A sacrificial people

In a world full of people who are bent on getting as much as they can, it should be refreshing when we encounter those who simply desire to give. The foundation of our faith, the good news of the gospel, rests on the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It should be no surprise to us that our Father’s expectation is that we sacrifice as well. We are the givers that bring refreshment to this world. We are the ones who are Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know him, and we are expected to sacrifice as He sacrificed. Let us explore what scripture teaches us about giving the way that God has given to us.

1 Tim. 6:17-19

As for the rich in this present world, instruct them not to be conceited and arrogant, nor to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share. In this way storing up for themselves the enduring riches of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

Early in my Christian walk, I had very few Christian friends. I was a man who, in the blink of an eye, went from being committed to the world to being committed to the Church. It was a transition from dark to light in an instant, and everything in my life turned 180°. At the time of salvation, just about all of my friends and acquaintances were not believers. I found myself repeatedly telling people about my experience, although I must admit that I was tactical about this. I still had fear because I knew certain people would not want to hear my testimony at all and probably would leave me if I told them. Others chastised me because of what they perceived to be my weakness in having to depend on a fictional character as a crutch to get me through this life. In all the criticism I received, there is one comment in particular that will never leave me because I have heard it so many times since then.

It cannot be more true that one must fight hard to separate a man from his money. I recall sharing my newfound faith with someone who had known me since I was a young teenager, and I was immediately met with skepticism. Her first question was to ask me whether I had been tricked into giving the church my money. With the little knowledge of scripture I had to that point I tried to explain the biblical model of tithing. She did not want to hear it, and I realized something very quickly. There are people whose main obstacle standing between them and a right relationship with God is just money. The almighty dollar is the last stand, and they cannot understand why any God would ask them to part with it. This is the God who sacrificed his own Son for us, yet we cannot part with our dollars for him. Whether this sacrifice of giving is in the form of a tithe or an offering or buying groceries for someone in need, money can have quite a possessive hold on us. What we must remember is that we only have what God has given us in the first place. Sacrificing our finances for him is doing nothing more than being stewards of that which is actually his and not ours. God knows the power that money can have over us, and his requirement that we hold it in submission to him is a glorious freedom from that power. What a terrible shame that a few coins and some paper bills would stand in the way of one of God’s creation being restored to him!

Luke 14:26

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life — he cannot be My disciple.

I would be a liar if I told you that everyone who was an important figure in my life prior to my salvation actually stuck around afterward. Of all the transitions that I underwent as part of my new dedication to Jesus Christ, the most difficult thing was having to say goodbye to some people I really loved. You see, being awakened and seeing the light makes you want to do just one thing. You want to go up to everyone you care about and make sure they get saved the way you got saved. You want to tell them about this great treasure you have found, and you want to share it with them. If you have just discovered a way to beat death and gain life of course you want to share that with everyone you love. You want to see them step out of the darkness themselves and gain eternal life, too. This time of optimism, however, can quickly change into a time of discouragement when the people you love decide not to listen to you.

It is an incredibly difficult thing to be a brand new Christian, and during this time when you are trying to figure out all of these things and learn about God and how He wants us to live, all of a sudden you have the people around you just walking out of your life. Those who you have always relied on as your support system are not there for you during this crazy new period of life. You are excited, and you have questions, and you want to talk to people, but so many people just leave. It is no wonder that many new Christians may find it difficult to stick with Jesus when no one else around them wants to do the same. It can be a lonely time for the new believer, but it may be a time of necessary sacrifice. If we look at things strictly from a relationship standpoint, we need only weigh the value of each relationship. When we do that, it is clear that our relationship with God holds the highest value and gets priority. When there is a conflict between that relationship and our relationships with other people, we can only progress spiritually if we sacrifice that which gets in the way of us growing closer to God. This is not God making us do the difficult thing. This is us deciding to do that which is best for our faith.

Rom. 12:1

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational act of worship.

It is one thing to say that we are willing to give God our possessions, finances and relationships. Those are all things that we have, but they are external to us. These things are important and clearly matter in our lives, but they are not us. When it comes to our bodies, the story changes. What can be more personal than the vessel God has selected as a residence for your soul and spirit? Of all the things that we can give to another, our bodies are on a completely different level than anything we possess. God’s reasoning for asking us to sacrifice our bodies for him, to place them in submission to him, is that we are now part of the body of Christ. These vessels no longer belong to us. As we have exchanged ourselves for Jesus, and as we have asked God to reside within these vessels, his requirement of bodily sacrifice makes perfect sense. However, this can be the thing that is most difficult for us to relinquish to him.

It may be easier for us to accept God’s requirement of bodily sacrifice when we realize that our bodies are always on an altar. There is never a time when we are not sacrificing our bodies either for God or for something other than God. We do not hold these vessels in neutral esteem at any point. If you are walking according to the instruction of God and keeping your physical body pure for his purposes, then you are lifting yourself up as a bodily sacrifice for him. Any time that you do not keep your body pure, you have now sacrificed it to someone or something else. The thing is, there is no place between those two alters. Either we are walking in purity and using our bodies as God intends and has designed, or we are defiling ourselves. If we understand that these bodies are in a constant state of sacrifice, perhaps we would find it easier to simply remain on God’s altar and just refuse to get down.

Heb. 13:15-16

Through Him, therefore, let us at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name. Do not neglect to do good, to contribute, for such sacrifices are always pleasing to God.

If you are a proud parent or have a proud parent or even know someone else’s proud parent, you know the value of praise. Someone uses a message to convey to others how much they feel for someone or something else. If your child graduates first in the class, you undoubtedly will be incredibly excited to share that news with everyone who is willing to listen to you. The reason is that you think your child has done something so great and so incredible that they deserve to be recognized for that accomplishment. You also may think that you have accomplished something great in raising such a child. Praise is powerful because it tells people what we truly love and value. Whether we are talking about our children or our favorite sports team or our employee with the most sales this month, our praise says something about who we are.

When scripture instructs us to offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, it is simply asking us to speak the truth about him. This may be something that we utter in private or during a church service or as we sing to God. Our praise to him, however, must be more than just a private thing. Our praise to him should be just like the praise we give to our children. We speak that praise to others. To give God a sacrifice of praise means that we take the attention we would spend proclaiming other things and use it to speak about him. Let our sacrifice of praise to God be our witness to others of who He is and what He has done. Let us take the time that we would waste on unimportant and temporary things and spend that time praising God for others to hear. Instead of being proud parents, we can be proud children who cannot stop declaring the praises of our perfect heavenly Father.

Luke 14:27

Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow after Me cannot be My disciple.

To say that God asks us to sacrifice many things is not necessarily an untrue statement. It is, however, an incomplete statement. What God desires is that we give him everything that we are and everything that we have. Let us consider all of the things that make up our lives, and then let us consider that God desires all of those things to be placed on the altar. To sacrifice something to God is to honor him with it by giving him control. Sometimes this will be God directing us in how to correctly use that which we have sacrificed. Other times this will be God simply removing from our lives that which we have placed on the altar. What He wants is for us to realize that nothing and no one holds a higher value or place in our lives than He does. No matter what it is we think we have, it is worth giving up for the sake of attaining what we have in God.

It is easy for us to look at Jesus as the model of sacrifice only because He was physically sacrificed on the cross. If we look at scripture, we see that his life was a sacrifice in many more ways. A journey through the written record of the ministry of Jesus paints the picture of a man who did only the will of his Father in heaven. He did nothing out of selfish motivation. His reputation was of no concern. His wealth was of no concern. His popularity was of no concern. His status was of no concern. His autonomy was of no concern. If we say that Jesus is the perfect model of the sacrificial life it is because He held himself to possess nothing that we typically would think was his. Jesus had given everything to God and was merely a steward of what He had. His attitude was correct in that his sacrifices for the sake of the Father were nothing more than relinquishing that which did not belong to him anyway. Let us ask God to give us this attitude even right now so that we may begin to walk the sacrificial life that He desires.