Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
First, Paul urges that we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. What does this mean? It means that we make a conscious decision to devote our entire lives to the Lord, holding nothing back, to give ourselves to Him without reservation. The Old Testament sacrifices were animals which were totally offered to God and usually were burned on the altar in fire. Their aroma was pleasing to Him, as their flesh was consumed by the fire. As living sacrifices, we remain alive… but given over, as though we were burning on His altar. Our life is not our own, but is devoted to His purpose and pleasure. This is a conscious decision, a choice which every believer is urged to make. The Lord is then free to shape our lives, our experiences, our discipline, according to His perfect will and purposes for the best possible result.
Paul expands on this decisive act of devotion, saying we must not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. So the act of devoting our life to Him involves a decisive renunciation of the ways of thinking and the values of this present world. (Much could be said about this.) And it also involves a process of renewing our thoughts and values according to the thoughts and values of our Lord. These, then, are the conditions which the apostle gives that we may be able to test and approve what is God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will for our lives.
It’s often said that “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” To me that has always sounded a bit “robotic”, as though I were a rat who needed to find His way through the maze of some “Cosmic Scientist”. But now I know that God’s “plan” for me is anything but mechanical. Rather, it involves the profound realities of my unique individuality; things that He has placed in me and no one else, such that He can beautifully express Himself through my life, my personality, my gifts, relationships, and unique position in the world. Indeed, it is a “wonderful plan”. But in order for Him to shape this destiny, He requires my unreserved consent, my offering… of MY BODY, a LIVING SACRIFICE.