A living sacrifice. What a paradoxical term! Intriguing. Befuddling. Crucial.
“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 (ESV)
But what does it mean to be a living sacrifice? It seems that, for many Christians, it’s a question that’s just too difficult. It’s left in the “too hard” basket and we move on. Or we can tend to think it means to give up things for God. And it certainly does involve giving up things. But it does not, and must not end there. Being a living sacrifice is not just giving up things – our possessions, or time, or energy, or anything else – as an end in itself. Not even giving up more extreme things like going to prison for God, or even laying down my physical life for God as Peter believed he was ready to do (Luke 22:33) … but was not.
God wants me united with Him – reconciled to Him completely. Not just my actions; my performance. Me! My whole being presented to Him, surrendered to Him as a living sacrifice. When God has me, the way I move through life will show it. The things I go without and the things I keep with me will be a picture of Christ in me. This is the polar opposite of what I want for myself if I am left to my own human, corrupted, sinful desires.
This is a process, of course. The masterful surgeon’s hand of God is changing me, over time, into a living sacrifice to Him. If I attune myself to the voice of His Spirit, as I move through day-to-day life I will be instructed to lay certain things down, and perhaps to keep some things and take up others. These actions will show less and less of “me” – the “me” that is defiantly independent and without God – and more of who I was created to be. More of who God is through me for the benefit of all. More of Him.
Oswald Chambers explains that God does not necessarily require from me a sacrifice UNTO death, but, instead, a sacrifice THROUGH death so that I am free from my own “worldly” passions, desires, willfulness, selfishness and sense of entitlement. If God asks me to give up things, He is doing it so that I can know Him better. Then I can be free from the distractions that hinder me from true oneness with Him. This is what it means to be a living sacrifice.
Inspired by “Is My Sacrifice Living?” by Oswald Chambers