As Living Stones, we are a holy priesthood. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins and came to life again in defeat of sin, death and the devil, the old system of sacrifice to atone for sin was abolished. Blood sacrifices at the temple are no longer required, nor are they acceptable, by God. Instead, Christians now offer spiritual sacrifices out of love and gratitude for the One who gave everything for their benefit.
The spiritual sacrifices we make do not die (as with the old system) when we offer them. Quite the contrary, each living sacrifice we make can become “a sweet-smelling aroma, and acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18)
A living sacrifice first and foremost comes from the heart of a believer. You must take responsibility for your own sacrifice. No one can make a sacrifice for you. Most importantly, Jesus must be the number one priority in your life before an acceptable spiritual sacrifice can even be made. Once that life-changing decision takes place, continue in the journey toward holiness… toward being set apart.
So what does God look for in the sacrifices that we now each offer on an individual basis? Consider the following 5 elements when choosing to make your life a living sacrifice.
- Attitude. God calls everyone to be a living sacrifice in whatever they do in life, yet activity means nothing when offered in the wrong attitude. We must follow Abel’s example and avoid that of Cain’s. One sacrificed with the right attitude, and one did not. One’s sacrifice was accepted, and the other’s was not. (Genesis 4:3-7) (See The Aroma of your Heart for a related Bible study on making your attitude “the same as that of Christ Jesus.”)
- Love. Loving some people takes little to no effort. Yet, there are those who make loving them difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible. (If we’re honest, we’ve all been that person at least once ourselves.) When a person gives nothing in return, loving them becomes a struggle. As living sacrifices, we choose to give expecting nothing in return. After all, isn’t this what Christ did for each one of us?
- Balance. Holiness happens in partnership with the Holy Spirit. Every Christian does his or her part through the deliberate and intentional choice to live out God’s will by choosing to become a living sacrifice. We should not expect the Spirit to do all the work, but we must allow the “helper” to come along side of us, for that is why He was sent to us. (John 14:16, 17, 26)
- Discomfort. Convenience has become way too important to us. Sacrifice requires inconvenience and discomfort. We must orient our taste buds toward desiring long-term (eternal) benefit. Doing so allows for intimacy with God, which occurs when we make an acceptable sacrifice. Sweet-tasting convenience is the enemy for an acceptable sacrifice. We must become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Teachability. A living sacrifice comes from a person being willing to learn, grow and change at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. God always provides the appropriate measure of time, talent and treasure to do His will. We hold responsibility for offering ourselves to Him through what He enables and gives us to accomplish.
An acceptable sacrifice comes through a contrite heart. A sincere and broken heart comes when we spend time at the altar prior to offering our living sacrifices and let the Holy Spirit lead us through an attitude upgrade. When we submit ourselves in this way, we then can “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) Giving of ourselves completely certainly is “reasonable” when we consider what Jesus gave.
DISCUSSION: Submission begins by evaluating the status of the heart and asking tough questions. What good are you doing? What are you sharing? What sacrifices are you making for God? Are you too comfortable? Submission continues as we listen to the answers God gives us to these questions.