Romans 12:1 - I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your rational [or intelligent] service.
Read Exodus 3:15-18; 8:25-28; 10:8-11 and 10:24-26.
We sing and talk a lot about Christian service. At many retreats and rededications we have presented ourselves as "living sacrifices" to the Lord. But very often the living sacrifices crawl off the altar before the offerings can take place. God strongly urges us in Romans 12:1 to present our bodies to Him as a means of rational or intelligent service. There can be no real service for Christ until we are willing to present ourselves as a sacrifice. We must be holy. We must be acceptable. Otherwise all our so-called Christian service is just a lot of singing and talking. Satan knows Romans 12:1 as well as any Christian! He knows that if he can keep a Christian life from being "holy and acceptable" then there is not much value to the sacrifice. Satan knows that the advance of the Kingdom of God in this world is not by song and talk, but by "living sacrifice." In the great story of the Exodus we learn that God wanted His people to leave Egypt and travel three days into the wilderness to serve Him by offering sacrifices (Exodus 3:15-18). But the enemy, Pharoah, did everything in his power to keep the people of God in Egypt--far from the appointed place of sacrifice and service. God has given us this account in His Word to show us how the arch-enemy of the Christian operates to keep us from presenting ourselves as "living sacrifices." Pharoah tried four different tactics to keep the people from leaving Egypt and sacrificing to the Lord their God. Satan uses the same four tactics today to dissuade Christians from their offer of themselves as "living sacrifices" to the Lord. In Exodus 8:25 Pharoah says, "Go sacrifice to your God in the land." The devil approves of sacrifice as long as it is "in the land of Egypt." Egypt represents the world. This is where the enemy is king. Satan is king even in the "religious world." He encourages "religion." He applauds the works and actions of individuals seeking self-glory under the guise of religious service. Satan knows that every man has a vacuum in his soul which can only be filled with the living God. If Satan can fill a soul's void with the religious activity of the world, he is still king of that life. True Christianity is not religion, but a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And the Lord's command is that we leave the land and go "three days' journey" to sacrifice (verse 27). The three days certainly suggests the journey of our Lord through death and resurrection. That's what "living sacrifice" is all about. Have we travelled with the Lord through His death and resurrection? Are we committed to Him to the point where we have "died to self" and have "risen with Him" (See Colossians 3:13.) Or are we content to pretend and play at Christian service "in the land of Egypt"? In Exodus 8:28 the second tactic of Pharoah is employed. "I will let you go that you may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away." If Satan cannot keep us in the land, he will try and keep us close to it. Here all the deceptions of the enemy are readily available to suck us back in and destroy our testimony. A borderline Christian is not a "living sacrifice"! A student who fellowships and prays with Christians one night, but parties with the world the next is not a "holy and acceptable sacrifice." Even unbelievers know that this is not rational or intelligent Christian service. They smile at the hypocrite who says Jesus is number one and then does not do what Jesus commands. Jesus calls us to go "three days'journey into the wilderness" to sacrifice. Yes, it is easier to live near the pleasures and treasures of Egypt than to live as a sacrifice in the wilderness. (See Hebrews 11:24, 27.) The third tactic that Pharoah used in his attempt to get the people of God to compromise is found in Exodus 10:11. "Go now ye that are men." That is, the men can go sacrifice but leave the family behind. Pharoah knew that if he held onto the wife and kids, dad wouldn't be able to serve the Lord very efficiently for long. If Satan cannot get us personally to stay in his territory, his strategy is to get us tied in by our closest relationships. How successful the devil has been with this tactic! Many guys and girls have blown it in this area. They purpose in their hearts to present their bodies a living sacrifice to God and then end up presenting them to someone else. The lesson is obvious. 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers." Presenting your body to anyone other than God's choice is unholy and unacceptable. The Lord already has a Christian partner picked out for you. A living sacrifice is willing to wait. Exodus 10:24 gives us Pharoah's final attempt to keep God's people from total commitment. "Go, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be detained." How subtle! Leave your livelihood in Egypt. Satan knows that if our careers and other interests and "things" are left in his realm, he still has some control. We may think that we are strong and separated Christians, but if one of our deepest motives is to get ahead in this world on its terms, then our flocks and herds are still in Egypt. There is only one answer! "Not an hoof shall be left behind" (verse 26). Leaving Egypt completely, in total commitment as a living sacrifice, raises some nitty-gritty questions that we must ask ourselves. Am I planning my career to get me ahead in this life, or have I presented it as part of my "living sacrifice" to the Lord? Are my guitar and room (or home) and car used to serve the Lord, or are they "hoofs" still holding me to Egypt? Until the "flocks and herds" leave Egypt, there can be no sacrifice (verse 26). Until then, Christian service is only song and talk! Worship, relationships, career, interests and all must make the three days' journey. Everything about us must bear the stamp of our new resurrected life in Christ. This kind of Christian service is holy and acceptable to God. This is "living sacrifice."