"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" (Romans 12:1)
Worship is a lifestyle. Worship that is pleasing to the Lord encompasses our whole being, thoughts and attitudes. Paul urges us to present our bodies to the Lord as living sacrifices devoted and consecrated to him as this is our reasonable service and an act of spiritual worship. This offering before the Lord is in view of his mercy toward us. Understanding the abundance of His grace and mercy will change our hearts. This is why Paul spent the last eleven chapters of Romans going over in detail this abundant grace through Christ so that we will understand God's mercy in spite of everything we have done. The greater our understanding of this truth, the more our lives will reflect this worship lifestyle with God as its center.
In Luke 7, Jesus visited the house of a Pharisee who had invited him to dinner. While he was there a certain woman came to him with an expensive bottle of perfume. She stood over Jesus weeping and anointing his feet with oil. The Pharisee was indignant and offended at this because she was a notorious sinner and an outcast in that society. He said to himself that if Jesus was really a prophet he would know what type of woman she was. Jesus, reading his thoughts asked him a question, "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" ( Luke 7:41 ). The Pharisee answered Jesus by telling him that the one that had the larger debt would love him more because he had been forgiven more. Jesus confirmed that he evaluated his question correctly.
The woman had come to Jesus aware of her status and her sin and had fallen at his feet worshipping him. She made no pretense that she was good enough for him, but she took what she had and offered it to him as a gift just the same. Jesus then went on to describe to this man that he had neglected even the common curiosities one would offer a house guest. He did not give him water to wash his feet, he did not offer him a kiss at arrival and he did not anoint his head with ordinary oil as was their custom. Jesus called him on the fact that he made no moves toward welcoming him into his home. However this woman offered him everything and held nothing back because of the grace given her. Jesus told her that her sins were forgiven and that her faith had saved her. He then dismissed her to go and live the rest of her life in peace knowing these things ( Luke 7:36-50 ).
The obvious application is although both were sinners; only one recognized it and fell at the mercy of God. The woman was the one who came away from Jesus fully justified. She received grace because she looked to Him to save her. She found incredible mercy in Jesus and in return she loved him greatly. Her actions and worship of Jesus showed this change in heart.
Understanding the depths of God's mercy brings about the desire to serve him. When we know how much we are loved and how we have been forgiven, then this longing is an outgrowth of that knowledge. Paul encourages us in view of His mercy to offer our entire being in service to him. He exhorts us to be wholly devoted and consecrated to God and to live our lives in a way that pleases the Lord. If we are to live this way, the question then becomes what is a living sacrifice?
Fortunately, we have a perfect example of a living sacrifice in Christ. Jesus told the Jews, "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me" ( John 6:38 ). Jesus' express purpose was to do the will of the Father. To carry to completion the work that God sent him to do. "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" ( John 6:38-40 ).
This is an amazing example of a living sacrifice. Jesus was obedient to the Father to the point of death. He knew God's will for his life and lived his life with that sole purpose in mind. Jesus told the disciples shortly before his crucifixion, "the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me" ( John 14:31 ). He was preparing them for his death, but in the same manner teaching us an important truth, that his purpose was God's purpose. He showed his obedience to God's will even thought it meant dying for the sins of the world and taking on himself the judgment and wrath for these things. He knew the agony he was facing and said, "if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" ( Matthew 26:39 ). He submitted to the will of God even facing this horrible death and was obedient to the purpose in which God sent him. This is a perfect example of a living sacrifice.
In the same way we become living sacrifices when we understand and know the will of God and walk in that will for our lives. Many think we cannot know the will of God, however the scripture teaches differently. God's intent, desire and will for us have been fully expressed in the scriptures. We can know and understand these things by renewing our minds to them and letting these truths dictate our thoughts and attitudes. Paul gave this key in the very next verse of Romans 12, "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 12:2 ). The way to test and approve God's will for our lives is to renew our minds to the truth of God's word. Understanding these principals will change our hearts to the direction of God. We will be willing and ready to do whatever he desires because his will becomes our will.
This lifestyle of worship comes from knowing God and understanding his grace and mercy toward us. In view of these things we should offer ourselves completely to God to be used by him. Not because we have to but because of who he is and what he has done on our behalf. We have been redeemed and set apart and his mercy has changed everything! Today I encourage you to find God's will for your life and to live it to the fullest, being a living sacrifice willing and ready to go as he directs, amen.