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A Living Sacrifice

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God,
which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2

Whenever we see the word "therefore" in any Bible verses, we should find out what it is "there for." It usually refers to the facts, truths or circumstances in the immediately preceding verse or verses. And it often expresses a cause and its corresponding effect. In this case of Romans 12:1, the word "therefore" follows the concerns of Romans chapters 9 to 11 where Paul shared that Israel was still God’s chosen people and that God was not done in dealing with them.

Paul made it clear that the salvation and future of the Gentiles were inextricably linked with that of the Jews. Because of the way of how God dealt with Israel pertaining to their unfaithfulness and disobedience, Paul beseeched the Roman believers not to fall into the same errors that the Jews had done to invoke the anger of God. And not only that, for the sake of the salvation of Israel, by the mercies of God, the Gentile believers should arise and become a living sacrifice that would be a strong testimony and witness for Christ so that they would be able to provoke the Jews to jealousy (Romans 11:14). If they were able to do so, Israel would be saved. In fact, Paul, by the Spirit of God, already claimed that all Israel would be saved (Romans 11:26).

Note that Paul used the term "present your bodies a living sacrifice." It is a living sacrifice (KJV / NKJV / NASB / TLB / RSV / ASV) and not living sacrifices (NIV). Why is this so? For us to shine for Jesus for the world to see, we need the corporate effort of the whole Church, the Body of Christ. In fact, in the same chapter of Romans 12 verse 5, Paul stated that "we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another." God is coming for one living sacrifice, the Church. In Ephesians 5:26-27, Paul gave us this picture of this one living sacrifice of the Church, about how God "might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." Our High Priest Jesus Christ is going to present the one living sacrifice to God!

With this in mind, we would then begin to understand that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. What is this will of God? In 2 Peter 3:9, the Apostle to the Jews gave us this clue: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." Note that Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles whereas Peter was sent to the Jews. Obviously, herein we can see that the good and acceptable and perfect will of God is the salvation of Israel, and also the salvation of all the nations of the earth.

It is our reasonable service to God to be available to His calling and commissioning. It is the only logical reason for our true existence. We have this Great Commission to fulfill – the salvation of the whole earth including Israel. When we face with such an awesome task and responsibility, we would be watchful in our daily living and endeavours. When we begin to see that what we think, do and say can affect the whole Body of Christ, we should present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. This is truly our reasonable service. When one suffers, all suffer. When one rejoices, all rejoice! This is the Body of Christ at work in relation with our Lord Jesus as our Head and Master.

We should not be conformed to this world, doing our own things without considering the causes and effects we can bring to others. We need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. This transformation is a permanent change. It is not about changing constantly but being changed forever! The Greek word "transformed" is metamorphoo, which describes a metamorphosis like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. The same word is used to describe Jesus in His glorious transfiguration (Mark 9:2-3). The only other instance that the Apostle Paul used this word "transformed" is found in 2 Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Again here we have one same image. That is the image of Christ, our God and King! And it is not by human wisdom and doing. It is by the Spirit of the Lord!

Renewing our mind is not about adding knowledge and information. It is letting the Word of God working in our lives as we meditate on the Holy Scriptures, waiting on the Lord! It is deep calling unto the deep as the Spirit of God works in our heart of hearts! It is pure wisdom flowing down from above, undefiled from the world. Through these times of refreshing, our minds will be renewed! The Word of God has the power to change and transform us!

What is a living sacrifice? We need to bear in mind the times in which this letter of Romans was written. The Gentile and Jewish believers of ancient Rome knew what it really meant to be a living sacrifice. They had a firsthand exposure and experience of it! In Hebrew 11:33-40, we are told that they were men and women of faith who:

  • through faith subdued kingdoms,
  • worked righteousness,
  • obtained promises,
  • stopped the mouths of lions,
  • quenched the violence of fire,
  • escaped the edge of the sword,
  • out of weakness were made strong,
  • became valiant in battle,
  • turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
  • Women received their dead raised to life again.
  • And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
  • Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and
  • of chains and imprisonment.
  • They were stoned,
  • they were sawn in two,
  • were tempted,
  • were slain with the sword.
  • They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins,
  • being destitute, afflicted, tormented-- of whom the world was not worthy.
  • They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
  • And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,
  • God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

A living sacrifice is a burning torch for Christ! She is a resurrected Church! She was sacrificed and yet she lived! She will be dead to sin, but alive in Christ! She is like a living dead. She has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer she who lives, but Christ lives in her. And the life which she now lives in the flesh she lives by faith in the Son of God, Who loved her and gave Himself for her (Galatians 2:20).

She will, by the mercies of God, be:

  • Justified, sanctified and glorified
  • Grafted into the true olive tree of God's family, Israel
  • Full of grace
  • Filled with the Holy Spirit
  • Having peace and reconciliation with God
  • Having no condemnation in Christ
  • Having the promise of future glory
  • Having no separation from God
  • Having confidence in God's faithfulness in restoring Israel

When she does so, she will catch on holy fire of holiness and righteousness, and people will come for miles to watch her burn. She will then become a living torch for Christ, being the true light of the world! She will then be in a position to provoke the Jews to jealousy, for the sake of His Name and their salvation!

What are the characteristics of a living sacrifice? Paul gave us the answers in the verses following Romans 12:1-2:

Verse Attributes Of A Living Sacrifice
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you,
  • not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think,
  • but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
  • For as we have many members in one body,
  • but all the members do not have the same function,
  • so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and
  • individually members of one another.
  • Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them:
  • if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
  • or ministry, let us use it in our ministering;
  • he who teaches, in teaching;
  • he who exhorts, in exhortation;
  • he who gives, with liberality
  • he who leads, with diligence;
  • he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
  • Let love be without hypocrisy.
  • Abhor what is evil.
  • Cling to what is good.
  • Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love,
  • in honor giving preference to one another;
  • not lagging in diligence,
  • fervent in spirit,
  • serving the Lord;
  • rejoicing in hope,
  • patient in tribulation,
  • continuing steadfastly in prayer;
  • distributing to the needs of the saints,
  • given to hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you;
  • bless and do not curse.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, and
  • weep with those who weep.
  • Be of the same mind toward one another.
  • Do not set your mind on high things, but
  • associate with the humble.
  • Do not be wise in your own opinion.
  • Repay no one evil for evil.
  • Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
  • If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
  • Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
  • Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
  • If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
  • For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but
  • overcome evil with good.

You are the light of the world.
A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket,
but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men,
that they may see your good works and
glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16

Written on:
6 June 2004