Viewpoint: Apply Apostle Paul’s Counsel to Become “Living Sacrifice”

Contributed By the Church News

  • 15 May 2016

Be “rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

Article Highlights

  • Transform yourself spiritually by living a life that is pleasing to God.
  • Diligently apply your spiritual gifts to bless the lives of others.
  • Let the attributes of godliness shine through your conduct.

“I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives.” —President Thomas S. Monson

Writing to the Saints in Rome, the Apostle Paul admonished them to “present [their] bodies a living sacrifice.”

In the context of the times, the imagery of sacrificing their bodies might have been unsettling to some of Paul’s hearers and was undoubtedly an attention getter. They were probably acquainted with rituals of blood sacrifice. Moreover, the horrific and abominable practice of human sacrifice had been an element of some ancient cultures.

But in offering the metaphor, Paul immediately conveyed his true meaning: the Saints of God were to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, “holy, acceptable unto God.” That sacrifice was to be their “reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

In the ensuing content of chapter 12, Paul highlighted several senses in which one might offer one’s own body as a living sacrifice. His counsel applies as well to us today as it did to those to whom his words were originally addressed:

Be spiritually transformed

“Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

This concept is expressed elsewhere in scripture as being “born again,” being spiritually “born of God,” experiencing “a mighty change of heart,” becoming “new creatures” in Christ, and receiving His image in one’s countenance; it is characterized as having “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (see John 3:5; Mosiah 5:2; 27:25-26; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

For most of us, this transformation happens gradually, as we persistently serve and obey God, pray without ceasing, and surround ourselves with spiritual influences.

With humility, apply strength, capacity, and spiritual gifts in service to God and others

Do not be conceited or think more of yourself than you ought, Paul said. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Romans 12:4–5).

Whatever be your gift—prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership, mercy—apply it with diligence, according to Paul’s teaching.

We can see that demonstrated today in a ward, branch, or stake setting, where we each are called under inspiration of God to contribute to His work for the benefit of all, according to the talents and gifts we have received or may receive.

One man, whose Church service in the past had consisted largely of teaching roles in Sunday School and elsewhere, was surprised to be called as ward choir director. Over the years, he had enjoyed singing in ward and stake choirs but had never fancied himself as possessing the skill or temperament to direct a choir. He viewed the call with a sense of apprehension, even a measure of diffidence.

What made the task before him yet more daunting was that the members of the ward at first did not seem disposed to come be a part of the choir. There were occasions when the director and pianist were the only ones to show up for rehearsal.

But mustering a prayerful hope and enthusiasm, he soon found that the Spirit was magnifying and amplifying latent talents he did not know he possessed. He found helpful and useful resources being placed in his path, just as when he taught the Gospel Doctrine class in Sunday School.

With gentle but earnest and persistent invitation and encouragement, he built a core group of members, until the choir could sustain a schedule of at least one sacrament meeting performance per month.

Through it all, he gained a renewed appreciation for song as one of the divinely appointed means by which we unitedly express praise, devotion, and prayer to Heavenly Father while edifying one another.

Let the attributes of godliness shine through our conduct

“Let love be without dissimulation [insincerity],” Paul enjoined. “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9).

Paul mentions several qualities that ought to be part of the character of every Latter-day Saint: brotherly love (verse 10), diligence, fervency in spirit, service to God (verse 11), rejoicing in hope, being patient in tribulation, and being constantly prayerful (verse 12).

Being a living sacrifice, Paul writes, includes caring for the needy, blessing those who persecute you, rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep (see verses 13–15).

The chapter could aptly be viewed as a code of conduct for those who seek to live a godly life: be kindly disposed toward all regardless of station in life; do not give evil for evil; be honest in your dealings; and, as far as possible, “live peaceably with all men” (see verses 16–18). Be benevolent, even to your enemy, and finally, “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (see verses 19–21).

Of course, to present one’s body as a living sacrifice is another way of expressing what the Savior Himself expressed: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24).

Commenting on this passage, President Thomas S. Monson has said: “I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives” (“What Have I Done for Someone Today?” October 2009 general conference).

The blessed irony is that when we do as Paul enjoins and present ourselves as “a living sacrifice,” we ultimately find there has been no sacrifice at all: we thereby bring joy to ourselves and to others.

Having made the sacrifice, we become one with Him.