Summary: The principle of self-sacrifice is foundational to the doctrine of the Christian life. In our lesson today I want to examine how to be a living sacrifice.
For the past few weeks we have been studying Romans 12:1-2. In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul begins applying the doctrine that he has been teaching for the previous 11 chapters. Now, it is not that he has made no application in the previous 11 chapters; he has. However, as he begins chapter 12 he is, in a sense, saying, “In light of all that I have taught, how should we then live?”
So, let’s carefully examine each phrase in Romans 12:1-2.
Let’s read Romans 12:1-2:
1I 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. 2Do 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. (Romans 12:1-2)
All in the Family was a popular 1970s CBS series that made the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker a household name. In one scene Archie’s son-in-law, Michael, and his wife, Gloria, are in the kitchen. Michael is eating a sandwich and Gloria is baking cookies. Gloria asks him, “Michael, do you love me?”
“Yup,” he manages in between bites.
“Would you give up your life for me?” she asks.
“Right after I finish this sandwich.”
“Ma saw this movie on TV. It takes place in the desert. The husband gives up his life so his wife can live. I was just wondering if you would do the same for me.”
“Sure, honey. If we’re ever in the Sahara desert together, you got my life. You got any pickles?”
Gloria sighs and says, “Michael, I’m serious. I mean, if we were stranded in the desert, and we had just enough water for one of us, what would you do?”
“I’d flip you for it.”
Gloria is visibly exasperated, so Michael adds: “Well honey, what do you want from me? That is a very difficult question to answer. Not many people know how they’d react in a life-and-death situation.”
“Okay, forget the desert,” she says. “Let’s say we’re out in the ocean, and there’s this shark coming at us. Would you swim in front of it to save me?”
“How big is the shark?”
“He’s big. He’s a man-eating shark.”
“Well, then maybe you should swim in front of it to save me.”
“Because it’s a man-eating shark. You didn’t say woman-eating shark.”
At this point Gloria has about had enough. “I’m just trying to find out how much you care for me!”
“I care for you, honey. If you care for me, you’ll let me finish this sandwich.”
Gloria grabs the sandwich out of his hands and looks him in the eye glaringly: “Michael, we are lost in the mountains. This is our only food—our only chance for survival. Would you give me this sandwich?”
“I wouldn’t have to. You’d take it from me.”
“Michael! I just want to hear you say you’d give up your life for me. Would you say it?”
Gloria angrily walks out of the kitchen and into the living room. Michael follows her.
She looks back at him again, saying, “Just say you’d lay down your life for me.”
“This is ridiculous. How did we get into this?”
“Just say the words, Michael!”
Michael finally gives in, exhausted by the whole conversation. “All right! All right! I’d lay down my life for you!”
Jesus once said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus demonstrated his love for us by laying down his life for us. Now, because of his love and sacrifice for us, he calls us who love him to do the same by presenting our bodies as a “living sacrifice.”
There is of course a tremendous difference between Jesus’ sacrifice and our sacrifice. As I mentioned in our previous study, Jesus died in our place. He paid the punishment for our sin. He bore the wrath of God in our place. He made an atonement for us.
Our sacrifices are not like that at all.
But our sacrifices are like Jesus’ sacrifice in the sense that we are the ones who are making the sacrifice. And further, the sacrifice we make is ourselves.
This is what the Apostle Paul is urging Christians to do in Romans 12:1 when he 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.”
This principle of self-sacrifice is foundational to the doctrine of the Christian life. So, in our lesson today I want to examine how to be a living sacrifice.
I. Our Sacrifice Is to Be a Living Sacrifice Rather than a Dead Sacrifice