Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Martyrdom was not a foreign concept to him. He had read of Christians who died in that way in the scriptures, and he had heard stories of brothers and sisters over the centuries who endured even death for the purposes of God’s kingdom. For him, the idea of sacrificing one’s body for Christ meant dying physically. He would pray and worship and meditate on the scriptures, asking God to prepare him in the event that he was given the opportunity to give this mortal life for Christ. Although it was good for him to prepare spiritually for that possibility, he missed another part of this picture. He did not understand that we are to sacrifice our bodies not just in death but also in life.
God wants us to be willing to give up the tangible self for him even while that self is alive and well. This is nothing more than a denial of the flesh. It is not necessarily only about sexual sin, but it is about making sure that our mortal bodies are used as tools to accomplish God’s will. Part of that is being obedient with these bodies while we are stewards of them here. Living sacrifices die to the flesh, which is inaction at times and action at other times. Sacrificing these bodies might mean that we keep ourselves from partaking in certain behavior in order to practice holiness. It also might mean that we use these bodies in great physical ways to accomplish God’s will. The sacrifice is really about giving God control and authority over these vessels, whether the means we are acting or refraining.
The sacrifice of our physical bodies while alive, as well as the sacrifice of our physical bodies in death, are two sides of one coin. That coin is what we exchange for the life that is available to us through Jesus Christ. In order for us to live as God would have us live, we must cease living according to our own will. We cannot have it both ways. Whether in life or in death, these bodies belong to him if we call Jesus Christ our Savior. Accordingly, these bodies must be used for his glory no matter what that looks like. Father, build in us trust and faith to give You control over these mortal bodies, being willing to sacrifice them to you in life and in death.