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 NIV
Do you remember all the rules around animal sacrifice in Leviticus? At different times and for various reasons, Israel offered animals to the priests to serve as an offering. My personal favorite was one for the sins of the people, which used two goats. One goat was sacrificed; the other, the scapegoat, had the people’s sins transferred onto it and sent into the wilderness. No doubt, soon to be devoured by a predator. The practice of animal sacrifice ended after the destruction of the Second Temple around 70 CE. As Christians, we believe this requirement ended with Jesus’s offering of his unblemished life for us.
In Paul's letter to the Romans, he explains to both Jew and Gentile that we are called to be a "living sacrifice." Gone are the days when the gift of an animal upon the altar is required. Instead, through God's grace, a new covenant exists. But, while our sins are atoned, a sacrifice is still needed, not one requiring death but life.
How do we offer our bodies as this living sacrifice? First, in accepting our salvation by recognition of Jesus as our Lord. But, it doesn't stop there; secondly, we are to live lives that are "holy and pleasing." God requires us to be disciples of our Lord so that we may become that living sacrifice. Third, we are to wrap ourselves in righteousness. Acting in love towards our neighbors, demanding justice, and constantly seeking the face of God. Finally, we are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. This thing we have is too good to keep to ourselves; in our joy, we want to share Christ's love.
Gracious and loving God, thank you for the atonement of our sins through your Son Jesus Christ, the pure Lamb. We acknowledge we are not worthy of such a gift and that we receive it only by your grace. We confess we are often disobedient and fail to be the examples we should be. Forgive us again, merciful God, and help us to be the living sacrifices you desire. Amen.