(The following article was published at the Cedar Park Church of Christ on April 1st, 2018. RTS, age 12)
As Christians, we must be a living sacrifice, as commanded in Romans 12:1-2 (ESV), where it says,
“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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
But what is a sacrifice, and how do we become one?
Vine’s Dictionary describes sacrifice as the act of offering something, which is usually a life. There are many examples of sacrifice throughout the Bible, some of which were pleasing to God and others that were not. Pleasing examples include: Abel’s animal offering (Gen 4), Abraham’s offering of Isaac (Gen 22), and when Jesus offered Himself (all four gospels). Bad examples include: Cain’s offering from the ground (Gen 4), Saul’s unlawful sacrifice (1 Sam 13), and the offerings of the people in the book of Malachi (vs. 6-14).
What do the pleasing examples of sacrifice all have in common? They were all offered in faith, in the correct way, and they were the best that was available. Look at the bad examples, though. Cain’s offering wasn’t done in faith, Saul’s offering was done incorrectly, and the people in the book of Malachi were going through the motions with a lazy and cast-off attitude.
Each of these sacrifices involved a death, so what is a living sacrifice? Going back to the text in Romans 12:1, we are told to present our bodies. Verse 2 describes how to do that by telling us to transform ourselves by the renewing of our minds. I can think of three easy ways to start the transformation process – study our Bibles (2 Tim. 2:15), pray about it (Js 1:5), and surround ourselves with other Christians (1 Cor. 15:33).
Romans 12:2 also says that we are not to be conformed to this world. That means we cannot desire to be like the world. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Each day, I must compare what I want to do with what God wants me to do. Selfishness cannot win if I am denying myself of worldly temptations.
The only way to truly be a living sacrifice is to do it continuously. If you’re continuously living in a sacrificial way, you will be rewarded. This can be seen clearly throughout the Old and New Testaments (Is 40:30-31 and 2 Tim. 4:7-8), but especially in 1 Cor 15:57-58, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
In short, put God first, and keeping on putting God first.