This may prove to be a continuation of my last note to you. You see, you can’t weep your way into our Lord’s heavenly place. You can’t study or work or will your way in. No, the only way to the throne is by way of a living sacrifice: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1).
Paul is talking from experience. Here is a man who was rejected, tempted, persecuted, beaten, jailed, shipwrecked, stoned, and even left for dead. Paul also had all the cares of the church laid on him. Yet he testified, “In every condition, I have been content.”
Now he is saying, “So, you want to know how I came into the knowledge of this heavenly walk? Do you want to know how I came to be content in whatever condition I was placed, how I came to find true rest in Christ? Here is the path, the secret to appropriating your heavenly position: (PAUSE FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT) . . . Present your body as a living sacrifice to the Lord. (Whoa! That’s it?) You will come into contentment only by the sacrifice of my own will.”
Now the Greek root for “living” here suggests “lifelong.” Paul is talking about a binding commitment, a sacrifice that is made once in a lifetime. Yet, don’t misunderstand; this isn’t a sacrifice that has to do with propitiation for sin. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the only worthy propitiation: “he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
No, Paul is talking about a different kind of sacrifice. Yet, make no mistake; God has no pleasure in the “old” sacrifices. Hebrews tells us, “With burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased” (10:6). Why weren’t these sacrifices pleasing to the Lord? Simply put, they didn’t require the heart.
The sacrifice Paul describes is one that God takes great pleasure in, precisely because it involves the heart. What is this sacrifice? It is one of death to our will, of laying aside our self-sufficiency and abandoning our ambitions.
When Paul exhorts, “Present your body,” he is saying, “Draw near to the Lord.” Yet, what does that mean, exactly? It means drawing near to God for the purpose of offering our entire selves to him. It means coming to him not in our own sufficiency, but as a resurrected child, as holy in Jesus’ righteousness, as being accepted by the Father through our position in Christ. The moment you resign your will to him, the sacrifice has been made. It happens when you give up the struggle of trying to please God on your own. This act of faith is the “reasonable service” Paul refers to. It is all about trusting him with our will, believing he will provide all the blessings we need.
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I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.