I love everything about summer except, SNAKES! Snakes are not my friend! I have never understood why anyone would have a pet snake. In spite of my diversion to snakes, there was a snake in my anatomy class that I thought was pretty cool, or as close to it as a snake can get. He was an Eastern Hognose snake. This snake had two defense mechanisms. First he would flatten his head like a cobra and hiss and hiss and hiss. (There are no cobras in natural habitat in America. Guess he was not aware of this fact.) If that did not scare you off, then he would just play dead! Yes, he would play dead. When touched, he would role over on his back and lay perfectly still, mouth open, tongue hanging out, as if he were dead. If that was not enough, he would also discrete an odor so that he smelled dead! This little “trick” was to ensure the pursuer that he was indeed dead and not desirable for food. After several minutes of being left alone, he would role back onto his stomach and crawl to a new location in his tank. (If you are curious, check them out on youtube.)
While my snake friend tried to live life dead and alive, it is not possible to have both of those traits at the same time! In reality he was really alive when he looked dead.
When Paul talked about being a “living sacrifice” in Romans 12:1-2, his listeners may have been as confused as a predator watching a hognose snake. What they would have known was described in the Old Testament, animals were slain as sacrifices. How could a sacrifice be living?!
Part of being a living sacrifice is in fact being dead, dead to sin and self. Maybe it is possible to be dead and alive at the same time! Paul said in Phil. 3:8 that all the things of his past he considered to be rubbish, trash, garbage, stuff to be thrown away. Paul was dead to sin and self. Paul knew with sin in our lives we cannot rest in God. It is a lot like the fleas (the second thing I don’t like about summer) that get on our dog Scooter, an eight-pound Pomeranian. No one in our house gets to rest if a flea manages to bury itself in Scooter’s fur.
When sin gets buried in our hearts, like fleas in a dog’s fur, it creates a discomfort. The discomfort becomes stronger when we read the Bible, worship, or listen to praise music. To avoid the discomfort, we avoid being in the presence of God. We are miserable as well as those around us. The way to treat the discomfort is to get the sin out of our lives; recognizing it and confessing it. But getting rid of sin is not just a matter of the heart; it is a transformation of our mind. Remember, sin often starts in the mind (Take a look at David). And then, we can rest in God’s presence!
Not only does God call us to be dead to sin and self, He calls us to be ALIVE. Alive to love Him heart, soul, and mind (Luke 10:27).
- Alive in Heart: When we love the Lord with all our heart then the words that come out of our mouths are edifying rather than destructive. “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34b). If our hearts are not overflowing with the love of Jesus then perhaps our words come out sounding more like a “clanging cymbal” (I Cor 13:1) as Paul would say.
- Alive in Mind: Loving Jesus with our minds is thinking on these things, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” (Phil. 4:8). It is amazing how grumpiness and irritability, regardless of the circumstances, is instantly gone when we practice this advice from Paul.
- Alive in Soul: Loving with our soul is reflected in our actions. It is being alive for service; serving others like He served. He fed the hungry (Matthew 14:15-21). He helped the sick. He reached out to the outcasts (Luke 19:1-11, John 4:1-40). He nurtured his followers (Matthew 26). He prayed (Mark 1:35). He gave up His rest and comfort for the sake of others (Matthew 14:13-14) .
It is easy on this journey of life to react much like the hognose snake.
- Sometimes things do not go as planned and we are angry and want to hiss and hiss and hiss like the hognose snake. Instead, that is the time to draw on the peace that goes beyond understanding (Phil. 4:6-8).
- Other times we are tired and would much rather roll over and play dead. That is the time for Christ to be made strong in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
- And then there are the days that we are just plain old stinky! On those days, remember we are to be the fragrance of Christ (2 Cor. 2:14-15). That is dying to sin and self and living in His likeness.
What about you? Are you dead AND alive; dead to sin and alive in Christ? A “living sacrifice” ? If your answer is yes, then welcome to knowing God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.