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A Living Sacrifice

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

In the book of Galatians, Paul proclaims I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). By saying he is crucified with Christ the apostle is declaring that he is dead to sin, Satan and self along with any and all other obstacles that may stand between him and a right relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In our Scripture text, Paul is encouraging believers to follow his example in that he calls upon them to present [their] bodies as a living sacrifice. The bottom line in both of these verses is the need to be fully submissive to Christ, which means we have given Him our full consecration and dedication. In this message, we are going to discover further encouragement to live a completely surrendered life to Christ as we examine the Scripture’s evidence, the Savior’s expression, and the supreme example.

First of all, as far as the Scripture’s evidence is concerned, the Word of God gives testimony to numerous people who have given God their all, but we want to examine three of these individuals. In the days of the prophet Elijah, the king and queen of Israel (Ahab and Jezebel) are wicked, evil individuals who constantly defy God. As a result of this, the prophet pronounces a famine on the land that lasts three-and-a-half years. In the beginning of the famine Elijah abides by a brook where he has water to drink, and the Lord provides food for him in that the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening (1 Kings 17:6). There comes a time in which the brook dries up; therefore, the Lord says unto him get thee up to Zarephath…and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee (1 Kings 17:9). Upon entering Zarephath Elijah encounters this woman and says to her bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand (1 Kings 17:11). The woman informs him that all she has is a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse (1 Kings 17:12) and that she is going to make her and her son a little cake that we may eat it, and die (1 Kings 17:12). Elijah informs the woman that if she will make him a cake first, as long as the famine remains in the land there would be an endless supply of meal in the barrel and oil in the cruse. The woman believes Elijah, makes him the cake and witnesses the mighty power of God in that the meal and oil never give out. Here is a woman who gives her all and thereby receives God’s divine blessings.

Another example of an individual giving their all is found in the Gospel of St. Mark. Jesus and his disciples are in the Temple observing individuals as they bring their offerings into the Temple treasury. There are those who bring great sums of money, but there is also a widow woman who cast two mites (which is less than a penny) into the treasury. When Jesus says to his disciples this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury (Mark 12:43), they must have been surprised. But the Master explains His statement with the words all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living (Mark 12:44). Here is a woman who has given to God all the money she possesses, and she does so willingly, gladly and without reservation.

Finally, we find an example of someone giving their all in the Gospel of St. John as a lad gives to Jesus five barley loaves, and two small fishes (John 6:9) in order that a multitude of five thousand might be fed. While this meager amount of food might be enough to feed one hungry boy, Jesus takes it, blesses it, and multiplies it to feed the entire multitude. There is a powerful song that simply says “little is much when God is in it,” and the examples of the widow in Elijah’s day, the woman who casts her two mites in the treasury, and the lad who gives Jesus his lunch demonstrate the truth of these words. We might not have much to offer God in that our talents may be few, our finances may be limited and our time may be restricted; but if we are simply willing to give Him our all, He will take it, bless it and use it for His glory.

When it comes to being fully committed to God, we not only see the Scripture's evidence; but we likewise hear the Savior’s expression. On a certain occasion Jesus says to His disciples if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24). With this statement Christ the Lord is calling His followers to a radical commitment to both Him and the furtherance of His Kingdom. When Christ requires His disciples to deny themselves, He is calling upon them to sacrifice. There are many who are willing to follow Christ in the good times, but there are precious few who will continue with Him when things get rough. But the fact of the matter is we sacrifice for other causes. For example, parents and grandparents often sacrifice for their children and grandchildren, for they want them to have better advantages and opportunities than they themselves had. People sacrifice for their jobs, because that is the source of their livelihood; they likewise sacrifice for their pleasure, for most people believe life is to be lived to the fullest; and beyond this they are willing to sacrifice for the hope of receiving some financial gain in the future, for everyone can always use more money. If we can sacrifice for selfish, worldly reasons, why is it so difficult to sacrifice for the Kingdom of God?

Jesus also calls upon His disciples to take up [their] cross, and this represents suffering. In New Testament times the nation of Israel is under Roman domination, and the means whereby Rome executed their most dangerous, incorrigible criminals was by hanging them upon a cross until they died. This form of punishment is both cruel and barbaric, but it acted as a deterrent to all who witnessed those hanging there in that their crime was displayed above their head for all to see.

The call to suffer for the cause of Christ may seem extreme; but His faithful followers must be willing to give Him all they have, even life itself. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are willing to go into the fiery furnace instead of bowing before a false god, Daniel is willing to go into a den of hungry lions as opposed to ceasing to pray unto the God of Heaven and Stephen is willing to be stoned to death for the cause of Christ instead of denying Him before the angry mob. There is certainly no pleasure in suffering, but the Word of God tells us our reward in Heaven will far outweigh any hardship we are called upon to endure in this present life (see Romans 8:18).

The call to suffer for the cause of Christ may seem extreme; but His faithful followers must be willing to give Him all they have, even life itself.

Furthermore, Jesus says His disciples are to follow Him, and this is the call to surrender. Those who truly and faithfully follow Christ must do so at all times and under all circumstances. Jesus instructs us to count the cost of discipleship to determine whether or not we are willing to pay the cost. He says a man building a tower will make sure he’s got enough money to complete the task lest others mock him with the words this man began to build and was not able to finish (Luke 14:30). Our Master further declares that a king going into battle will examine his troops to see if his soldiers are up to the task of defeating the enemy. In the exact same way our Lord says of His followers so likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33).

When it comes to our fully surrendering to the cause of Christ, beyond the Scripture’s evidence and the Savior’s expression we discover the supreme example, which is Jesus’ death on the Cross of Calvary. If there was ever an individual to inhabit this Earth who gave God the Father His all, it was His only begotten Son. Before His arrest, trial and crucifixion Christ the Lord prays in the Garden of Gethsemane until his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44). It is during this prayer that Jesus beseeches the Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me (Matthew 26:39), but immediately following this statement He prays nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt (Matthew 26:39). Christ’s death on the Cross is vicarious in that it is in behalf of others, it is vicious in that He suffers as no man has ever suffered before or after and it is victorious in that Satan is defeated, salvation is made possible and sins are washed away in Calvary’s crimson flood.

...nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt...

The apostle Peter says Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps (1 Peter 2:21), which means the same faithfulness and dedication Christ gives to God the Father is expected out of His followers. The Old Testament speaks of those who are at ease in Zion (see Amos 6:1), possess a divided heart (see Hosea 10:2), and have turned their backs on the Lord (see Zephaniah 1:6). Likewise, the New Testament speaks of the love of many waxing cold (see Matthew 24:12), those who begin to follow Christ but eventually fall away (see John 6:66) and those who have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray (2 Peter 2:15). All of this reflects half-hearted service from those who have made a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as well as failure to follow his steps. Jesus says it is only those who are faithful unto death [who will receive] a crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

In conclusion, in our Scripture text, Paul instructs us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice…unto God, and he follows this with the words which is your reasonable service. This means it is the very least we can do for He who has died in our stead, paid the price for our many transgressions, and made a way whereby we might enter Heaven’s portals when our time on Earth is over. Through the Scripture’s evidence, the Savior’s expression, and the supreme example we have discovered the need to be fully surrendered, committed, and dedicated to God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, for this is what He desires, expects, and looks for from His children.

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