Living Sacrifices To God
"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" (Rom. 12:1).
Have you ever stopped to think about what God expected of his people when it came to the sacrifice? It is clear to every Bible student that all sacrifices which were brought to the altar were of the highest quality, first class! An acceptable sacrifice was holy to God then, and it is holy to him now. Any sacrifice that is less than holy (first class), is profane and unacceptable to our Creator. To present one's body a "living sacrifice" would demand holy and acceptable living. How could a person living a profane life ever offer to God what is expected of him while continuing in such a condition? It is true that no person is perfect, but it is also true that Christians are to live holy lives, "as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct" (1Peter 1:14-15). To do any less would be profane and nothing short of the antics of Nadab & Abihu at the altar before they were struck dead offering strange fire. I am persuaded that many of God's people today (or those claiming to be God's people), have forgotten or neglected to bring the "first class" offering to the altar. It is seen in the attitudes of brethren everywhere. The lax clothing some are wearing to the assembly in some cases is offensive for the fact that these same individuals would not think of wearing the same outfit to a funeral or wedding. It is seen in the way husbands and wives mis-treat each other. It is seen in the way that brethren lash out at one another, indict one another, and predicate such scathing rebuke upon weak hearsay evidence and partial knowledge of all the facts. Holy living does not demand weakness or compromise. It demands the proper attitude and demeanor of life. The commitment to present my body as an instrument of holy and acceptable sacrifice will produce the kind of life our Father expects of us.
It might also be appropriate to add that this type of sacrifice is a long term commitment and must be accomplished in order to be acceptable, every day, every year, my whole life. There is no time that I take a vacation from this responsibility. This is daily living, and it will continue until this life is no more, and I'm thankful for the opportunity.
(verse 2) "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".
To be conformed is to be fashioned as something or someone else. A.T. Robertson states, "Do not take this age as your fashion plate" (Robertson's Word Pictures). The world should never become a template of life for the child of God. And yet too often many Christians are living lives produced from the fashion plate of the world. Its time for some strict self-evaluation when God's people become more interested in looking like the world than living like the Savior. Paul said, " Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ" (1Cor. 11:1). The fashion plate of our lives must be Christ.
Sometimes kids will act like someone else. They will come home from school acting like their school peers. It is often a menace because there are some characteristics which are better off unlearned or imitated. I am convinced this principle is applied in 1Corinthians 15:33. Evil companions corrupt good manners because those with good manners conform to those who have bad manners. This is equally true with Christians. Paul warns that we should never take on the form of the world. A material, worldly character has no chance of entering the portals of heaven as long as he continues in that condition. Serving God and mammon won't cut it! Taking the form of the world secures a place in Hell, not in Heaven!
Being transformed is something quite different. Transformation demands change. In fact it shares the same definition as the term transfigure. The devil has the ability to transform himself into an angel of light. Therefore, transformation is not always a good thing unless it is done properly. Paul states that this transformation should take place by the "renewing of your mind". This is the epicenter of the person who presents his body a living sacrifice.
(verse 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".
Pure ego! Its the motivating factor that compels a person to look in the mirror to check their hair every time a mirror is available. Its the factor that causes a young man to flex his muscles. It is sometimes described in our generation as vanity, but it is pure ego. If we stop to think, every sin is somehow rooted in selfishness. Selfishness and ego are a tandem pair. Therefore, sin is usually borne from the womb of the inflated ego. Its that part of me that justifies entertaining myself while the wife and kids stay at home, or the part of me that boasts of accomplishments in subtle ways but never admits the success of others. It is the part of me that becomes drunk with self, totally inebriated with personal gratification, even if it means that others must suffer. It is not an inherited trait. This feature is a learned characteristic and ought to be discarded.
Paul said to think soberly, to fill the heart with sobering material. Sometimes people just need a personal revival! Reviving of senses , that is. The prodigal son was no stranger to this idea. He came full circle in his self inflicted dilemma. And it is seen in the statement of the Lord, "And when he came to himself" (Luke 15:17). Where had he been? He had been in the land of selfishness and finally returned to his senses! He learned the hard way that humility would bring him closer to his Father than material gluttony. As a kid, I used to argue that my sister was given the bigger portion of dessert. I argued that she got to lick the batter-covered beaters which had more stuff than the bleak scrapings from the mixing bowl which I had. My mother would quickly reply, "I gave you both the same amount". In other words, "I dealt to you the same measure and neither is at a disadvantage". -- Isn't this just as true in the Christian life? Which one of us has been granted the advantage in this kingdom? Who is it that has opportunity to boast? It is true that there are some who have a better knowledge of God's will than others, but it should also be understood that knowledge must be shared. God has given to every man the same measure of "the faith" (the inspired word). No person can boast of possessing anything greater than another. By applying what I learn and sharing what I learn with others, I again participate in presenting my body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
(verses 4-5) "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".
The body of Christ is likened unto the physical body here and in 1Corinthians 12. Every member of the physical body has its specific task in the biological scheme of things. They are needed in their totality to be a whole or complete body. I can live without the use of my arm or my eye, but I would give everything to have them restored to their proper place and function. So it is with the body of Christ. Every person in the kingdom has a unique position. You are the only you. No one else can take your place. You are needed to fulfill your function in this body, whatever that function is. It is clear that the apostle recognizes that not all people have the same ability, but all are an important part of the complete body. It is ridiculous to believe that my hand refuses to pick things up because it feels that the foot will probably do it. Part of presenting my body as a living sacrifice is using my living body as an instrument to that end. If you think about it, you can't worship or serve God at all without your body. It is the tabernacle that houses your heart. It is up to every Christian to seek opportunity to be active in the body of Christ. Everything you do or don't do affects the rest of the body. The husband and wife are two persons yet one union. Everything one does, the other is also enjoined and affected by it. So it is with the body of Christ. We are many members, but we are one body. Everything that one does, affects the rest of the body. We are members one of another.
By Tony Ripley
From Expository Files 5.6; June 1998