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. Romans 12:1
Any traveler to Rome today, making his way through the ruins of what was once the greatest city in the world, would have to admit, whatever they were short on, it was not temples. Outdone only by the Athenians, the Romans had temples to the stars and to the gods, to the muses and to the politicians who thought they were gods. There were plenty of them!
Another traveler, one who wrote to Roman Christians from the city of Corinth about 54 A.D., Paul, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, could visualize the unending stream of men and women who came to a Roman temple to offer a pinch of incense and a prayer, or lay flowers at the foot of an idol in hopes of gaining the favor of the gods.
Paul, of course, did not believe in that sort of thing. He was persuaded that there is but one God, the living God, who had made human bodies His temples indwelt by the living Spirit of God Himself. But He did seize on the familiar imagery to make a point as he wrote, "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" (Romans 12:1). Paul's concept of a "living sacrifice"--your body--was revolutionary!
Even as Paul wrote those words, priests in Jerusalem offered sacrifices every day in the Temple. Paul had been there often. He knew that there was a steady stream of bulls and goats that were sacrificed for the sins of the people, but Paul also knew something which you may not be aware of. He knew that when Jesus was crucified, the veil of the Temple--the area separating the Holy of Holies from the inner court--was torn from the top to the bottom, as if God was saying, "My Son has become the sacrifice so now you can come directly into My presence through Him."
Like the sacrifices given for worship in the temple, Paul says we as believers today should give ourselves--alive, vibrant, and joyful--for His cause. He calls this our "reasonable service." Pretty strong stuff, right?
Probably you can recall times when your heart was warmly drawn to the Lord, times when you really wanted to say, "Yes, Lord! I'm yours--100 percent!" But you can also recall times when you were not so sure about being a "living sacrifice." The late J. Vernon McGee used to say, "The problem with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar."
Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23, Berean Study Bible), and the key to the whole matter is the word daily.
A friend of mine says a successful marriage is one big "I do!" with a lot of little "uh-huhs!" When you marry, you answer the question, "Will you take this person to be your husband or wife?" saying, "I do!" But you reaffirm that commitment day by day. So is it in the matter of serving the Lord.
In Paul's letter, he followed by giving the key to this whole issue. He wrote, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Phillips' translation puts it, "Don't let the world force you into its mold!" What we need today is the kind of radical commitment that says, "Yes, I will follow Jesus! I'm His--body, soul, and spirit!" "Then" says Paul, "you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2). Put literally, "so that you may be able to demonstrate or prove what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will." What a challenge!
Resource reading: Romans 12:1-3