A Life of Service

What does it mean to live a life of service?

A Life of Service

Romans is a book that the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome. We are in chapter 12, and what has come before are 11 chapters about God’s mercy. 

And mercy is at the heart of what we believe as Christians. Paul lays it out wonderfully in those first 11 chapters. He explains how all of us were by nature walking away from God, and deserving his judgement. Then he explains how wonderfully, Jesus Christ gave himself on the cross so that God’s people could be restored to him.

It’s a story of rescue – a story of mercy

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully (Romans 12:1-8).

Three things the Apostle Paul teaches us about a life of service.

1. Serve with Everything Because of God’s Mercy 

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…(Romans 12:1).

After Paul has written this huge, passionate 11-chapter description of God’s mercy, what is the response he calls for? Verse 1 again: 

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1).

So Paul says this: those who have received God’s mercy should live all out for him

Will we live all out for God in view of his mercy? 

Paul is saying here that because followers of Jesus have received God’s mercy, in response, like a sacrifice, they should live all out for him. Paul says this is how to worship God! 

Now serving God is not always easy, or joyful – in fact it’s often hard and costly to live for God. The image of a living sacrifice makes this clear. To lay on the altar and offer everything you have is not a picture of comfort and relaxation.

The image of a sacrifice also communicates that God is interested in every part of us. He calls us to live for him in every part of life – at work, at school, at home, just as much as when we’re at church. 

How do we know how to be living sacrifices day to day? We’ll look down at verse 2:

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

To be a living sacrifice, we need first to avoid conforming to the world

Are you and I just like the world around us? Do we live just like them in terms of how we spend our money, our time, our energy? Do you care more about following sport, or about the growth of the kingdom of God? Do you care more about your career, or about the spiritual growth of your family? 

Paul doesn’t just talk about the negative – ‘don’t conform’ – but he also gives a positive – ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Then you will know what God’s will. Then you’ll know how to live for him.

Are we going to God’s Word to see what he says about our lives?

If you’re looking for a marriage partner, have you explored what the Bible says about dating, and marriage? Have you asked what the Bible says about how to be a godly single person? How to live as a godly waitress, a godly music student, a godly scientist, a baker, a nurse, a charity worker, a stay-at-home parent?

 

2. Serve Humbly in the Body of Christ 

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us (Romans 12:3-6).

If you are a follower of Christ, you should not think that you are worth nothing, or that you aren’t needed.

You were worth Jesus dying for you, and you have a place in the church, and a purpose to fulfill.

So we shouldn’t think too much, or too little of who we are. One pastor said, ‘don’t let the devil take you up on the airplane of pride or down in the submarine of despair.’ Hear Paul’s words – think of yourselves with sober judgement. 

Paul also says that those who are in Christ belong to each other – they are highly connected, like different parts of a body. Because we’re connected, we should be looking out for each other. 

This should go beyond our own community, or our own friendship circle. If we are in need of spiritual or practical support, we should ask for it.

 

3. Serve Actively

6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully (Romans 12:6-8).

You’ll see that all of us in the body of Christ are given a different gift. That means that if you are a believer, God has equipped you by his Holy Spirit in some particular way to serve the church.

There is no Christian who doesn’t have a role in God’s church

Maybe you’ve heard of the famous preacher John Stott. He once said that many Christians are like tadpoles. Those are little baby unformed frogs. They have a huge head and a small body. John Stott said that:

some Christians are like tadpoles, because they fill their heads with information about God and the Bible, but they never actually do anything.

But real Christians shouldn’t just sit there, only expanding their minds and not doing anything – they should be active, serving! 

Often the best way to to find your place in God’s kingdom is simply to start doing something. Get serving somewhere. See if it fits. And speak to other people. Ask those who know you where they think you could best fit in serving the church. 


Notice the main point in this passage is not to spend ages wondering what your gift is, but to get stuck in and to serve the body of Christ.

Paul’s list in these verses isn’t just about formal ministries in the church. Things like serving, encouraging, giving, teaching and showing mercy aren’t just about what happens on a Sunday. After all, as Paul said at the beginning we should offer our bodies – in other words, our whole lives – as living sacrifices. And you can be serving the body of Christ throughout the week in many ways. 

If you’re not a follower of Jesus yet, that’s the biggest thing to consider. Because everything I’ve said about service is only a response to God’s amazing mercy.

God’s mercy is the foundation and the starting point

Or maybe you’re here and you think, ‘I’m a Christian, I’m already serving a lot, but I’m glad everyone else got to hear this.’ Well for you, perhaps the challenge is to look at your heart and to ask, why am I serving? Am I serving out of legalism? Out of pride? Out of routine? Or are you serving humbly as a response to the overwhelming love and mercy of God? It’s a challenge, isn’t it?

And when our motivations aren’t quite right, we need to connect again with God’s mercy.

Remind yourself of that – sing songs that connect with the gospel, warm your heart again so that you can serve God in response to his mercy. 

Know that God has a place for you in His church, and he has things he has gifted you to do. Spend time dwelling on his mercy towards you, and ask him to help you see yourself as he sees you. And pray that that frees you to serve God on Sundays, on Mondays, on Tuesdays, and throughout the whole week. 

Let’s remember these words:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1).

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