“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
The word “therefore” is based on what Paul wrote to the church in Rome in the preceding chapters of the book of Romans in chapters 1 to 11. Paul explains that we were all slaves to sin but Christ’s sacrifice caused us to be justified. This righteousness we have is through faith in Christ and not by our own works. We all inherited sin from Adam but Christ has made us spiritually alive. We died and rose with Christ and have become slaves to righteousness. We were released from the Law and bound to Christ and are sanctified through the Holy Spirit. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. God has grafted the Gentiles into His plan for Israel. God is in supreme control over everything. God has a plan for Israel. Based on all these things that Paul has written, he urges us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. When this is done properly, it is a true and proper means of worship.
What is a “living sacrifice” then? I remember an incident when I was about 8 years old. When I went to my neighbour’s home one day, I remember seeing my neighbour’s grandfather slaughtering a chicken. As he finished slicing off the neck of the chicken, it managed to struggle and escape. It was literally the scene of a headless chicken running around the backyard.
I do not think I stayed for long at my friend’s house that day. The chicken was definitely not a willing sacrifice.
Romans 12:1 instructs us to willingly offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice”. The mental model that stays with me is a picture of being willing to stand at the altar of God and not run away as I present myself to Him. It is interesting that Paul uses the words “living sacrifice” which is a paradox because a sacrifice is usually something that is dead. This “living sacrifice” which is an act of worship is Christ’s call for each of us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Him. The idea of a living sacrifice is to live not to please ourselves but to live a life to please God in every aspect because our whole lives are placed on God’s altar, not just some aspects of it. Only when we do this, it is considered true and proper worship. It is a worship that is holy and pleases God.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Worshipping God comes from a place that requires our minds to be transformed and renewed according to God’s values. How is this done? Through the influence of God’s Word and being willing to be obedient to it. We cannot conform to the world’s pattern although the world calls to us loudly to follow it.
Only when our lives are lived in true and proper worship by being renewed and transformed according to God’s Word, then can we test and approve God’s will in our lives – His will that is always good, pleasing and perfect.
By Elder Joey Hong