What does devotion to Jesus look like? That’s the question we have been thinking about this week. In this past week’s sermon on Mark 14, we find a woman give her all to Jesus in anointing him with a costly flask of perfume. It was an extravagant and costly act of love and devotion.
What drove this woman to offer Jesus what was most valuable to her was the fact that she understood he had given (and would give) his everything for her. That’s exactly what Paul describes when he says, “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 worship” (Romans 12:1).
I believe Paul is referring to an Old Testament sacrifice called a whole burnt offering. This was done by offering the most valuable animal from one’s flock—it had to be without defect. And by offering the best animal of your flock, that signified that all you had was at God’s disposal. And this offering was always burnt totally, there were no leftovers like with other sacrifices. This represented complete consecration and devotion to God.
So what does that have to do with us? Paul is calling every Christian to realize that the gospel doesn’t just free you to live, it frees you to die. To die to self – daily. Paul says, this is what it looks like to understand the gospel—you worship God by giving him everything. You dedicate all that you are and all that you have to be used by God however he sees fit.
What does that mean practically? Pastor Tim Keller suggests it means at least two things. First, devotion to God means being willing to obey God in anything he says in any area of life. Second, devotion to God means being willing to thank God for anything he sends in any area of life. Can you see how this is a call for total devotion?
In other words, Paul doesn’t just want our worship to be purely inward and abstract, but practical and physical. God wants us to set apart everything about our lives to his service. God cares about our bodies. How we live. What we do with our time and our money. Where we work, where we play. What does total devotion look like at work? Wouldn’t that include being a compelling witness to the power of the gospel by how you make decisions, how you treat your coworkers, how you approach tasks, how you deal with crises?
What does total devotion look like at home? What does it look like to be totally surrendered to Jesus with how you raise your kids, with how you use your home, with how you relate to your grown kids? What does total devotion look like as a church? It means we see ourselves first and foremost as missionaries. We are here to make fully devoted followers of Christ. It means we care more about gospel advance than we do about our personal preferences. It means an unwavering commitment to reaching younger generations with the gospel.
By offering our bodies as “living” sacrifices he means sacrifice is something we continually do. Yes, it may mean laying down your life for the sake of Christ like Stephen in Acts—stoned, or Polycarp—burned at the stakes, or William Tyndale—also burned at the stake, or Jim Elliot—speared to death reaching the Waodani people.
For some, it means being willing to die for Christ. But, for all of us it means being willing to live for Christ. It means we continually renew our commitment to offering everything to God. This applies to everyone who is a follower of Jesus. To the pastor, deacon, businessman, stay at home mom, widow, executive, high-schooler, college student, empty-nester. All followers of Christ are called to be all in for Christ.
You say, Mark, I’m not there yet. To be honest, neither am I! We are all still in process. But, that’s the point—it’s a process. The more I grow as a Christian the greater my commitment should be. There is no age or stage where you get to coast in the Christian life.
The only way you and I can present our bodies as living sacrifices is by the mercies of God. It is when we are overwhelmed by the total sacrifice of Jesus in the gospel that we will be compelled to present our own bodies totally as living sacrifices. The motivation and power for you to live a life of total devotion is to mediate on, cherish, and believe the gospel more and more. It’s when you know who you are in Christ that you can know how to live as a follower of Christ.
Being fully devoted is the calling on every Christian.