Life in Christ, while a gift, is not free of standards and expectations. As God’s children, He expects us to live for Him, not ourselves. As His dwelling place, we are told in Romans 12:1 to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” It is the how of living “out from among them (the world) and separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
This is where I stepped on the trail of blood months ago, wondering what the Old Testament had to teach us about sacrifice now, in New Testament times. Not what to sacrifice, but how. Not rules and regulations, but attitudes of a redeemed, transformed heart.
Rather than shedding blood, we shed flesh.
Here are four key truths from the trail. As then, our sacrifices today should be:
“Let him offer a male without blemish” (Leviticus 1:3), meaning “compete, whole, entire, wholesome, innocent, unimpaired, having integrity” (Strong’s H8549 tamiym). It’s talking about perfection! The law couldn’t achieve it (Hebrews 7:19), and neither can we on our own (Galatians 3:3), but Christ, through the single offering of Himself, “perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). Thus, as a living sacrifice, we must come before the Lord with a pure heart, “free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt; genuine, blameless, innocent, unstained with the guilt of anything” (Strong’s G2513, Matthew 5:8, katharos). For me, this means continually laying the motives and attitudes of my heart before the Lord, remaining vulnerable to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, holding up the Bible as my standard, confessing my sins, and seeking His forgiveness.
“He shall offer it of his own voluntary will” (Leviticus 1:3). As God’s chosen people, He asked the Israelites and He asks us to bring Him our sacrifice of our own free will, even when it’s difficult. Even when we don’t feel like it or can’t see what good it will accomplish. As fire consumed Old Testament sacrifices, the same is true for us, "for everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt” (Mark 9:49). Our faith will be tested by fire (I Peter 1:7), as will our works (I Corinthians 3:13). Therefore, may we “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2). He is our example. May the sacrifices we make on the altar of our lives be “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
“And he shall put his hand upon head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” (Leviticus 1:4). When any man brought an offering to the Lord, he himself had to lay his hand upon its head, kill it (verse five), skin it, and cut it into its pieces (verse six). In the same way, each one of us must do the hard things required to live in submission to our heavenly Father. No one else can do that for us. No one can be our living sacrifice but us.
Let us be in our offerings as the Israelites were in the building of the tabernacle, when the artisans doing the work report to Moses: “’The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded us to do.’ So Moses gave a commandment and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, ‘Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.’ And the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done – indeed too much” (Exodus 36:6-7). Their free will offerings exceeded what was needed for the tabernacle. We cannot out give God! Whatever He desires, when we respond in obedience, no matter the cost, no matter how impossible it appears to us, He will always supply all we need and then some. Imagine if God’s entire church, as defined by those who belong to Him rather than the four walls of the buildings in which we worship, gave as the Israelites gave and it was simply too much.
Our sacrifices today will be inconvenient. Uncomfortable. It’s not the suffering that pleases God; it’s the obedience. "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22). And just as Jesus learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8), so will we.
That is why it’s still called sacrifice.
“And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25), cooperating with His work in us, becoming more obedient, our heart attitudes and resulting actions more pleasing to Him. A living sacrifice.
Lord, help us to serve You in “the newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6), being transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove what is that is Your good and acceptable and perfect will (Romans 12:2), a sweet aroma as we become more wholly Yours today.