The Westminster Confession asks this question: “What is the chief end of man?” with the response “To glorify God and to enjoy God forever.” But, how does a believer go about glorifying God, is my being a living sacrifice part of that glorification? How would you answer that question?
Recently I received a missional letter which asked me to recall the time in my life when I decided to follow Jesus as Savior, no matter what it would take. It also asked me to remember that this step meant a life filled with purpose yet perhaps filled with persecution. The present day question is this: Am I ready to pursue this step?
Now to take this a step further and look beyond myself, I need to place myself (sort of a virtual reality) in some of the situations I am reading about across the world where just by believing and living out that verse. Am I ready to face the risk of losing my life when today or even tomorrow is not guaranteed? What would that look like? How would I live my life knowing that?
To recap, Paul has spent 11 chapters defining who we are: sinners in need of God’s saving grace. Once we recognize that we must then reckon ourselves dead to sin and begin to walk in newness of life. Thus we are to become new creatures in Christ, and become instruments of righteousness and we accomplish this when we come to grips with who we were and who we are now to be. Now Paul begins “therefore…” When we see “therefore” we want to stop and ask what is it there for. It is there to remind us of what Paul has spent 11 chapters explaining and now to turn the fly leaf and move onward. So Paul begins by giving us the premise of what we are now to be: living sacrifices.
The OT spends a fair amount of time explaining the sacrificial system and how after killing the animal it is consumed on the altar thus making atonement for one’s sins. Paul uses this analogy but says we are to offer ourselves willingly and sacrificially on the altar as not dead sacrifices but alive. He adds that it is our reasonable service. Why? Christ died on the cross for us and this is how we offer ourselves back to Him in thankfulness. But, note that it is not a command but a gesture; Paul says “present” just as one offers a gift to a loved one just because they love them. Note the three characteristics: alive, holy, pleasing to God. The effect of the burnt offering was to atone. Here the idea is that as a living sacrifice we are to be consumed by the love of God, totally transformed from what we were to what He would have us to become. Thus Paul says Do NOT conformed to this present world but Do BE transformed; altered and renewed in life and spirit.
Note that this living sacrifice is personal not corporate. The effect should be holiness. Be ye holy as I am holy saith the Lord. My problem exists when I decide to crawl off the altar back into conformity of the world. Lest we do not know what this looks like, Paul gives an extensive list after vs 2. Today as I minister to those around the world through GMO (Global Media Outreach) I find that many come with an interest in the gospel but even my answers to their questions fall flat. They are not willing to take the step I took long ago. So does this mean they are not being transformed, am I being transformed? Do others see or read that Christ is living in me? Is my life so transparent that even the unbeliever sees something different in me? I think there may be a glimmer of hope here. I recently received yet another “epistle” from the atheist I am working with over email. Here is what he said: “All I can say is that you are truly filled with a magnificant spirit. How that came about I have no idea. But I know you should cherish it as it supports you wonderfully.” That blew my socks off. Guess God is at work…this is truly His project, not mine. All He asks of me is to allow the Illuminating Holy Spirit to transform me from the inside out. How about you?