By Brooke Holt
“I appeal to you 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.” Romans 12:1
Sacrifice is not a popular word in our culture today. Instead of sacrifice, people want to find themselves and discover their deepest desires. Sacrifice means something completely different. The Cambridge Dictionary defines sacrifice this way: “to give up something that is valuable to you in order to help another person.” The dictionary provides examples of sacrifice such as the mother who sacrificed her career to raise children or the athlete that sacrificed his social life to train. Whereas culture seeks personal fulfillment, sacrifice calls for a surrendering of one’s desires or perceived rights.
Throughout the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul has been building up to this call for sacrifice. He begins the book explaining how the human condition is fallen and in need of a Savior. Then he shares the great news; Jesus Christ is the Son of God — the long-awaited Messiah and Savior. Jesus came to rescue his people from the slavery of sin, death, and the forces of evil. In Christ, we can have salvation and freedom; true faith is no longer about fulfilling the Law. The old is gone; the new has come. This Truth of the Gospel message and freedom is first for the Jews but now includes the Gentiles, too. At this point in the letter, Paul is driving home the message that God’s children must embrace the new way of Christ. This means leaving behind the imperfections of the Old Covenant to receive the perfection of the New Covenant.
Whereas the Old Covenant required animal sacrifices made on behalf of the sins of the people, the New Covenant stands on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ on behalf of sin. The only person to live a perfect life died died so all who believed in him could be eternally cleansed and forgiven of their sin. No more do we seek to fulfill the Law, but we rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Paul beckons his readers to ask themselves how they will respond to such an amazing gift? Instead of offering animals on behalf of their sin, they receive the sacrifice of Christ and then surrender their lives unto him. This means they seek to think like Jesus, to behave like Jesus, and to talk like Jesus. It is not about navel gazing but about looking to Jesus as the model for life.
What does this mean for you today? It may mean you ask the Holy Spirit to explore your life. Ask him if anything is awry. Offering yourself as a living sacrifice means you seek to be disciplined in your thoughts, actions, and words. It is not always about what you want but what Jesus wants for you. This is not the way of the world. But it is the way of Jesus. He modeled a life of sacrifice throughout his life and death. Now, he calls you to pick up your cross and follow him.
Are you seeking your way or the way of Jesus? Though it is not easy to sacrifice yourself unto him, it is always good and brings life to the full in this world and the world to come. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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