A Living Sacrifice

from the Romans reading plan

Romans 12:1-8, Hebrews 13:15-16, Ephesians 4:1-16

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:1-8, Hebrews 13:15-16, Ephesians 4:1-16

Personal discipline isn’t one of my stronger giftings. To put it another way, I stink at it.

I’m the one in my family who excitedly asks, “Who wants to go get ice cream?” rather than stick to our sensible meal plan. I’m notorious for drafting a shiny new routine that lasts for three days before I’m ready for spontaneity again. Despite my best efforts to implement structure in my life, I’m all over the place. I’ve come to accept that flexibility is just part of who God made me to be.

But here’s the truth. For me, that acceptance spills over into a lack of spiritual discipline. The world tells us that fulfilling our every desire or whim in the moment is a sign of happiness, success, and freedom. But I can say from experience that ignoring spiritual disciplines only leads to chains, not freedom.

Paul warns us, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” and I find myself staring longingly at his words (Romans 12:2). I want that. I want my body—my whole self—to be “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (v. 1).

I tried renewing my mind by attending church, but I didn’t make time to engage with God at home. I’d sit half-dazed in front of my computer, reading about fall fashion trends rather than reading my Bible. I’d watch one more episode of my favorite show and skip my prayer time. I wanted to read my Bible and pray and live out Romans 12:2, but my propensity for distraction and gluttony grew. I couldn’t control them on my own, no matter how guilty I felt or how many times I vowed to change.

I’d forgotten that only God can transform my heart. And that transformation takes place in the context of the body of Christ, His Church—not just out here on my own, accompanied only by my best intentions.    

Maybe your struggle is the opposite of mine, and routine and productivity are the desires that take the place of true renewal. Or perhaps your days are bound by a structure that you don’t want God to bend, a rigidity where spending time with Him in Scripture and in prayer are items on a checklist rather than intimate interaction with your heavenly Father. Whatever your personality, spiritual disciplines are tools that lift our eyes from our circumstances and desires and focus our hearts on God’s presence. Prayer, fasting, Bible study—they’re all disciplines that renew our minds and refresh our spirits. But unlike a resolution, a diet, or an exercise regimen, they aren’t sustained by our willpower.

True spiritual growth is rooted in the Spirit’s work in us, not in our effort. God is the Giver. We are the recipient. He empowers. We surrender. We do this individually, as God’s daughters and sons, and we do this corporately, as His children and Church.

May we truly worship the Lord today by offering Him our whole selves, surrendering our desires to His will and our efforts to His strength, “according to the grace given to us” (Romans 12:6). Amen.


Jill McDaniel is a northern girl who married a southern gentleman and settled in the Midwest. With coffee in her hand, she coordinates her church’s Sunday preschool ministry, homeschools her two older kids, and plays babies with her youngest. You can find more of her writing at

Post Comments (63)

63 thoughts on "A Living Sacrifice"

  1. michelle Benson says:

    Oh thank you! I’ve never encountered someone EXACTLY the same way I am. It’s not a matter of the wanting, it’s a matter of distraction and the struggle to keep from the distraction. I’m deeply grateful for your words as I know I’m not the only one going through trials such as these.

    1. Kate says:

      I am the same exact way!! Sometimes I would think I am the only one who does this! But I’m not alone! Discipline is hard, but necessary! And through Christ I can achieve that and experience an intimate relationship with Him.

  2. TAMMY says:

    at this point my body might be denied……I am a 3 dayer myself. 3 days and I’m off to something else. i really need the Lord’s intervention on this one.

  3. Joyce says:

    MAKE ME DO IT!!!” Not real biblical,
    But my prayer for today!!

  4. Bridget says:

    You know… God truly DOES have a sense of humor. As I’m sitting in bed, sipping my twice-reheated cup of tea, I was about to open Netflix up and watch an episode of my favorite show to “relax” before bedtime. To my surprise, the app was re-downloading and taking what seemed 5 years. I thought to myself, hmm…it’s been about a week since I opened my Romans plan. Low and behold, I certainly received the message God was sending. We must all take time and sacrifice (so-to-say) what feels good to our worldly selves, in order to make space for God. Thank you, She Reads Truth for this reminder!

  5. Nicole says:

    God always has a rhyme and reason for things. I was behind in my group bible study and catching up before we meet to discuss. Today, the day I broke down over my struggles with my own self-discipline and will-power, to read this – how can I NOT see God in this??? SO powerful – and exactly the reinforcement and support I needed today.

  6. Kylee says:

    I’m good about getting here physically but my mind, my mind is always somewhere else. All over the place. I loathe routine and love to live for the moment, which unfortunately results in a lot of mornings where I’d rather obsess over instagram or the day’s agenda ahead of me or the activities of the night before, instead of opening my bible and heart before the Father. Shame doesn’t begin to cover it.

    But. GOD. He gave us free will and choice and also direction on how to use both — when we choose to surrender our hearts and thoughts and agendas to His ways, we are richly rewarded with deep connection and spiritual growth, more able to withstand the darkness of this world, with an increased capacity to love the people around us. Isn’t that what we want?? I have to remember this! More of Him, less of me, that I may resist conforming to the ways of the world and be instead transformed by the renewing of my mind. Thank GOD for this most vulnerable place where we women study the word together – I’m not sure who I would be without this amazing community & all your comments and insight!!!

  7. Sandy says:

    I do agree, but this seems a bit lacking in personal responsibility. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13. God is the one who does the work, but I am responsible to cooperate, submit, and take the way of escape He has provided.

    1. Kylee says:

      The final few paragraphs of this devotional speak to that. “True spiritual growth is rooted in the Spirit’s work in us, not in our effort. God is the giver. We are the recipient. He empowers. We surrender.” Our personal responsibility is to surrender, which as we know is the hardest part. I rarely WANT to surrender my will and ways to His, but every time I do I see deep connection and spiritual growth. Jill is saying the same thing you are saying, the work on our part is to cooperate and submit. But God does the heavy lifting in our hearts!

      1. Tiffinay says:

        Perfect response.

  8. Sally says:

    Great devotional! It felt like it was me writing each word. Feeling convicted about my distractions in spiritual discipline, but also appreciate that the author states “flexibility is how God made me to be.” And if he made me that way, he knows just how to help renew my mind to be more focused on him.

    1. Kylee says:

      Amen. I loved that, too, especially since I tend to rake myself over the coals for how all over the place I am!

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