Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Living Sacrifice - Part 1

        “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.
        Do not conform any longer 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.” (Romans 12:1-2)

      My former pastor used to say, “What’s the therefore, there for?” In chapter 11, the apostle Paul is exhorting the Roman Gentile Christians on how they, by God’s kindness and mercy, grafted them into his holy nation so that we can all be, together with Israel, be “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” to “declare the praises of him who called (us) out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once (we) were not a people, but now (we) are the people of God; once (we) had not received mercy, but now (we) have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9, 10). That is why Paul says in Romans 12: 1-2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy…”

      What is Paul urging or pleading with us to do? Offer up our bodies as living sacrifices. Now most of you reading this are very familiar with this passage of scripture. You can recite it; it easily rolls of your tongues. But practically, how many of you can say you continually, day in and day out, offer up your bodies as living sacrifices? This is also what Paul is addressing in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

      I have been hearing a lot of conversations and exhortations lately about “The Culture of Christ,” living holy, and being obedient to God’s commands. In fact, on December 31st, 2010 as I prepared to bring in the New Year, the Holy Spirit said to me, “Be a living sacrifice.” That was his word to me for 2011. Here I thought I was already being a living sacrifice, but apparently he wanted more of me. There was another level or awareness of sacrificial living. I thought the last eight months of 2010 was extreme, to the level of stepping out of the boat in faith as Peter had done when he asked Jesus to call him to come to him on the water. What more was God going to ask of me? I already appeared strange in the decisions I was making and the way I was living in following his call. (Come on God.) So I created a plaque and keep it in front of my bed so that when I awake and just before I close my eyes at night I am reminded that I am “A Living Sacrifice.”

      Just about every time I am to make a decision, especially one that would be naturally in my favor, I see those words, “A Living Sacrifice” and I become more prayerful about the decision I am about to make; I run through a quick spiritual test before jumping or answering yea or nay as I go throughout my day. I start the day out with my morning spiritual consultation (prayer and study of the Word) and then throughout the day try to keep my spiritual ear in tune with the direction of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I’m right on it all day long and sometimes I still miss Him, but I’m getting better at listening.

      So back to the plea of being living sacrifices. The obvious picture is that of Christ, and that is the example that Paul was referring to. However, I’d like to work my way back up to that picture. I want to go a little further back to Abraham and Isaac first, then hopefully take a look at the sacrificial laws and rituals of the Torah to the ultimate sacrifice of The Lamb of God – Jesus Christ and end with our sacrifice. I will be using “offering” and “sacrifice” interchangeably.

      Presenting offerings go back to the beginning when Adam and Eve’s sons (Cain and Abel) brought first fruit offerings unto the Lord in Genesis chapter 4. So pretty much from the dawn of time, sacrifices have been offered to God in thanksgiving and worship. Let’s fast forward to the command God gave Abraham to sacrifice his son of promise on an altar to God. God did not normally accept “human” sacrifices, in fact as will see throughout the Old Covenant, human sacrifices were denounced by God. Yet, he uncharacteristically commanded Abraham to offer up the son God promised him, Isaac, as sacrificial offering; “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Gen. 22:2). This was highly uncharacteristic of God, but I think it noteworthy to reflect on the preceding verse which reads, “Some time later God tested Abraham…” It was a test to see who came first in Abraham’s life, the gift or the giver of the gift. (The message of the how God tests to see which comes first in our lives, the Giver of the gift or the gift itself will be further explored later on in this study.)

      The command to offer up Isaac was a special command and a typology of Christ. In obedience and without hesitation, Abraham obeyed God. He gave God his heart through his son, no questions asked. Paul, in Romans chapter 4:22-25 says, “This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words, ‘it was credited to him (Abraham)’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

      Abraham was not only being tested to see what was in his heart; was he pure in his heart towards God, but he was also a picture of God, the Father, who would later offer up his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, in love for the whole world.

      The word sacrifice is burning in my heart as I think back to the text for this subject today. However, it cannot stand alone. What do I mean by that? Well, Abraham was commanded to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. He did not come up with that offering on his own. He was given specific instructions on how to offer the sacrifice and if he deviated from it, it most likely would not have been acceptable. Therefore, obedience preceded and sanctified the sacrifice. In 1 Samuel 15 we see an example of where king Saul offered an unholy or unsanctified sacrifice to God and not only was the sacrifice rejected, but so was Saul as king. “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams… Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king” (1 Sam. 15:22-23).

      There are offerings and sacrifices prescribed by God and there are others given spontaneously out of thanksgiving and gladness of heart. All, however, are to be sanctified. What does that mean? Remember when Araunah the Jebusite in 2 Samuel 24:22 said to king David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up” and proceeded to give David all the supplies needed to present an offering to God. David said, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (1 Samuel 24:24). If it is your offering unto the Lord, it should cost you something. Then also, it should be a holy or pure sacrifice. In Deuteronomy 15:19-21 the picture of purity and holiness is depicted in God’s instruction to the Israelites in reference to their offerings:

      “Set apart for the Lord your God every firstborn male from your herds and flocks. Do not shear the firstborn of your sheep. Each year you and your family are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose. If an animal has a defect, is lame or blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it to the Lord your God.”

      We can’t give to God any old thing. That’s what Cain did in Gen.4 and why God rejected his sacrifice. It’s the root of the problem addressed in Isaiah 58 about the true fast (fasting is a sacrificial offering, as is praise- Jeremiah 17:26). It was also why the offering of Ananias and Sapphira was grievously unacceptable in Acts chapter 5. God has a standard of holiness for all that is offered up unto him. Chew on this for a while. (To be continued.)


  1. Hi Beverly -

    I enjoyed this lesson, instructor Beverly. No falling asleep in this class. This message engaged, instructed, encouraged, warned, and most of all - provided solid truth with pure scriptural evidence. My kind of lesson, warrior Christian teacher, Beverly.

    I took "notes," too.

    In particular, I was spiritually quickened by these comments:

    "God has a standard of holiness for all that is offered up unto him.

    "I start the day out with my morning spiritual consultation (prayer and study of the Word) and then throughout the day try to keep my spiritual ear in tune with the direction of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I’m right on it all day long and sometimes I still miss Him, but I’m getting better at listening."

    Yes, I'll return for the continuation. Nope, won't ditch this class.

    Thank you, Beverly...!

  2. Hi Sandra, Thanks for your encouragment, but I'm simply a student of the Word and sharing what I'm learning as I go along.

    God bless.