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June 12, 2007 / David Lindner

Living Sacrifice

A Couple of years ago, I worked at a little store in the Pearl District in downtown Portland. This place was called Sheepskin of Oregon. I know, you never knew that such a place existed, but it does. It’s a little store that sells sheepskin seat covers for cars and other sheepskin products. The owner of this store John Lee, came from South Korea. We were talking one day about America. He described to me that he lives in a Cul-de-sac in which all the families except his and one other had been divorced, some of them several times. The other non-divorced family also came from out of the country. He went on to say, “Americans don’t know anything about sacrifice.” At first, I was kind of offended as his remark. Then I thought about it as he kept talking. “In South Korea, when you get married, you get married for life. If you have problems you work through them, everybody has problems. But, you sacrifice for the other and for the marriage.” Yes John, you’re right, many of us Americans don’t know anything about sacrifice.
An all familiar passage on the topic of Worship is Romans 12:1; “1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” But what does it mean to be a living sacrifice?
Worship in the Old Testament was achieved through the sacrificing of various kinds of animals. Probably the most profound instance of this is in Genesis 22. Abraham has been given a son in his old age through whom God’s promise to ‘make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars’ would be fulfilled. Then God tested Abraham, Take your son, your only son whom you love so much to the Region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you. When he arrived at the mountain, he said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Later, after Isaac’s curiosity got to him, he asked his father, we have the stuff to make the sacrifice with, but where is the lamb? God Provided the lamb.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ provided the ultimate sacrifice, permanently opening the doors for a relationship for all who would receive him. The veil was torn, and now, all may enter into the Holy of holies. The sacrifice of the Old Covenant was fulfilled and now we have the New Covenant.
Then we get to Paul’s statement, about being a living sacrifice, which is our spiritual act of worship. What does this look like, how does it unfold? “It is the practical application of doctrinal truths that is the life of preaching. (Matthew Henry)” It is our responsibility to God, our stewardship of the knowledge we have been given, the application of the truth we have learned. This chapter unfolds into three sections, Our responsibility to God, to ourselves and to our fellow man.[1]
To God: Being a living sacrifice, doing everything we do, thinking everything we think to the Glory of God. Loving God with ALL our heart, soul, mind, body and strength.
To Ourselves: Do not conform, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind; Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought; Use your gifts to the glory of God.
To Our Fellow Man: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (Not out of obligation); Honor one another above yourself; Share with those in need; Practice hospitality (not simply having people over for dinner, hospitality to the hopeless); Love one another as you love yourself.
This is worship! This is what it’s all about. Doing these things with a gracious attitude, in the spirit of Christ and not a spirit of obligation is Worship. As I said in the last issue, Worship is an attitude, we chose our attitude.
Worship that costs us nothing isn’t really worship at all. David Livingstone said this: “People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life–these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.”
We Americans have so much! In fact, we have so much more than we need that we are quickly becoming the laziest and most over-weight nation in the world. And above what we need, we have so many other peripherals and wants that the thought of “sacrifice” usually goes no further than “giving up” a weekend out or “giving up” Starbucks for a week. When it comes down to it, do we really know what sacrifice is? We would consider David Livingstone to have made a huge sacrifice, but he didn’t think so. Have we spent too long conforming to the ways of this world and not long enough conforming to the image of Christ? Can we resound with Paul’s statement “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”? On Sundays, the week days and every day of our lives are we truly being living sacrifices, acceptable to God?
[1] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible.

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