“My Tribute,” one of my favorite worship songs, addresses how to adequately respond to God’s undeserved mercy and grace. The lyrics note that although we can never thank Him enough, we can live in ways that please Him. Similarly, Paul describes our lives as the best way we can give thanks: “Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). While that sacrifice means some believers will die for Jesus, all of us are called to live for Him.

We can better understand the apostle’s description of believers as living sacrifices if we understand the two kinds of sacrifices commonly offered by the Israelites. Atoning sacrifices were required sin and guilt offerings—animals slain to make amends for sin (Leviticus 4:1-5, 7:1-6). For “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). Thanksgiving sacrifices were offerings of gratitude voluntarily given to God in response to His blessing. They were made in response to His mercy and grace and to offer thankfulness, gratitude, love, and joyful worship to God (Leviticus 7:11-15, 22:29; Psalm 50:14,23).

The sacrifice of animals failed to solve the problem of sin, just as we could never be an atoning sacrifice for it. Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), was the ”perfect sacrifice for our sins” (Hebrews 9:14), the only one who can “remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:26).

But we can, by His strength, be a thank offering in response to what Jesus has done, “a living and holy sacrifice—the kind [God] will find acceptable” (Romans 12:1). Today, let’s live for Jesus as He leads us, for that’s “truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12:2).

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Matthew 18:10-22