God, if true and proper worship means offering myself to you as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing, help me to voluntarily sacrifice that which you require of me, today.
Acts 25 opens with a new sheriff in town, and with him, new hope that an innocent man might go free. The corrupt Roman governor Felix had detained Paul for two years expecting Paul to offer him a bribe to obtain his release. Then, when that did not happen, Felix decided to hold Paul even longer as a favor to Paul’s accusers.
When the new governor Festus arrives, he promptly agrees to hear Paul’s case. Imagine the nervous energy that gripped Paul, the globetrotting evangelist, after two years of house arrest. Yet, any hopes of freedom are promptly dashed when Festus recommends two more kangaroo courts, as additional favors to Paul’s accusers.
Paul, then, appeals to Roman justice and demands to move his trial to Rome. That’s when he openly declares: “If I had done something deserving death, I would not ask to escape the death penalty” (v 11a). Most of us have never been wrongly imprisoned on trumped up capital charges. But consider afresh Jesus’ invitation to take up our cross daily and follow him. Or Paul’s own letter to the Romans, when he admonished them to offer their bodies to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12.1). Roman citizens understood the very idea of being a living sacrifice to be a contradiction. To place a live bull on an altar, for example, one risks being impaled or worse. Sacrifices generally refuse to go quietly! Yet, that’s the type of sacrifice Paul wants us to offer God, the very same one he heeds in Acts 25 when he confidently declares a willingness to die for the gospel he both preached and lived.
What things in your life “deserve death” and need to be crucified on your cross today? How can you embrace, as your own, Paul’s willingness to die to such things? What sacrificial step can you take today in your journey to everlasting freedom?
Perhaps as you reflect, you're reminded of a bad attitude or haughty lips or a lustful eye. Whatever it is, to sacrifice that thing requires action. Pray and ask God to help you surrender any negative behaviors in your life.
Thank you, Father, for loving me enough to trust me to voluntarily surrender, by your grace, those things that stand between us.