There is no way we can cultivate the Christian life before we consecrate the Christian body. This is our spiritual act of worship. It is true worship. It is the most spiritual act we can do.
The cool thing about this verse is that it is not saying that we have to get all cleaned up and get our lives straightened out and become perfect before we can offer ourselves to God. Paul’s word is, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices. Bring your bodies (that is what it says in the Greek word — your bodies, not yourselves) as a living sacrifice unto God.” Bring it, with all its problems, with all the difficulties you have with it, with all the temptations—bring it just the way it is! I don’t know how that affects you, but that really encourages me. All the other religions that I know of in the world tell us that somehow we have to straighten out our lives first, and then offer them to God. Our Lord never talks that way. He says, “You come to me just the way you are. I am the answer to your problems; just start with me. You can’t handle those problems yourself. Don’t start with thinking you have to get them straightened out. Come to me, because I have the answers for your problems.”
As believers, we can live on one of three levels, the sensual, the soulish, or the spiritual. By sensual I mean that we are ruled by the senses. We are ruled by our desires. You may be a Christian and be sensual. You won’t read your Bible because you feel it’s too confusing. You won’t spend time in worship because you are too tired. You won’t work with certain people because you are uncomfortable, or you have to drive too far or it is too inconvenient. This is Christianity on its lowest plane.
Then there is the soulish level. This is referring to the intellect, or emotions. It is possible for a Christian to live entirely in this area and seem to be spiritual, when in fact it is only in appearances. You may take an intellectual approach to Bible study and even memorize a bunch of passages. However, knowing truth does not translate into spiritual living. You may live in the emotional realm and feel things very deeply. Thoughts of Calvary bring tears to your eyes. You can be moved to tears by some sentimental Christian songs about the Savior. You are deeply moved by the suffering in India, or Rwanda, or Haiti, or some other impoverished nation, so much so, that you empty your pockets when an appeal is made. You may shout the “hallelujahs” in a praise service. Every one of those is normal for something “born of the spirit.” However, in some cases the Spirit may not be the one motivating any of these things. Maybe you have an iron will, so you can control your habits. When you became a Christian, you were able to quit what you needed to quit, and start what you needed to start. By all outward appearances, you look spiritual. However, in reality you are controlled by, well . . . you.
To live on the spiritual plane, the Spirit must be able to direct you. Sometimes the only way we can tell if we are, is by examination in the light of the Word of God, which is the only thing mentioned in Scripture, which penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, and judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Our challenge is to yield to God and allow Him to live in and through us, to instruct us in every thing.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome