By Rand Kreycik
“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.” (Romans 12:1 – ESV)
Someone once said that the trouble with living sacrifices is that they keep climbing down off the altar. As I’ve been thinking about what it really means to die daily – to be a living sacrifice – the strangeness of this appeal strikes me. How in the world does a person die again and again (except maybe in some cheesy horror sci-fi flick)? Doesn’t “dead” mean “dead”?
When I press my mind past this odd picture, though, I understand that it is dying to myself that the apostle Paul means, and as I contemplate this, his teaching becomes crystal clear and uncomfortable.
We as men are called to die daily – for our wives, our kids, our family, friends, and neighbors … but if you are like me (and trust me, you are!), you catch yourself crawling off the altar all the time. Sometimes multiple times a day!
We don’t like to die. It hurts! It pains our pride, our comfort, our fleshly sense of security. It means giving up and giving in: things we men hate to do!
Our Lord Jesus made it clear, though, how vital it is for us to die. In John chapter 12, we read:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25 – ESV)
Wow, this is stark language, and there is no escaping the fact that the Son of God, who was on his way to die for us on a Roman cross when he spoke these words, was also calling his disciples to the same commitment. If we say we are Christ followers, we also have to die. Daily. Sometimes every moment.
To what? To sin, to selfishness, to pride, to comfort, to security, to … and the list goes on. Anything and everything that draws us away from our Lord and renders us fruitless. Whatever we set up as an idol competing with our allegiance to our King.
This is never easy, but neither was our Lord’s path to the cross. The good news, though, is that our Jesus, who sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane as he anticipated his separation from His Father and his agonizing crucifixion, also looked forward to the victory over sin and death that he would accomplish. Because he conquered our enemies (sin, death, the devil), we may now look “…to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 – ESV)
Yes, even as we die daily, by the power of his Holy Spirit, we too can look forward in joy to the time when sin, death, sorrow, pain, failure, disappointment, and all the other maladies that dog us in our flesh, will be blown away by the glory of his presence.
It is in that hope that I can go home today and serve my wife and tell her how much I love and appreciate her sacrifice for me. It is in that hope that I can live before and love my children as the strong and wise father they long for. It is in that hope that I can say “no” to all the things that are going to burn and “yes” to all the grace-filled things that I will take with me at that final death – when the perishable is swallowed up in imperishable. When dying will be no more.