As I was studying the book of Romans this week it occurred to me that most of us have probably used the word "sacrifice" at one time or another to describe something we have done. I am curious though if we are aware of exactly how God has chosen to use the word, and if it means the same to us as it does to Him? Let's look at a verse from Paul written to the Romans that should be familiar to most if not all of us.
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.
Romans 12:1 KJV
Three things came to mind as I read this verse and I want to share them with you today. The first thing I thought of was the word "present". Now obviously in this context it is used to mean "to give", as in give away, but I also thought of the idea of our bodies being a present as in a "gift" which we give to someone else. It seems to me that Paul is saying that we should give our bodies to God as a living gift for Him to use as He sees fit. I'm sure all of us have received a gift for one reason or another, and so are familiar with the feeling of joy that is produced when given something of value. So why do we "give" a gift of value to someone else? First we do it because we care about that person, and second because we want to see the joy it produces when received. Why do we care enough to give a gift to God? Well, one of the first things I was taught about studying the Bible was when you see the word "therefore", you look at the verses that come before to see what it's "there for".
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable [are] his judgments, and his ways past finding out!For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen.
Romans 11:33-36 KJV
You see, it's because of His riches and all that He has done for us that we want to give something back of value to Him. Paul tells us that our bodies, as a "living sacrifice", is the thing that God will find most "pleasing" so we give it as a gift knowing that God will never "take" it but rather patiently waits for us to give it.
The second thought that came to mind was that when you give a gift to someone, you release ownership of it. It no longer belongs to you, but to the person you gave it too. Now of course, some have tried that and we know there is a term for people who give things away and then try to take them back, but the whole idea here is to give away without wanting back. That's what makes it a sacrifice. Yet if our bodies are to be a "living sacrifice", the question must be asked just how often do we take it back in order to do what we want rather than what God wants? If we truly give our bodies to God, we should never want them back, but completely surrender our desires to Him and allow Him to use us as He will. As much as I wish I could say I have never taken my body back I can't, and I expect there are a lot of you who have to join me in saying that.
The third thought that came to me is that our "present" to God must be "acceptable". Now that scares me on the surface because I know there is no way I could make my body in any way "acceptable" to God so that He would be pleased with it. But if you read on you find that Paul isn't telling us that "we" do the cleaning to make our lives "acceptable".
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Romans 12:2 KJV
The point Paul is trying to make here is that God does the work for us when we allow Him to transform our minds, which then results in us becoming acceptable. But we have to make the choice to allow our minds to be transformed. How do we do that? Well, this verse seems to make it clear that it is really a question of black and white. Either we are concerned with the things of this world, or doing the will of God. There doesn't really seem to be any middle ground here. Paul says it's one or the other. Most of us would agree that the spirit of this age is obviously the advancement of self. It's all about what we have, what we can get, what makes me happy, what's in it for me?, etc. What Paul is telling us is that we need to be transformed so that our thoughts are about what God wants, what will glorify Him, what does He want me to do? Just the opposite of what the world says we are to be concerned with.
Have you truly sacrificed yourself? Are you so thankful for the mercy God has shown to you that you want to give Him the gift of your body? Do you love Him enough that you won't try to take it back, and instead allow Him to use you as He will? Have you allowed Him to transform your mind so you think only of what He wants, rather than what you want? God says our bodies can be a pleasing gift to Him, and one that He will be happy to receive if we truly are willing to be transformed.
Have you sacrificed your body to Him?