In Romans 12: 1 Paul says because of God’s mercy we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Our bodies house our spirit and soul and the soul uses the body to communicate with other souls through their bodies. It is temporary and someday will return to the dust from which it was created.
But our bodies are something else; the temple of God. [see 1 Cor 3: 16-17; 1 Cor 6: 12-20] In 2 Cor 5: 1-10 Paul refers to our bodies as an earthly tent. Since Paul’s occupation was a tent-maker he would be quite familiar with using it as an analogy. A tent is temporary housing and is perishable, but it is designed for people on the move. Armies, hikers, campers, mountain climbers, all carry these temporary houses as they go. So, from Paul’s own words, our body is both a temple- a structure of holiness, a place of worship- and a tent, a home for those constantly on the move. Wherever we go and whatever we do, Paul says to honor God with our bodies [1 Cor 6: 20]
Paul says to offer our bodies, our temporary houses, as living sacrifices. What comes to mind when you hear the word sacrifice? Maybe an image from the Old Testament killing an animal and burning it on an altar, or Abraham and Isaac? Something usually gets killed during a sacrifice, [see Ex 20: 24-25] but how would this honor God? The key to understanding sacrifice is not in the animal, or grain or oil, it is
• Holiness requires that sin must not be ignored. Guilt must be dealt with. Someone must pay. Sacrifices were God’s way of teaching this spiritual truth to His people.
• However, the innocent can substitute for the guilty, thank God. He allows sin payment for someone else. These payments of animals or food, completely innocent themselves, pointed to the Ultimate Sacrifice of Christ The Innocent, for the sins of the world.
Sacrifices also involved offering something valuable as a token of gratitude to God, just as we today, give money to recognize that God is the source of everything we have. God really doesn’t need money, but He surely wants His children to have an attitude of thanksgiving and repentance. This is what David means in Ps 51: 16-17.
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
In Hosea 6: 6 God specifically said He no longer wanted sacrifices and burnt offerings, He wants mercy and acknowledgement of God. He wanted to see the practical results of a repentant lifestyle; He wanted to see His children do what was right and just and to turn away from sin. He did not want empty religious rituals as the Israelites were doing at the time and this is also true for us.
When we sin, the payment (atonement) has already been made by Christ. However, our spirit and soul must be “broken”, truly sorry for what we have done, and our bodies (which house the spirit and soul) should outwardly reflect that. Our bodies should also reflect that token of gratitude to God for all He has given us. It is really all we have to offer God, and truly is just a token when you consider the enormity of our God. There is an element of death involved in our living sacrifice and that is death to our agenda for ourselves. We take off our selfish desires, what we want, what we think, what we do, and “burn” them on the altar to God, so He can use our body as His temple to do what He wants.
Paul said to “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God”. In the Old Testament, God expected the best: the “fatted calf”, the “first fruits”. Likewise, if we are to offer our “every day, ordinary life” (The Message) to God, I think He expects it to be worthy of an offering. Being holy and pleasing to God is what makes our sacrifice worthy to be offered.
So what is being holy? The writer of Hebrews tell us to “make every effort… to be Holy” [He 12: 14-16]. Can we be more holy if we try harder? To be holy is to be Christ-like. He is the standard and His life on earth is how we measure our holiness. The Holy Spirit produces within Christians holy characteristics, the fruit of the Spirit. Gal 5: 22-23 tells us what those fruits are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (The Message).
These characteristics produced by the Holy Spirit are the way our bodies communicate or reflect the glory of God to others. We cannot produce holiness ourselves, but we are responsible for renouncing sin that would separate us from God and to maintain our focus on Christ through disciplines such as worship, prayer, witness, fellowship, and service.
Remember the “Wheel of Life” assessment from a couple of posts back and the dismal scores I gave myself in 2002? (See A DARK PERIOD AND SOME SEEDS). When I reviewed this list of Spiritual fruits, I got the same picture. I had no joy, no peace, little patience, I certainly was not gentle with others, and frankly, my whole life felt out of control. My notes concluded with the assessment that I had not been living a very holy life. Do you think it is a coincidence that the wheel of life scores were so low? Hardly! I had lost the focus of Christ in my life, and was wallowing in the circumstances of my job, my problems, my… my… whatever! And I believe Satan was pleased with his work and the diversions he threw before me.