by Scarlett Stough
The Temple animal sacrifices during the Levitical priesthood were to remind Israel sin has a price. The yearly sacrifice of the lambs for Passover was to remind Israel that God's deliverance from slavery had a cost. All the animal sacrifices were to teach that God would provide a substitute to pay the debt no mere human could pay; a penalty so severe only a sacrifice without the blemish of sin would be sufficient.
The prophets foretold of the Messiah who would be that substitute (Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 53:12). Jesus who referred to himself as “the Son of Man” declared himself to be that substitute:
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The apostle Paul urged us all “to offer your [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God….” (Romans 12:1). How do we do that?
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
What does that transformation look like?
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
The remainder of Paul's exhortation reminds us to serve one another with whatever resources and talents or skills he has provided. We see “living sacrifices” all around us among those who serve apart from faith in God. We see the exhausting work of caretakers, nurses, doctors, firefighters, police officers, and anonymous citizens who simply help wherever they have opportunity and means. They are overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21). How much more should those of us who say we follow Christ do the same?