1 So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. 2 Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.
“Paul closes his letters with ethical instruction and exhortation. Sometimes he lists a series of moral admonitions [as in Romans 12:9-13]. Often Paul moves into instruction or exhortation with the word therefore… the instructions usually focus on issues discussed in the body [of the letter].”*
The apostle Paul told the Roman Christians their appropriate service to God was to offer themselves as a “living sacrifice.” They couldn’t do that by conforming to “this world.” “‘This world’ is literally ‘this age’ [in Galatians 1:4, Paul called it ‘the present evil age’]. The ‘renewing of your mind,’ then, includes thinking as citizens of the coming new world.”** The culture’s “common sense” didn’t fit with God’s way of life. To live God’s way, they needed to let God transform their thinking. We do too.
Dear God, I offer myself to you. That’s a little scary—I’m not always sure just where it might lead. But I’m learning to trust you, and so I commit myself to being a “living sacrifice” for you. Amen.
* Richard Byrd Wilke and Julia Kitchens Wilke, The Letters of Paul Study Manual (Disciple 3 Fast Track). Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2018, p. 19.
** NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 256236-256237). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
The worldly definition of "sacrifice" carries a heavy connotation in my mind. I’ve tried giving up Dr. Pepper a few times throughout the years and have thought to myself, “Surely God doesn’t want me to live life without 23 amazing flavors”?
I’m joking, of course, but worldly sacrifice is an overwhelming idea. When we look at the Old Testament, sacrifice can be heavy too. I’m thinking about when Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac. He was about to kill him, then an angel stopped Abraham and provided a ram as an offering instead.
Paul is asking us to focus on the living sacrifice which is different because Jesus sacrificed his life for us. We no longer need to sacrifice animals to connect with the Holy Spirit.
Paul isn’t asking us to focus on the worldly version of sacrifice either. I still hate giving up Dr. Pepper, but Paul is wanting us to focus on our own “appropriate priestly service.” Our sacrifices could be really big things, but a lot of times it’s in the day-to-day small moments.
What does your altar look like?
Are you connecting with God daily or is your Netflix account asking if you’re still watching?
How are you being transformed?
Are you conforming to the ways of the world or transforming away from it?
Whatever it is that you’re being asked to sacrifice, God will use for his glory. He will use it to transform you, your neighbors, your community and even the world.
So next time you get overwhelmed by sacrificing your favorite soda, just remember…God uses all our sacrifices for his glory.
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