To me the term – ‘Living Sacrifice’ almost seems like a contradiction. If something is a sacrifice, how can it still be living? Yet we see from what Paul said, it’s not only possible, it’s the most logical thing to do. The term ‘reasonable service’ means – ‘logical way to worship.’ The logical way to worship God is by giving yourself to be a living sacrifice.
This can be seen in the life of a man named William Booth. William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army. A part of the mission statement of the Salvation Army says – ‘Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.’
Once, when William Booth was questioned about his mission and success, he responded by saying –
I will tell you the secret: God has had all that there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I, even with greater opportunities, but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart and caught a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with me and them, on that day I made up my mind that God should have all of William Booth there was. And if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army, it is because God has had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life.
William Booth understood what it meant to present his body to God as a living sacrifice.
I. In Light of the Mercies of God
What is mercy? Mercy is showing compassion and pity towards someone in need. Often it involves doing so towards someone who really doesn’t deserve it.
Paul speaks of the ‘mercies’ (plural) of God. What are some of the mercies of God? There are things like food, clothing, and shelter. There’s also health and strength and protection. God has even caused many of us to prosper. But there’s a deeper level of mercy that I believe was the primary thought in Paul’s mind. The mercy that Paul appreciated the most was the mercy of God that provided a way for him to be saved and to receive eternal life.
The book of Romans is a deep book and in many ways hard to understand. Yet like much of Paul’s writing, it can be divided into two simple parts: Doctrine and Duty. First Paul teaches the doctrinal truths about God and His salvation, and then Paul teaches the duty of living a life worthy to be called Christian.
Look with me at chapter 3 –
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned , and come short of the glory of God.
A key word here would be CONDEMNATION. All are under the divine condemnation or judgment of God. Why? All have sinned and come short of His glory. God could send us all to hell and be completely just in doing so because we’ve all sinned. But praise be to God, it doesn’t end there.
Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
As a boy I was taught that ‘justify’ means – ‘Just as if I had never sinned.’ Paul tells us that we can be justified freely by the grace of God that comes that is found in Jesus Christ. My friend, that’s mercy! Look with me at Romans chapter 8 –
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…
Because all have sinned, all are under divine condemnation. Yet for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation.
For the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans, Paul has been explaining CONDEMNATION and SALVATION. Now it’s time for a response and we might call that DEDICATION. “In light of all that God has done for you, the only reasonable thing to do is to live for Him.”
II. Live for Him
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
The word that pops out to me is the word ‘sacrifice.’ My response to God’s mercy should be in the form of a sacrifice.
1. Sacrifices in the Old Testament
Many of us are familiar with the sacrifices found in the Old Testament. A spotless animal was taken and slaughtered as a sacrifice. The animal became a substitute for someone else. Is Paul talking about an Old Testament type of sacrifice?
2. Human Sacrifices
Paul is telling us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. Is he telling us that there needs to be human sacrifices? Let me give you two reasons why we know that’s not what Paul is talking about:
a. A human sacrifice would be useless. The Bible tells us that we’ve all sinned and so therefore, none of us would be a worthy sacrifice. I couldn’t die for your sins. I have my own.
b. A human sacrifice is no longer necessary. Look with me at Romans 5
Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die : yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die . 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
Two thousand years ago, a sacrifice was made that was both human and perfect.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
3. Living Sacrifice
The kind of sacrifice God is calling for today is a living sacrifice. Not a sacrifice for sin, but a sacrifice for service.
B. What is a Living Sacrifice?
As I said earlier, the words living and sacrifice don’t seem to go together to me. But perhaps what Paul said in Romans 6 will help us better understand.
Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
Today we will observe someone being baptized. Being baptized into water can’t save you. There’s no saving power in water. Water baptism is a symbol of our being placed into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Going down into the water is a symbol of death to the old sinful way of life, and being brought up out of the water is a symbol of being raised to walk in the newness of life.
Yet as a believer, I have to choose to walk in the newness of life. I have to establish the fact in my life that my old nature had been put to death and that I now have a new nature in me that is able to live a life that is holy and acceptable before God.
Romans 6:11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members (bodies) as instruments of righteousness unto God.
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
For a believer to continue to live a sinful life is as foolish as someone who is alive, going and living in a cemetery and sleeping in a coffin. Therefore Paul says – “Present Your Bodies as a Living Sacrifice.” Give your life to God as something that is dead to sin, but alive unto Him. I like the way one translation puts it – ‘Take your everyday, ordinary life, your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.’
In light of all that God has done for you – that’s the only logical way to live.
III. Book of Romans
The book of Romans is one of the greatest pieces of spiritual truth ever penned by one of the greatest spiritual minds that has ever lived. It’s deep and yet it can be easy to understand:
A. Condemnation – ‘All have sinned and come short of God’s glory’
B. Salvation – ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’
C. Dedication – ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service’
‘In the light of all that God has done for you, the only reasonable thing to do is to live for Him’