Be a Living Sacrifice
The Need for a Committed Life
American political journalist, author, and professor Norman Cousins once wrote an editorial in the Saturday Review in which he related a conversation that he had with a Hindu priest named Satis Prasad. The man said that he wanted to come to our country and work as a missionary among the people of the United States. Cousins assumed that the priest wanted to convert the Americans to Hinduism. But when he asked Prasad, the man replied:
"Oh no, I would like to convert them to the Christian religion. Christianity cannot survive in the abstract. It needs not membership, but believers. The people of your country may claim they believe in Christianity, but from what I read at this distance, Christianity is more a custom than anything else. I would ask that either you accept the teachings of Jesus in your everyday life and in your affairs as a nation, or stop invoking His name as a sanction for everything you do. I want to help save Christianity for the Christian."
The sad thing is that this Hindu priest was absolutely correct in his assessment of America. Since Cousins died in 1990, this critique happened a number of years ago. However, if anything, we are in even worse shape than we were at that time.
It is sad that there are more than 100 million church members here in America, yet the United States still seems to be drifting into moral decay. And there are thousands of churches in our great land that have more empty pews than full. Also, the average Sunday School has less than 66 in attendance and the average worship service 84. It is further the case that only 50% of the number on any church membership roll can be expected to attend. Though the Christian message is still alive and well, and Jesus Christ is still changing lives all over the world, it would seem that there is a major problem in the United States. Just what is that problem? This can be answered in six words: "There is a lack of commitment."
In Romans chapter 12, in the light of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul calls us to be living sacrifices. By this, he means that God doesn't want part of our lives. He wants all of our lives, all the time, totally committed to Him.
I. God Delivered Us From Slavery to Sin
There is a story told of Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. In his many conquests, he captured a prince and his family. One day the whole family appeared before the great monarch and Cyrus asked the prince: "What will you give me if I release you?" "The half of my wealth!" was his reply. "And what if I release your children?" The prince replied: "Everything that I possess!" Finally, Cyrus asked: "And what if I release your wife?" "Your Majesty, I would give myself!"
The account goes that Cyrus was so moved by this man's love and devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince asked his wife: "Wasn't Cyrus a handsome man?" With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him: "I didn't notice. I could only keep my eyes on you, the one who was willing to give himself for me!"
This is a beautiful illustration of what Christ did for us on the Cross of Calvary and the response that it should bring from us. Jesus cared so much for us that He gave Himself completely on our behalf.
As our Savior said Himself:
"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
Jesus died the death that we should have died so that we could have the life we could never have on our own. Why should we not be totally devoted to such love! Why shouldn't our eyes be totally focused on Him!
No matter what we may think, none of us is truly free. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to God and righteousness. Paul makes it clear in Romans that the wages of sin is spiritual death (Romans 6:23). And those who are spiritually dead, are actually slaves to sin (Romans 6:20).
Even after salvation, there is the old nature that we have to deal with, and we sometimes do that which we don't want to do (Romans 7:13-25). But Jesus Christ has delivered us from that slavery to sin and has made it possible to be free to serve God (7:24,25).
II. God Has Promised Us An Eternal Relationship
God has taken us out of that mess of slavery that we were in and has now made us His children through faith in Jesus. And we are heirs and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). That means that everything that Jesus owns belongs to us as well.
Not only this but if we follow the logic of Paul in this chapter we are promised in Romans 8:1 that there is now no longer any condemnation if we are in Christ. That sin which separated us from a Holy God is no longer keeping us from Him and leading us to an eternity in Hell. For Christ took that condemnation upon Himself on the cross.
Further, Romans 8 goes from 'no condemnation' at the beginning and ends beautifully with 'no separation.' Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
Promises mean nothing, however, if they are not kept. So in the next 3 chapters of Romans (9-11), Paul gives us an extended illustration of how God remains faithful to his promises. Sure He promised us that nothing can separate us from God's love. But He had also made many promises to Israel. They were His chosen people who were promised many things by the Lord, including a land, a King and an eternal kingdom. Paul makes it clear that because of Israel's unbelief, they have been temporarily set aside. However, when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, all Israel will one day be saved, and God's promises will be fulfilled to them.
The good news for us is that because of Israel's temporary national unbelief, God has offered salvation to all who come to Him by faith in Jesus Christ. (11:28-32). The Lord never goes back on His promises, whether it be to Israel, or the Church, the Body of Christ. Our God is a promise-keeping God.
It is clear from all of this that we owe the Lord everything. And it is because of what we owe God that Paul begs us to give our whole lives to Him.
III. Total Devotion is Our Reasonable Service of Worship
Paul tells us this in chapter 12 of Romans:
"Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (1,2).
In the sacrificial system in Paul's day, the animal was committed to the priest. It was then taken, killed and consumed on the altar. Believers are to be living sacrifices. There is no such thing as a partial sacrifice or partial commitment. It is totally impossible to be "kind of committed." When you are a living sacrifice, your life is completely dedicated to God.
By being committed, we completely abandon ourselves to His will and place our lives at His disposal. A total commitment is one that you cannot take back.
Living sacrifices are also those that don't allow the sinful world system to transform them into its mold. What do they do instead? Paul uses the word which is translated "transformed." This is the word from which we get our English word "metamorphosis." A metamorphosis in an inward change, which has observable outward manifestations.
The key here is that, like the caterpillar in the cocoon changing into a butterfly, this is a total transformation into something amazingly different and wonderful. What most people don't know is that once inside the chrysalis or cocoon, the butterfly starts out by digesting itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve itself. It is after the butterfly is broken down that the process begins to put it back together into a beautiful creature that we see flying around in our world.
In order for us to become what the Lord wants us to be, we have to, like the butterfly, let God take what we are, break us down and make us into entirely new creatures or creations in Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). We must present ourselves to God and allow Him to change us progressively by the Holy Spirit living in us. And we test, or prove by discovery what God's will actually is for us.
It has been said, semi-facetiously, that the only trouble with a living sacrifice is that it keeps jumping off of the altar. Too many people who claim the name of Christ, have never really committed themselves to total service for Him. They play at their Christian life and only serve Him when it is convenient. What this world needs are those who know what God has done for them, and are so totally moved by His love and mercy that they demonstrate their gratitude to Him by a life that is unquestionably and completely dedicated to His service.
That doesn't mean that all Christians need to become pastors, Christian teachers or missionaries. Scripture tells us that whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). Whatever you do for a living, or even if you're retired, you are Christ's ambassador demonstrating to the world what our Lord has done and is doing through you (II Corinthians 5:20). You are the highest representative of the highest power in the universe, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Until we permanently place our lives on that altar, we will never make the impact on this world that it so desperately needs.
It was Dwight L. Moody who said: "The world has yet to see what God can do with, and for, and through, and in, and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will try my utmost to be that man."
May this be the decision of every person who trusts Christ as their Savior as we give ourselves wholeheartedly to His service.
© 2012 Jeff Shirley