As we said yesterday, this week we are looking at our work through the big picture lens of Jesus redemption and restoration. Yesterday we saw the paradox of taking on Jesus’ yoke and burden and finding rest as a result. Today we see another paradox in this new life that Christ calls us to.
1 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.
The beginning of chapter 12 here is the key transition point in the book of Romans. In the first 11 chapters, Paul masterfully outlines the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone and the electing work of God. Here in chapter 12 he begins to give the applications of that robust theology. The first thing he tells them to do is to offer their bodies as a “living sacrifice”. Here is another paradox on par with the burden and yoke of Christ giving us rest for our souls. A sacrifice is obviously not usually living. The image Paul is imagining here is of a burnt offering, the offering of a pure and spotless lamb being brought to the temple for sacrifice. The lamb was to be the best of the herd and offered to God as a sign of devotion to him, dependence on his provision and honor and homage directed towards him. It is a way of saying, “Everything I have is yours, God.”
This Paul says is to be done “in view of God’s mercy”. This is likely a look back at his whole theology of salvation that he has outlined in the previous 11 chapters. God saved us through Jesus and chose us in Christ. It is because of these mercies of God that we give ourselves as a living sacrifice to God. So this is not a blind leap of faith or a one sided sacrifice. God in his mercy gave everything to save us; so we give everything to him.
This living sacrifice image would convey the idea of constantly giving yourself for a higher purpose. Your thoughts, actions, emotions, everything is now fully devoted to God. The best of you is given as an offering to God.
This is what it looks like to worship God—as Paul says, “…this is your true and proper worship.” I thought of including this in the first series on worship in this campaign, but elected to include it here to further drive home the connection of our work and worship. This “offering of our bodies in worship” is an all-encompassing, total giving of everything that we are and do to God. This includes our thinking, our love for another, our moral life, our societal obligations, etc. The rest of the book teases out what it means to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God.
So this is to be our passion and motivation behind our work. Our work falls into this whole life of sacrifice to God. Our work is to be devoted fully to God. That means that the mission of our work is Christ’s mission—the redemption of creation. Our work is not for selfish pursuits and purposes but for God’s kingdom and the flourishing of all humanity as God defines it.
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ff to 4:30 for additional content
For additional content today I’ve included a portion of a conversation that I had with Michael and Kathleen cook from church. Michael and Kathleen are retired but, even in this phase of life when it can be so easy to mail it in and live more selfishly have continued to live their life as a living sacrifice to God.
For reflection time today I’d invite you to pray this prayer with me. This is a prayer from Brother Lawrence that i try to pray every day before beginning my work:
‘My God, since You are with me and since, by Your will, I must occupy myself with external things, please grant me the grace to remain with You, in Your presence. Work with me, so that my work might be the very best. Receive as an offering of love both my work and all my affections.’