Jack Graham - All on the Altar
We are to not only learn the Bible, but, of course, we are to live it! And Romans chapter 12 encapsulates what it means to live the Christian life. What is a Christian? What does a Christian do? What are we to do as we live for Jesus Christ in our generation? We call this series ALL IN. We see it again and again all the time in Scripture. We're to "Love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength". Proverbs 3:5 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean unto your own understand". 1 Peter 5:7 "Cast all your cares upon Him because He cares for you". Romans 8:28 "For we know that all things work together for the good to them who love the Lord, to those who are called according to His purpose". We know that God has casted "all of our sins behind His back".
Aren't you glad; aren't you grateful for that! It's all! In fact our God is the Almighty! His name is above how many names? All names. His name is above ALL names! He is an ALL IN God! And therefore, we should be all in for Him. That's what Romans 12 is all about. And verse number one is our passage. It is our one single verse, but it sets in motion everything that is left in the twelfth chapter. Before we read verse 1, I should read verse 36 of the eleventh chapter. Flowing out of this great doctrinal dispensational section actually here, for it says: "For from him and through him and for to him are (there it is again) all things. To him be glory (and we should say ALL the glory) forever and ever. Amen".
And then verse 1 of chapter 12, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual (or reasonable, logical) worship (or service)". This is a famed passage of scripture. Many of us have known it all through the years. "Present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God". There's so much transforming truth in just these short words in the very first verse of Romans chapter 12. I'm calling this message "All on the Altar". Now what does that mean? What is this living sacrifice? He says, I beg you, I beseech you, I plead with you, I persuade you, "that you would be a living sacrifice".
Of course, we think of a sacrifice as being something that's dead and sacrificed. Old Testament sacrifices. And this is the language of the temple and of the Old Testament sacrifices. Paul is saying, "You come to Christ and you make a full commitment to Him by becoming a living sacrifice. Not a dead one, but a living one". It's both and when you think about it. If Paul were to stand here today and speak to us and share his own testimony, he may share the words of Galatians 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ", dead, crucified with Christ, "nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me". That's a living sacrifice in that we have died to self and surrendered ourself and sacrificed our selfish lives in order that we may live for Jesus Christ. That is a living sacrifice.
And three points to ponder this morning regarding that living sacrifice. One, this living sacrifice is personal. Paul says, look at verse 1, and Paul is the human author. He is speaking in behalf of God, so in effect this is God speaking. And that's amazing in that the apostle says: "I appeal to you". This is a command for Christians to be all in, all on the altar, a living sacrifice, but this command is not coerced. He says, "I appeal to you". Here I've been a pastor a long time and I've learned you can't force or coerce people to get off the fringes, get off the sideline and get in the game because it's not a matter of coercion. It's not a matter of law or legalism. It's not law; it's grace. It's not law; it's the Lordship of Christ! And it should be our goal to preach the Lordship of Christ; that Christ is Lord of all! And therefore, He deserves and demands our all! But this is an invitation.
Says, Old King James: "I beseech you", it just sounds, oh, so British, doesn't it? Literally, I beg you: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers". He doesn't pull rank and say, "As an apostle I declare to you". He comes alongside like a good brother, and puts his arms around us and says, "Let me talk to you about something". That's the mentality here of the twelfth chapter, verse one. "I beseech you, I beg you, I persuade you, as brothers and sisters in Christ, that you (It's personal) would come and bring your life completely and totally to Christ". It's personal! "Jesus deserves my all. All that I am and ever hope to be I owe it all to Thee". "I surrender all! All to Thee I surrender".
You may think of surrender as being a capitulation to an enemy. But our surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ is not capitulation to an enemy, but it is the yielding our lives, the giving of our lives back to Him who deserves our all! To a Father and Friend who will take what we bring and accomplish His purposes in us! That His will would be our will and His will would be our will. Good, perfect and acceptable. It's surrender. It's coming to the altar and saying, "Lord, here's my life, all of it". And the goal is complete and total abandonment and submission to God. Because He owns you! One of the most repeated identities of the believer in the Scripture is a servant of Christ; a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.
You say how does He own us? 1 Corinthians 6:19 and verse 20 as well. "What, do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? That you are not your own? That you are bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus. Therefore, glorify God with your body which is the Lord's, which belongs to the Lord". He owns us. Consecration is not the act of giving something to God, giving our lives to God. It's giving our lives back to God who already had it to begin with. Consecration is giving God what is already His! And that's all we are and all we have. Our persons, our possessions, our personality, our activities, our behaviors. It's personal, deeply personal. Now lest you think this whole idea of sacrifice and surrender is, you know, sack cloth and ashes, and frowns on your faces, no, the surrender of your life to obedience, to offer your life in obedience to God brings great joy. The only way to live because when you give your life to God unconditionally, all hands off, then He gives it back to you in ways that you can't even imagine.
Jim Elliot, another great missionary of yesteryear, said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose". What is this living sacrifice? It's personal. It's Abraham who, commanded to take his son Isaac, the son of a promise, and sacrifice him on an altar. Not understanding why, with tears in his eyes was prepared before God delivered his son by the hand of an angel, he was prepared to take his son's life because his all was on the altar. And you know, God didn't want his son; God wanted Abraham. It's Moses who chose, rather than to be identified with the children of Egypt and to live in princely royalty in Egypt, he chose to be identified with his own people, the Jewish people. Surrendered his life and left the world behind to follow his God.
He ends up on the backside of the desert in the middle of nowhere, burned out, thinking his life was over, and then God spoke to him out of a bush that burned and burned and would not burn out! The great I AM. And there bare foot in the desert, he breathed again, he burned again. And God called him and sent him, and Moses said, "I'll go". It's a shepherd boy by the name of David who put his personal risk, life at risk to stand up to a giant all for the glory of God. That's all in! Ladies, you're all in as well. Esther who chose to stand with her people and to support her people Israel though it could cost her her life! She said, "If I perish, I perish"! All it!
It's Isaiah standing high at the altar of God in heaven and having his life transformed there in the presence of God. And when God said, "Who will go for Me"? it's Isaiah saying, "Here am I, Lord. Send me". All in! It's Mary, a teenage girl; told by an angel that she would be the mother of God, the virgin mother of Jesus. And when she couldn't understand it or explain it, she simply said, "Be it unto me, Lord, according to Your will". All in! It's the apostles Peter and John and the rest, James, who laid down their lives, having seen the risen Christ, they became flaming torches, living sacrifices for the Lord Jesus Christ. All ultimately martyred for Jesus because they were all in!
The Apostle Paul, the author of these words, who put his life where his mouth was. Coming near the end of his third missionary journey, facing sacrifice and surrender and martyrdom, he said, "My life is not valuable to me. The only thing I care about is whether this Gospel gets preached, and that I finish my course with joy". All in! The question is: Are you all in? Am I all in? You say, "Well, that's for missionaries. That's for apostles. That's for Bible heroes. That's for preachers. That's for full-time people". Again, who gave any of us the idea that being a Christian was part-time? All in!
It's not only personal, it's physical. He did say, "Present your bodies a living sacrifice". Now to explain that, it means your whole life because your life is in your body; your breath is in your body, so your brain is in your body. Your personality, everything, everywhere you go, your body goes with you. So give your body, put your physical body in action to the service, the reasonable, logical service of God. It's physical. We've already given you one scripture that describes that. Let me give you a few more. 1 Corinthians 6:19, "Glorify God in your body". But watch this one: Philippians 1:20, "As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but with full courage now as always, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or death".
Scroll back in Romans to Romans 6:13, "Do not present your members (your body) to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God (same language, offer yourself, present yourself, give yourselves to God) as those who have been brought from death to life and your members to God as instruments for righteousness". 2 Corinthians 4:10 "Always carry in this body of death (Jesus) so that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our bodies". You say in our spirits? True. In our souls? Yes. But our bodies (the temple of the Holy Spirit) are to honor God. 1 Thessalonians 4:4, "That each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor".
So that body of yours is not your own. And it is made for more than passion and plumbing or pleasure. Your body is made for God! Your bod is God's! He's saying you're mine! So we ought to take care of the temple. Certainly that means physically. We ought to eat right, exercise well, rest well, take care of our bodies physically. But ultimately it's the spiritual challenge of make sure that our bodies are presented to God in righteousness, in holiness and that we honor God! What we see, what we say, what we do! When we were children some of us were taught the little chorus: "Be careful little eyes what you see. Be careful little ears what you hear. Be careful little mouth what you say. Be careful little hands, little feet, what you say, what you do, where you go"!
What a beautiful lesson to teach God's children of all ages. And when you give your body to God He will never misuse it or abuse it. It's been interesting, absolutely stunning (a better word) to see the revelations of sexual harassment and the abuse that goes on, sexual abuse and all the rest, that's going public and good. The hashtag #metoo movement, all good. Now, not all good. Not everything good, but the movement, the idea is good. Because women are tired of it. Tired of being abused, men taking advantage of their body. My mother taught me a very simple lesson. Guys, keep your hands to yourself, keep your hands to yourself.
I was speaking to a lady, there was a group of us talking and she was just saying she was approached by a very well known person and seduced, if you will, or attempted seduced. And she just simply stood back and said, "My body belongs to God, not to you". Girls, ladies, that would be a really good thing to say. My body belongs to God. If you're married your bodies belong to one another. Not to anybody else but God and your wife, your husband. I'm just saying that to say if you give your body to God you can trust Him. Because when you surrender your life completely to the Lord, your body to God, your life to God, in that surrender God would choose for you what you would choose for yourself. His will is done. We'll talk about that next time. The good and perfect will of God for your life. God wants what is best for you always! And the blessings of God will flow in your life when you bring your body to God.
You say, "Well, why would God want my body? It's tired, it's old, it's fat, it's skinny, it's ugly". Well, you know, God, if you started really realizing how valuable your body is to God you wouldn't see yourself like some of you see yourself. I know a lot of people struggle with their body identity and the way they look. You give your body to God. Now do the best you can with what you got! You give your body to God it belongs to Him. It's pleasing to Him, even when you're weak and you're tired. One of the problems with a living sacrifice is that I've found over the years, I keep falling off the altar from time to time. The problem with a living sacrifice, it doesn't always stay there! We crawl off the altar; we fall off the altar.
So what do we need to do when we fall off the altar? Is crawl back up there. And I've had to get there again many times in my life. So see, it's kind of a big picture here. There comes the moment, there comes the kind of a miracle moment, if you will, when you surrender your all to God and it's a consecration of your life. But you have to keep up with that on a daily basis. That's why every day, every morning I get up and I surrender my day to the Lord. The details of it, the day of it, my life, my family, my schedule. It's an act of continual surrender of life to the Lord. And if I start missing that, before you know I'll find myself off the altar. And I have to pull myself back up there and lay down again and say God, here's my life. Maybe your altar is a sick body. Regardless of our physical state. You bring what you have including your pain and your failures, your flaws, your foibles and you bring it to Him.
And that's the final thing. The living sacrifice is not only personal and physical, it's perpetual because we belong to Him now and forever. And perpetual, I want you to hear the idea that it's in our daily everyday life. The way The Message translation or paraphrase gives this verse is really good. This is The Message: Romans 12:1: "So here's what I want you to do. God helping you, take your everyday, ordinary life, your sleeping eating, going to work and walking around life, and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him". That's good! You're walking around everyday life. For you see, Christianity is not just church-going life, it's everyday life! All in life! All my days life! All in!
John Stark, the British pastor (and I'll close with this) This is such a great quote I can't leave it out. "Then our feet will walk in His paths, our lips will speak the truth and spread the Gospel. Our tongues will bring healing, our hands will lift up those who have fallen and perform many mundane tasks as well like cooking and cleaning and typing and mending, our arms will embrace the lonely and the unloved, our ears will listen to the cries of the distressed, and our eyes will look humbly and patiently towards God". That's a living sacrifice. It's personal, it's physical, it's perpetual. It's a living sacrifice; it's a lasting and logical sacrifice in view of the mercies of God. Don't you believe God deserves all that you have?