“Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
You’ve probably heard this verse before from Romans 12. It’s about giving your life over to God, being available to be used by Him, etc etc. But have you ever really thought about what it means? Or the term “living sacrifice”? It’s actually kind of creepy.
In the Old Testament, people offered animal sacrifices to God. They killed their best sheep and goats and cows as an outward expression of their commitment to the Lord. When Jesus came in the New Testament, however, He did away with this old method and said that instead He would be the sacrifice—one sacrifice completed for all of us. Thank Him we don’t have to give animals anymore to earn His favor…
But then here in this Romans passage, He says we should still want to offer Him something—not as a way to make Him love us but as a way to show Him our gratitude for what He’s already done. As a way to show Him our love. The author, Paul, encourages us to give God our bodies, and he doesn’t call it a “sacrifice” because that would require physical death (as seen in the death of the animal sacrifices and Jesus on the cross). Instead, he calls it a “living sacrifice.” It’s not giving Him something that’s dead—it’s giving Him something that’s alive. And that’s a much harder sacrifice to give because it must be continually given.
When the OT people offered animals for God to do whatever He did with them, the animals had no feeling in the matter. There was no struggle, no choice, because they were dead. But when we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, we feel the pain of the offering because we remain alive through the process. We feel the burn of the refining fire He puts us through to shape and mold us. We feel the sting of the knife that cuts off the not-so-pretty parts of our hearts. We cry tears of frustration as we lie bound on His alter, when we’d rather be out doing whatever it is we want to do with our lives. Living sacrifices hurt because we must keep dragging ourselves back to the alter. Every day, we must make the choice to give ourselves to Him.
It’s hard. It’s like we’re the walking dead—dead to our own desires yet still very much alive in Christ. It’s a choice. It’s a spiritual act of worship. God can but never will force us to give our control over to Him. He’ll simply wait for us to make the living, intentional sacrifice and hand Him the reigns. He tells us it will be hard. But He also says it will be worth it.