By Ricky Chelette
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
I am often asked what is the key to recovery from any kind of sexual struggle, but particularly that of same sex attraction. The answer is loaded with nuance and complexity on some levels, but at its heart, it is likely more simple than we think.
In over thirty years of ministry I have come to believe the real secret to faithfully following Jesus is a matter of Lordship. Do we really believe that God is who He says He is and has done what He says He has done? Do we really believe that He is a sovereign Lord, Creator of the heavens and earth and all that is in it? Do we really trust He is good and just and loving?
Paul appeals to us, not by law or rules, but by the “mercies of God.” Paul painfully recognizes the sinfulness of man throughout all of Romans (see 3:23), and knows that the just penalty of our rebellion against God is truly deserving of death (6:23a). However, though we deserve death, God, in His magnanimous mercy and love, has given us life and life abundantly (Jn. 10:10). Paul calls upon this realization to encourage Christians to then entrust their lives and earthly bodies to the One who could have easily destroyed them, but chose to redeem them instead! Oh what a merciful God we serve.
In response to the mercies we have received, Paul says that we should “present our bodies as a living sacrifice.” Sacrifice was immediately understood by almost everyone in the first century as it was a common practice in the worship of various gods. Sacrifices were the way that man appeased the gods and objects of veneration. But Paul was not speaking of such sacrifice. He knew that Christ had died once and for all for the forgiveness of sin (Heb. 10:10-14; 1 Peter3:18).
So why does Paul mention sacrifice? The sacrifice Paul is speaking of is not the blood sacrifice that was so common in the first century; Jesus has clearly paid that price for us. What Paul is speaking of is a “living sacrifice” – one which is concerned with how we actually live our lives.
In a day when many advocate an almost Gnostic separation of body and soul, Paul reminds us that we are human beings inhabiting a fleshly body that must be submitted (sacrificed and offered) to the control of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit. Such surrender is Paul’s definition of spiritual worship!
Though we often consider worship that which takes place when we sing praises to God (and it is one part of true worship), Paul reminds us that our everyday, walkabout living, can be worship if we are doing it in a way that is fully submitted to God.
Practically speaking this means despite the desire our flesh may have for satisfaction, connection, and pleasure that is outside the design of our Creator, we must sacrifice those desires to the Lordship of God’s will for us. When we are a living sacrifice we are worshipping God with our whole self. When we worship in this way, we find the fullness of joy and true pleasure at His right hand forevermore (Ps. 16:11). When God is sovereign in our lives, we are obedient to Him. Sin has no place. We are free indeed!
How are you at presenting your mind, soul, and body to the Lord? Does He truly have full reign in your life? Have you truly worshipped Him this week?