What is a 'living sacrifice'?
According to Webster, sacrifice is "the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone" or "an act of offering to a deity something precious." In the case of Romans 12:1, which says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship," this "something precious" is our bodies or selves. But we're not to be a sacrifice in the sense of killing ourselves. Rather, we are to be living sacrifices. Since Jesus paid the price for our sins that God requires (1 John 2:2), we no longer have to pay for our sins in blood (Hebrews 9:26).
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So, now that it is clear that a blood sacrifice is not required, how do we become a "living sacrifice"and what does that look like? Romans 12:2 gives us the answer to the first part of the question. We become a "living sacrifice" by being "… transformed by the renewal of [our] mind, that by testing [we] may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." This is not something we ourselves can do—God must do it. But there are things we can do to enable the transformation. The Bible, God's Word, provides the means for the change (Hebrews 4:12). We must read, study, and meditate on God's word. Second Timothy 3:16–17 tells us, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." Second Peter 1:3–8 tells us, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." We read and apply God's Word, relying on His power to transform our minds and hearts.
The answer to the second question is a little less obvious. We can be a living sacrifice wherever God has put us. We do not have to be a preacher or missionary or in some other form of recognized full-time service to God. Rather, we should "bloom where we are planted," to use an old adage. As our minds are transformed, we will no longer conform to this world, but we will begin to have attitudes and make choices in accordance with God's will. We will want to be and act in such a way as to please God. The way we are and the things we want to do will look difficult and sacrificial by our earlier standards but not by our transformed standards. Becoming a living sacrifice will change our inner wants and desires so that we do not feel that we are giving up something precious, but that we are getting something precious. Being a living sacrifice, then, is no sacrifice at all. It is what we desire.
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