(Romans 12:1) 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Most of the readers to the website are in some way familiar with Romans 12:1. I have personally heard many explanations of this passage from servants of God, and have myself taught concerning its truth many times. Therefore I will abstain from another explanation of what it means for us to be a “living sacrifice” to God. One of the most difficult elements in teaching the word of God is how the eternal truths are to be assimilated into the life of the follower of Christ. In view of this, I have recently been reading a wonderful little book written by Andrew Murray entitled “The Blood of the Cross”, which I believe gives a practical and faith-based pattern to present ourselves to God as living sacrifices.
In the following paragraphs I will quote directly from Murray’s book, from Chapter 3 entitled “The altar is Sanctified by Blood”. Murray’s conception is that the cross of Christ, which was eternally sanctified by His shed blood, is the altar on which we are to present our selves as “living sacrifices”. With that truth in view let us begin. I hope you will be as blessed and challenged as I have been.
Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree. Our bodies are the sacrifices which have to be presented to God, on the altar (the cross). The body has many members and it is a wonderful union of several powers. Each of these separately and all together, must be laid on the altar.
The body has a head–we speak of the head with brains as the seat of understanding. The head with all its thoughts must be laid on the altar. I must consecrate my understanding entirely to the service of God, placing it entirely under His control and direction to be used by Him: I must “bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ”.
The head has its members also, the eyes, the mouth and the ears. By the eyes, I come into touch with the visible world and its desires; the eyes must be turned away from vanity and to be wholly His, to see or not to see, according to His will. By the ear, I must enter into fellowship with fellow-men. The ear must be consecrated to the Lord, and is not to listen to conversation that pleases the flesh, but is attentive to the voices which the Lord sends to me. My mouth and tongue and lips must be consecrated so that I will not speak anything except what is in accordance with God’s will and to His glory. The eyes, the ears, the mouth, the head, and all belonging to it must be laid on the altar and purified and sanctified by the cross.
I must renounce every right to manage them. I must acknowledge my sinfulness and want of strength to control and sanctify them. I must believe He who purchased them will accept them and guard them in the fellowship of the cross and His entire surrender of Himself. In that faith, I must offer them to God upon the altar (the cross). The blood has sanctified the altar (the cross) and made it the “Holy of Holies”: all that touches the altar (the cross) becomes holy. The act of touching is a living, spiritual, real and in faith an ever enduring thing. The reconciliation of the cross has opened up the way for the fellowship of the cross. The blood has sanctified the cross as my altar.
The body also has hands and feet. The hands represent the power to work. My handiwork, my business, my service, my possessions must all be placed upon the altar to be sanctified, cleansed from sin and consecrated to God. My feet represent my ways and my walk, the paths I choose, the companionship I cultivate, the places which I visit. The feet sanctified by the altar, cannot go their own way any longer. They have been presented to God to be in all things under His leading and at His service. And they must be “beautiful” to carry the Good News and to bring help to the sorrowful and the lost. With hands and feet bound the body must be laid upon the altar, not having the least freedom to stir, till He enables the souls to cry out “I am thy servant: Thou has loosened the bonds” (Psalm 116:16).
Our Savior hung on the cross, nailed to it by His hands and feet. In wonderful spiritual union with them, our hands and feet were crucified with Him. The natural use of them is condemned and abides only under that sentence. In the sanctifying power of the cross of the living Christ, they are free and holy and fit to work for God.
The body has a heart, the center of the life, where blood, in which the life dwells, flows in and out. In the heart is the meeting place of all desires and endeavors of men, of all they choose, of love and hatred. The heart of Jesus was pierced on the cross. Everything that flows in and out of the heart (Proverbs 4:23), must be on the altar. I must renounce the right to seek or will anything after my own wish, to love after my own desire. In the case of Jesus the cross meant :”My will is of no account: the will of God is everything”; “The will of God, cost what it may, must be done, even if it costs me my life.” In the smallest as well as in the greatest things God’s will must be done. In nothing must my will be done–in everything God’s will.
That is the purpose behind the cross which Jesus sanctified as an altar for us. The will is the kingly power of the heart. It is governed by our love or hatred, and by it, in turn, the whole man is governed. When the will is on the altar, that is, on the cross, the fellowship of the cross will soon extend its power over the whole man. My will, sinful and blind; my will, condemned and freely surrendered to death; my will put to death on the cross; my will in fellowship with Jesus living again, raised to life again, and made free; my will now entirely submitted to His leading and authority. This is the way in which the believing heart comes to understand what it means to be on the cross as on an altar. And the believer experiences that the two seemingly opposite conditions are united in a glorious union: His will bound to the cross and yet free; His will dead on the cross and yet alive. And so the truth now becomes glorious even for Him, “I am crucified with Christ”–“Christ liveth in me”–“I live by faith”.
Heart and head, hands and feet together form once body. They are now united in a wonderful structure of flesh in which the soul has its lodging. It was created at first to be the servant of the soul, to be kept in subjection to the guidance of the spirit; sin subverted this order. The sensual body became the seducer or tempter of the soul and has dragged off the spirit into servitude. The only way for restoration of the order which God ordained, is for the body to be placed upon the altar (the cross), the body by the Holy Spirit to be nailed to the cross. The body with its eating and drinking, with its sleeping and working, with its wonderful system of nerves by which the soul comes into contact with the world–the body must go to the altar. The power of the cross of Christ which, by the Holy Spirit, becomes at once and continuously active, must have authority over the entire body. The body with its soul and spirit dwelling in it, must become a living sacrifice to God. Thus that word of deep significance obtains its fulfillment: “the body for the Lord; and the Lord for the body” (I Corinthians 6:13).
Let us seek to be “living sacrifices”, wholly acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service.