“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.” Romans 12:1
I don’t think there’s a Christian alive who isn’t familiar with this verse. I’ve quoted it a few times myself. After every quote I would wonder, what does it really mean to present my body as a living sacrifice? I used to think it was my thoughts, words, and actions alone that the Lord was after. I was convinced that if I could just gain control of those things, I would be on my way. But it is much more than that. The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I surrender. He wants all of me: my thoughts, my words, my actions, my health, my image, my ideas, my all. Everything I do and do not do is a part of my sacrifice.
When the Lord laid out the guidelines for his people concerning sacrificial offerings, He demanded perfection. He wanted the best. It has occurred to me that I must say one will ever be perfect. We know that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, fully pardoning us for our sins, and reconciling us with Christ. But Paul is talking about our day to day. We serve a God that wants all of us all the time.
So what does that mean for me? How do I offer my body as a living sacrifice? Well I can tell you it includes managing your health as well as your thoughts. It includes the way you treat people (even the ones you don’t like), the things you say, the places you go, and the things you do. It is all encompassing. This can all sound a bit overwhelming. I like to take it one day at a time. I find that a good rule of thumb is to ask, “Is what I am doing at this moment pleasing the Father? Is my sacrifice a pleasing aroma to my Lord?”
Christianity is kind of popular now, and it is even more popular to be vocal about what you are sacrificing. “I gave up this for Jesus,” they say, “I gave up that for Christ.” Which is a form of sacrifice in itself; these people are sacrificing their privacy. But current trends aside, what are you sacrificing that no one knows about? Is God honored with your public and private offering? That’s what it’s all about: honoring the Lord. Presenting your body as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God for this is your true and proper worship.
So often we are so busy doing the work of Christ that we forget we are doing it for Christ. Let’s not forget. Let us remember that it is the Lord Christ we are serving. Some sacrifices are open for sharing and others are not. But more than the sacrifice, is the motive. We serve a God who is infinitely more interested in the heart behind the act, than the act itself. Remember Cain and Abel? I am sure you are familiar with the story. “Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” See the difference? They both brought something to sacrifice from their line of business, but Abel brought the best. Abel honored and revered the Lord with the heart behind his sacrifice. It was Abel’s heart that propelled him to bring forth the best. “The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” Genesis 4:2-5. You know how it ends Cain murders Abel in a jealous rage. Ask yourself, are you Cain or Abel? Are you presenting the fat portions of the firstborn of your flock, or did you simply pick some fruit and toss it on the altar? Only you and the Lord know the truth.
Understand not all sacrifices are accepted. Sacrificing to the Lord requires more than the best of intentions. Please never lose sight of the fact that we serve a holy God who is altogether loving and serious. If after reading this you realize that your sacrifice has been subpar at best, repent and do better. You know the standard that the Lord is holding you to. Are you presenting him with your best? Are you presenting your body as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to the Lord? If not, it isn’t too late to make the change.