Subscribe to the weekly podcast on iTunes

Fill out the form below to have a PDF with more information sent to you


TRANSFORMED: Body    Romans 7 & 12:1   Pastor Yvonne Biel         (2nd Service)

Uuugghhh! For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  (Romans 7:18)  For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  (Romans 7:16-17)  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  (Romans 7:22-23)

Here we are in a series of transformation and I’ve got the wonderful topic of the body.  How many of us feel the same type of angst that the Apostle Paul felt in those verses?  Just like Larry gave us this wholeness wheel {Spirit–Mind–Body–Emotion–Relationships–Vocation–Resources} at the beginning , if I were to take a look at that and talk to God about how am I doing with my body in this journey of transformation, I feel some of that angst!  It’s interesting that over the last couple of weeks of preparing this message, I feel like God has turned up the volume on my hunger, and I’ve become real aware of that.  I have hunger!  I know that’s silly, but I think that sometimes I fall asleep to my body and I don’t even realize I have these kind of urges or cravings.  As God’s been showing me that I have this kind of hunger, you know where I go to fulfill it?  The donut shop!  Because fall is amazing….I go get a half dozen donuts and I polish them off throughout the day.  Great!  I’m doing awesome!  At night I get the munchies.  There’s a lot of stuff in my refrigerator, but I’m really in the mood for salt.  I’ll polish off half the bag of chips.  I love the fall and I need a boost of caffeine and get my brain awake, so I’m going to go to Starbucks and get my Pumpkin Spice Latte and I’m going to satisfy my craving.  God’s been showing me that I have these cravings, these yearnings, these urges, and it’s really easy to go and satisfy them myself.  It’s easy because it’s accessible.  I’ve got food in my cupboards and refrigerator.  I’ve got a car and can drive to the restaurant of my choosing or the store and fill whatever that craving is.  So I’m susceptible to following the cravings my body has and trying to satisfy them myself.

Another interesting thing that’s been happening is that God’s been irritating me a little bit in my body.  The very first day I get to plan this sermon, I go to the Seminary and open the door and this gust of wind hits my face.  I go to sit down and there’s a speck of dirt caught in my eye.  It’s not in the eye that I can wink, it’s in the eye that I can’t wink, which means both eyes close.  So I’m spending the day trying to prepare this message on the body, and my eye’s watering and I’m getting super-irritated.  The whole time I’m not even thinking, “Thanks, God, for the body illustration,”  I’m just thinking, “Get this thing out of my eye!”  The next week comes around and I’m maneuvering a metal sign to put away in the closet, and the base nicks the back of my heel.  Later on it starts to feel uncomfortable and when I look closer I saw metal shards/slivers were in my heel.  They were minuscule, but it took over two hours for my roommate and I to dig them out.  It was sending shooting pain up my leg and I was cringing in pain.  All I wanted was to get rid of the pain.  I wasn’t thinking at that moment, “Thanks for that illustration, God,” I was thinking, “I’m irritated and I really need help to get this out of here!”  Then my immune system crashes and I’ve got sinus stuff and a sore throat.  My body is not always doing what I want it to do; I was irritated, I was selfish and self-focused.  I wasn’t using this for my formation.

Who has taught me how to use my body for my formation?  I don’t know.  I think there’s a void of information and teaching on the body.  When there’s a void of information, we fill it.  We go to, perhaps, the latest website or magazines and we look to culture to give us the answer and fill that void.  What I think the culture is telling us is that the body must be perfect.  Right?  You see all these air-brushed images.  We want our bodies to look a certain way.  I’m certain many of you ladies came in with makeup on.  The problem is, if we listen to that message that our bodies are suppose to be perfect, we wind up looking in the mirror and feeling dissatisfied.  Oh, I woke up with a zit this morning! Great!   Oh, these wrinkles keep coming, the grey hair keeps coming.  My body keeps disintegrating!  I have pain!  It’s not the body that I want or the body that’s perfect.  Maybe something more serious happened to our body—maybe we were abused or used our body to abuse.  That’s not perfect anymore.  We wind up stuck in shame, if we think our bodies are suppose to be perfect.

Another message that our culture tells us to do to fill the void is that our bodies must perform.  Right?  How much money do people pay people to get their bodies in shape to get to the prime, perfect form and best achievement, so that they can go ahead and compete against other teams around the world to get honored and praised and get glory for their performance?  Again, the problem is that when we start telling ourselves that our body’s got to perform, we’ve got to do this, what happens when we’re born with a physical ailment or disability?  We can’t perform to the level of a beautiful athlete.  What if we’re experiencing chronic pain and we’re not able to get to that level?  Now we just feel like a failure.

Then if we want to fill the void and go to our friends who know Jesus, we want to show up at church, and we want to understand what to do with our body.  How am I suppose to think about the body in my transformation?  I don’t know about you, but it seemed like, when I was growing up, that the body was our problem.  You read those passages from the Apostle Paul in Romans 7 and it seems like the body is the thing that so easily entangles you.  The thing that you can’t get rid of.  The thing that leads you into sin and holds you captive to sin.  And yet, the church tells you your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  The conclusion is that we make a whole laundry list of do’s and don’ts with our body.  Don’t drink.  Don’t smoke.  Don’t have sex before marriage. Don’t go dirty dancing.  DO — eat healthy, exercise, take care of your body.  That’s how to treat it like the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that’s the end of the story.  But in the end, I feel like it’s still a problem.

Today, I want to propose to you that your body’s not designed to be perfect.  That’s false.  Your body was never made to perform at the top caliber of excellence.  Your body’s not even the problem.  But your body CAN be offered to God.  Look at what Paul says in Romans 12:1.  This is a couple chapters after his frustration with his body.  In this pivotal moment in chapter 12, he appeals to us, he urges us, he begs and pleads with us that we can look to what God has done for us and present our bodies living sacrifices to him.  I appeal to your 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.   Instead of thinking our bodies are meant to be perfect or meant to perform, that’s the problem.  They actually could accompany your soul and become your greatest asset on the journey of transformation.  {Slide reads:  Your body is designed to accompany your soul and become its greatest asset on the journey of transformation.}

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, he created the heavens to be a dwelling place, and he created the earth to be a dwelling place.  On that earth—we zoom in a little further—and he creates the sea and the land to be two more dwelling places.  And we zoom in even further and I picture God getting down on his hands and knees on his creation, and he starts to pull the sand and clay of the earth together.  He forms it with a head.  He adds some weird earlobes and a nose and a mouth and a body.  Maybe a belly button, I’m not totally sure.  He shapes this body.  Then it says he even comes closer to breathe into the nostrils the breath of life and man becomes a living being.  A living soul.  This is incredible!  Our souls, the breath of life that we’ve been given, has been created to be embodied.  Created to have a dwelling place.  C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”  I’ve been wrestling with this quote, because I know we’ve been given a body and a soul, because I know that one day our bodies will go to the grave—the consequence for sin is death—therefore our bodies will go back to the earth and are going to disintegrate.  Yet, our souls can live on.

So I know there’s a distinguishment between soul and body.  When I look around here, I don’t know where your body ends and your soul begins.  What I see here in the room is embodied souls.  If I was going to put a quote up here — When God first breathed life into dust, he gave one man’s soul an intimate partner.  It’s called “the body.”  Each and every one of you is an embodied soul.  Your body is actually a partner with you, in your whole life.  That’s why I think your body is designed to actually accompany your soul to be its expressive self. Imagine if we were to show up here and it was just our souls.  Got any imagination for that?  I don’t know how we would interact.  I don’t know what we would do.  I couldn’t give you a handshake.  I couldn’t smile.  My soul wouldn’t have the ability to express itself.  I think it’s a beautiful thing that we are embodied souls.  Your body is accompanying your soul.  I think that it’s its greatest asset on the journey of transformation.

Today we’re going to look at Romans 12:1, as our anchor text.  Here Paul urges us to present our bodies—physical bodies—as living sacrifices to God.  So as long as we have breath in our lungs, and we are living, as long as our heart is pumping and our brain is working, we are to offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices, as embodied souls.  The two words he uses to describe HOW we do that are holy and acceptable.  I want to first look at the fact that we are to present our bodies, when we are alive, as acceptable to God.  That means our bodies are an acceptable partner with us for learning the way of Jesus.  I don’t know if you’ve done this challenge of thinking of all the ways your body is super cool.  If I were to give you a piece of paper and an hour, I think you would run out of paper and you would run out of time, because our bodies are fabulous!  If you think of how many systems are running inside of us—we have a skeletal system, muscular system, a digestive system, a respiratory system.  All of these working together to help keep us alive and embodied.  I actually think it’s really pretty cool that we’re three dimensional.  There’s a place where Yvonne starts and where I stop, then I can start to interact with other things.  I can go to the mountains on a hike and look up at the grandeur of the mountains and I can see how small I am.  There’s relation because I’m three dimensional.

There’s also ways that my body is instinctual.  There are things that happen in my body that trigger things to make sure that I survive.  You remember that hunger I was talking about?  Right!  That keeps us alive.  Our bodies are so cool.  As long as we give our bodies what they need to live and we nourish them, they will succeed.  As long as we keep some things out, like the specks of dust out of our eyes, the metal shards out of our heels, then they can keep functioning.  As long we give our bodies time to rest and recover and to come back to full strength, like my immune system.  My immune system was working for me.  Man, I didn’t even realize how much I was taking my body for granted until He showed it to me.

I love how when we start thinking about the body that we spring out in worship.  The psalmist springs out in worship when he starts to think about how cool his body is—For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14)   There are some amazing things that God has wired into our bodies that we can be thankful for.  And YOU have been given the body that God designed to give YOU.

Now, some of us don’t think our bodies are that cool.  Some of us have an attitude of disgratitude.  We’re not very thankful for the body that God has given us.  Maybe we’re irritated, maybe we’re frustrated, we feel stuck.  I’m drawn to this story about Nick Vujicic.  He plays a role in this short film called “The Butterfly Circus.”  At the beginning of the film, you find Nick at a freak show.  He believes that he is cursed by God.  He has been afflicted by not having arms or legs.  He feels his body is only good for being in the freak show and to be laughed at and mocked.  It’s not until another circus master comes in and finds Nick so fascinating.  He gets down close to Nick’s face and just looks at Nick and says, “You are magnificent.”  In that moment, Nick spits in Mr. Mendez’s face.  He doesn’t believe it.  He doesn’t believe that his body has been made magnificent.  This takes Nick on a journey of realizing that even though he doesn’t have any arms or legs, and his trial in his body feels so big and so large, he learns he actually has the ability to swim.  So he joins a new circus, the Butterfly Circus, and he’s able to show and demonstrate that he can swim, without arms and legs.  Mr. Mendez says that the greater the problem you think you have, the more glorious the triumph.  It demonstrates how beautiful it is when we use all the parts of us—the warts, the weird parts, the parts we’re frustrated with—and we accept them to be a gift from God and we use them for his glory.  Nick, in real life, continues to use the voice God has given him—and his own body—to give glory to God.  He shares in major conferences around the globe.  He continues to worship God and to triumph for His kingdom, because he’s accepted his body.  He’s accepted the things he is limited in, and the things he has to offer the world.

So you and your body are an acceptable partner for learning the way of Jesus.  You. Are. Magnificent.  Your body can be used no matter what color, what shape, what size, how much you can function or not function.  You can use your body for the glory of God.

The next word I’ve been meditating on in regard to the body is that Paul says that we can present our bodies as “holy.”  Holy?  My body’s not holy.  In and of itself, my body feels all that same kind of angst that the Apostle Paul felt.  Sometimes I feel captive to my body.  If I’m honest, my body is not perfect, sinless, pure, clean.  So how in the world can we present our bodies as holy?  Well, it’s not because of what we do.  What we do is laid out in the beginning of Paul’s argument.  In Romans 1, he talks about those that don’t know God.  He says if we don’t know God, we’re prone to do all the things that are abominable to God.  We’re going to satisfy every craving, every passion, with everything our bodies can access on this world.  God gives us up, as humans, to our sin.  He gives us up to the impurity, to the dishonoring of our bodies.  He’s like, if you want to exchange the truth of my goodness and my holiness for a lie, you can do that, and you can serve creation and you can serve the physical things.  (Romans 1:24-25)  In Romans 2, he also talks about the fact that there are some people that use their body—especially their mind and their heart—to actually condemn those people for doing all the impure, abominable things to God.  He says that those who know God are still guilty of the same kind of unholiness, because you’re using your mind to create slander, malice, envy, deceit, and on and on.  He says you’re guilty too.  We all stand guilty.  There’s no one of us that, in and of ourselves, our bodies are holy.  No, all have sinned.  We fall short of the glory, or holiness, of God.  So we can’t do this in and of ourselves.  We can’t just find transformation in and of ourselves.

The word holy in this verse reminds us we have a holy, perfect, sinless, and pure God, who decided he would come in a womb.  He would be birthed out into the world and he would enter physical flesh and blood.  He would go through his weird, awkward adolescence.  He would grow into his body and become more aware of his manliness.  He would enter a wilderness time in his life, where he would feel temptation upon temptation upon temptation to feed his hunger, his passion, and his pride.  Yet, he would pass through that with perfect righteousness.  He went on till he was mocked, beaten, and hurt.  Wounded.  Until he allows his body to be nailed, physically, to a tree.  His body would breathe its last breath.  His lungs stopped breathing….for you.  Then he allowed his body to go down into the grave and start decaying, to experience every bit of humanness, every bit of physical life on this earth.  He lived it in righteousness and holiness and in perfection.  Not just that he would live perfection, but that he would rise from the dead and that he would actually receive a new and glorified body.  He would make it an opportunity for us, that our spirits could come alive to him.  Even while we were sinners, in our unholiness, Christ physically died for us.  It says in 1 Peter 3:18 — For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, {He was righteous throughout his entire human life for our unrighteousness.}  to bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit.   He put to death in the flesh unrighteousness, in order that he would come alive and invite us to come alive in the Spirit.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is good news!  We don’t have to be held captive to our bodies in our embodied life any more.  You see, our spirits have come alive and now our bodies can be told a different story.  The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is living in us if we believe and trust in Him as our Savior, as our Lord, as our guide and mentor on this journey toward transformation.  Which means that that kind of same power has allowed us to tell our bodies that they don’t have to be in the driver’s seat anymore.  They don’t have to have the last story.  Actually, they’ve been made holy.  You and your body have been made holy because of Jesus’s holiness, not because of yours.

Here we are presenting our bodies to God as acceptable.  We say, “God, you gave me this body, I can give it to you for your glory.”  God, you gave me holiness and I can give you my holiness.  He says, “This is spiritual worship.”  Ladies and gentlemen, because you have been given a body, you have been given maybe the best worship partner that you’ve ever asked for.  There’s this partnership between your soul and your body, and they’re worship partners in this life as you live out spiritual worship.  Sometimes the body is not a very good worship partner.  I think sometimes our bodies get out of tune, and as long as our bodies are leading worship, it’s going to be really, really hard to listen to.  It’s like nails on a chalkboard.  As long as our bodies are out of tune with God’s righteousness and holiness……we’re just living out our cravings and we’re doing the things out of our own solutions to our desires and passions.  Maybe we continue to get angry and frustrated and irritable, or we’re satisfying our cravings in ways that we know are unrighteous.

Sometimes it seems like our bodies are in the driver’s seat and they’re taking us on the bus to where they want to go, and they’re doing their thing, right?  What Jesus did for us was make our souls come alive and now we can say, “Excuse me, Body, you can get out of that driver’s seat.”  Or maybe a better illustration, “Excuse me, Body, I need you to be my Uber driver and you’re going to take me to where I want to go.”  The soul has the freedom now to tell the body what to do.  To say, “You don’t have to go that way anymore.  I actually want you to choose what’s right, what’s good, what’s honorable, what’s holy.”  Whatever actually helps your body and soul come alive.

In Romans 6:12-14, Paul says — Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness. {It’s possible that your body can run the show and run it in a way that’s very unpleasing and headed in the wrong direction.  Instead….} but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  Actually, our bodies don’t have to be a bad worship partner, they could be a really, really helpful worship partner. They can take us in a new direction.  It’s possible for us to train ourselves in godliness.  Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.  (1 Timothy 4:8)   Bodily training is of some value for only body health sake, but when we connect this to godliness, our bodies can help us train in the way of righteousness.

Our bodies are pretty cool in that they are pretty habitual.  Our bodies have muscle memory so they can actually remember the ways we want them to remember.  Sometimes getting to that point can be tricky and difficult.  Remember when you were first learning to ride a bike?  You have to learn balance and figure out where your arms go and how they move.  It can be real awkward.  After you start training in the way of riding a bike, you start to learn and it’s automatic.  You jump on and you’ve got the balance and you know where your arms and feet go.

That’s what happens when we connect our bodies with the way of righteousness.  Sometimes it’s awkward when we’re first learning to read the Bible; we don’t know where to go and what to read, but if we start training ourselves in connecting with God in that way, He can start to speak to us.  Maybe it’s learning how to pray and it’s awkward and it’s weird and we don’t know what to say, but we just start doing it.  Maybe we need to train our bodies in loving others, by coming into church and giving people hugs and physical affection.  Maybe training our bodies looks like practicing kneeling down in prayer, or connect our bodies when we try to worship.  I grew up in a church were everyone stood with their hands at their sides (or on the pew).  They were trying to have this spirit connection with God, but there was no connection with their body.  What if we started using our body in prayer?  What if we put our hands out to say, “God, there is something I need to receive from you.  I need your goodness, I need your holiness, I need your love, and I need what you say that I am.”  What if we put our hands down to put down the things we don’t want to be a part of our life; to rid and rebuke them?  What if I lift my hands and stretch and stand on my tippy toes and try to touch God?  You are so big and so strong!   Somewhere in our maturity we let go of our body and fall asleep to it.

But what if we start to awaken to our bodies in ways that are actually helpful to our life and transformation with God?  What if we start to take care of our bodies and it actually worked to take care of our soul?  We started listening to those twists in our stomach and said, “Oh, I need to deal with that.”  What if we paid attention to the pounding of our heart?  Or irritation and tightness in our chest?  Or the stress and tension we feel in our shoulders?  What if we started taking those things to God?  What if we started paying attention to the input—the things we’re putting into our bodies…what we’re listening to, what we’re looking at, what we’re eating, and we started giving our bodies the things that actually will help it train in godliness?  Then, what if we get away from the things that don’t help us?  That output piece means what’s coming out of your life?  What are you doing with your body?  Are you using it for creativity and for kingdom work?  Or is what is coming out anger, frustration, irritation?  Is it a whole bunch of thinking and overthinking?  What’s coming out?  Is that healthy?

Are you giving yourself time to rest?  The practice of Sabbath can be kind of awkward at first too, when we don’t know how to take some time off, or we don’t know how to get to a place of stillness.  We may need to train in this.  When you take care of your body it’s a partner with your soul, so that is soul care.  This is why we talk so much about practicing things here at South, it’s one of our values.  We want you to practice the way of Jesus because we believe that as you practice with your body, it starts to help your soul practice the things that make it come most alive.

I’ve got a few practices for you as you use your body to accompany your soul, allowing it to become your greatest asset on the journey of transformation.  Maybe you need to leave here today and spend time accepting the body that God’s given you.  Maybe you’ve had a lot of shame in your life and you can practice accepting it, receiving the body, and becoming grateful for the things you can do with your bodies.  Be grateful for the capabilities he’s placed inside you, even with your limitations.  Maybe for you, fasting could be one way that you could wake up the conversation between the soul and the body.  When you fast and not give your body something it needs, it starts to tell you that.  Then you can say, “Body, I’m in charge now.  Uber driver, you’re going to take me where I tell you to go.”  You’re going to choose righteousness because it’s possible.  Maybe you need to start exploring ways to pray with your body.  Maybe using your arms, using your chin, lifting your eyes.  Using and engaging your body as you communicate with God.

The last practice we’re going to do today together.  This is because this practice was given to us from Jesus himself.  This is the practice of communion or the Lord’s supper.  This emphasizes that Jesus was in a body, and what he did in his body was for our holiness.  Today I’ll have you come forward to take the body and the blood, representing the Incarnation, that Jesus was flesh and he was blood and that he offers his righteousness to you, in order that your spirit may come alive and make your body obedient to righteousness and to his way.  That’s how we transform in the way of Jesus and we use our body to do that.  It’s my hope and prayer that you can receive the body and blood, physically, and that that can connect to your soul, spiritually as well.

In addition, today we’re going to have some body worship.  I’ve invited three dancers to perform during communion.  Look at the different ways they’re able to use their bodies to worship God and the ways they’re connecting their bodies with their souls with Him.