Living Sacrifices; Spiritual Gifts… Serving God with ALL of our Being

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The word “sacrifice” often carries a connotation of suffering or struggle, as we think of giving things up or going without them. But the idea of sacrifice is more than that. Sacrificed items were meant to be given over completely to God, and that is how we want to think of our lives. This lesson looks at how we can view sacrifice in a more positive light, as a blessing that we are to use our whole bodies (and mind/spirit) in devotion and service to God. We will also see how everyone has unique and special gifts that help us serve the Lord.
Lesson focus: God is powerful and mighty; He gives everyone special gifts that we should use to serve Him and serve His people.
Passage: Romans 11:33-12:8
Target Audience: Pre-k through fifth grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Magazines, construction paper, scissors, glue, markers, stickers, gift boxes or tissue paper/bags, puzzles
Lesson Opening: Who wants a present?? Today we will be starting off by opening some interesting “presents” of a sort…have (prepared ahead of time) a few boxes or bags wrapped up like gifts. Invite students to work together to open the presents and see what is inside…
Inside the gifts, have various pieces of jigsaw puzzles. Act like each box has its own puzzle, when in fact they are all part of the same picture. See if students can figure out that the pictures go together, giving them a hint if necessary. Eventually, the kids will have to all give up their individual pieces and come together to complete the puzzle.
Explain that today we will be talking about a different sort of present, which everyone has but can use in unique ways. All of our individual “presents” can come together to build up God’s kingdom!
Bible Lesson:
Today’s Bible passage has to do with how we worship and serve God. Who has ever heard of a sacrifice? You might hear of people sacrificing to be part of things, or it might be spoken of at Lent or Easter time, or perhaps you’ve heard the concept mentioned in the Bible. What is a sacrifice? A lot of times, we think of giving something up. In the Old Testament, things were sacrificed to God as a show of appreciation for His blessings. You might sacrifice TV in order to practice piano, or sacrifice a cookie to have an apple instead. But what about sacrificing…ourselves? Can we do that? The Bible tells us to, and even encourages it…
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. 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 12:1-2
Sacrifice does not always have to mean giving things up or slaughtering. It can also be a dedication, or giving something over to God for His use. So if we say our bodies are a living sacrifice, it means that we dedicate them to God. Our actions and intentions should be turned on God’s will.
What does this look like?  Think about how you spend the bulk of your day. What are you doing most? More importantly, what are you thinking about most? The areas of our minds that receive the majority of our thought attention can often become elements of worship. If we spend a lot of time thinking about movies, or sports, or food, we might start to in a way treat those things as more important than God. If we sacrifice and think of Him first and foremost, our minds will change. And good things happen…
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a]faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.  Romans 12:4-8
Did you see it there? Gifts! We’ve talked before about the body of Christ. Just like we need many pieces to make a puzzle, or we need many body parts to create a person, so also we are different parts of the body of Jesus, used to do His work. Who has ever been part of a team, or a band? Think about an orchestra…if everyone played the violin, it might sound okay. But the group needs multiple instruments to really come together and sound great. All of the parts have special elements. In a church, there are different jobs people have, too. If everyone led the choir and nobody sang in it, things would not work quite as well. If the usher tried to preach or the pastor wanted to play the organ, it might have mixed results, too. We all have a place… and that means ALL, young and old included.
Here it lists some of the possible gifts that people might have. Some might be talented in teaching; others in providing encouragement to others, or giving, or leading.
Brainstorm with kids a few other talents and gifts we might have. Whatever they are, God wants us to use our talents and to do so cheerfully. This is another method of sacrifice. We give our skills and values to Him and use them to benefit His service. Why? Because God is worth it. He is above and beyond our human understanding, much more beautiful and glorious. Close with another passage from Romans:  
 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[i] knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”[
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”[
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.  -Romans 11:33-36

Make an “altar” of sacrifice…using the magazines, locate pictures of things that people chase after or want (this could be something that you want, too!!). Cut the pictures our and glue them to construction paper, along with a picture representation of an altar, to demonstrate the concept of sacrifice. Attach Romans 12:2 as a caption.
Close with prayer and thank God for all He has given. Ask for help understanding and using our spiritual gifts for God.

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