Romans 12:1-2 – What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?

Romans 12:1-2 – Therefore, 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. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The first word we see in this passage is “Therefore.” The principles in these verses and in the latter part of Romans are based on all of the things he has taught in the first eleven chapters. Romans can be divided into two sections. The first section of eleven chapters is doctrine. The second section is practical application. Why did Paul teach all of these doctrines? It is not just for building up our knowledge or for getting ready for some Bible trivia games. These doctrines demand a response. So what do they have to do with us? The answer is EVERYTHING!

Point #1 – We should respond by sacrificing

In verse 1 we see that Paul urges his readers to respond by offering themselves as a living and holy sacrifice. Think for a minute what Paul’s audience would have thought of when they heard the word “sacrifice.” They would have associated this with offering an animal sacrifice. The Romans also practiced this so they too would have been familiar with this concept. Animals gave their actual lives as a sacrifice as an offering to God. Play uses this image, but says that we are to give ourselves as a living sacrifice. God may not require us to die for Him (though sometimes He does), but He asks something far more difficult. He asks us to live for Him. We are to die to self and live for Him every single day. We are to give our entire being, all our heart, all love, all of our talents, all of our energy, and all of our strength to serve Him. He doesn’t ask for something small like simply donating a bit of money to charity, wearing Christian jewelry, buying blankets for a poor, or going to church. Neither does it only refer to something life changing. Has God asked you to move to Mongolia and translate the Bible into the language of a minority group there? If that is your application from this message, great! But a living sacrifice is actually more than that, something far more difficult. He asks each of us to serve Him in a thousand small ways every day. He asks us to die to self and live for Him in each small decision we make every minute, every day, our whole lives.

I don’t know about you, but I love food. I often eat four meals a day. Sometimes in the evening I go the kitchen and prepare a late night snack. Before I go I might ask my wife if she is hungry. She answers, “I shouldn’t eat lat at night.”So I make some popcorn. I get it just right. Hot. With butter. A dab of salt. A few shakes of parmesan cheese. Add in some nacho cheese flavoring. I settle in with my bowl of popcorn and Christy comes in, “Wow, that smells great” and starts eating it.

Here is a choice for me. Will I sacrifice that popcorn? Or will I defend my right to eat it all, all by myself? Although it is a small thing, it requires real sacrifice.

Perhaps you hear this and say, “That is ridiculous! I could share popcorn easily.” Great! But what is difficult for you to sacrifice? What area is hard for you to die to self?

Do you need to sacrifice some income so that you will have more time available for serving the Lord?

Do you need to sacrifice sleeping in so that you can have more time to read the Word before setting off to work?

Do you need to sacrifice your own comfort and popularity in order to share the good news with a lost friend?

The list can go on and on. Because God calls us to sacrifice every… single… day. Luke 16:10 says, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much” It is also true that He who sacrifices in a little thing will also sacrifice in much. You know the saying “practice makes perfect.” If you practice selflessness in the little things each day, then when God asks you to make a big sacrifice for Him, it will be much easier to say, “yes.”

He also says to be a holy sacrifice. We do not have much time today to discuss this point, but one way we sacrifice to God is by giving up our sinful pleasures.

Point #2 – We sacrifice because He sacrificed

This is not easy. Someone may look at this and say, “Why? Why should I sacrifice myself for God? I look out for number 1.” Paul gives us the answer. He says, “by the mercies of God.” In some translations it says, ‘in view of God’s mercies.” It is because of what God has done for us. He is not asking us to do something He is not willing to do. Jesus gave His life as the ultimate sacrifice. In addition, He gives us His Word, His Spirit, our lives, our church, and blessings uncountable: the rain, the sunshine, oxygen. If the Creator sacrifices Himself for the creation, should not the creation sacrifice for the Creator? Imagine for a minute that you have wracked up a huge gambling debt sneaking off to Macau. It is so big your entire family and future are in financial ruins. There is no hope you can ever pay it off. Somehow Darius has far more money than you ever thought. He pays your debt for you. How would you respond? What sacrifices would you make for him? If he asked you to help him, you would! You would gladly offer to babysit his children. You would happily go to his home and clean it and paint it. You would gladly make sacrifices for him in view of his mercy toward you.

Point #3 – Sacrificing is worshiping

Paul says that presenting your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice is your “spiritual service of worship.” Read Revelation 7:9-12. “9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language,standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!””

This is God’s end vision. He has created us for the purpose of worshiping Him. That is our highest calling, our highest goal. What is the chief purpose of man?

It is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If I was to ask you what is the first thing to pop in to your mind when I mention, “worship,” for many it would probably be the “praise and worship time” on Sunday morning. So our chief end is to glorify God forever and we do that by worshiping God 20 minutes a week during praise and worship time? It’s not enough.

Those twenty minutes are a place we can practice corporate worship. But we must practice personal worship. The entire Sunday service is a time to worship God. And we see from this verse that when we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, we are worshiping Him. We are to worship Him throughout the week. We worship Him through our behavior, not only our words.

Isaiah 29:13, “13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”

Worshiping God is equal to glorifying God. And we glorify God when we choose His way over own way. What would you have said if I started off my sermon with the statement, “I worship God by sharing popcorn with my wife?” And I did think about it :) But this statement is true. And the conclusion that we worship God every day in the little decisions we make to serve Him is the only logical conclusion we can make from this passage.

So imagine that during the week you do not sacrifice in those little decisions (I know it is very difficult to imagine, but try). You choose yourself instead of serving God. You are living for your own desires rather than to glorify God. But then on Sunday you shout out God’s praises during the praise and worship time at church. How do you think God might view that? I think He would view it in the same way He viewed the Jews in Isaiah 29:13 and that is to say, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

We must not separate in our minds worship time from the rest of our lives. Every moment of every day is worship time. On this Billy Graham said the following: “The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service.” How might you live your life differently, if you really lived with the understanding that every decision you make and every word you say is a way to worship God?

  • Changing your baby’s dirty diaper with a good attitude is an act of worship.
  • Waiting for the bus without complaining is an act of worship.
  • Speaking kindly to bureaucrats even when they are unhelpful is an act of worship.
  • Looking away from an immodest woman and praying for her is an act of worship.
  • And yes, sharing popcorn is an act of worship.

If you are reading today and you are not a believer, then the main point I want you to remember is that Jesus sacrificed Himself for you. He will show you mercy if you come to Him.

For believers, this is what being a follower of Jesus is all about. It is not merely about going to church or or praying before meals. It is about living a life of worship to God through personal sacrifice and holiness. We fall short. In so many little decisions, we choose to be selfish. Let’s close with a moment of silent prayer. Ask God to forgive you for your selfishness and to help you become a living sacrifice to Him.

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