Bible Study 2023
A Living Sacrifice
We come here to recommit ourselves to obedience and love and devotion to Him and Romans 12:1 - 2 spells out what that means. A woman said, “I’m trying to get all I can get from God.” And my response to her was, “With all due respect, that is exactly the opposite what you should be doing. Your Christian life is not dependent on what you get from Him. It’s dependent on what you give to Him.”
And that shows up on the way people view church. They evaluate a church on the basis of what they get out of it, what they get from it, what it delivers to them. That again, is opposite of the necessary perspective, if one is going to live a godly and useful life. It’s not about what you get. It’s about what you give, and that is crystal clear in Romans 12. Let me read these two verses.
Romans 12:1-2 says, “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. 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.” The Christian life is an act of worship in which we give ourselves.
Remember we've had 11 chapters of doctrine about salvation. This is where the epistle itself turns practical. And the first thing to say is very important, the first thing is give yourself as a living sacrifice. Your response to what God has done for you is to give to God a spiritual offering, namely yourself. It’s about worship, and worship is about giving ourselves to God.
The apostle Paul says in Philippians 3, “We are worshippers of Jesus Christ.” In 1 Peter 2, Peter says, “We are priests bringing sacrifices to God.” So to view the Christian life is to view the Christian as a priest giving offerings to God. Now, the nature of it is described in the terms “a living and holy sacrifice.” Now, that is priestly language, sacrificial language, Levitical language.
It takes us back to the Old Testament, the sacrificial system, when the priest would come and put an offering on the altar, and it would be slain. So priests were offering dead sacrifices, not living sacrifices. They were offering dead sacrifices that pictured the sacrifice of Christ in death, paying the penalty for our sin. That system is gone. It was dismissed when Jesus died on the cross.
Now, there is a new kind of sacrifice in the new covenant, in the New Testament and that is a living sacrifice. It’s you, and it’s me. We are to place ourselves on the altar before God as an offering to Him. No more dead sacrifices, now living sacrifices. This is an essential and supreme act of worship. Our responsibility is a complete, comprehensive offering of ourselves to God.
You’ve already received everything you need in your salvation. It’s about what you give to God. God was not satisfied with a dead sacrifice in the Old Testament from a sinful heart. That’s why, in 1 Samuel 15:22 we read, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” It was a picture of the sacrifice of Christ to come, but God didn't accept sacrifices that came from people’s sinful hearts.
Now, as we look at these two verses, there are four elements in a living sacrifice. They overlap and intertwine, but they can be identified in the text in four ways. The sacrifice that is a living sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God incorporates the soul, the body, the mind, and the will. And they’re all connected to each other, but they help us see aspects of ourselves that we are to give to God.
Let’s talk first about the soul being given to God, and by that I mean the inner person. We’re talking about salvation. In Matthew 16:26 Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” First, you cannot please God in any way if you don't give your soul to Him, the essence of who you are. That’s the basis of the sacrifice. It all starts with the soul.
For 11 chapters, the apostle Paul has been delineating the mercies of God. What are “mercies”? Things given undeserved. That’s “mercy” – things that are presented to us, granted to us, applied to us, credited to us, which we do not deserve. Based upon the mercies of God, we are to present our body as a living sacrifice. Those mercies are all bound up in our salvation.
Now, the definition of “salvation” is an expansive and comprehensive definition in the book of Romans. If we just take the phrase “the mercies of God” and expand it, this incorporates everything that’s a part of salvation, all the provision of God’s wonderful mercy for man’s sin, salvation with all of its components. One of the mercies of God is “divine love,” granted to an unworthy sinner.
Another mercy of God is “grace,” which the sinner cannot earn. And then you begin to find that God grants us, as a mercy, the gift of the “Holy Spirit,” who takes up residence in us. The Spirit of God secures us. Then, another mercy is “peace with God.” Faith is granted to us, faith to believe and apprehend salvation. You find also comfort, power, hope, patience and kindness.
There is more: righteousness, forgiveness, reconciliation and justification, literally being declared before God as just. Another is security, eternal life, freedom from the power and penalty of sin. Another is resurrection, son ship adopted as sons, ongoing intercession by both the Spirit and the Son. This is so overwhelming that, as Paul now concludes he says:
In verse 33, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
You look at Christ, and as you focus on Him in 2 Corinthians 3:18, you’re transformed into His image. Psalm 116:12 puts it this way: “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits unto me?” Here’s the answer: your life in all its components as a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1 and 2 answers the prayer of Psalm 116, and it all starts with the soul of the believer.
When you contemplate all that salvation is, that becomes the driving motive for sanctification. Your ethical behavior is a direct reflection of your dogma. Your duties flow out of your doctrine. It’s what you believe that essentially designs your behavior. The more you understand about the greatness of your salvation, the greater your motivation to offer yourself as a living sacrifice.
Secondly, the body must be presented to God, and that’s what verse 1 says: “...present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” This is the body, the actual body, and not simply that which is tangible and visible but all the components of being human, how you think and how you reason, all that you are as a human being.
“Present” is a temple term. It means to surrender up, to yield up, to offer up, and that is to hold nothing back. I continually offer my body for your purposes, and I offer it as a living and holy sacrifice set apart from sin. Romans 6:12 says, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts.” So you there that the body means more than just the material. It means the immaterial desires and lust.
Down in verse 16, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” In other words, you're making a presentation of yourself to obey your master. Verse 19, “I’m speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.”
Sanctification is the result of an active presentation of the soul first and then the body to God. Some people talk about sanctification as if it’s passive. It is not, it is a command. “I urge you to present your bodies.” That is an action, and you surrender up your body to God. That is necessary for your sanctification. Your sanctification is dependent on you getting a hold of your body and offering it to God.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “The will of God is your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each of you know how to possess his own vessel or body in sanctification and honor, not in passion like the Gentiles who do not know God.” This is not easy. In First Corinthians 9:24 Paul says, “I beat my body into submission, lest in preaching to others, I myself would be disqualified.”
God wants your body as a sacrifice offered to him in holiness, not just your spirit and your mind. Sometimes, you hear people say, “I’m a very spiritual person.” If you're talking in biblical terms, I’d like to say to them, “Well, if you're truly a spiritual person, and you're concerned about offering your spirit to God, He wants your body too. How are you on that side?”
It’s important because vice was rampant then, and vice is rampant now, and there was tolerance. It was in their philosophy, and there’s tolerance now in our philosophy, as well. For God to say, “I want not just your soul; I want your body, holy, given to Me as a sacrifice,” is essentially the foundation of all sanctification. It’s an act that demands that we beat our bodies into submission.
You could compare that to Abraham and Isaac. Isaac was about to be a dead sacrifice, but Abraham, who offered Isaac, was making a living a sacrifice. His beloved son, the promises of God, the covenant of God, his heir, his future, but he was willing to do it out of obedience. Every time you hear this language of sacrifice and offering to God, it pulls the body in, as well as the soul and the spirit.
God is satisfied only when the soul is followed by the body offered to Him, and He says, “This is your spiritual service of worship.” It’s worship in a technical sense, in the Old Testament, the Levitical kind of worship. It’s used in Hebrews 9:6 of priests who were performing worship in the service of God, but it’s used here of the believer. This is your spiritual service of worship.
Thirdly, the mind must be given to God. Now, these are all interconnected. If you don't give your mind to God, you're not going to be able to sustain giving your body to God. That’s the way it is. “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.” Verse 2, “Do not be conformed to this world,” this is this age, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind...” Along with the body, the mind must come.
If you don't program your mind correctly, your body will come off that altar. Don't be conformed to this age. The fallen world, the system of Satan and the kosmos. John used that language: the evil world system, the spirit of the age, all the floating mass of ideas, opinions, views, religions, philosophies, speculations, hopes, impulses, aspirations, and temptations, all of it.
“The whole world,” says 1 John 5:19, “lies in the lap of the evil one.” All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, is of the world and is passing away. The purposes, ethics, standards, and morality are all satanic. It’s all the kingdom of darkness. You’re going to have to reprogram your mind away from the corruption of this age.
When you think that the average high school student spends nine hours privately in front of a computer screen, they’re being programmed and drawn in by the spirit of the age. That’s why so much of what pop culture is belongs to kids from 10 to 25. They’re so susceptible. We can’t be conformed to this. In fact, the language says, “Stop allowing yourselves to be fashioned like this evil age.”
You need to be transfigured into glorious form. You renew your mind through the Word of God. Colossians 1:9 says, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will and all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in all respects.”
Finally, the will must be given to God. We know things, but we don't necessarily do what we should. Paul says, “I don't do what I should do. I do what I don’t want to do.” The will is a very important reality. The final word is that you would prove, by your life, what the will of God is. Prove it in the sense that you demonstrate it. You put the will of God on display because you do His will.
You show the world the will of God by doing it. That’s not the idea to test and see if God’s will is good or bad or right or wrong. It is good and right. So to live the Christian life is a strong desire generated by the will based upon what the mind knows of the Word of God. This informs what the body does, all in gratitude for the mercies of God granted to us in Christ.
This is the sum and substance of the path of sanctification. There’s no other way to get there, and these are present-tense verbs because we just continually have to do this. Be thankful that you have people around you on the same journey. Be thankful that you have the resources provided for you so that your mind can be the mind of Christ. Win the battle and the will. Let’s pray.