In some pagan cultures in Bible times, a person could not approach the king unless summoned. Otherwise they could lose their lives. Standing before royalty was a privilege not to be taken lightly. Perhaps this was in the back of Paul’s mind when he wrote this to the church at Rome . . .
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. (Romans 12:1)
The word “present” as used in the New Testament carries the idea of a person standing before others, such as in a throne room, where they are presenting themselves. In this verse, “offering” could work, but it is less like “Here I am to serve you” and more like “all of me is at your disposal, even if you slay me.”
Romans 6 uses the same word in verses about how we are to present ourselves to God . . .
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:13)Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Romans 6:19)
The idea is absolute surrender, not merely that I offer myself to God, but that I have become a slave that does only as the Father tells me to do, making no decisions for myself. All of me belongs to God.
Yet this is not about “just as I am” either. Romans 12:1 says, “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable” so God is not calling for an inclusive offer that has a “take me as I am” attitude. He wants me to offer Him only that which is “alive” leaving out the “dead in sin” old self. This is about the “alive to righteousness” person that is a new creation, regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit in new birth that happened when I believed. He wants me to present holiness and righteousness to Him, not a mixed bag of sometimes obedient and sometimes not.
I stand before God, the King of the universe. He asks for a worthy sacrifice has no spot or blemish. Even the lambs that were slain (prior to the once-for-all sacrifice of The Lamb, Jesus Christ) were unblemished. God is not interested in eyes that look at evil, hands that are greedy, feet that go to dark places, self-indulgent appetites, a heart full of rage, or a tongue that says things that should not be said.
Today’s devotional speaks of the importance of “spying out the spots on our bodies” because those who offered the sacrifices in the past were not permitted to offer “the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running sores” (Leviticus 22:22). How much more must I present myself pure in every respect to worship Him in service?
I also think of Elijah’s offer and how flame came down from above and consumed the whole thing — water, wood, and stones — and realize this is what happens to offerings made to God. This is no small challenge. From Scripture and from experience, I know if I have anything in me that is “relaxed and secular” yet offer myself to God with good intentions, the fire of the Spirit will consume my worldliness. He makes certain that my offer is holy and acceptable so that God might receive what He asked for.
Spiritual worship is living my life according to Christ who lives in me. It is a surrendered life, offered to God as a sacrifice. While God accepts me as I am, the Spirit is at work that I do not stay that way. He is a consuming fire. When I bring to Him myself as that sacrifice, He takes only that which is from Himself and burns up all that is not.