“In view of God’s mercy”—when you consider how kind the Lord has been to you—“offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). In biblical times, sacrifice usually meant death—animals slaughtered at the altar. What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?
Romans 12:1 makes me ask myself, Am I unreservedly devoted to the Lord? What does it cost me to follow Jesus? Am I willing to push my ego aside, put God’s kingdom first, reject “the pattern of this world,” and “be transformed” by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2)?
YOU CALL THIS A SACRIFICE?
I don’t live in a mansion, but my refrigerator is full of food and my closet contains plenty of clothes. I don’t drive a fancy car, but my six-year-old Toyota Corolla gets me where I need to go. I don’t dine like royalty, but I enjoy tasty, nourishing meals every day, and whenever I turn on the faucet, pure water comes out—at the temperature I desire. If I get sick or injured, modern medicine helps me recover. With my cellphone I can communicate conveniently with friends all over the world.
In centuries past, kings and queens would have envied the blessings I take for granted. Sure, I face times of discouragement, but in the big picture, serving the Lord has brought me more blessings than burdens.
Simon Peter once blurted out to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Mark 10:28). Moments before, the rich young ruler walked away sad because he couldn’t let go of his possessions. Peter couldn’t help but point out the contrast. In truth, the apostles had given up a lot to follow Jesus—some walked away from their fishing businesses and one left a lucrative tax collecting career. Instead of enjoying comfortable (though unremarkable) lives, they stepped out and joined Jesus on a mission that made them targets for controversy, rejection, hardship, and martyrdom.
Remember Jesus’ response to Peter? “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). Notice: eternal life comes “with persecutions.” Hard times come when we follow Jesus, but the Lord offsets the burdens with blessings, including a spiritual family so vast it’s beyond comprehension.
I know missionaries who have traded the comforts of American life for the challenges of cross-cultural ministry, yet they express no regrets. I know Christians who live in tense, dangerous environments in other nations, yet they seldom complain. Is it possible that being a living sacrifice doesn’t always “feel” sacrificial, “in view of God’s mercy”?
The way of the cross is filled with paradoxes. Lose your life, and you will save it. Deny yourself, and you will find your higher purpose. Volunteer, and you will find joy when you “use whatever gift you have received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10). Tithe, and you will discover why Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
What do you think it means to offer yourself as a living sacrifice?