleth with diligence.” The elders would fit into that category. It takes a lot of diligence to be an elder. One preacher told me one time of someone who suggested a certain man as an excellent choice for the office of elder. The preacher asked him, “How do we ordain him as an elder, when he very rarely attends services?” The other fellow said, “Well, if we ordain him as an elder, maybe he will start coming.” It may be that many agree that diligence has nothing to do with being an elder.

Another gift given to some of the members of the body is exhortation. While I do not have that gift, I know of many who do. I have read in church history of two preachers who were going some place to preach. One of the preachers was Walter Scott by name, and he said to the other preacher, “When we get there, I will preach, and after I preach, you exhort. And when you exhort, cry if you can.” That gift is not given to all. Peter had it when he preached the first gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost. After the message when 3,000 were baptized for the remission of sins, he exhorted the audience with many other words saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

Another gift was the gift of ministry. In First Corinthians he called ministries helps. One of the meanings of helps is defined in the Greek lexicon as helpful assistance and support, aside from the official office of deacon. Paul defines ministry one time when he told Timothy to bring Mark, he is useful to me for the ministry.

The gift of helps includes many things. A church building does not take care of itself. Somebody must pass out the bulletins, drive the church bus, clean the place, and work in the parking lot. Those who have the gift of helps are just as much a part of the body of Christ as elders and deacons.

In First Samuel is a story of something that David said illustrates this point. Before he became king he was an outlaw leader of 600 men. Some Amalekites had raided their encampment at a place called Ziklag; burned the place down, and carried away all the wives, and children, and valuables. These 600 men were trying to overtake these raiders, as they pursued; 200 hundred became faint and had to rest. They stayed with the equipment while the 400 pressed on and recovered their possessions. Some of the 400 hundred told David those who stayed behind should not get any of the spoils, except their own wives and children. But David said those who stayed behind and guarded the stuff would share and share alike with those who were able to press on. That decision became a tradition in Israel.

The lesson is very clear. While we give all honor to those who leave home, and go to foreign shores to preach the Word, those who remain behind, and support those who go, will share and share alike. We are all one body in Christ, and severally members one of another.

Now we must remember also that while there are many members who can be preachers, elders, deacons, and helps, there is room for only one Head of the Body. Paul tells us in Colossians the first chapter, “Jesus is the head of the body, the Church; that in all things He might have the preeminence.”

Many years ago I preached a sermon called: Are Two Heads Better than One? To publicize the sermon, I took a full length picture of myself, and cut out two pictures of my head, and pasted them together on the torso, and published an ad in the newspaper with the invitation to come and hear the sermon: Are Two Heads Better than One. Someone saw me on the street and observed, “They ought to put you in a cage.” The body of Christ only needs one head and Jesus is it.

Then he said, “Let him that giveth, do it with liberality.” In Second Corinthians Paul said, “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.” The Greek word for cheerful is hilarion. From this we get our English word hilarious. God loves a hilarious giver. Put a ten-dollar bill in the offering plate, and you can chuckle. Put in a twenty-dollar bill and you can smile. Put in a fifty-dollar bill and you can laugh out loud. Put in a one hundred-dollar bill and you can emit a belly laugh. Write a check for two hundred dollars or more and you can have yourself a ball. Let him that giveth do it with liberality. That is hilarious.

Also one of the gifts mentioned was teaching. Let him that teacheth, teach. Teaching was part of the Great Commission. Jesus said, “Teach them all things whatsoever I commanded you.”

Then to be sure they understood what it was He wanted taught, Jesus told the Apostles in John 14:26, “But the Comforter even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said unto you.”

Jesus made sure they got it right by telling them the Holy Spirit would jog their memory, and give them perfect recall of everything that happened from the time they first met Him until the day He was received up into heaven.

The last gift mentioned is, “He that showeth mercy, let him do so with cheerfulness.” Sometimes differences arise, and it becomes necessary to forgive and forget. I knew of two leaders in a church early in my ministry who had a falling out. So one night before the evening service began, some of the men said, “This has gone far enough. It is time to end this argument.” They stood in a circle and urged the two disputants to shake hands and make up. The two men stepped forward and shook hands. The other men said, “Amen.” At that moment when the two finished shaking hands, one of them shook his fist at the other and said, “But don’t you ever let this happen again.” Let him that showeth mercy do it with cheerfulness. It is a dangerous predicament otherwise. James 2:13, “For judgment is without mercy to him that showed no mercy.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, this has been a message for our fellow Christians.

Isn’t it strange that princes and kings and clowns that caper in sawdust rings

And common folk like you and me Are builders for eternity?

To each is given a bag of tools A shapeless mass and a book of rules

And each must fashion before time has flown a stumbling block or a stepping stone.