Text: Romans 6:12-23
Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Don’t close your hymnals! If you already closed your hymnal open it up again to hymn number 783 “Take My Life and Let It Be.” Sometimes a hymn can say things about our readings more clearly and succinctly than I ever could. Today is one of those days and we will use hymn 783 to help us understand what our epistle reading today is talking about in just a few minutes. Keep it open to 783. (If you are reading this after the fact the words to the hymn are printed in the text of the sermon)
Our epistle reading this morning is an important reading for us to consider. In these verses from his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul is talking about our new lives as Christians. He talks about how we have been brought from death to life by the death and resurrection of Jesus, how we have been raised up already right now to live and new life. This is the encouragement he has for us as we seek to live out this new life that God has given to us: “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” As new people, people who have been brought from death to life, Paul calls on us not to “present ourselves to sin” and encourages us instead to “present ourselves to God.”
That phrase, “present yourself…” is not part of how we normally speak in modern day English. The word there means to present yourself for service. The idea is something like “Reporting for duty.” Paul is telling us here to “report for duty” to God and not to sin. God is our master, not sin. We are to present our lives and everything in them to God in order to serve Him in righteousness rather than presenting our lives and everything in them to sin in order to serve sin and unrighteousness.
The first thing that might surprise us here is that Paul only presents two options. We might expect a third option, something kind of neutral. There is the good choice to serve God, there is the bad choice to serve sin, and we would expect there to be something in the middle that isn’t good or bad, but that is not what Paul says. There are two options and two options only. Either we serve God or we serve sin.
The obvious choice is to serve God. That is what we want to do and that is what Paul says we should do. The next thing we need to figure out is what that looks like. What does presenting everything that we are and have to God for His service look like? That is where hymn 783 can help us out.
Let’s look at just the first verse for now. “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee; Take my moments and my days, let them flow with ceaseless praise.” The first half of that verse lays out this whole idea. “Take my life and let it be…” With those words we are offering our lives and everything that is in them to God and His service. The second half of the verse is where we start to see what that looks like.
“Take my moments and my days, let the flow with ceaseless praise.” So what is it that we are presenting to God here? Our moments and our days. Our time. We serve God with our time by offering up our moments and days to His service. Serving God with our time doesn’t just meaning doing stuff at church. This is not a plea for you to all volunteer more hours at church. Serving God with our time means simple things like praying, reading our Bibles, talking to friends and neighbours who are suffering in some way, spending time with those who need our love and care. It means using our time to give praise and honor to God. This is part of our new lives as Christians presenting ourselves to God for His service.
How about verse two of the hymn: “Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love; take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.” What are we presenting to God here? This time it is our hands and feet. Our actual physical bodies. We offer our hands to God to do the work of His love in this world. To work to provide the needs of others. To show love through the work of our hands. We also offer our feet to carry us out into the world to tell of His love. “How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of Him who brings good news!” the prophet Isaiah once said. Here we offer our feet as “beautiful feet” that bring the good news of Jesus to those trapped in sin. This too is part of our new lives as Christians.
Now for verse three: “Take my voice and let me sing always only for my King. Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee.” What part of our lives do we present to God with these words? Our mouths. Our words. Our voices. “Let me sing always, only for my King!” “Let my mouth be filled with messages from You!” Presenting ourselves to God means presenting our words to God for His service. Our words build up, encourage, and proclaim the message from God that sinners are forgiven, that we are forgiven, for Jesus sake.
Now verse four. “Take my silver and my gold not a mite would I withhold. Take my intellect and use every power as Thou shalt chose.” Silver and gold. Money. Possessions. Stuff. That is what we present to God here. Not a mite, not a penny, not a cent would I withhold. Like the time one, this is not a plea for you to give more money to church. Our giving is much more than that. In our new lives as Christians we give to the church to extend the Kingdom of God, but we also give to those in need understanding that whatever we have has been given to us from above. Our money, possessions, and stuff is a gift meant to be used in the service of God and our neighbour.
In just those first four verses we get a pretty good idea what it means to present “ourselves and our members” to God for His service. It covers pretty much everything. But as we think about this more one thing remains glaringly obvious: we can’t do it. We can’t follow through on this, we can’t serve God with everything we have. Sin always hold something back.
Do we really, willingly commit our time to God and His word or do our busy schedules get in the way? Do we really allow our hands and feet, our bodies in general, to be used for God’s glory or do we use them for our own glory? Do we really use our words to proclaim God’s goodness or do we use our words to tear down others and lift up ourselves? Do we really offer up everything that we have, holding back nothing, to serve God and our neighbour?
The answer to all of these questions is no, we don’t. Instead of presenting ourselves to God for serving and serving Him only we often serve ourselves and present ourselves to sin “ready for service.” Sin always hold back.
Thanks be to God that He does not hold back. Though we are unable to serve Him with all that we are and have He has served us with everything. God did not hold back, but gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. In Jesus God did not hold back but gave the fullness of Himself to us so save us from our own sinfulness.
Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Though we often fall short, though we regularly hold back, though we daily serve our sinful selves rather than serving God, Jesus has come to serve us in His death and resurrection. He died serving us. He rose from the dead serving us. Today as we come to the altar and receive His body and blood Jesus is serving us again with His forgiveness. He serves us with life everlasting, life that never ends.
“Take my heart it is Thine own,” verse five says of the hymn says, “it shall be Thy royal throne.” This is the only part of this hymn that I would change. This verse makes it sound like we give our hearts to Jesus. The problem with that is that our hearts aren’t worth giving to Jesus. Our hearts can’t serve Jesus, sin holds us back. Our hearts are like a rust tin can, not worth anything. We don’t give them to Jesus, but Jesus comes along and takes that rusty tin can at the side of the road, pierces it through, takes it home, and makes it into something beautiful and useful: a forgiven heart that serves Him in love forever.
It is Jesus who does this, not us. He presents us to God for His service now and He will present us, perfect, holy, blameless, righteous, and godly, to our Father in Heaven on the day when He comes again to judge the living and the dead.
Let us pray using the words of verse six from the hymn: “Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store; take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee.” In Jesus name. Amen.