For 11 chapters now, St. Paul has spoken logically, fervently, and powerfully about the grace of God in your life by which you have a faith that saves you. All arguers and arguments that would raise themselves up against God and His mind have been bulldozed by Paul’s Acme Spiritual Bulldozing Co.
You are left naked with only a few undeniable truths. First, that God is absolutely sovereign, and you are not. Second, that you are sinful and fall short of God’s glory and deserve His condemnation. Third, that God has freely justified you by grace, if you live a true and lively faith in His Son.
There’s not much left of you after such arguments, if by “you” you mean the Old Man. But Paul demolished that so that he might erect a new edifice upon the bones of the old, and that edifice is none other than the Body of Christ, the Church.
What could you possibly say, what could you possibly do in response to such overwhelming love and grace in your life? For if you have understood the implications of Paul’s arguments, you can’t leave them an unchanged man or woman. If what he says is true (and it is), then what does it mean for your life? If Jesus Himself had just reached out His hand to heal and save you, what should be your response?
Just in case you don’t know what it ought to be or are so overwhelmed that you are stunned, Paul has provided one of the best verses, one of the best chapters (chapter 12), for learning how we should respond to the grace of God in our lives: “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.”
What could you possibly give to repay someone who had given you everything? What could you possibly do to show your gratitude to the One who is God and who gave His Son to you out of love and took your sins and gave you His righteousness instead?
You don’t have much to give, but what you do have to give you should. What you have, your most prized possession, is yourself. And that is precisely what God desires from you. The one who came to sacrifice Himself for you now desires that you sacrifice yourself for Him. The one who came that God may dwell in and with you desires that you come and dwell with and in Him.
In light of the mercies and grace and love of God: offer yourself to God as a living sacrifice.
After all, haven’t you vowed (more than once) to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength? Didn’t you say that what you wanted more than anything else was to be like your Master?
And what did He do? How did He live? When the Son of Man came to earth, the King of King and Lord of Lords, he came not be served but to serve. Yet how many times do we come to Him and to His holy Temple seeking not to serve but to be served?
The Greek word for whole burnt offering is holocaust. When Jesus told you that the greatest commandment was to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, what He was really saying was that you are to present yourself a living holocaust or whole burnt offering to Him. You are to present yourself in your entirety to Him, to serve Him and obey Him. You are to be a burning bush offered to the Lord, but one whose fire of passion for Him never goes out!
You are not to be like Ananias and Sapphira who kept back something for themselves.
Sometimes we Christians have a tendency to make things too easy for ourselves. We forget the strong demands God has on our life and do our best impersonation of a chameleon, blending in with the culture so well that no one would notice we are Christians. I once read a book called Dedication and Leadership which describes the kind of dedication Communists used to demand of their followers. One of the reasons people became Communists was that Communists demanded something of their followers. They had to go out and spread the news. They had to spend time in their cell groups planning and encouraging one another. They were expected to go out and do heroic things. In many ways, it was a counterfeit Christianity.
Likewise, Mormons expect Mormons to dedicate themselves to the Mormon religion. You’ve all seen those 2 guys in the white shirts and black pants on bicycles? The expectation is that every Mormon guy when he turns 18 will serve for 2 years as a missionary. I don’t know how many converts these missionaries make, but I do know that after 2 years these guys return dedicated to Mormonism.
I had a former student who was a Mormon. By the luck of the draw, he was assigned to everybody’s first choice of missions destinations: Mongolia. While on a 12-hour train ride there, his appendix ruptured. How would you like to have your appendix burst in the middle of nowhere in Mongolia? Having persevered, how dedicated to the Mormon faith do you think this young man is?
We, on the other hand, have made everything in the church optional: attendance; tithing; ministry; even believing what Jesus Christ has taught us. We have done the very thing we were commanded not to do: we have been conformed to this world and have not allowed the Spirit to transform our mind.
What will it take to offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God? As James so simply teaches, it is not a faux faith that says it believes in the head but will not yield the heart or hands. The kind of faith that Paul has been talking about is not a faith merely of the lips but one also of our lives. It is one in which we actively offer ourselves up to God as a sacrifice so that our faith becomes real in our faithfulness.
Can you imagine Jesus Christ saying, “I believe, Father. I have faith,” and then refusing to act on it? What if Jesus had the attitude of so many of us? What if He said He believed but at the moment of action He backed down and smacked the cup from out of the hands of the Father and walked away from the Cross to fight another day? Would that constitute faith?
What will it take to offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God? Humility. “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” (verse 3). Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus . . . (see Philippians 2).
If you’re looking for what this humble mind of Christ in action might look like and how you can offer yourself daily to God as a living sacrifice, then go read the rest of Romans 12: use the gifts God has given you for His purposes; love without hypocrisy; be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love; continue steadfast in prayer; distribute to the needs of the saints; etc.
Prayer: Almighty God, I earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this my sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant that, by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, I, and all thy whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion. And here I offer and present unto thee, O Lord, my self, my soul and body, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee, that I, and all others who shall be partakers of thy Son Jesus Christ, may be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
- What do you find is the thing in life you are most willing to sacrifice and give up other things for?
- If you could place a number on it, what percent of yourself would you say you offer up to the Lord?
- Read Romans 12 with an ear to hear how the Lord wants you to present yourself to Him today as a whole burnt offering.
Resolution: I resolve to find one way today to purposefully and joyfully offer myself to the Lord as a living sacrifice.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson