Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. - Romans 12:1 HCSB

[1] In order to gain the joy of sacrificial living, we must first understand what type of sacrifice we ought to be giving. Asceticism - sacrificing something just for the sake of giving it up, or sacrificing something so others can see how holy we are - will not produce the joy which Paul speaks of in Philippians 2:17-18.

In the metaphor of a shepherd offering his sheep in sacrifice, we are not the shepherd. We are to be the sheep. We are not just the ones making the sacrifice. We are to BE the sacrifice.

Two scriptural examples of “living sacrifices” come to mind. The first is found in Genesis chapter 22 in the story of Isaac. Isaac was willing to lay himself on the altar and would have been willing to die as a sacrifice to the Lord. He was willing to be obedient to God’s will. Even though with the hindsight afforded us we know that God sent a ram to take his place, Isaac didn’t know that at the time. Isaac did die in the sense that he died to his own will. He yielded himself to the will of God. When Isaac stepped down from that altar he was a "living sacrifice".

The second and only perfect example of a "living sacrifice" is the Lord Jesus Christ. He died as a sacrifice to pay the penalty of our sins in obedience to His Father’s will. Three days later the Father granted Him the power to conquer death and He rose again. Today as Jesus reigns in heaven He reigns as a "living sacrifice."[2]

From these two examples, we see that in order to be "living sacrifices", we need to put to death the desire to do our own will and instead do the will of the Father. We must put to death the flesh nature, the “yetzer hara,” that dwells in each of us. If need be, we must be willing even to allow our bodies to die if that is what it takes to fulfill our duties as children of God.

This type of sacrificial living is our only hope. Adam’s spirit died the day he sinned[3] and he introduced that terrible propensity to the rest of us.[4] If we cling to our sinful “lives”, our spirits too will die; but if through the power of the Holy Spirit we turn from our old nature and its evil deeds, we will live.[5]

So let us put to death the deeds of the body, those deeds of our flesh nature[6]; let us cease doing those things that are contrary to the will of God that we may indeed become living sacrifices.

[1] Abraham and Isaac; by William Blake

[2] Hebrews 9:12 cp Philippians 2:7-9

[3] Genesis 2:17

[4] Romans 5:12

[5] Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35-36; Luke 9:24; 17:33; John 12:25; Romans 8:13

[6] Galatians 5:19-21