A Living Sacrifice – Part One

A couple of months a go, I was studying about our identity in Christ.  As I was studying, I came across a sermon John Piper preached in 1994 on Christian identity.  In this sermon, Piper spoke of our identity as our relation to God.  That God pities us, He possesses us, and He set us apart to proclaim who He is.  The meaning of our identity is that He is seen in us.  Piper says that being a Christian and making the greatness of God known are almost two identical things.[1]

As I thought about this statement, I could not help but think about how I live my life, how all Christians live their lives.  If our identity is to make His identity known, am I doing that?  Are we doing that?  Are we living lives that mirror who He is?  In light of having been made so that we can make Him known, we’ll look into Romans 12:1-2.  These verses teach us how to live lives that are pleasing to Him.  Paul teaches us here how to live lives that glorify Him and make Him known.

Romans 12:1-2

1I 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. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In chapters 12-15, Paul addresses Christian living in specific.  Chapter 12 begins with a plea to all believers, that we live lives that are devoted to God.  The “therefore” in verse 1 refers to all that came before this passage.  In the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul had been teaching on what God has given us.  In chapter 12 Paul focuses on what believers are supposed to give God.  We spend our lives trying to soak in all that God has to give us; we read books, we go to church and conferences seeking that ultimate experience.   None of these things are in and of themselves bad, we should read, go to church and attend conferences seeking to learn and grow, but we forget that He has already given us everything!  He sent His son to die for us so that we may live in Him, through Him and for Him.  It is our turn to give back!  We give back by living for Him, living sacrificially, fighting against the status quo to not become a carnal Christian.  I want us to leave here today figuring out the changes we must make in our lives so that we can stand out as followers of Jesus and make Him known.  I don’t want to be a model citizen a well l adjusted member of our culture.  I want to live a life that reflects the hands and feet of Christ.  I want us to leave here today, fighting against the norm and being transformed by the grace and love of God.

Verse 1 opens with an urging by Paul to the Church in Rome to live their lives in service to God.  The word “urge” is also translated as appeal, beg, or plea in different translations.  It is a verb in the present tense that is calling for an action, an action that is ongoing, never ending.  Such action is that Christians are to present themselves as a living sacrifice.  “To present” is translated earlier in chapter 6:13 as, referring to the technical term for presenting the Levitical victims and offering; where the offerer placed the offering so as to face the Most Holy Place, bringing it before the Lord.[2]  We are to sacrifice our flesh, our own wants and desires in obedience to the Lord, this is true worship, it is sacrificial worship.

In practice, what does this really mean?  Recently I’ve been hearing of different people challenging one another to live on $10.00/day or to give up driving for a few days to get out of their comfort zones and sacrifice a little.  But is this really living sacrificially?  True sacrifice is not give up your car or your comforts for a few days; it’s not giving up soda and coffee for a week or so.  Living sacrificially is giving up those things that our hearts beat for, what our culture says we must/should have.  It is an ongoing depriving of things our flesh screams for, all for God’s glory.

Jesus lived a sacrificial life; he gave of himself daily to be about the Father’s business.  He didn’t worry about provisions, he trusted in the Father.  He didn’t busy himself with what other’s thought of him, he showed God’s love to all regardless of who they were, where they lived, or what they did for a living.  Mark 12:30-31 calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  How do we do this?  We give up of ourselves to serve others in Jesus’ name, regardless of who they are.  My husband and I have been called to plant churches among the desperately poor in Latin America.  As we minister in the favelas (slums) of Southern Brazil, we have to regularly remind ourselves of how Jesus’ ministered to the lowly.  He did not regard their position in society and ministered accordingly, he treated everyone with the same love and compassion regardless of how they smelled how they were dressed or what they did for a living.  So when we are walking through the shanties we make a point to not just speak to the people in these communities, we stop by their places, we share meals with them and touch them to show them the love of Christ.  You see, being poor is much more than lacking material possessions.  Being poor is a much deeper deficiency.  It’s not belonging, it’s having no self esteem, it is being an outcast of society and culture.  In a collection of interviews called Voices of the Poor done by the World Bank (an organization that seeks to alleviate poverty), one of the many interviewed stated that “For a poor person everything is terrible – illness, humiliation, shame.  We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us.  We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.”[3]  So as we are trying to reach these dear people we want them to feel Christ’s love by acknowledging them and making them feel wanted, needed and included.

                [1] John Piper, “Christian Identity and Christian Destiny,” sermon preached April 17, 1994, Desiring God, http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/christian-identity-and-christian-destiny (accessed February 17, 2011).

                [2] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (Bellingham: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2002), Libronix Digital Library System (accessed March 28, 2011).

                [3] As quoted in Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting The Poor…And Ourselves, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), 52.

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About Bárbara

I am a Christ follower, wife, mother, missionary, and Online Instructor for LU Online teaching Introduction to Missions. My family and I serve at Living Bread Ministries; planting churches among the desperately poor in South America. I have an MA in Intercultural Studies from LBTS. My passion is to see the Lord Jesus worshiped among the poor and needy and to see lives transformed by the power of the Gospel.
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