You can’t weep your way into this heavenly place. You can’t study or work or will your way in. No, the only way to the throne-life is by way of a living sacrifice: “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).
Paul is speaking from experience. Here is a man who was rejected, tempted, persecuted, beaten, jailed, shipwrecked, stoned. Paul also had all the cares of the church laid on him. Yet he testified, “In every condition, I have been content.”
Now he’s saying to us, “So, you want to know how I came into the knowledge of this heavenly walk? Do you want to know how I came to be content in whatever condition I was placed, how I came to find true rest in Christ? Here is the path, the secret to appropriating your heavenly position: Present your body as a living sacrifice to the Lord. I come into contentment only by the sacrifice of my own will.”
The Greek root for “living” here suggests “lifelong.” Paul is talking about a binding commitment, a sacrifice that’s made once in a lifetime. Yet, don’t misunderstand; this isn’t a sacrifice that has to do with propitiation for sin. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the only worthy propitiation: “Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
No, Paul is talking about a different kind of sacrifice. Yet, make no mistake; God has no pleasure in the manmade sacrifices of the Old Testament. Hebrews tells us, “In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast no pleasure” (10:6). Why weren’t these sacrifices pleasing to the Lord? Simply put, they didn’t require the heart.
The sacrifice Paul describes is one that God takes great pleasure in, precisely because it involves the heart. What is this sacrifice? It is one of death to our will, of laying aside our self-sufficiency and abandoning our ambitions.
When Paul exhorts, “Present you body,” he’s saying, “Draw near to the Lord.” Yet, what does this mean, exactly? It means drawing near to God for the purpose of offering our entire selves to him. It means coming to him not in our own sufficiency, but as a resurrected child, as holy in Jesus’ righteousness, as being accepted by the Father through our position in Christ. The moment you resign your will to him, the sacrifice has been made. It happens when you give up the struggle of trying to please God on your own. This act of faith is the “reasonable service” Paul refers to. It’s all about trusting him with our will, believing he’ll provide all the blessings we need.