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In Old Testament times, the Law defined the covenant people and determined their actions. It established their ethics, customs, and so on. The various rituals and dress code were an important part of the Israelites’ group identity. The way they lived set them apart from other cultures and the people around them.
But what Jesus did changed all that. On the cross, He said, “It is finished.” Righteousness and salvation are no longer based on the Law (works); they are now based on Jesus, being “in Christ,” accepting what Jesus did as the only way to have relationship with God.
In the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul wrote an orderly, logical development of this profound theological truth. In chapters 1-11, he outlined the great plan of salvation and all its benefits. Since the Law with its rituals, circumcision and dress code no longer identifies the covenant people, what does? What sets Christians apart as covenant people?
Romans 12:1 (NLT) says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Our appropriate response to all that the Lord has done for us is to offer ourselves to Him. This isn’t something that we do only when we first accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. This is something that we must do every day. This is what sets us apart from the world, what identifies us as Christians—the daily sacrifice of ourselves to the Lord, the submitting of our will and our ways to His will and His ways.
Jesus said, “By this all will now that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). The Christian community is to be marked by a love and a self-sacrifice that take concrete bodily expression.
Paul wasn’t advocating that we live in a monastery, nunnery, cave or deserted island. He wasn’t promoting poverty, self-abasement, or desertion of families as the way to present ourselves in sacrificial worship to the Lord. He was saying that what we do every day—how we treat people and how we act and react towards circumstances and situations—that is the sacrifice that we make.
The Message Bible translates Romans 12:1 this way: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.”
We cannot separate what we believe about Jesus from our behavior. Our worship must be consistent with the truth revealed in Christ. With any behavior, activity or words, we ought to be able to say, “Here, Lord, is my worship. This is my sacrifice to you for today.”
Because we love the Lord, we choose each day to obey Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t love and obey in our own strength, for that would be works. Instead, we love and obey, we offer spiritual worship, by the Holy Spirit’s power. That is what identifies us as Christian.