Question: Where do you think all of the things I have been talking about during these Lenten meditations–God’s teachable moments, His inexorable call for repentance and redemption, our attempts to change course in some or all aspects of our lives, and knowing which of the many things we could address to address–are played out?
While you are considering that, let me say that the what is not at issue; it is everywhere. God is not shy about His demands, about what we should do. That resonates from every page of Scripture. The difficulty is not in the what, but in the where and how. I remember early in my Christian life crying out to God, “How am I supposed to do this? Where is the answer?”
Eventually I found Romans and the one scriptural passage that has the definitive answer to the where and how of actually doing something about our lives for God. The following is from the Amplified Bible, which helps flesh out the full flavor of the Greek.
I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. Romans 12:1-2
That is where everything starts; the place the how and where are laid out. Paul details a three step process, which comprises a whole that is much more than the sum of its parts. This is the only place in Scripture I know of that lays out the where and how in straightforward and unambiguous terms. Today we will look at the first step.
Step One: Offer yourself as a living sacrifice.
In our modern Christian emphasis on the “born again” experience, we need to note that this is not a singular, one and done, decision. While it may begin that way, Paul makes it clear that this is an ongoing, continuous dedication, a constant effort for as long as you are alive. To place it in the context of what I have learned over the last few days requires us to understand the immediacy of the demand. It is not a sometimes, when I get around to it, or when something happens to get my attention kind of demand. It is a living sacrifice, a raw, moment to moment, continuous rendering of who we are (members and facilities) to God. It is the ultimate demand, from which, once understood, there is no place to hide.
Interestingly, Paul says this is both reasonable and our true spiritual worship. It is not unfair, or too demanding, or only for the special people, but it is a reasonable demand that God makes on all of us, from the greatest to the least in the Kingdom of God. There are no alternate paths, ways around, fallback solutions. We are all called to follow our elder brother, His Son, and say, “Not my will, but your will be done” and lay our bodies, hearts, and minds on the altar of sacrifice, to pick up our crosses and journey with Him through whatever lies ahead. We may fall; he fell; but he got up, so we will too and continue our journey.
The Apostle James told his readers (James 1:27) “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Religion is the outworking in the world of our true spiritual worship. Pure worship has a giving heart that remain undefiled. It’s where one’s left hand does not know what one’s right hand is doing; it doesn’t do things to be seen, but because it is the right, reasonable, and godly thing to do. It gives everything, but not to get back. It lives out Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44b-46.
…so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
So, it all begins with our reciprocal response. Christ sacrificed himself for us while we where still rebellious, unrepentant sinners. He gave his all. Now we in response do the same. We give God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our all, in every moment of every day that remains to us. That is our call, our reasonable and spiritual worship, which will be reflected in the living out of true sacrificial agape religion in the world.
Grace and peace to your day. I pray that you are able, with me, to take step one today. To, as a popular advertisement says, just do it, to lay your life, heart, mind, body, soul, desires, hopes, expectations, possessions, talents, successes, and failures, everything that you are and hope to be, on the altar of sacrifice to your God and Savior, remembering what David said about this One to whom we offer our all:
…a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:17b
Amen. Amen. Amen.