Have you ever heard or read something so many times that you think you understand it just because of the number of times you have heard or read it, only to figure out that you never really have understood it until something clicked and then suddenly you did really understand it? Could I make that sentence a little longer? Like, fur sure.
I was reading Romans 12 as part of the through the Bible in a year thing. Romans 12:1 is a classic verse. “I beseech you therefore, bretheren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” It’s a classic. Almost every time I’ve heard it taught on, something along the lines of continually offering yourself to God as a sacrifice is taught. And that is a correct Biblical teaching. At the same time, it is a contradiction.
A sacrifice is something that has been killed. To be a living sacrifice just doesn’t make sense. But I’ve always just let it go as some deep, mystical, spiritual truth we won’t fully get until we are with the Lord. But, as I was reading it this time, I remembered something I heard a Bible teacher say once. He said that if you ever come across a passage that puzzles you, stick Jesus right in the middle of it and it will make sense. It might take some time, thought, and prayer, but it will make sense. So I did it. And it worked!
Jesus is a living sacrifice. He was sacrificed as an offering for our sin. That’s the whole point of Jesus comeng in the first place. But He didn’t stay dead, obviously. He was resurrected. He was transformed. In Romans 6 Paul makes a big deal about how if anyone is in Christ, he too has died with Him, been buried with Him, and risen with Him. He uses baptism as the illustration for this. This is a major thrust of Paul’s teaching. Galatians 2:20 echoes this, how we have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live but Christ lives in us.
So, just as we have died, been buried, and risen with Christ, we are also living sacrifices just as Jesus is. That is the only way we can be “holy, acceptable to God”, through and in Jesus Christ. This might be a no brainer to some, but it’s the first time I have ever heard it. It’s the first time I think I really get this passage. And it makes perfect sense in the context. Paul going on to talk about be transformed, literally metamorphosis. Death and resurrection is a metamorphosis.
For me, being a living sacrifice no longer depends on my efforts to be holy and acceptable to God. I can’t do that on my own. No one can. I can only do that in Jesus. I just have to rely on the Spirit to do that. I just have to die to myself. And therein lies the challenge.
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