Amen. Our God is awesome. I got an extra dose of that this morning on the way here. Something had never happened to me before. I think God really wanted to encourage me. I was driving down Curry Ford at a good Christian speed in my Toyota Corolla and all of a sudden I’m just going along and there’s this man on the sidewalk and he starts cheering me on. He’s like, yeah. Go, go, go!

I’ve had that happen cycling before and jogging before, never before in my car. So I was like, yeah, my car is pretty cool, huh? It’s not even a convertible. Man, this is hard work right here. Thank you. Thank you for the encouragement. He gave me what I needed. I was like, God is awesome here. That was a great way to start the day. I do want to thank for everyone that was here in the last service that are still laughing at the same jokes, I appreciate you as well. I don’t have new material. I will say one week from today, just 15 miles from here, the World Discipleship Summit will begin. Yes. In Old Testament times, all of God’s people, they would save up. They would put their lives on hold for weeks. They would travel hundreds of miles by land and sea for their own conferences. These were international religious festivals such as Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles and Pentecost, just to name a few. These were not just two hour Sunday services. These were week long gatherings, not including the travel. A feast of fellowship to celebrate together and most of all, to remember together their extraordinary identity as God’s treasured possession.

In the same way, 15,000 disciples from around the world will travel to Orlando for one week. Your brothers and sisters in Christ will flood our city from far away places such as South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Australia, Europe and Asia. Disciples will find a way to get here from war torn countries in the Middle East and the Ukraine. They will step off the plane at the Orlando International Airport full of joy, with a huge smile on their faces because they’re excited to see you. For one special moment in time we are Jerusalem. We’re the host city. We’re the host church for thousands of God’s people. And it’s not an exaggeration to say you and I are in the middle of a historic moment. Don’t get distracted. Don’t blink. You could miss it. One week from tonight, it officially begins. I think this begs the question of all of us, what’s the best way to prepare now for the World Discipleship Summit? Let’s search for answers together in Romans chapter twelve. What’s the best way to prepare? It’s almost here. Romans chapter twelve. And I know many of you have prepared for this for years. You’ve saved your money.

You’ve asked for time off. Many of you have downloaded the app already and you started picking your classes. You can’t wait. You know when early check in is at the hotel. You’re ready to go. Your heart is there. Your heart is ready. Some of you started serving the WDS long ago. You’ve been praying for this event since long before we even knew that covid 19 was a thing before it even existed. You signed up to volunteer for hours at the conference. So many were here yesterday for the workshop that we had in the morning. Some of you, I know, have even secretly donated hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars so that people you don’t even know can experience this conference. Your heart is ready. I know some of you are new to the church or you’ve recently joined the church. This is new for you. But I commend you. I’ve seen so many of you just hey, what is this? Okay, how do I get on board? And you’ve been able to get on board and make every effort to participate in the summit. And I thank you for that. Then I’m sure there’s a handful of us, you’ve heard the announcements the last seven years, but for whatever reason, you’re not prepared. You mean single tickets cost money? The expectation to serve, to give, or even to pay for anything, including parking, comes as a complete surprise. And I get it. I’m the same way. When I’m distracted and the worries of life and other things come right in front of me, my heart can drift to a funky place too. But no matter where you’re at this morning, today is a new day. From this moment forward, what’s the best way to prepare your heart for the WDS? Let’s read. Romans, chapter twelve, verse one. This will help us with the conference and really so much more. Romans twelve, verse one. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual or rational act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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. So, chapter twelve starts verse one with therefore.

So what’s it there for? Well, in the first eleven chapters, paul writes this masterpiece on God’s mercy given to broken sinners just like us. The death of Jesus on the cross. This proves that God is a mercy millionaire and that’s the motivation for the Christian life. That’s why we’re here today. God’s mercy in Jesus, that’s the engine of gratitude that propels us to do what we do. In view of God’s mercy, God’s word then commands us to do two things here. Number one, offer your body as a living sacrifice. On the heels of our Hebrew study, you’ll notice this is temple terminology. Back in the day for public worship at the temple, you would never, ever dare to show up empty handed. You would come with a burnt offering. That was the expectation from God, the best, most expensive animal from your flock. And what this would do, this would demonstrate that all you had, your very best was completely at God’s disposal. Then you fast forward to us as followers of Jesus today. Our bodies have now become the new sacrifice. Instead of an animal, we now bring to God the very best of ourselves.

And to be a sacrifice means, like the animal, we’re now fully at God’s disposal, and we would not show up to anything empty handed. In view of God’s mercy, we now offer our bodies to God and everything that we do. Not only that, we’re a living sacrifice, a living killing, if you will, a paradox. This means our sacrifice is an ongoing thing. This is what is holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship. The literal translation here is logical. This is only logical. This is the only logical way to worship, the only reasonable way to worship in view of God’s mercy. It means you’re thinking clearly, not just emotionally. In other words, once you grasp God’s mercy in your life, anything less than a total sacrifice of yourself to God is completely irrational. Would the people that know you best, describe your life as a living sacrifice. And sometimes we can ask such and such, is this person still a Christian? Are they a Christian? I think they’ve been baptized. Okay, that’s a great start. But here’s how you truly know. Is this person a living sacrifice? That’s it. Number two, in view of God’s mercy, god’s word also commands us, do not conform, but instead be transformed.

So when it comes to being a living sacrifice, this is where the rubber meets the road. And we’re given two patterns here: the way our culture thinks and the way God thinks. And transform here in the Greek, is the same word we use in science for metamorphosis, right? You may remember that back in the day, okay, it’s the caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. That’s metamorphosis. That’s the word here. That’s the miracle that’s happening. So in view of God’s mercy, the way we think must undergo a metamorphosis, a metamorphosis of how we respond to our circumstances and our suffering. It’s a metamorphosis in how we navigate our relationships in this world. It’s how we respond to what triggers us in our culture, on social media and in the news. Your body belongs to you. No one can tell you what to do with your body. And that’s absolutely true if you conform to the pattern of this world. But the transformed mind says this as for me and my body, it belongs to God as a living sacrifice. So, in the context of our sexual desires, do you not know that your body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God?

You are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body. That’s one, corinthians 6:19 and 20. Guard your itching years. Do not conform to the pattern of our culture, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. So what does this all have to do with the summit? I don’t really know. Okay, we’ll get there. We’ll get there. We’ll get there. We’re going somewhere, but let’s keep reading. Here, in verse three here, we find practical instructions on how to be a living sacrifice. Romans twelve, verse three. 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 measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have all the same function, so in Christ we who are many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a person’s gift is prophesying, let him or her use it in proportion to their faith.

If it is serving, let him or her serve. If it’s teaching, let that person teach. If it’s encouraging, let him or her encourage. If it’s contributing to the needs of others, let them give generously. If it’s leadership, let that person govern diligently. If it’s showing mercy, let him or her do it cheerfully. Verse three. It tells us to be a living sacrifice. We must have a sober judgment of ourselves. Let’s face it, you and I are not naturally self aware. If that’s news to you, I just prove the point. It’s much easier for me to judge someone else and get it right 95% of the time than to correctly judge myself. So in context here in this scripture, to be sober about yourself, it means you’re not too high on all the different skills that you bring to the table. But it also means that you’re not too low on your skill set either, right? It’s a balance. It’s sobriety. Right? So you’re in touch with reality about your talents, not to serve yourself, but to serve others and to build the church. So if you ever played this game, would you rather? Who’s played this game before?

All right. Shame on you. It’s terrible. It’s a fun game. It’s a good game. Let’s play now for just a moment. Would you rather Gil Hidalgo take pictures at your wedding or me? I’ve got a great or Gabriel. I could ask Gabriel as well. Would you rather have Gabriel or Gil take pictures at your wedding, or would you rather have me take pictures at your wedding? I have a newer iPhone. It will do the job. Yeah. I still say things like, I got to get my pictures developed. Where’s Eckers. On Sundays, and be careful how you answer this. I am very sensitive. On Sundays, would you rather have me preach, or would you rather me be in charge of the baby’s class? Or have me in charge of security? I’ve been working out. I’m huge.

All right? Would you rather right. Here we go. All right. And the next one, I’ll do it again. Would you rather have Jessica Jolly as one of your lead singers up here on stage or would you rather have me? Why are you so quick to say yes? Give me a chance, man. I’m not very sober right now. I’m saying Jessica or me. Right. As a singer, I felt like in the last service, my audition was not very good. I feel like I need a second chance. A second chance before you just say yes, jessica, give me a shot here.

Thanks, I mean, there’s an open spot with Chandler moving away, so I was going to go for it, right?

All right. So if I’m sober minded, really my ceiling is maybe I could lead a song at a small baptism that’s probably I have been redeemed that’s all I can do but that’s sobriety and not being so sober. But to summarize verses four and five, we’re all in the same standing with the gospel all the same at the foot of the cross. But God has gifted each one of us with distinct personalities, experiences and abilities to serve. Not serve ourselves, but to serve one another. So we see in verses six through eight a sampling of these gifts that God has given to our church. Now, keep in mind as we look through some of these, your role, your mindset is this summit is about to start. I’m just going to highlight a few of these. Verse seven starts with serving. Now, we’re all supposed to serve. Many of these you see on this list, we all can do. But God has gifted us for those reasons I mentioned, personality, experiences, abilities to really be able to serve the church in a great way in these areas. Now, here it starts with serving of verse seven.

In the Greek, this is narrowing it down to practical service. This person is very good at practical tasks. This is what you would call the ultimate team player. They bring that chemistry to the team. And this is the person that actually does not need the spotlight and kind of does better in the background to make things happen. We all need to aspire to that. But that’s really a God given gift as well. In verse eight, it highlights the gifts of encouragement and giving. This Greek word for encouragement literally means to come alongside someone. That’s encouragement. You’re coming alongside someone. And some of you are incredibly gifted in this area. You make other people feel around you that you’re right there with them. And we need people like that. I need people like that. You’re invaluable because you serve the people around you as a supporter, a greeter or welcomer. And then if you have the special talent of giving, of course, again, we’re all supposed to give. But this specialized talent here, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to be wealthy. Amen. But rather, you’re wise and you’re considerate in your generosity. You’re anticipating needs several bounces down the road ahead of the rest of us, right?

And I think about last Saturday when we had Don Mcgillips memorial. All the different people that shared who not all of them really knew each other that well. And they were somewhere from different cities. They all were telling stories about how Don had contributed to their needs, specifically and even anticipated needs well in advance. And he took care of people with food, with money, with encouragement, with time. That was Don, right? So that’s a special talent of giving. And all these build up the church. We all need this. So this takes me back to the original question. What’s the best way to prepare myself for the WDS? Here’s the mindset. This is it, right here. Here’s how we prepare our hearts. The World Discipleship Summit is worship. All of it. Not just the singing. All of it. And it’s already started. The worship has already begun. It’s been going on for years. All of it is worship. The preparation you saving your pennies to go, giving your time, your resources, that’s worship. That’s what the Bible defines as worship. We just read it. The keynotes, the classes, the music, the singing, all of it. All of it is worship.

A life giving conversation over lunch, hugging someone that you just met in the elevator, that’s worship. It’s giving of yourself. It’s standing on the corner directing traffic, volunteering with kindness and a smile on your face. All of it. That is worship. Meeting needs in the moment, paying the parking fee for the car behind you, slipping a $20 bill in the pocket of a missionary, that’s a living sacrifice. That’s your worship. And at the WDS, we have this unique opportunity to see this on display with 15,000 people and their collective gifts. All of it is worship. The World Discipleship Summit will be worship.

So maybe you’re late to the party with this conference, and I would just appeal to you please don’t be the older brother in the prodigal son story. Please don’t be grumpy now and refuse to come. Join the party. Some way, somehow, get involved, find a way to serve. It’s not too late. Don’t miss your opportunity to worship. In view of God’s mercy, the logical response, the rational response to this conference is this you and I must offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. It’s a golden opportunity for us to love our brothers and sisters from around the world, to show them the love of the Orlando Church of Christ.

Look at verse nine. It tells us about love. It says, Love must be sincere, hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted, be committed, be all in for one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Many other translations say it this way outdo one another and showing them honor. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need and practice hospitality. Bottom line love one another as if you were related by blood, which of course you are in Christ. And Paul challenges us here. Honor one another above yourselves. And that’s my appeal to us. Next week, let’s outdo one another and showing honor to our guests. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Do whatever it takes. That’s a living sacrifice. Sacrifice your time, your resources, your own needs and emotions, all to provide for someone else in need. Do whatever it takes. That’s a living sacrifice. That’s how the Bible defines true worship. I do think you need to start visualizing it. Imagine the victory if we all do this.

Just imagine that. Imagine what it will feel like. 15,000 souls together in one place for one week. One moment in time as a living sacrifice. A few weeks ago, your sister in Christ, Brenda Hale, painted a vivid picture of this scene for us, and I’m going to borrow it today. This comes from a Facebook thread on how to be thrifty at the summit. Very good thread. There is some good stuff on Facebook occasionally. One in 1000, especially if it comes from Brenda. But she painted a vivid picture of the scene and she’s speaking on how to really be able to use your money and your resources wisely at the conference. And Brenda writes: great ideas I read. The conference has been in the plans for over five years, seven, giving us plenty of time to put some money aside. But I also know unexpected things happen along the way that can take a toll on many financially. With all respect to my fellow brothers and sisters, we have spent money on vacations or other things, but in my eyes, this time together will be the greatest vacation of all. It is a treasure, a kingdom banquet on earth, where angels and the spiritual presence of God will be among his children.

I’m not asking us to be unwise, but sacrificial. We should have been preparing for this, like the virgins in Matthew 25 and their oil, and they have plenty of it. Right now, it’s all about our hearts and what we value and what we treasure. Our children will get to experience a piece of heaven on earth. They will get to see God’s work and the unity of believers, which is of great value. God will do amazing things as we come together. He will strengthen us, encourage us, increase our faith, give us dreams and visions, and a greater passion for his mission and the hope we have in Jesus Christ. I and my family look forward to being there with you all. I am thankful for this opportunity the Lord has blessed us with and we will make the best of each day. On another note, we are bringing our own snacks, we are bringing our NutriBullet for smoothies, bringing our own water. And we’ve been saving our money so we can have a meal with other disciples once every day. Be encouraged. You’re going to be filled in ways that words can’t even describe. The Lord smiles from heaven and when he sees his children gather, he smiles on us.

Hasta la vista, baby. My fellow warriors, stay faithful. Brenda Hale. Thank you so much for Brenda. I think she was at our first service. But that really captures the spirit and paints the vivid picture of what we’re talking about. Brothers and sisters, you and I are in the middle of a historic moment. Don’t get distracted by the worries of life. Don’t blink or you could miss it. One week from tonight, the World Discipleship Summit officially begins. In view of God’s mercy, let’s offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Please now join me in prayer as we remember the sacrifice of Jesus and the mercy of God on each one of our souls. Let’s pray. Father in heaven, words fall short and expressing our gratitude to you. Father, help us to be living sacrifices in view of Your mercy and view of Your plan to give up and watch your son suffer and die for us, that the Creator would die for his creation, that the Judge would take the judgment that should come on us. Thank you God, so much for Your incredible mercy. Thank you so much for Jesus. I pray that you just work on our hearts.

Take us to a new level of gratitude. Help us, God, just to just be those living sacrifices that our body is willing and able to serve you and to serve others and use the gifts you’ve given to us. We do pray for the upcoming weeks that your spirit will move in a powerful way and we can look back on this time and say God was truly with us. Thank you for Jesus. We thank you for the cup that we take now that we remember the blood and what he gave up for us. We take the bread and remember his body as well. Thank you God. We don’t deserve this, but You’ve given it to us. Help us to respond in gratitude and celebration and as living sacrifices. We love you and we pray in Jesus name. Amen.