Romansby David Cook
The biggest challenge a believer faces in his thinking is to keep on recognising that God’s mercy is not a result of human achievement. It is so natural, given the conditional nature of human love and acceptance, to think that God’s love and acceptance is also conditional. We need to keep correcting our thinking to see that we are not working to achieve and maintain God’s mercy but, rather, to respond constantly to His mercy.
Mercy is always a pre-condition. It is never a human achievement. Mercy is the environment from which Paul’s urging springs (v. 1).
Paul comes to his third great “therefore” in Romans (see 5:1; 8:1; and now 12:1). In view of God’s merciful dealings with us, there is an “appropriate” or “reasonable” response, that is, to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice”. Just as the old covenant believer would bring an animal sacrifice in order to maintain a right relationship with God, we are to come as living sacrifices as a reasonable response to the unconditional relationship we have with God, which He has mercifully established.
All the Old Testament sacrifices anticipate the final, central sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. His death makes the Old Testament sacrificial system redundant. It is superseded by Christ’s once-and-for all sacrifice on the cross, just as an old currency is superseded by the introduction of a new currency system. However, His death makes the other New Testament sacrifice—the sacrifice of yourself—totally reasonable. And Paul says that this reasonable response is both holy and pleasing to God.
There are things that God takes no pleasure in, like sin and the death of the wicked, and there are things that God takes pleasure in. When Eric Liddell, winner of the men’s 400-metre race at the 1924 Summer Olympics, was asked why he kept running, he responded, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.”
You can know God’s pleasure today as you live fittingly by offering your body to Him as a living sacrifice. In 2 Corinthians 5:15, Paul wrote, “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Recognising Christ’s purpose for dying and living consistently with it is eminently reasonable. Hymn writer Isaac Watts puts it this way: Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.
And missionary C. T. Studd states a similar thought: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
Think about how Paul passionately urges, but note that his appeal is to our reason.
Why do you think God is pleased with you as a living sacrifice?
Are you living reasonably in line with Romans 12:1–2, or foolishly in line with the world’s dictates?