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.
In ancient Israel, God required sacrifice. Exodus 30 tells us that God had a plan for Israel to regularly sacrifice for their own sins. They needed atonement, something to pay the penalty for their many sins against God. And they needed it regularly because they sinned regularly. Any sacrifice made for sin was insufficient because it couldn’t wash away sin, it could only cover it temporarily.
Old Testament sacrifice was like a band-aid.
But as we’ve seen, Jesus changed all that. His sacrifice was permanent, sufficient to pay for every single sin of every single one of God’s people for all of time. Jesus paid it all, as the song goes.
Jesus’ sacrifice was like a heart transplant.
If you’ve been in Romans with me, this is what Paul has been hammering home. Jesus paid it all! Jesus paid it all! Over and over again.
So there is no need to sacrifice anymore… Right?
Romans takes a turn in chapter 12. Paul moves from talking about all that God has done for us in salvation to a discussion about the responsibility of the individual Christian. And in the first verse, Paul says that Christians must sacrifice. But not that kind of sacrifice.
Our sacrifice is living. Jesus has died in our place. God does not require our physical death for payment. In fact, Jesus secured our life for eternity.
Our sacrifice is willing. The animals that were sacrificed to cover the sins of Israel did not go willingly. But Jesus did. He went to the cross willingly, because His greatest desire was that His Father’s will be done.
Our sacrifice is spiritual. What we give to God echoes in eternity. What we do in the service of the Lord, caring for others, giving our monies, opening our homes, all have eternal significance. The smallest act of love that flows out of love for God ripples throughout eternity and compounds in glory.
Our sacrifice is physical. We offer our bodies to the Lord. The one thing we can argue is truly our own is our body. And Paul says that this is what we offer to the Lord. This is why sexual sin is so destructive, it’s an offering to a false god. True spiritual sacrifice is in the nitty gritty, wholly physical nature of our lives: all we have, given over to the glory of God.
Our sacrifice pleases God. When we offer our lives willingly to God, He is pleased with us. Think about that. When we, with our meager, failing bodies give what little we have to God through sacrificial love toward others, we move the heart of the Creator of the Universe to such a degree that we contribute to His infinite happiness.