The words “living” and “sacrifice” seem to be incompatible. “Living” indicates vitality and “sacrifice” indicates death or loss. The apostle Paul views them as complimentary in Romans 12:1. Earlier in Romans 6, Paul explains that a believer is dead to sin and the old nature. That believer then becomes alive to God.
“Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:12-15)
What Paul was saying to the Roman believers was that they were simply free from the flesh. When a penitent soul calls on God to save him, he is no longer an instrument of unrighteousness. He becomes alive to God’s loving and powerful touch.
God has made it clear that he desires mankind to enjoy knowing him. In addition God desires for us to partake of his power. Without him, we are helpless against our fleshly desires. That is precisely why we must be dead to sin and alive to God. To be a living sacrifice is to remove control from the flesh and place it in God’s hands. When we say that we want to live our own lives, we are actually saying that we want to reign in place of God. Paul tells us in Romans 8:12 that, “we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh, for if you are living according to the flesh you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live”.
The living sacrifice can be defined as living in submission to God and dying to the flesh. Submission to God will have a very distinct appearance. What will appear in abundance is the fruit of the Spirit. From life springs fruit. So in someone who is living for God, one will see the fruit of patience, love, kindness, self-control, faith, joy, goodness, peace, and gentleness.
In frustration some have said, “life stinks”. No, death stinks. It’s a rotting piece of food or a dead body that stinks. Death is not productive. It is life that produces fruit and is most beautiful!
We must also realize that the living sacrifice is a choice. We have been given the choice of eternal life if we desire it. Making the choice is also appointing God the “boss”. God is not in the habit of bargaining for your life. He must be Lord of all or he is not Lord at all! This is the struggle of all people. You and I must make a complete decision. When we make compartments in our lives that God is not Lord of then the rest is meaningless. Paul wrote, “You were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)