At one point in Jesus’ earthly ministry, he was asked about the greatest commandment. His answer went like this:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Love God and love people. These commands are simply stated but less easily pursued. Especially when it comes to our love for God, we are not to love God just on Sundays or just during quiet times. No, we are called to love God with all that we are.
Looking now at Romans 12:1, we see Paul using different imagery to convey the same point. He says:
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.
Like Jesus, Paul doesn’t leave anything out of our devotion to God. We don’t just sacrifice time or money. We sacrifice our very selves. And, Paul says, this is the only fitting response to God’s wonderful mercy.
So, what does it actually mean to love God with everything and to offer ourselves as sacrifices? Paul’s answer comes in the next verse:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
To love God rightly – to sacrifice all that we are on the altar – is a two-step process. First, we turn away from the world, which has shaped us in its image. Second, we turn to God, who reshapes us by renewing our minds. A beautiful insight here is to see that we’re not left to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps when we love God and sacrifice ourselves to him. If that were the case, we’d fall short of the goal of being “holy and pleasing to God”! In his grace, God takes our sin-riddled selves and works a process of transformation. This is his work in our lives – not ours. We are left to agree with his movement. When we do, we become people who are holy and pleasing to God.
Praise God for taking less-than-pleasing offerings and making them worthy in his sight!