A Proper Sacrifice
In these Saturday posts, we have been considering what God may be saying to us in these difficult days. Last week we looked at how The Church has worked against Christ’s efforts to build His Church. Today we’ll examine what may be the root cause of this pathetic situation. The book of Ezra offers a great example for us to follow. When the first group of Jews returned from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, the first thing Zerubbabel, the leader, did was to build the altar of God for burnt offerings according to the Law of Moses (Ezra 3:2). Before work could begin, the proper sacrifices had to be offered.
Offer Our Bodies
This side of the cross there is also a sacrifice that must first be made before we can enter into the work of the Lord. Since Christ became the ultimate once-for-all sacrifice by dying in our place, no more sacrifices of death are necessary. The remaining required sacrifice is one of life. I believe one of the primary reasons the Church has failed so miserably in our calling is because we have refused to become living sacrifices. I find it fascinating that when Paul finally gets to the application part of his letter to the church at Rome, the first mandate is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. Only then will be fit for Christ to use as He build His Church.
Motivated by His Mercies
After eleven chapters of theology, Paul introduces the concept of sacrificing our bodies with the mercies of God being our proper motivation. Despite all our sins, failures, and shortcomings, God had consistently responded with mercy, disciplining us when necessary, but sparing us from what we deserved. Once we realize just how wretched we are (apart from Christ), we would be so thankful for God’s mercy that we would do whatever He asked, and He, through Paul, exhorts us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. But why our bodies?
Sin Dwells in our Bodies
While our souls and spirits have been redeemed, our bodies have not. They house the flesh where sin dwells. Therefore, our bodies must be brought under the control of Christ. Paul is saying that in light of all that God has done for us, we should be willing to do our part by bringing every part of us under Christ’s control. The parts of us that are not sinful but need to be kept under control through discipline are found in our “natural” lives. Our bodies, our gifts, talents, and temperaments are neutral. We determine if we will use them in a sinful or God-honoring way. By sacrificing our natural lives, our bodies (the home of our natural lives) become living sacrifices.
Offer the Natural before the Spiritual
God’s perfect will was for the natural to be transformed into the spiritual simply through obedience. His hope was that through their obedience, every part of Adam and Eve ‘s life would be used to honor God. Once sin entered the picture, our natural lives could be turned into the spiritual only through sacrifice. In other words, our natural life must be sacrificed before we can offer spiritual sacrifices. Abraham had to offer up Ishmael (the natural) before he offered up Isaac (the spiritual) (Gen. 21:8-14). Paul alludes to this in Galatians 4:22: It is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondwoman (Hagar, the natural), the other by a freewoman (Sarah, the spiritual).
Once again, our natural life is not inherently sinful, and God wants to use it for His purposes, but He can’t as long as we pamper and gratify it. By sacrificing it we are consecrating it, setting it apart for God’s exclusive use. Once we have willfully sent it out into the desert, He will provide wells and oases as He did for Hagar in Genesis 21:15-19). We will need these wells and oases in the coming days, so now that you have a better understanding of Romans 12:1, isn’t it time to offer your body to God as a living sacrifice?