Paul makes an appeal to us, to make a choice about being a living sacrifice.
A living sacrifice seems like a contradiction in terms. When they tied those bulls and sheep to the altar in the old days, the animal didn’t bleet or moo happily as it was released at the conclusion of the sacrifice.
In the light of all the things that God has done for us, laid out by Paul (and inspired by the Holy Spirit) in chapters 1 through 11 of Romans, Paul writes that we should take that all into consideration and choose to be a living sacrifice.
What has God done for us? Let’s review his mercies:
- He’s justified us, making us right with him through faith
- He’s adopted us as his children
- He has placed us under his grace and taken us out from under the law
- He has given us His Holy Spirit
- He is with us and helps us in our affliction
- He assures us of our standing
- He gives us confidence in future glory
- He has promised that nothing will ever separate us from Him
Paul writes that all of those are good reasons for us to live differently, than if they weren’t true. These mercies should be able to persuade us without us having to be compelled to do it unwillingly. No one is going to tie us down to an altar like an animal sacrifice in the Old Testament.
Paul calls it our reasonable service (‘proper service’ in the NIV).
It makes sense, it is appropriate to be living sacrifices. Sure, it’s a neat theoretical term, but what does being a ‘living sacrifice’ look like?
The body is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. Being a living sacrifice is using our bodies as a tool for His purposes. And it is doing so in an ongoing manner.
Like when I’d much rather veg on the couch because it’s been a rough week and not do anything, but its time to meet as the church and mutually encourage one another:
“24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Like looking down at my hands being instruments in helping someone in need, hauling around furniture, or painting a wall, or opening up my Bible in between church services and hearing the onion skin and reading verses of Scripture. Like meditating on those verses and thinking about how they apply.
Like stopping to help people who interrupt me when I’m in the middle of something. Jesus was constantly being interrupted and I have a lot to learn from how he used interruptions to connect with people and help them.
‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world’, Paul writes. The basic operating principle of the world is selfishness. Conformed to God’s way is putting Him and then others ahead of ourselves.
Just look at what Paul writes in the rest of the chapter:
- Not thinking too highly of ourselves (verse 3)
- Living as members of one body in the church (verses 4 – 5)
- Using our gifts for the benefit of the body (verses 6 – 8)
- Not merely virtue signalling and saying the expected things but being genuine in our love for one another (verse 9)
- Giving preference to one another, not to self (verse 10)
- Rejoicing, praying, enduring (verses 11 – 12)
- Giving to those in need (verse 13)
- Blessing those in opposition to us (verse 14)
- Rejoicing and alternately weeping with our brothers (verse 15)
- As if to repeat verse 3, to not be proud (verse 16)
The body is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. In light of God’s mercies we can repurpose our tools from the selfish building projects that have consumed us and into the building of his kingdom.
Mind, tongue, muscles, hands, legs. It all belongs to him anyway.