“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” – Romans 12:1 NIV
God wants me to do what?
A living sacrifice.
Three words with the ability to strike terror into the hearts of even the most stalwart Christians. Or at least make them very nervous. A living sacrifice? You mean, like a poor, hapless goat or sheep from Old Testament times, trussed up on the altar as it awaited certain death?
Well, no…and yet, sort of.
That’s not to say God wants to kill us. While many have and will continue to die for their faith, this isn’t due to some bizarre death wish on God’s part. What people tend to forget is that evil such as this is perpetrated by Satan, never by God.
What God wants from us is not to tie us up and drive a knife through our hearts, but for us to willingly lay ourselves out on His holy altar (which also serves as an operating table) and submit to the Great Physician’s scalpel. He wants us to willingly surrender ourselves and our lives out of love for Him and a desire to serve.
Yet, so often we refuse. Oh, we may claim we have surrendered to God and His will for our lives. We may talk the Christianese Talk, boasting about how we’ve “Given our lives to Christ,” “Laid it all down to serve God,” and speak self-righteously about having become, “A living sacrifice.”
Yet, have we really?
I know I hadn’t. Standing there at church, seemingly joyfully singing my little heart out, I was mostly lip-syncing: I surrender all…I surrender all…
I hadn’t surrendered all. I hadn’t surrendered much, in fact.
But I loved the Lord and was grateful to Him for saving me, and for His continuous mercy, grace, and provision. Daily I pursued Him, spending time each morning in prayer and Bible reading, and attending women’s Bible studies as well as church on Wednesday nights for the studies in the Old Testament.
Not because I wanted to look like a good church girl, but because I truly wanted to know God better, and grow closer to Him. I had an honest desire to go deeper and become a better daughter and servant to my Father.
The problem with this was, I wanted it on my terms.
I was willing to give and bend, and I was willing to change… somewhat.
I was willing to give up my “rights.”
Some of them.
I laid down on the operating table and offer Jesus a sprained thumb.
“But I need to work on your heart, child.”
I offered Him a scraped knee.
“That’s fine, but I also need to work on your heart.”
Okay. Fine. I would offer Him my heart. The broken and bleeding parts that were angry and hurt.
But never all of it. And certainly not the part where the rotting, gangrenous flesh was.
Because that would mean facing the guilt tucked away in my soul.
I had faced some of it; things from my distant past, dutifully renouncing, repenting, and asking forgiveness. But not the current, ongoing guilt; the things that contributed to my problems and made the difficulties in my life worse.
I wish I could say that one fine day I woke up and had an aha! moment, and from that time on everything changed.
I can’t. But I can tell you what finally led me down the road to the change that God so earnestly desired of me, and desires of all of us.
Getting religion? you may wonder. Certainly not.
Losing my religion.
My husband and I had been in a couple of churches that walked a fine line bordering on cultism. The first church was legalistic and domineering, especially of women. The second was not, but was very controlling and demanding, desiring a sort of indentured servitude of their members rather than to love, teach, and equip them. Neither of the leaders of these churches were accountable to anyone.
But as God will do with bad experiences, He used them for good. Sick at heart and angry that we’d been duped not once, but twice, the only thing I wanted was God. No fluff, no man-made rules, no “frozen chosen” Christianity with the underlying message that we’re scum whom God barely tolerates.
I sought the Lord more than ever, doggedly pursuing Him, my hunger for more never satisfied. I’d been spiritually starving. I became what I now refer to as, “The static cling on the robes of Jesus.” I pestered Him relentlessly as the church search stretched on.
Through it all, I began to lay it down. My way…gone. My rights…I give them up to Your will. My wants, and even my needs…I lay them down at the cross and trust you, Jesus.
A good beginning. But He wanted me – all of me. I was visiting yet another new church when He made it abundantly clear. A traveling missionary was preaching that day – words that seemed to be directly from God to me.
The missionary spoke about Abraham, ready to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to God, and Mount Moriah as the place of sacrifice. Then as an aside, he quipped, “By the way, you can see Calvary from Mount Moriah.” I nearly jumped as a voice whispered inside my head, “Can you see Calvary from your Mount Moriah?”
Eyes like saucers, I listened as the speaker continued talking about how everyone wants God’s glory, but first, there is a procedure most loath to go through. The altar. Sacrifice. Fire.
“You want God’s glory? Then you must be changed. To be changed, you must be a willing sacrifice, cleansed by God’s holy fire. However,” he cautioned, “there is no glory without the fire. And there is no fire without a sacrifice…and no sacrifice without a trip to the altar, with you as the sacrifice.”
And finally, after all those years of kicking and bleating, I willingly put myself on that altar and surrendered all.
If you haven’t already done so, do it! Put yourself on that altar – all of you and your life, and receive the cleansing, changing fire of God, and be transformed from glory to glory.