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Four Words for Authentic Christians

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 12:1

Sacrifice is at the heart of all true worship of God. God calls us to offer our lives, in every part and in every detail—everything we say, do, and think—in sacrifice to Him and in gratitude to Him. This is worship, and it is the only reasonable response to God and His work.


Today we set sail into Romans 12, the hinge point between the doctrinal belief of the Christian and the daily behavior of the Christian. From this point on, Paul is not going to talk so much about what we believe but about how we behave. He is going to move from education into application—from principles to practices.

Beginning here in chapter 12, Paul will capture the essence of authentic Christianity. And you might be surprised to learn that the beginning stage—if not the foundation—of Christian practice is gratitude.

That is exactly the point of the apostle Paul as he looks back over the first eleven chapters of doctrine and then reveals his practical conclusion in Romans 12:1:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Let me amplify and paraphrase this verse in order to emphasize the tenses and nuances of Paul’s vocabulary:

I beg of you and plead with you, brethren, because you have become the recipients of the great mercies of God, make a bold, ongoing, daily, and decisive gift of yourselves to God.

One author captures this essence as he writes, “The driving force in authentic Christian living is not the hope of gain, but a heart of gratitude.”[1]

Now there are four words that categorically describe a heart—in fact, a life—of true gratitude. And they are central to the appeal Paul makes here for us to give our lives back to the God of grace.

The first word is availability. That is communicated here in the appeal to “present” our bodies to God.

Why our bodies? Why be so specific? Because the Holy Spirit knows that we all have the same problem—we struggle with giving our bodies to God. In fact, the word for our “bodies” is really a comprehensive term that encompasses everything about us.

We do nothing apart from our bodies. Our emotions are inside our bodies. Our plans, thoughts, desires, and actions are related to our bodies. Paul is essentially saying here, “Give everything you are to God.”

That reminds me of a man who went up to a well-known evangelist and said he wanted to start walking with God and asked where he should start. The evangelist said, “Go home and get on your knees. Take a piece a chalk and draw a circle around yourself, and then tell God, “Everything inside this circle now belongs to you.”

It is easy to say to God, “Listen, I am going to give you something about me.” But God wants everything about you.

The second word that describes authentic Christianity is expendability. Paul tells us here to give ourselves as a “living sacrifice.”

This will bring to the minds of these early believers the idea of an Old Testament sacrifice—and more specifically, the burnt sacrifice. A sacrifice was not partial; it was total. And in this analogy, you are not bringing a sacrifice to God; you become the sacrifice—and you are not a sacrifice that dies but a sacrifice that lives, “a living sacrifice.” Your eyes, ears, hands, feet, and every other part and function of your body; your mind, emotions, and will; everything that makes you rejoice, suffer, and plan—all of it is on the altar daily, given to God.

The third characteristic of authentic Christianity is acceptability. What kind of sacrifice is God wanting from us? Paul describes it here: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” A holy sacrifice is the only kind that is acceptable to God. Think of it this way: a living sacrifice has to do with the totality of life; a holy sacrifice has to do with the purity of life.

This is the kind of life God finds “acceptable,” or you could translate it “well-pleasing.” In other words, God takes pleasure in our desire to give Him, not the leftovers of our lives, but the best of our lives.

When I proposed to my college sweetheart, years ago now, I had an engagement ring tucked behind the lamp there in her home where I proposed. When I handed her that little jewelry box, and she opened it, do you think for a moment that I got her some little plastic ring with a plastic diamond that you buy for a little child to play with? Do you think any old ring would do? Listen, I needed all the help I could get.

I had saved and worked extra jobs after classes so I could buy the nicest ring possible. You see, I was, in effect, presenting myself to her—all the best of my life and my dreams were offered to her. And it was not much, but thank God, she said, “Yes!” And when our wedding day arrived, do you think she threw on some old dress and pulled out a pair of old shoes that had been through a mud puddle? Oh no. She was regal and beautiful, from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. Why? She was presenting herself to me. We both had the same objective—to be well-pleasing to one another.

Paul is writing here, “I appeal to you, because of all that God has done for you, to present this kind of offering to the Lord—the sacrifice of daily living, the sacrifice of a holy life, the gift of all your best to Him.”

The question authentic Christians ask is not, “Am I well pleased” but “Is God well pleased?”

Paul then summarizes his analogy of a living sacrifice by making one more statement, which I’ll categorize under the word advisability.

Paul writes here in verse 1, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Some versions translate it, “your spiritual act of worship,” or better yet, “your reasonable service.”

In the Greek language there are only two words used for this expression. The first word gives us our word logical. The second word means “service.” Paul is effectively saying, “The most logical thing you can do in life is give yourself entirely to the Lord—from the top of your head to the tip of your toes.”

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Real worship is the offering of everyday duties and chores and details to God. Beloved, there is no division between the sacred and secular. Your life, your job, your duties are all to be offerings of gratitude to God.

I read of two men who were talking after church about buying a house. One of the men was thinking of making an offer on a house, but he wondered about the quality of its construction. His friend asked him, “Who built the house?” When his friend answered with the name of the builder, he said in response, “Well then, you don’t have to worry about the quality of that construction. I know that builder. He is a Christian, and he builds his Christianity into every house he builds.”

No matter what he does, an authentic Christian works as if his work is worship—because it really is devoted to God.

So, Paul begins this new section of Romans by speaking directly to each one of us. And again, let me paraphrase what he says:

I beg of you and plead with you, beloved, because you have become the recipients of the great mercies of God, make a bold, ongoing, daily, and decisive gift of your life to God . . . He deserves the very best from you, because of all that He has done for you.

[1] J. I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness (Baker Books, 2009), 71.

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