If you grew up going to church you have, no doubt, seen animated pictures of animal sacrifices upon God’s altar. Whether it was a bull, a lamb, or even a turtledove, in the Old Testament God required blood to be shed on his altar as an atonement for the sins of his people. These sacrifices were substitutionary—the animal was slain in the place of the sinner.
What a graphic picture of what our sins deserve before a holy God.
As the pages turn to the New Testament, John the Baptist gives a big clue as to the fulfillment of the entire sacrificial system, when he pointed to Jesus and declared: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). When the God-man died on the cross, it was far more than a sincere martyr being in the wrong place at the wrong time. God was punishing Jesus on the cross as a substitute for sinners. Wonderfully, God raised Jesus from the dead three days later.
The final blood sacrifice was Jesus. There is no need for any more blood to be shed. Believing sinners don’t just have their sins covered, but they are paid for in full.
A trick question is sometimes asked. Are there sacrifices left in the New Testament after Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross? Notwithstanding the Jewish sacrifices still offered in Judaism before the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, there are still important Christian sacrifices to be offered, but not the bloody kind.
“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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1-2).
All Christians are called by God to become sacrifices. We are not killed, though. We are urged to become living sacrifices. The basis for our sacrifice is the sacrifice of Jesus for us. The “therefore” in Romans 12:1 gathers up all of the gospel truth of the first eleven chapters of Romans, and offers it as a foundation for the exhortation.
Of course, if you were to be literally slain, your life would be over. There would be no more craving up your calendar with “me-time.” There would be no more distracting pop-up ads of life pulling you every direction. You would be completely devoted to God. Everything about your mind, will, and emotions would be laser-focused on the worship of God. You would be dead to you.
A living sacrifice cannot be so focused, but that is the image Paul is putting before us. Because of the work of Christ, we are to live so completely for Jesus it is as if we had been sacrificed to God. Paul says that this is spiritual worship. Your life devoted to Christ is like a worship service. You are showing the world what a great and worthy God you have by living so completely for him.
The world is going to pull out all of its tricks to try to squeeze you into its mold. Living devoted to Jesus does not fit the acceptable pattern of a world system opposed to God. Don’t go there, Paul says. You have a different master. He has given everything to you, and he calls you to respond in faith. When you do, he urges you to work out the logic—give everything to him. Devote your mind to him. Devote your affections to him. Devote your decisions to him.
God reveals himself to us through his Word. The Bible reveals God’s character and God’s will for your life. Instead of searching for God’s will in your fickle feelings, just obey all that he has revealed in his commandments and wise words. Searching out the Scriptures and thinking about their meaning and application to the daily choices of life will transform your thought patterns.
The Word of God will root out worldly ways of thinking that have hijacked your heart. As you conform your mindset to the Bible you will see God’s ways of living for what they are: good, acceptable, and perfect.
Your devoted life is like a race-car gassed up and ready to roar. The will of God is the racetrack before you. The Bible reveals that road map to you and even acts like a GPS to keep you on course. The world will keep trying to switch your directions and cause you to detour. Your flesh will tempt you to ease up on the gas and become distracted with selfish things. The devil will try to flatten your tires.
Return to Jesus. Remember the foundation of your devotion; you have been bought with a very high price, the blood of Jesus. Because that is the case, no level of devotion to Jesus is too high. He is worth every bit of your life. Become a living sacrifice to the Lord Jesus Christ.
By John Crotts