A living sacrifice to the Lord…


Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is one of my favorite passages in the entire bible. In it, the apostle Paul is writing to Christians in Rome. There were many gods/idols in the ancient Roman empire, many of which received regular animal sacrifices – sheep, goats, cattle, doves, and so on. These animals were typically brought alive to the altar of a god, killed, the blood poured out, some parts of the flesh burned on a fire, and the rest sold to the masses for food. The point here is that the entire animal was sacrificed, not just a part.

Paul uses this image of animal sacrifice to speak of Christian discipleship, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice”. He invites us to give all of ourselves to the Lord, not just a part. And then we are not to be put to death, but to be a “living sacrifice”, a person completely committed to the Lord Jesus. In v.2 the word “transformed” comes from the Greek word used to describe the way a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. A butterfly is not just a bit different, but is changed completely.

I remember including these verses in my service of ordination in June of 1998. Entering seminary was a huge faith step for me and my family. It felt a lot like being “transformed”. Yet 25 years later I can confidently say I have not yet been transformed completely. There are always parts of me I want to hold on to. Am I different? Yes. But the process is ongoing and will likely never be quite complete on this side of heaven. It’s the sinful nature in me that gets in the way.

Lord Jesus, by your mercy, don’t give up on me but continue in me the work you’ve begun. Amen.

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