Summary: The word “sacrifice” in our text presents a problem to the minds of many devout Christians. They look upon a sacrifice as something that is painful, difficult, and unpleasant.
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What Is a Living Sacrifice?
Text: “With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him” (Rom. 12:1 phillips).
Scripture Reading: Romans 12
The word “sacrifice” in our text presents a problem to the minds of many devout Christians. They look upon a sacrifice as something that is painful, difficult, and unpleasant.
Perhaps the difficulty that many have when they think of sacrifice is a result of their false concept of the nature and purpose of our God. A proper understanding of the nature and character of God does not come accidentally or instantaneously. We can behold the greatness of God by studying the universe. We can discover the beauty of God by a study of the flowers. We can come to understand God’s nature, character, and purpose only as we experience him as a loving Father through faith in Jesus Christ, his unique and divine Son.
Some look upon God as being tyrannical and unconcerned about the welfare of human beings. They unjustly blame him for all tragedies and catastrophes. This kind of attitude toward God causes them to react negatively when they are challenged to sacrifice themselves completely into the service of God.
Words have many different shades of meaning, and particularly is this true with the word sacrifice. In its verbal form, to sacrifice is to make sacred. As a noun, it can be used four different ways.
1. A sacrifice is an offering to a deity.
2. A sacrifice is anything consecrated and offered to God or to a divinity.
3. A sacrifice is a destruction or surrender of something desirable in favor of a higher object, or devotion of it to a claim deemed more pressing.
4. A sacrifice is a loss of profit or grievous loss incurred in selling under unfavorable conditions.
I am afraid that most Christians think in terms of the fourth definition. To hold this concept of sacrificing alone will wreak havoc with one’s Christian consecration and service to God.
If we would realize that sacrifice does not always involve suffering, we might be able to make a more positive response to the challenge of full dedication of all that we are to the will of God. Paul is affirming on a spiritual level that which is a self-evident truth in other areas of life. He is emphasizing that success is built on sacrifice. For example, the young man who would be successful in playing football must make certain sacrifices in the area of discipline, and he must put the game before his own personal safety at times. He who makes no sacrifice at this point will never be an effective football player.
Successful home and family life is built on sacrifices that are made by each member of the family for the well-being of the group.
In obtaining an education, a student has to make certain sacrifices in order to secure that which is most desirable. He may have to decline some invitations to social or recreational events so that he might study and excel in his chosen field. Apart from sacrifice there is no success in any area of life.
Paul is declaring that if the child of God is to become a true servant of God, he must dedicate his total being to God and consider God’s will as being the highest possible goal. He declares that the purpose of God for us should have top priority over all other claims. A number of things could be said concerning the nature of a living sacrifice.
I. The living sacrifice is a sacrifice that is alive.
In the Old Testament we read of the animals that were offered as burnt sacrifices. These sacrifices involved death, so that which was offered as a sacrifice was indeed a victim.
We think of Jesus as being one who sacrificed himself, and this involved death for him. We need to recognize that his sacrifice, even of his life, fell under the third definition of sacrifice. Jesus deliberately chose to die so that he might have the joy of glorifying God and saving people at the same time. This was the highest goal for him. It brought greater joy than escaping the cross ever could have brought (cf. Heb. 12:2).
Jesus was willing to become a dead sacrifice because he had experienced the joy of being completely dedicated as a living sacrifice.