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Rev. Kleyn is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Edgerton, Minnesota.

The life of the child of God can be summarized in one word, thankfulness. That is what the Christian life is all about. It is not about seeking earthly pleasures and joys. It is not about being successful and prosperous on earth. It is not about striving to keep self and others happy. It is about being thankful to God. And, yes, that means being thankful also when life is difficult. Thankful always and thankful in all things.

As believers in Christ, we certainly have much for which to be thankful. I am sure each of us, by giving some serious thought to it, could easily produce a lengthy list of such things. And really the list should be endless. But the fact is, we are not always very conscious of the many reasons we have for thankfulness. That happens especially on account of the struggles of life. We allow sorrows and disappointments to hide from view the countless reasons we have for true spiritual thankfulness and joy. We would surely do well to heed the admonition to “think on these things,” the things that are true and honest and just and pure and lovely and of good report (Phil. 4:8).

It is not our purpose, however, to produce such a list in this article. Instead we consider the calling itself to show our gratitude, and specifically to show this by thankful living. We take a look at this from the perspective ofRomans 12:1, which states: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

This is intriguing language. The apostle Paul uses the language that belongs to the Old Testament temple and the worship of God there. He mentions sacrificing. He states that we are to present to God a living and holy sacrifice. And he points out that this is the sacrifice that is acceptable to God.

Through use of such language, the apostle places us in the middle of the Old Testament temple. He puts before our minds all the objects and activities of that temple: the priests, the altar, the offerings, and the shedding of blood. More specifically, we are reminded of the people bringing their bullocks, lambs, doves, and other offerings as sacrifices to God.

The New Testament believer, Paul says, is to do likewise. He, too, must bring a sacrifice to God.

But why is it necessary for us to bring a sacrifice? We know that Christ has fulfilled all sacrifices and all shedding of blood. Atonement for sin has been fully accomplished. So why, then, a New Testament sacrifice?

A New Testament sacrifice is necessary, not as that which points to Christ’s sacrifice, but as the expression of thanks for that sacrifice of Christ. This is the kind of sacrifice Paul has in mind. Thank offerings were made in the Old Testament. They are to be made also in the New Testament.

One crucial thing, however, has changed between the Old and New Testament thank offerings. Where-as those brought in the Old Testament were often bloody, that is no longer and must no longer be so. The blood for the sins of God’s people has been shed once and for all by Christ. The sacrifice we bring, therefore, is a “living sacrifice.”

The living sacrifice of the New Testament believer is his own body. This is the thank offering that we must continually present to God.

In speaking of this sacrifice, the apostle Paul has in mind that the bodies we sacrifice are literally our physical bodies. The idea is that thankful children of God sacrifice to Him every part of their physical bodies. The sacrifice is to consist of eyes, feet, hands, mouth, tongue, fingers, and ears. A strange sacrifice? It may seem so. But this is God’s requirement.

How is this admonition to be understood?

One must realize, first of all, that it is through our bodies that we function in this world. We use our bodies to go places, to see and observe things, to hear sounds, to run and to walk, to talk and to discuss. Through our bodies, and by means of every physical part of them, we interact with the world in which we live. Our bodies are the means by which we live and move and express ourselves in this world.

As we do this, we are tempted to use our bodies for sin. We are tempted to sin with our hands through the things we touch, the gestures we make, or the buttons we press on the remote control. We are tempted to sin with our eyes through adulterous looks at other women or men, through what we watch on television, or through taking a quick glance at certain graphic evils on the internet (just to find out, we say, what they are all about). We are tempted to sin with our ears through the music we listen to, or the slander, lies, and filthy jokes we are willing to hear. We are tempted to sin with our tongues in the way we speak about or to others, or in use of foul language. We are tempted to sin with our feet by going places we should not go.

The admonition, however, points us to the fact that each and every member of the body should be sacrificed to God. Our bodies are to be used only for that which is right and pleasing to Him. Feet should be used to go only where God would want us to go and to be. Hands should be used to do only the things God wants us to do with them. Tongues should be used to say only what God allows. Eyes should be used to see only those things which are proper and good. Ears should be used to listen only to what is pleasing to the ears of God Himself. We are to flee the temptations to abuse our bodies. We are always to use our members in the consciousness of and for God.

God requires this of us because He, in the work of salvation, saves also our bodies. Christ died to save, not just our souls, but also our bodies. For that reason our bodies are precious to God. This is evident from the high view that the Scriptures take of our physical bodies. God considers them very important. He Himself takes care of them, providing us daily the physical food and drink we need in order to continue to live. He even watches over our bodies after they die and are lying in the grave. And one day He will raise our bodies to glory, reunite them with our souls, and make them like unto the glorious body of Jesus Christ.

Our attitude toward our bodies must reflect God’s. We may not despise or abuse them. We may not think it does not matter what we do with them. God takes a high view of them. So ought we.

The Scriptures also teach us that God, in saving us, makes our bodies the temples of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives within the physical bodies of those He has regenerated. “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19, 20).

Through the work of the Holy Spirit in us, our bodies are made holy. They are to be presented, therefore, as a holy sacrifice to God. Every part and member is to be separated from sin and consecrated to God. Eyes, ears, hands, feet, and mouth are to be devoted to our Maker and Savior.

All of this is to be done in thanks to God for His grace in saving us. Out of thanks, we live a new, godly life. That kind of life is, in terms of the Old Testament sacrifices, a sacrifice that is a sweet-smelling savor to God. It alone is pleasing and acceptable to Him. In all our eating and drinking, working and playing, speaking and doing, we are to live in thanks to God. Then we are living, as we should, to God’s glory.

This is referred to in Romans 12:1as our “reasonable service.” It might seem at first that this means that a life of thanks makes “good sense” in light of all that God has done for us and given to us. It is only “reasonable,” we would say, for God to expect this of us, and for us to do this.

However, this is not the idea of the text. “Reasonable service” refers to the fact that the sacrifice of our bodies is to be more than just an outward sacrifice, more than simply external acts of thanksgiving. By itself, the admonition to present our bodies as sacrifices places emphasis on an external andvisible activity. But God is not satisfied with mere externalism. This was true of the Old Testament sacrifices. God abhorred them when they were just outward. The same is true of this New Testament sacrifice. The word “reasonable” means that our reason, our minds, our will must be involved. Our outward acts of thanks must arise from gratitude in our hearts for His gracious salvation of our souls and our bodies.

This is difficult. But God is merciful.

God’s mercy makes it possible for us to present our bodies as a sacrifice to God. God’s mercy is His pity and compassion toward us. But, more than that, God in His mercy also rescues us from our misery and from our inability to want to do and actually to do His will. He gives us a new mind. He makes us new creatures. He puts within us a new life. And He uses the admonitions of Scripture, as applied to us by His Spirit, to stir up that new life into action. We hear His demand and we respond, by His grace, “Lord, I desire and will strive to do just this, to present my body as a living sacrifice of thanksgiving that is pleasing to Thee!”

God’s mercy is also an incentive. The text speaks not of “mercy” (singular), but of “mercies” (plural). God’s mercy is great — great in giving Christ to be our Savior, great in delivering us from sin, great in forgiving our evils, great in giving us every good and perfect gift. Thinking on that mercy of God, we cannot but be thankful. It becomes our earnest and willing desire to show our thanks by sacrificing our bodies to Him.

Let us daily bring to God our New Testament sacrifice of thanks.