Posts Tagged 'living sacrifice'




Perhaps the most important aspect of spiritual renewal involves our mind. When we think about our redemption and the scope of our salvation, we naturally think of the spiritual aspects. Most naturally we think of ourselves in light of eternity. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, our eternal destination changes from Hell to Heaven. Rarely do we think of our redemption in terms of our thinking process. But we should because the way we live starts as a thought.

Spiritual transformation comes through continually submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and that submission begins in the mind.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he… (Proverbs 23:7, KJV)

1. Renew your mind, Romans 12:1—3

a. A living sacrifice, vs. 1

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.

There is no distinction between “doctrine” and “life” as far as the Christian is concerned. Even though many Christians cringe at the word “doctrine,” the simple fact is “doctrine” determines how you “live.” The word “therefore” links what Paul is about discuss with what he just finished discussing. Up till now in Romans, Paul had been discussing some heavy duty spiritual doctrines, including all that was accomplished on the Cross by Christ on our behalf. The fundamental idea of the first 11 chapters of Romans is that of the sacrifice offered by God for the sins and transgression of the world—

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25, 26)

In light of this fundamental Christian “doctrine,” Paul is about tell the Romans, and us, how Christians should live, hence his use of the word, “therefore.” His appeal is based on “God’s mercy.” Because God did all this (the doctrines of chapters 1—11) out of mercy, Christians ought to live a certain way out of gratitude. But how do you do that? The Old Testament’s elaborate sacrificial system was one way, but it is not the Christian way. When an Israelite wanted to show his love and commitment to God, he would personally offer his best animal or bird  at the tabernacle as a sacrifice. That offering was “holy” to the Lord in that it wholly His, the priest and the offerer got no part of it. This, however, wouldn’t work for the Christian. For the Christian, God demands his whole person as an offering—no animal or bird is adequate. The Christian is urged to present his body once for all for the service of God. The idea of a “living sacrifice” suggests that it is an ongoing thing to be expressed in our activity. Though we present our whole being one time—we are saved only one time—that offering goes on and on. John Chrysostom ponders how this can happen:

How can the body become a sacrifice? Let the eye look upon nothing evil, and it has become a sacrifice. Let the tongue speak nothing shameful, and it has become an offering. Let the hand do nothing unlawful, and it has become a burnt offering.

In other words, Christians must make conscious decisions to render to God acts of acceptable worship every day in how they live and act in and react to the world around them.

b. A renewed mind, vs. 2

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 core of the Christian life is the complete abandonment of our bodies to God’s service. Verse 2 tells us how we are able to do this: it will be the natural result of changing our way of thinking. Remember, all our actions begin as thoughts, therefore if we want act righteously, we must think righteously. From henceforth, we must not think like the world thinks. Our attitudes must be markedly different from those of the world. J.B. Phillips’ classic translation captures Paul’s thoughts excellently:

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within...

Remember, this admonition comes on the heels of some heavy-duty doctrinal teaching. Doctrine is not separate from practical Christianity; it is, in reality, the force behind it. The great doctrines of Scripture should be the motivation behind how we think and how we live. Only when we change our habitual (read: sinful) way of thinking, can we grasp what God’s will is.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Living sacrificially, which comes from right thinking, will lead a Christian to find his place in the Body of Christ.

c. A measure of faith, vs. 3

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

With authority from Christ Himself, Paul tells his Roman friends that they are all part of the Body of Christ, none has a special status. Living sacrifices all have something special from God, however: a measure of faith. As Paul has received “grace” from God, so all believers have received this faith. This brings mind something Peter wrote:

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10)

2. Put on the new self, Ephesians 4:17—24

a. Remembering the old self, vs. 17—19

Here again, like in Romans, Paul deals with how believers ought to conduct their lives and he begins this teaching by reminding his readers of how they used to live. They used to live like Gentiles—like unredeemed people—but now, through their new birth in Christ, they are different. As we read what the life of sin consists of, we realize that that that old life is light years away from our new life. The idea Paul wants to impress upon his readers is that they must make a clean break from their old lifestyle. Even as they are surrounded by it, they must not be part of it.

b. Becoming the new self, vs. 20—24

The believers in the Ephesian church, like believers today, are not to be like the unredeemed Gentiles just described by Paul, who lived only to satisfy their base nature. This was not how the converts in Ephesus came to know Christ!

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires… (verse 22)

This was how the Ephesian believers came to know Christ: He could be known only by taking off the costume of the “old self.” In other words, their previous lifestyle was to be disposed of completely; they were no longer to live like they used to. And Christians should rush to do this because the old way of life is totally destructive!

…to be made new in the attitude of your minds… (verse 23)

Here is the key to Paul’s teaching of the new life: it begins in the mind. By receiving Christ, the Christian is expected to exhibit Christ-likeness. We are made new by taking on new attitudes. This is our obligation; God won’t do our thinking for us. It is true that elsewhere in Scripture Paul taught that Christ did all the work for us on the Cross—

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:9, 10)

This is a finished, spiritual fact. In Ephesians, however, Paul explains the importance of the public, practical demonstration of this spiritual fact.

3. Strive to know Christ fully, Philippians 3:7—16

a. Live to win Christ, vs. 7, 18

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…

Paul was an amazing, successful Jewish man. Yet he considered all of his accomplishments and his pedigree as nothing compared to the privilege of knowing Jesus. In spite of Paul’s acknowledged abilities as a rabbi and Jewish scholar, when He found Christ and his new life, he knew he had to surrender the old life; he had to let it all go. He gave it all up, all of its benefits, for the sake of knowing Jesus Christ.

b. Knowing Christ, vs. 9—11

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (vs. 10, 11)

What does it mean, “to know Christ?” It goes back to the thought began in verse 8, that everything Paul once knew and had was nothing compared to knowing Christ. When a sinner, like Paul, comes to Christ, he appropriates by faith a “righteousness that is from God.” But when that born again sinner begins to think about Christ and what God did for him, there is produced in that person a yearning to get to know Christ more, in a deeper way, and this means knowing all about Christ and all facets of His great work.

Paul wanted to know, not only the mind of Christ, but also His heart. Paul knew that with knowledge comes power, and what Paul wanted was to have a complete knowledge of Christ, thus possessing the power Christ had, even resurrection power. In knowing Christ, we become like Him in all ways.

c. Pursuing Christ, vs. 12—16

In spite of Paul’s dedication to Christ, he makes it clear he hasn’t “arrived yet.” He had not yet achieved perfection nor had he completely “figured out” Christ. Paul was work in progress and he was determined to fulfill one, single, three pronged goal:

  • He wanted to somehow forget his past. Naturally, the human mind forgets some things very easily over time, but Paul wanted to ensure that his past, his old life, would never affect his present or his future. He never wanted his former way of life or way of living to keep him from fulfilling God’s will in his life.

  • Paul was determined to always look and reach forward. He was wholly committed to living a life that pleased God.

  • Finally, Paul pressed—worked determinedly—to achieve his new life’s goal, “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

That final point could never be fully realized here on earth. This goal was an eternal one that would find its ultimate fulfillment in Heaven.

As we see, the quality of our new life in Christ is in our hands, or more accurately in our minds. It is up to individual believers to take charge of their thought-life, to bring it in line with the Word of God. Only then will our lives reflect Christ.

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