So my bible reading from today just so happens to be Romans 12. I know it can be a fairly cliché verse for devotional purposes, but it's my reading for today, so I guess I have to!
I love how Paul, at the beginning of Romans 12 exhorts his audience to 'present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God' (CEB). This comes straight after a section that can come across as fairly confusing, but is basically Paul continuing to tell his audience that God's plan for planet earth, which has been enacted through Jesus Christ (aka the gospel), is one that encompasses, embraces and is available to all humanity (aka 'Gentiles') and not just the people group of the Israelites. And it is for this reason that we are to fulfil Paul's request in vs 1.
But Paul doesn't leave it at that; he gives us solid practical advice on how to achieve this. Through chapters 12 & 13, we are shown that a big key to how we present ourselves as a living sacrifice before God is in service to those whom God has placed us in relationship with. This is probably not what his audience was expecting to hear. In Rom 12:1 Paul utilises very specific Old Testament / temple language, and his audience would very well have been likely to expect something related to temple ritual as Paul's way of being a 'living sacrifice'. But this is not what he says. Instead, he tells his listeners that the way we are to be a living sacrifice is in fact this: by not falling into the mentalities and pitfalls of the world; renewed relationships, centred around love, service and using your giftings to the benefit of others and; submitting to authority and recognising it as being placed there by God.
For me, I love that Paul's words then and there, completely relate to me here and now. Almost 2,000 years removed, and across the other side of the globe, I am still challenged to not be a selfish human, but to follow the example of Christ's selflessness. Not only this, but by complying with the word of God in these areas of my life, I am in fact aiding and facilitating what God is doing on our planet today.