Los Alamos Church of Christ

Let the Word Dwell

#18 Romans 12:1

A Living Sacrifice


On a family vacation quite a few years ago, we were visiting some friends in Nevada.  We were on our way to spend the day at Lake Tahoe.  As we wound our way up through the mountains that surrounded the lake, we saw a sign that said, "Scenic Overlook One Mile."  When you are on vacation you are supposed to stop and look at "Scenic Overlooks." Vacations may be the only time I ever stop to see scenic overlooks.  That may be sad.


As we pulled up and got out of the car, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the Lake Tahoe.  This huge crystal blue lake was surrounded by snowcapped mountains.  We were impressed with God's creation.  You would have to be legally blind not to have gone, "Wow!"


Imagine one day as you are driving on vacation you come to a sign that says, "Mercy Overlook One Mile".  Imagine you pull onto the access road and parked.  Before you, instead of Lake Tahoe, you see God's Mercy displayed before you.

--You see justification… the gavel booms… you are not guilty.

--You see reconciliation…You are no longer in out in the cold but in the warm embrace of the family of God. 

--You see a tomb.  In that tomb are your sins.  When you were baptized you left those sins in the tomb.

--You see… No condemnation… you live free of fear. No shame… You live in the mercy as adopted sons.

--There is the distance is the new creation… As you see the remodeled earth you know the Then outweighs all of the Now.  We will walk in the cool of the evening.  Or we will drive our 57 Chevys in the cool of the evening with the top down.

--Just barely we can see our… restoration.  In the distance from the Overlook of Mercy we see ourselves as God sees us.  Through the connection of our hearts to the heart of God, we know that “all things” will synergize together to restore us to be like God’s firstborn Son. 


As we stand on the Overlook of Mercy you would have to be legally blind not to say… “Wow!”  


#18 Romans 12:1 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.


By all the mercies of God we are moved to worship.  We cannot help but worship.  If any of the Mercy Overlook vision seeps into our hearts, even just a bit, we will worship.  It is how we are designed.  We must worship.


Let’s get our memory work out of the way, so we can do the theology of Romans 12:1.


Let’s think about worship.  Let’s think some more about the motivation for worship.


God could have motivated us to worship Him in other ways:

--God could have taken his all-powerful hand and bowed us down by force to worship him.  “You will worship me because I AM powerful.”  Certainly, we are commanded to worship.  But forced worship seems… insincere.

--God could have made us androids.  We could be programed for worship.  God could take the controller and press a few buttons and we would worship.  But programmed worship seems… ineffectual.

 --God could punish us every time we did not worship him.  We could get the measles each time we miss church.  Fearful worship seems… lame.

--Worship could be designed to influence God.  Like the pagans, whose sacrifices are to obtain the gods’ favor.  But incentivized worship seems… manipulative.

--God could have entertained us in worship.  “Come to the big show.  It will be a hoot.  You will really enjoy!”  But entertaining worship seems…artificial.


Instead, instead God appeals to us for worship by showing us his mercies.  God chose to show us his wondrous mercy in order that we would worship. 


"When I survey that wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,

my richest gain, I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. 




#18 Romans 12:1 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.


The picture is from the Old Testament.  God commanded the priests in the Temple to bring animals, of different kinds, for different reasons, to present them on an altar as worship.  Paul borrows his picture from his own experience.  Paul would have seen 1,000 of lambs killed on the altar every Passover.  There was so much blood there was troughs to channel the blood away from the altar.  It was a common sight all over the Roman Empire to offer animal sacrifices. 


Paul takes this familiar scene of bloody sacrifices, and changes the picture.  We are the priests presenting sacrifices on the altar.  We have already memorized…


#3 Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female for we are all one in Christ Jesus. 


Biblically, everyone who has been justified by faith is a priest.  There is no such thing as priest and laity under the new covenant.  We all are priests.  We all have the job of offering sacrifices.  This is a foundational concept.  Each of you, who have been justified, reconciled, who left your sins in the tomb by baptism, are a priest of God.  We are all priests in Christ Jesus. 


As priests we present our bodies on the altar in worship.  What?  Don't miss the significance of the word body.  Some translations use “yourselves” instead of body.  But the Greek is body, the flesh, this thing which will be raised imperishable; this which will be changed.  Because we are overlooking his mercies, we as priests present our own bodies in sacrifice. 


I think Paul uses the word body to combat the same problem we have today.  In Paul’s time, as well as today, people tended to compartmentalize.  People are SBNR… spiritual but not religious; which means they want to connect with their spirit but not their lifestyles.  By using the word body, Paul advocates throwing the whole thing on the altar.  No compartmentalization.  No work, family, play, church… segregation.  Rather, we, as priests place it all on the altar… the good, the bad, the ugly of your life is placed on the altar.  Because of God’s mercies we as priest should place our entire existence on the altar.  Every nook and cranny of your life is laid in worship.  “What’s a nook and cranny?” 


Forbid it Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ, my Lord;

All the vain things that charm me most I sacrifice them to His blood.





#18 Romans 12:1 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.


In the Old Testament the lambs which were sacrificed were to be without blemish.  Lame or blind or any physical defects were not allowed on these lambs.  These perfect lambs were set aside.  The word holy means “set aside for God”.  You can see some shepherd, in the old days, sorting out the new born lambs… this one has spots…not holy; this one is crippled; this one has a discolored eye… no.  Then he sees the one perfect little white lamb.  This one is perfect.  The shepherd then sets it aside for a sacrifice.  It is holy.  It will be acceptable.  The shepherd places in a separate pen; feeds it more; takes special care of this holy lamb.  The shepherd wants his lamb to be acceptable to God.


As we place our entire life on the altar; every nook and cranny, then – you won’t belief this - God declares us holy and acceptable!  As God looks down on the sacrifice of our body, He declares it holy.  He accepts all of us as acceptable worship. Our body is perfect.  We are holy.  We are acceptable!  Wow.  Not only will be one day be fully restored, but even now, our lives lived on the altar, every nook and cranny, is holy!  Our sacrifice is accepted.  I told you, you wouldn’t believe it. 


See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down;

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?




#18 Romans 12:1 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.


I have a problem with the word, worship.  When I say worship, we typically think about our time together on Sunday morning.  Time for worship is Sunday at 10:30 AM.  It lasts, hopefully, for just one hour. We think of this as worship. But the concept presented in Romans 12:1 is a much bigger concept. 


Our time together on Sundays is crucial.  It is worship in a very special way.  We need community.  We need connection.  We need the protection of the Spirit that comes from our time together.  We need that touch of our brothers and sisters.  We need to worship together… like a bon fire.  When we join our hearts together in praise of God there is a synergy of worship that is powerful before God.  Our together time is important. 


But I don’t think that is all Paul had in mind here.  Listen to the list of things Paul calls worship in the rest of Romans 12…


ESV Romans 12:2-21

--Do not be conformed to this world.

--Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

--Don’t think of himself more highly than he ought to think.

--Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.

--Love one another with brotherly affection.

--Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 

--Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 

--Live in harmony with one another.

--Associate with the lowly.

--Repay no one evil for evil,

--Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


A better definition of worship is, "Encounters on the altar."  Anytime we are moved by the mercies of God to do good; to say the right words; to touch another’s life with love; to turn the other cheek; to let revenge flow on by; to help the desperate; give comfort to the suffering; or to raise our voices in song-expressing joy with our hearts connected to God; that is holy and acceptable worship of God!  It is not confined to an hour or to a building or with a group of people.  Worship is our life, the entirety of it; every nook and cranny… encountered on the altar.


Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.




There is a problem with a living sacrifice.  It tends to crawl off the altar.  A dead sacrifice lies on the altar.  It’s done.  But God doesn’t want dead service.  God is not interested in a lifeless commitment. God wants us to be living sacrifices.  God wants a sacrifice which connects with Him in every encounter.  God is pleased when we choose to stay on the altar.  God declares it worship when we allow his mercies into every nook and cranny. 


#18 Romans 12:1 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.



Tim Stidham

May 10, 2015

Los Alamos Church of Christ