I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, 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 appeal to you by the mercies of God. Paul is asking us to do something on the basis of God’s mercy shown to us. Mercy has to do with God’s lovingkindness, His compassion and sympathy for us. In light of God not giving us what we deserve, we are to do the same with others. John Piper writes about this phrase, “Treating others mercifully is the best way to make others see that God has treated you with mercy.”
Because God showing us His favor that we don’t deserve, we should live a life of mercy. Romans 12 goes on to tell us what living a life of mercy looks like: do cheerful acts of mercy…love genuinely…love with brotherly affection…show honor…show hospitality…be fervent in spirit as you serve the Lord…bless those who persecute you…weep with those who weep…associate with the lowly…feed your enemy…overcome evil with good.
To present your bodies as a living sacrifice. We don’t have a sacrificial system in our culture, but the Jews did. They were used to the idea of bringing animals to the priest to be sacrificed as an offering for their sin or for their thankfulness even. But now Paul is urging us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, in view of God’s mercy to us.
What does that mean? Earlier we looked at John 12:24 about being like a grain of wheat that falls to the ground to die to produce fruit. Along with dying to ourselves as a lifestyle, what we do with our bodies matter because they belong to God. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 we find that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, bought with the precious blood of Jesus. We are not our own, and we were bought with a price. Romans 6:13 admonishes us to “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”
So it means living a sacrificial life, willing to do what God asks us to do, even if it is at our own expense. That is counter-cultural and counter self-preservation. We don’t go out of our way to do things that hurt, that take more from us than what we get back, and that costs us something.
Holy and acceptable to God. To be holy means to live a life of obedience in every area of your life, not just some areas. And acceptable–it would be doing what God asks you to do, not what you conjure up. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, as Hebrews 11:4 tells us. By faith we do what God asks us to do and enables us to do.
Which is your spiritual worship. When we live a life of mercy because of God’s great mercy for us, put ourselves on His altar to use us as He pleases, offer our body for holiness and not just pursuing our fleshly desires, we are worshiping God with our lives. It is more powerful than our words could ever be. And it is definitely better than any song we can sing.
“The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” Martin Luther. May God lay hold of you today!