I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Jesus gave us the ultimate example of sacrifice. The Bible says that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In other words, when we were still against God, before we had ever made a decision to follow Him, He gave His life for us. This is an amazing example of friendship and love. Paul also points out that we, as humans, might choose to die for a righteous person but never for a wicked person (Romans 5:7). Think about it, who would you put your life on the line for? Who would you be willing to die for? Your kids? Spouse? Your brothers, sisters, parents, or friends? For these people we might be willing to die, but what about the person who bullied you in high school? Or the boss who just fired you? Let's take it a step further and consider whether you would put your life on the line for the serial killer on death row. Would you be willing to take his place? What about Osama Bin Laden when he was still alive? If you had a chance, would you have taken his place while helping him to safety from the blast that killed him? Most of us would not have. However, Christ died for each one of these people and He also died for us while we were still His enemy! This is why Paul states that it is only reasonable for us to present our own lives as a sacrifice to Him in return. This is not even above and beyond, it's the least we can do in response to what He did for us. He gave His whole life for us and all we can offer in return is our own life.
So what does it mean to present our bodies as living sacrifices?
A lot of times we discuss this verse when we reference putting down our carnal nature. We think that Paul is referring to cutting off our sinful desires (i.e., lust, greed, dishonesty, gossip, etc.) when he talks about presenting our bodies as a sacrifice, but that is not what Paul is referring to. Our sinful desires and our carnal natures were crucified with Christ when He went to the cross. Christ’s blood has already washed us and freed us from these things. Obviously, we should be stopping our sinful actions and striving towards holiness, as we already discussed in the previous section. Paul also shows us in Galatians 4:9 how foolish it is to continue sinning after being set free,
“But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”
Why would you want to stay bound to those sinful desires after Christ paid the price for you to be set free? When it comes down to it, giving up sin is not even a true sacrifice. Why would we call it a sacrifice to give up our bondage and accept the freedom that has been offered us? But even if you did consider it a sacrifice to give up our sinful desires, this could never be the sacrifice that Paul is referring to here. Paul is referring to a sacrifice that is "holy, acceptable to God", but sin can never be considered holy.
So if Paul is not talking about us sacrificing our carnal nature then what is he referring to? Again, Paul states that the sacrifice should be “holy, acceptable to God” and a quick look in Leviticus makes it clear what the parameters were for an ‘acceptable’ sacrifice. There were many types of sacrifices in Old Testament times but one thing that was always common to the sacrifices is that they were to be without blemish, perfect in every way (Lev. 1:3; 22:19). Understanding that, we can understand why our sinful nature would never be a sacrifice that would be acceptable to God. In fact, in Leviticus, God commands that the unacceptable parts of the sacrifice should be separated and burned outside of the camp; the rest was presented to God.Applying that same principle in our own lives, we should be putting off the sinful nature and allowing it to be consumed by God’s holy fire. Then we should present the rest of us as a sacrifice to Him. We should be presenting everything that is good about us to Him. Every talent, skill, personality trait, anything that people may compliment us on, should be what we present to Him as our holy sacrifice. We should be putting these things on the Lord’s altar and saying “use them as You will.”
Often we think that we need to lay our problems and our weaknesses at His feet, but really what we should be presenting to His throne is our strengths. God has asked for our best parts, our areas of strength and our talents. He’s the one who gave us those things so it is only fitting that they should be used for His glory and He will lead us into how to use those things most effectively. Since He is our creator He knows the best way to utilize our strengths and talents. Not only that, he takes it a step further by strengthening us where we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). He has the best plan for our lives.
Therefore, present your whole self, made righteous through Christ’s sacrifice, to God. This is a sacrifice that God will see as holy and acceptable, and this is your reasonable service in response to the sacrifice He made for you.