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“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

In his letter to the Romans, Paul had written pages about God’s mercy toward mankind. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:23). God provides a free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23). Those who believe in their heart and confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9). And this free gift is offered to both the Jews and the Gentiles (Romans 11:17).

This all leads to a single and significant “Therefore.” In view of all the ways God has been merciful, there is only one logical and right response: “… offer your bodies as a living sacrifice … .”

In the Old Testament, animals were sacrificed for various kinds of offerings. Their lives were given for the sake of petitions, worship, or as amends for sin. Paul’s use of the word “sacrifice” is not the same as animal sacrifice. We are not to kill our bodies in response to God’s mercies. Rather, we are to surrender our whole selves—mind, body, and soul—to the God who saved us from the consequences of sin. We are “living” sacrifices because we are alive in Christ.

But though we are living, something dies with a sacrifice. That something is ourselves. We die to ourselves when we surrender to God and His will. Your life is not your own; “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20).”

This is what Jesus meant when he said we must pick up a cross to follow Him (Luke 9:23). When we become living sacrifices, we let go of the desires of the flesh, our worldly passions, and our need for fame and glory. Surrendering to the Lord means giving in to whatever He calls you to, wherever He takes you—even to the ends of the Earth.

But this isn’t a one and done situation. It is a lifestyle; it is daily choosing to be at God’s disposal for however He wants to include you in His plans.

This is your true and proper worship—how you honor and thank God for all He has done for you. He rescued you from the depths of your sin. Now, He calls you to be a light to others, showing and telling them how God can rescue them as well.

There is no greater calling than to be an ambassador for a King who sacrificed Himself for you and for the world. This may mean that life takes you on detours you never expected, to places you never thought you would go, to people you never thought you would meet. But it is literally the least you can do to give your all to a God who gave all of Himself to you.