“Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God – which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1, NET)
Sitting in Sunday morning service, a phrase in a song drew my attention, and I stopped singing. The song talked about complete submission and putting everything on the altar. It’s so easy to sing the words without really considering the message behind the words.
As the congregation continued to sing, I began to examine whether there are times when my words and actions may not match. Am I being truthful when I sing “I surrender all” and then I don’t? Do I hold onto some things, unwilling to place them on the altar of sacrifice? I’m not talking about “big sins” (if sin comes in sizes) as much as having trouble giving up control.
Submission or Control?
Total submission to whatever God chooses for our lives isn’t always easy for us humans. We want to keep a hand on the steering wheel, ready to seize control when our plans and God’s plans don’t match.
Genesis 22 tells the story of God asking Abraham to take Isaac, his son, and offer him as a sacrifice. Yes, this was the same Isaac whose birth was a miracle from God. After a three-day journey to Moriah, Abraham left the servants behind with the donkey. Father and son walked the rest of the way alone. Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice while Abraham carried the fire and the knife. Abraham prepared the altar, bound his son, and placed him on the altar. It wasn’t until he took the knife in hand that the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham. There was a ram in the thicket, and that became the sacrifice.
a willing sacrifice
We talk a lot about Abraham’s faith in God, but we seldom mention how Isaac must have felt. Most scholars feel that Isaac was in his teens or early twenties when this incident happened. He was certainly strong enough to carry the wood and also strong enough to resist his more than one-hundred-year-old father’s efforts to bind him and put him on the altar. But he didn’t. Abraham had faith, but so did Isaac. I believe he was a willing sacrifice.
Under Old Testament Law, bulls and goats were offered on the altar as a sacrifice to God, but these animals were no longer alive when placed on the altar’s fire. When Romans 12:1 talks about us being a “living sacrifice,” that’s what it means—something living and breathing. Unlike the Old Testament sacrifices, we willingly place ourselves on the altar. We can also remove ourselves from the altar if we so choose. We are not tied there. We choose to be there.
Our altar has no physical cords to restrain us. We willingly place ourselves there. The only thing binding us to the altar today is love. The choice is ours whether to stay on the altar or crawl off.
Is your love for God strong enough that you totally surrender to His will for your life?