Sacrifice For Spiritual and Worldly Success
An Article Series
The latest State of the Union Address gave many of us hope. But there was a word in there that I suppose most people missed. The word was “grit”. It refers to determination, willingness to work even when the going gets tough and muscles are strained and hands are slightly injured and there might be a small wound bleeding until it clots. It’s determination to fight the good fight and do what is right before man and God even when we don’t work so hard, even when we have aches and pains, even when we can almost see that goal, that accomplishment, being completed.
Sadly, another of my writing projects contains several reference articles telling us that, because of many factors, American and British young people would rather live on the welfare handouts than find work, or create their own work. They’d rather play video games and watch TV. They rather do anything other than be productive. More’s the pity because they don’t know the pleasure and pride of a job well done and the realization that the job accomplished will promote a better life not just for the doer, but for many others.
Looking back at my life, I know my parents worked 14-hours days in uncomfortable work conditions to make nothing into a small family business that supported 4-children and sent all of them through college.
These were people who came from a generation that was very familiar with the idea of sacrifice. Many of their contemporaries had sacrificed their lives for their fellow human beings and for their country between 1900 and 1945. The whole idea of making sacrifices, great or small, seems alien to a younger generation. But I must tell you, that thinking must change because no one builds a safe strong military or industry or society, neighborhood or family without honest hard work and sacrifice.
If you’re a Bible student you can look back through your memories and see if you can find anyone of any merit who did great work for God without sacrifice. I cannot remember any. Prophets and kings, soldiers, and farmers, builders, followers and disciples of The Christ and believers upon His reforms all sacrificed for the benefit of others. Of Others!
Jesus told us to give and help those in need. He did it and others watched in amazement. He died so that you might live in a free society here on Earth and also in His Heavenly Kingdom to come.
Just recall the writings of The Apostle Paul, and his many times when he was brutalized, had his life threatened, was imprisoned, and was finally murdered for the cause of bringing The Gospel handed down from God to Jesus the Christ intended to be spoken to You! YES my friend, intended for YOU to hear it! He and all the other apostles sacrificed so that future generations would be set free!
The vast majority of biblical references to ‘sacrifice’ are in the Old Testament. These passages prefigure Jesus’ sacrificial death for us on the cross. In the New Testament, almost all the references are about Jesus’ sacrifice. The death of Jesus as the one perfect and complete sacrifice fulfilling all the Old Testament preparation and prediction. We do not need to make any sacrifices for our sins. Yet the New Testament tells us that there are four sacrifices you can make that please God. We’ll cover one or two today and more as the days pass.
1. Thank God for the sacrifice of Jesus
God is holy (v.35) and loving. God loved David. He said, ‘I will not take my love from him’ (v.33).
God, in his love, made a covenant with David and his people. It was a covenant of grace, but it required a response of obedience to the law. But what would happen if they did not keep the law? If that happened – ‘If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands’ (vv.30–31) – a penalty would be required (v.32).
The New Testament tells us that God came in the person of his son Jesus Christ to take that penalty by offering himself as the sacrifice for sin. Through that sacrifice, God’s love and holiness were both fully expressed and satisfied and you need make no further sacrifice for sin.
Thank you, Lord, so much for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for me. Thank you that no further sacrifice is required for my sins.
2. Make sacrifices that please God
In this passage, we see four sacrifices that you can make in response to Jesus’ sacrifice for you:
- Sacrifice of your lips
The writer of Hebrews says, ‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name… for with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Hebrews 13:15–16).Much of the first eleven chapters of Romans are about the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Paul, having set out all that God has done for us, responds with a sacrifice of praise (Romans 11:33–36).
- Sacrifice of your life
Paul writes, ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy [because of all that Jesus has done for us through the sacrifice of himself on the cross], to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship’ (12:1, AMP).God wants you to offer all of yourself and all of your lives – your time, ambitions, possessions, ears, mouths and sexuality – as well as your mind, emotions, and attitudes. Paul’s description of a living sacrifice also reminds us that you have to go on offering your life as a sacrifice to God, offering the whole of your life for the whole of your life.As Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message, ‘Take your every day, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering’ (v.1, MSG).In Old Testament times, ‘living sacrifice’ would be a contradiction in terms. The whole point of the sacrifice was that it was killed. Jago Wynne writes, ‘Our act of worship is no longer to bring a sacrifice but to be one ourselves. We remain living. It is all of us that is being offered. Worship is what I say with my tongue. It’s what I watch… what I think… where I go with my feet.’
- The sacrifice of your ‘loot’
Paul encourages the sacrifice of generosity in contributing to the needs of others (v.8). We are to ‘share with God’s people who are in need’ (v.13). This is another sacrifice the writer of Hebrews says pleases God: ‘to share with others’ (Hebrews 13:16).We are even to give generously to our enemies: ‘Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness’ (Romans 12:20, MSG).
- Sacrifice of your love
In this passage, Paul gives many examples of the sacrifice of loving service (vv.9–21).The writer of Hebrews says, ‘do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Hebrews 13:16).‘Doing good’ means giving up things that are not good. ‘Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold’ (Romans 12:2, J.B. Phillips). Although God only asks us to give up the bad stuff in our lives, it can feel costly to do so because that stuff is superficially attractive. Repentance is a very positive word, but at the time it may seem sacrificial.Sacrificial love involves allowing God to transform us into a complete change. Our love must be sincere (v.9). The Greek word for ‘sincere’ means ‘without hypocrisy’ or literally ‘without play acting’ or ‘without a mask’.Often relationships in the world are quite superficial. We all put up fronts or masks to protect ourselves. When we see governments doing this, we call it ‘spin’. When we do it ourselves, we call it ‘image’; we are projecting something. In effect, we’re saying, ‘I don’t really like what I am inside so I will pretend I am somebody different.’ If other people are doing the same then there are two ‘fronts’ or ‘masks’ meeting. The sad result is that the two real people never meet. This is the opposite of ‘sincere love’. Sincere love means taking off your mask and daring to reveal who you are. When you know that God loves you as you are, you are set free to take off your mask. This means that there is a completely new depth and authenticity in your relationships.Paul urges Christians to live in harmony with one another and to be generous (v.13), hospitable (v.13), forgiving (v.14), empathetic (v.15) and to live at peace with everyone (v.18). It is a glorious picture of the Christian family into which God calls us, beckoning us into an atmosphere of love, joy, patience, faithfulness, generosity, hospitality, blessing, rejoicing, harmony, humility and peace; where evil is overcome by good (vv.9–21).
Lord, today I offer you my body as a living sacrifice. I am available to you. I give everything I have to you again – my life, time, money, ambitions, plans, hopes, and desires. Show me your good, pleasing and perfect will (v.2).
3. Understand the sacrifices in the Old Testament
1 Chronicles 6:1-81
In the Old Testament the priests were the mediators between God and the people. ‘Aaron and his sons offered the sacrifices on the Altar… They made atonement for Israel’ (v.49, MSG).
Priesthood was hereditary. The priests were descendants of Levi. The chronicler lists the ‘sons of Levi’ (vv.1,16,46). We see that all those who served in the tabernacle (later to become the temple) were regarded as being ‘of Levitical descent’ (vv.1–30).
The chronicler stresses the importance of the temple. The temple was a place of worship where God’s spirit dwelt or “Lived”. David put some of the Levites in charge of the music in the house of the Lord – ‘These are the persons David appointed to lead the singing in the house of God… They were the ministers of music in the place of worship’ (vv.31–32, MSG).
Other Levites were required to present sacrifices on the altar – ‘making atonement’ (v.49). As we saw earlier, a simplified definition of atonement is ‘at-one-ment’. In other words, God provides a means through which people can be at one with him. They are cleansed of their sins and made acceptable to be seen before God.
This was the pattern throughout the Old Testament. The need for sacrifice and the making of atonement prefigured the final, complete and sufficient sacrifice of Jesus. Such passages remind us of how amazing it is that sacrifices are no longer necessary because of the one true and perfect sacrifice of Jesus. He took a tremendous risk, and so also did The Heavenly Father. He gave everything away so that he could be utterly obliterated to rescue me and YOU.
Thank you, Lord, that all that is required of us today is a response to your sacrifice; to offer you the sacrifices of praise, of our bodies, of doing good and sharing with others. Thank you that with such sacrifices you are pleased. I pray that you would pour out your fire on our sacrifices.
‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’
Doing good is the most powerful way to stop evil spreading.
Inspirational Notes came from www.htb.org
Surrender and Self-Sacrifice
Servanthood is ultimately the outcome of one who, having first surrendered himself to God, is able to give himself sacrificially for God and others. This element of surrender is seen in the single-minded devotion of the Jesus who came to do the will of the One who sent Him and to complete His work (John 4:34). But Christ’s single-minded devotion or commitment to the will of the Father was the result of the surrender of His life and will to the Father’s agenda. Such surrender meant giving Himself sacrificially for our redemption in keeping with the Father’s plan (John 3:16).
Thus, as qualities that characterized the Lord Jesus, surrender and self-sacrifice form two most vital marks of spiritual maturity. These two qualities, however, are here treated together because they are so related as cause and effect or root and fruit. Further, because they are so much a part of the character of Christ and true maturity, they deserve special mention in any list of qualities of spiritual maturity and leadership.
The first step (the root) is surrender. To surrender means to relinquish possession or control to another, to submit to the power, authority, and control of another. The entire New Testament, as summarized in Philippians 2:6-8, shows us that Christ was willing to surrender His rights and prerogatives as the second person of the Trinity to the will and purpose and plan of the Father. Then, out of that surrender came the willingness to sacrifice for God’s plan no matter what the plan called for, even to death by torture and humiliation and a visit to the most terrible place God has created. Surrender, is complete trust in God and thus is part of the pathway to maturity and effective Christ-like ministry.
Surrendering to God’s agenda in and through us requires a clear view of the agendas we have prescribed for ourselves. Most people’s lists of things they consider important would include personal peace, happiness, comfort, prosperity, security, friends, good health, fulfilling experiences, and reaching their full potential.
This list should make the need for our surrender obvious, because those plans often conflict or ignore God’s plan for us. It’s true that God may and often does provide for us measures of peace, prosperity, position, fulfillment, and other things on our lists, but our surrender to God’s plan is a statement that we will not live for these things. They are not the things that drive us, but are simply side benefits that come through the sovereign pleasure of God.
Let’s never forget the great benefit to God’s glory and kingdom that has come through the lives of thousands of people who have surrendered to agendas beyond their own. Some have gone to faraway lands as missionaries. Mothers have surrendered careers and opportunities for significance to teach their children God’s truth. Fathers have changed careers or turned down promotions that conflicted with God’s will for them or their families. Pastors have faithfully served in out-of-the-way places where no one really cares about them, where food and water, and health-care and even safety and peace are scarce. Where sometimes torturous death lurks in shadows.
The next step (the fruit) that follows surrendering to the God is sacrifice. The aspect of sacrifice is emphasized in Philippians 2:6-8 by the words, “He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross!” Surrendering to the Father’s will, He emptied Himself, became man and was found in the form of a servant whereby the Lord Jesus willingly gave Himself sacrificially that God’s will might be fulfilled in and though His life and death. While this involves the mystery of His incarnation and stands far beyond our comprehension, several levels of sacrifice are evident in the Savior’s surrender that set the perfect example for us. His sacrifices actually began when He emptied himself of His privileges and the prerogatives that were His as the second person of the Trinity. In becoming man, He veiled and laid aside the voluntary use and glory of His many attributes as God the Son. Then, in this life on earth, He did without wealth, position, status, and even acceptance in that He was rejected by His own (John 1:11). Unlike the foxes that have their dens and the birds their nests, the Son of Man had no place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20). Ultimately, of course, He made the greatest sacrifice of all in that He who knew no sin became sin for us by dying the ugly and horrible death of the cross—a sentence reserved for the worst of criminals.
The bottom line is this: Christ voluntarily emptied Himself of anything and everything that stood in the way of the glory and gain of His Father through Him.
What about us? Although rights, privileges, pleasures, possessions, expectations, and well-formed plans may not be wrong in and of themselves, are we willing to hold them loosely and even let them go—to sacrifice them—if emptying ourselves of them will enable us to fulfill God’s agenda for our lives?…
Surrendering to God’s agenda may mean sacrificing our children—or our goods, reputation, comfort, convenience, and a whole list of other things we hold so tightly in our hands as well as those things we hope and plan for.53
By sacrificing our children, Stowell was referring to the willingness of parents to give up their children in the sense of seeing them go into some form of full-time service like foreign missions or even some other type of career ministry, something many parents would not consider “solid, stable, and a real job.”
I can well remember when I made the decision to attend Dallas Theological Seminary. I had been raised on a small cattle ranch in East Texas and had a degree in animal husbandry from Texas A&M University. Through my experience on the ranch and my studies at A&M, I was fairly well prepared to manage a cattle ranch. After graduation, I was offered an excellent job working for a large feed company in our area while managing a large ranch. But God had also been at work in my heart and I had become convinced that God’s will for my life was to prepare for the pastorate (shepherding sheep rather than herding cattle) through attending seminary.
My father thought I had lost my mind! He claimed I would be wasting my life, my education at Texas A&M, and did his best to dissuade me. He was almost ashamed of the fact I would be going to seminary rather than taking a job in the market place. Ironically, I was also offered a position with a pharmaceutical company in the Pacific Northwest, and this would have been okay in my dad’s eyes because this job was with a well-known company and came with an excellent compensation package. I would not have been using my training in cattle and pasture management, but that didn’t seem to matter. Though his attitude changed before I finished seminary and my dad became very supportive, at first, before God had worked in his heart, my dad was simply not willing to see his son go into full-time ministry. To him this was a sacrifice he was not readily willing to make.
Conclusion and Application
In your own words, what are some of the principles and imperatives the following passages teach about self-sacrifice as one of the marks of spiritual maturity needed in the Christian life? See Matthew 6:19ff; 10:37-38; 19:29; 16:24; Luke 9:23; 1 Cor. 9:15-23; Rom. 12:1ff; 14:1-15:3; 1 Cor. 8:13; 2 Cor. 4:7-18.
Based on scriptural principles, what are some of the guiding factors and motivations or reasons for the necessity of self-sacrifice in the Christian’s life?
The following are offered as a few principles and challenges drawn from the above listed passages:
(1) The “therefore” in Romans 12:1 shows the call to surrender ourselves as living sacrifices is predicated on the reality of the “mercies of God” described in chapters 1-11. These first eleven chapters of Romans instruct us in God’s plan for sinful man through the saving life and death of Jesus Christ. In other words, in view of all that God has done and is doing for us in Christ, it is illogical for the Christian to do anything else but give his life back in devoted surrender and sacrifice to God.
(2) What a person does with his life depends on the clarity of his vision as to what is truly valuable and lasting. As Jesus made so indelibly clear in the metaphors of Matthew 6:19-24, a man’s heart (his aspiration, desires, pursuits) depends on his treasure, and what he treasures depends on his perspective or insight to life according to biblical and eternal values versus worldly and temporal values. Thus, holding tightly to God’s kingdom values determine priorities which in turn will determine one’s objectives and pursuits—what one is willing to surrender to and sacrifice for. Therefore, one who holds tightly to God’s kingdom values (because of time, testimony, ability, or influence) may often have to say no to many things, even many good things, because they will get in the way of those goals that are based on biblical values and priorities. This is the issue of pursuing what is excellent or best over against what is simply good (see Phil. 1:9f).
One of the obvious qualities of spiritual maturity and leadership so completely possessed by our Lord was His willingness to make sacrifices in accordance with His values, priorities, and objectives as One who was totally surrendered to the will and plan of the Father. This always included surrendering to the Father’s will first, and then the blessing and well-being of others, but neither of these can exist without sacrifices, without counting the costs.
(3) Self-sacrifice means putting the Lord first above self and even family (see Matt. 10:37; 19:29). Without this, no one is free to follow Him and properly influence others for Christ. Sacrifice means “taking up one’s cross” regardless of the cost (Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Luke 9:23). Taking up one’s cross, according to the culture of the day, was an act of submission, a willingness to pay the price and do whatever God asks. Historically and culturally, the analogy of “taking up one’s cross” meant to cease rebelling against the King’s rule and submit to His rule over one’s life.54 In practical terms for the Christian, it means dying to one’s own desires and will in total submission to God to be, go, and do whatever He calls one to do.
One of my wife’s sisters and her husband served for many years in South Africa as missionaries. They then served their mission board here in the states for the past eleven or twelve years. They are now in their fifties, have two married daughters, and are about to be grandparents, yet, they believe God has led them to go to a foreign ministry where Christians are often persecuted, where the weather is hot and humid, and the living conditions anything but ideal by U.S. standards. Because of their faith and surrender to the Savior, they are willing to sacrifice their comforts in the States and seeing their precious little grandchildren grow up. This is a decision that has been extremely painful, but a sacrifice they are willing to make for the Savior and for the lost.
Their sacrifice and that of many others like them reminds me of something a missionary society in South Africa once wrote to David Livingstone, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to send other men to join you.” Livingstone replied, “If you have men who will come ONLY if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them.” Livingstone knew that such men would not last when the going really got tough. They simply could not make the needed sacrifices.
Reflecting on your own life, what are some of the things the Lord may be calling on you to sacrifice or give up in order to fulfill His will and purpose or to minister to someone in need? Though the apostle had liberty in Christ to eat meat or to receive financial compensation for his labor in the gospel, he was willing to sacrifice those rights for the glory of God and the spiritual well being of other. Following the declaration of his willingness to so sacrifice (1 Cor. 8:13-9:18), Paul made this statement,
1 Corinthians 9:19-22 For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. 21 To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. 22 To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some. 23 I do all these things because of the gospel, so that I can be a participant in it.
Though we have great liberty in Christ and all things are lawful, having been freed from the bondage of the Law (see 1 Cor. 8:9; 10:23), all things are not profitable or beneficial for the building up of others or even for one’s own spiritual growth. Thus, seeking to glorify God, the biblical position of sacrificial living is seen in the following statement by Paul:
1 Corinthians 10:23-24 “Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds others up. 24 Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person.
For a moment, think about the statement, “Others may, but spiritually mature people who want to have an impact for Christ often cannot afford to.” Though something may not in itself be wrong, it becomes wrong for a believer if it gets in the way of his or her ability to serve and accomplish the will of God. It was not wrong for Paul to receive funds from those to whom he carried the gospel, but in order to show that his motives were pure, he willingly sacrificed that right lest receiving compensation for his work might hinder the impact of his testimony.
Principle: Paying the price through dying to self or self-sacrifice means the power or liberty to make right choices in submission as a servant to God and others.
The issue is, am I willing to deny myself or pay the price so that I am free to follow the Lord and become the person God has saved me and called me to be? Whether one is willing to accept it or not, there is another kind of price tag for those who, for whatever reason, are unwilling to give of themselves for others. No one ever said it better than C. S. Lewis:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.… The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love…is Hell.55
52 Joseph M. Stowell, Perilous Pursuits, Moody Press, Chicago, 1994, p. 173.
53 Stowell, p. 176.
54 See Michael P. Green, “The Meaning of Cross Bearing,” Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 140, April 83, p. 117f. On page 120, Green summarizes the meaning of cross bearing, “It is this writer’s position that the phrase “take up his cross” is a figure of speech derived from the Roman custom requiring a man convicted of rebellion against Rome’s sovereign rule to carry the cross-beam (patibulum) to his place of execution. Thus the proper starting point is the historical basis for the phrase. This starting point, as will be shown, leads to an interpretation that cross-bearing means to submit to the authority or rule one formerly rebelled against, or to obey God’s will.”
55 Bible Illustrator for Windows, Parsons Technology, 1990-1998.
Source with minor editing: https://bible.org/seriespage/mark-9-surrender-and-self-sacrifice
The Meaning of True Christian Sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15-16)
Outside of God’s Word, one of the most profound sentences ever written is the answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” Or, as John Piper has modified it (rightly, I think), “Man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever” (Desiring God [Multnomah Press], 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition, p. 23). In other words, the only way that you can truly glorify God is by enjoying Him. If you are a joyless, grim Christian, gritting your teeth as you endure to the end, you aren’t exactly a great advertisement for how good God is!
Piper describes how reading C. S. Lewis helped him to see this truth many years ago. Piper writes (ibid., p. 18), Lewis says that as he was beginning to believe in God, a great stumbling block was the presence of demands scattered through the Psalms that he should praise God. He did not see the point in all this; besides, it seemed to picture God as craving ‘for our worship like a vain woman who wants compliments.’ He goes on to show why he was wrong.
(Piper continues by citing from Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms [Harcourt, Brace and World], pp. 94-95),
But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…. The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game….
My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.
I’ve experienced what Lewis was talking about when I’ve been at a beautiful spot in God’s creation, but I don’t know anyone else who is there. I want to share the joy of the experience even with a total stranger by saying, “Isn’t this magnificent?” The praise completes the enjoyment.
So if we want to fulfill the chief purpose for which God created us, we must live to glorify God by enjoying Him forever, so that our joy in God spills over into continual praise of God. But the Bible links the first great commandment, to love God with our total being, with the second great commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves. To move to a monastery, where we cut ourselves off from others and live in perpetual praise to God, falls short of what pleases Him. He wants us to offer our lives as continual sacrifices of praise to Him, but also not to “neglect doing good and sharing.” In other words, we glorify God both by a life that continually spills over in praise toward God and by practical good deeds. Thus our text makes the point that…
Through Christ, we should offer to God sacrifices of praise and good deeds, which please Him.
The author may have been responding here (as he seems to be doing in 13:10) to an objection raised by the Jews towards these Jewish believers in Christ. In verse 10, the objection was, “We have an altar in Jerusalem, but you Christians have no altar.” The author emphatically counters, “But we do have an altar, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our once-for-all offering for sin.” Coupled with that objection is the one he answers in our text, “We Jews offer our sacrifices on the altar at the temple, but you have no such sacrifices in your worship.”
The author counters, “True, we no longer offer animal sacrifices, because Jesus is the complete and final sacrifice for our sins. We need no other sacrifice for atonement. But we do offer sacrifices to God, not to gain forgiveness of sins, but because we possess forgiveness in Christ. Our sacrifices are thank offerings, and they are not just occasional, but continual. We offer the sacrifices of praise and of good deeds. These sacrifices please God.” Our text makes four points:
Everything we do in the Christian life is through Christ.
“Through Him then” is emphatic in the Greek text, and we would miss the point if we did not emphasize it. The only way that we can approach the holy God is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. If we try to offer our good works to God apart from Christ, He would view them all as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6).
Men have approached God through sacrifices since the beginning of human history. Cain brought a sacrifice from the fruit of the ground. His brother, Abel, brought of the firstlings of his flock (Gen. 4:3-4). Surely, God was not arbitrary in rejecting Cain’s sacrifice and in accepting Abel’s. God had made it clear when He clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of an animal that the only sacrifice acceptable to approach Him was one that involved shedding the blood of an innocent substitute. The entire Old Testament sacrificial system that was later instituted under Moses pointed ahead to God’s supreme and final sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died as the substitute for all that believe in Him.
The author of Hebrews has made it abundantly clear that Jesus fulfilled in His death what the Old Testament sacrificial system could only point to. In Hebrews 10:1-4, he stated,
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
He goes on to talk about Christ doing God’s will by offering Himself as the sacrifice for our sins. Then (10:10) he states, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” In case we missed it, after mentioning again the repeated Old Testament offerings, which could never take away sins (10:11), he states of Christ, “but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God” (10:12). If we still missed it, he states again (10:14), “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Christ’s one offering of Himself completed, fulfilled, and ended the Jewish sacrificial system. To offer animal sacrifices to God now is to deny the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ for our sins.
Because this point is so emphatic in Hebrews, I cannot accept the view that animal sacrifices will again be offered in the millennium, even if they are “memorials” of Christ’s death. I think that the author of Hebrews would be aghast at such an idea. The only sacrifices that we now can offer are spiritual sacrifices of praise and good deeds, and these may only be offered “through Him.” If you have not come to God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the substitute for your sins, you may not offer anything to God. You are under His just condemnation for your sins. You must discard all of your good deeds and all personal merit and flee to the cross.
But once you have come to faith in Christ as the substitute for your sins, you must continue to come to Christ for everything in the Christian life. As Paul says (Eph. 1:3), “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” John Piper puts it this way (Future Grace [Multnomah Publishers], pp. 105-106),
Every sinner who comes to God in Christ, with all his needs, finds God coming to him in Christ, with all his promises. When a sinful person meets the holy God in Christ what he hears is Yes. God, do you love me? Yes. Will you forgive me? Yes. Will you accept me? Yes. Will you help me change? Yes. Will you give me power to serve you? Yes. Will you keep me? Yes. Will you show me your glory? Yes.
All the promises of God—all the blessings of God in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3)—are Yes in Christ Jesus. Jesus is God’s decisive Yes to all who believe.
So the only way that we can come to God in the first place is through faith in Christ. The only way that we can be sustained in the Christian life is through faith in Christ. Everything in the Christian life comes through Christ. Everything we do in the Christian life must be done through Christ. It is an affront to Christ’s sacrifice to think that we can come to God through any other mediator, whether the virgin Mary or the saints or some earthly priest or pope. Christ alone is our high priest. Everything is through Him!
Through Christ, we should offer to God continual sacrifices of praise.
Praise to God is not just a nice thing to do once in a while when you feel like it. The Psalms are filled with the command, “Praise the Lord.” It’s not a suggestion for something you might try when you don’t have anything better to do. It’s a command that is to permeate everything you do. As the author here exhorts, “Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God.” Praise to God should be the whole tenor of our lives. We are to be so captivated and filled with the greatness and goodness and grace and majesty of God, that like a cup full to the brim, we are always spilling over in praises to Him.
True praise must come from the heart, and so the command implies and demands that our hearts are right before Him. God sees our hearts (Heb. 4:13). If in our hearts, we constantly grumble and complain about the way that God is treating us, and then we come to church, put on our happy face, and sing praises to God, we’re being hypocrites. We’ve got to deal with our hearts before we can bring a true sacrifice of praise to God. Confess your sinful grumbling to God. Seek the satisfaction and joy that comes through faith in Christ alone. Otherwise, your praises will be hollow and not heartfelt. Your good deeds will not be acceptable to God. True praise and genuine good deeds flow from a heart that is satisfied in God and His abundant grace in Christ.
John Piper, in a sermon on this text (on the web at: http:// www.soundofgrace.com/piper89/9-17-89.htm) writes,
Priority Number One at Bethlehem [the church he pastors] is the cultivation of hearts that stand in awe of God. We believe in missions. We believe in evangelism. We believe in nurture and education. But we know that this is all a weariness of the flesh if it is not preceded and carried by a sense of wonder at the glory of God. If your heart is not amazed by the grace of God, and your mind is not gripped by the truth of God, and your sense of right and wrong is not permeated by the justice of God, and your faith is not resting in the power of God, and your imagination is not guided by the beauty of God, and your life is not steadied by the sovereignty of God, and your hope is not filled with the glory of God, then the service of God will be what Paul calls works of the law, and not the fruit of the Spirit. Work for God that is not sustained by wonder at God is a weariness of the flesh. Priority Number One is the cultivation of hearts that stand in awe of God.
But lest you think that John Piper is the only one saying such things, Charles Spurgeon said something similar (in a sermon on this text, “A Life-long Occupation,” Ages Software, p. 733):
Dear brothers and sisters, be sure that you do not lose your joy. If you ever lose the joy of religion, you will lose the power of religion. Do not be satisfied to be a miserable believer. An unhappy believer is a poor creature; but he who is resigned to being so is in a dangerous condition. Depend upon it, greater importance attaches to holy happiness than most people think. As you are happy in the Lord you will be able to praise his name. Rejoice in the Lord, that you may praise him.
George Muller knew and practiced the same thing. He often advised that “the business of every day is first of all to seek to be truly at rest and happy in God”.
The author of Hebrews adds by way of clarification, “that is, the fruit of lips that confess His name” (literal translation; see Hos. 14:2). To “confess God’s name” means openly to proclaim and to submit to God’s attributes and gracious actions towards us in Christ. In Romans 14:11, Paul alludes to Isaiah 45:23, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to [lit., confess; the same Greek word as in Heb. 13:15] God.” At the judgment, every tongue will openly proclaim God’s holy justice and bow before His rightful sovereignty. Then, they will have no choice. But now, by God’s grace, we can willingly offer a sacrifice of praise to God by bowing our hearts before Him and reveling in who He is, as revealed in His Word (not in “however you conceive Him to be”!).
Praise flows from a heart that has been brought into submission to God and His Word. When we see that His justice and holiness, along with His mercy and love, are upheld at the cross, where the Son of God bore the wrath that was due for our sins, we will continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to Him! When we see that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted to us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim. 1:9), we cannot help but praise Him!
I’m preaching to myself as well as to you when I say, let’s work at casting off every thought of grumbling or discontent and becoming a people who are “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6)! As 1 Peter 2:5tells us, “you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Peter continues (1 Pet. 2:9), “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
Our text reminds us not only of the first great commandment, to express our love for God through genuine praises, but also of the second commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves:
Why we should offer to God sacrifices of good deeds
“Doing good” is a general term for all kinds of practical ministry to others, whereas “sharing” (Greek = koinonia) means sharing the essentials of life with those who lack them and are unable to work to obtain them (2 Thess. 3:10). The Bible is clear that religion that is only God-ward and does not extend in practical ways to others is phony.
James 1:27 states, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James goes on to say (2:15-16), “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”
The apostle John echoes this (1 John 3:16-18), “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” Jesus taught the same thing when He said that when we feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, when we invite in the stranger and clothe the naked, when we visit those who are sick or in prison, we are really doing it to Him (Matt. 25:35-40).
The Greek imperative, “do not neglect,” implies here (as it did in 13:2) that some were neglecting this duty and needed to stop doing so. Our responsibility is primarily to fellow believers, but it does not stop there. As Paul wrote (Gal. 6:10), “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” I confess that in our modern world, where we know instantly about needs around the globe, it is not easy to know how much to give and to whom to give. But we should not let that stop us from being “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). Our text makes one last point:
4. God is pleased with our sacrifices of praise and good deeds.
“Such sacrifices” refers both to our sacrifices of praise and of good deeds. If we offered them apart from Christ, they would be a vain and offensive attempt to commend ourselves to God. But when we offer them through Christ, God is pleased with them. The aim of our lives should be to please God out of love for Him. Paul prayed for the Colossians, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). He also explained (2 Cor. 5:9), “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
We should live every day with the realization that one day we will stand before Him. We should live so that we will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful slave… enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23). If through Christ, we continually offer to God sacrifices of praise and good deeds, we will rejoice someday to hear those words from His lips.
God created you for the purpose that you would live to glorify Him by enjoying Him forever. How do you do that? By living in a manner pleasing to Him. How do you do that? By coming to faith in Jesus Christ and His shed blood as the only way to be reconciled to the holy God. Having trusted in Christ, you please God by daily offering your life to Him as a sacrifice of praise and good deeds.
Here are some ways to put this into practice:
(1) Steep yourself in the Psalms. The Book of Psalms is filled with praises to God. Turn the psalms into yourpraises as you pray them back to God.
(2) Get a hymnal, learn, and sing the great hymns of the faith. If you don’t know the tunes, there are some wonderful recordings available.
(3) Look for opportunities to serve, rather than expecting to be served. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). There are many needs in this church, as well as in our community, to do good and to share. Give regularly to our SOS fund, which is used to help the needy. The Sunshine Rescue Mission and Hope Cottages (for homeless women) are ministries that need workers and givers.
(4) With George Muller, make it your first business of every day to find delight and joy in God. Your chief end is to glorify Him by enjoying Him forever!
- Why is it absolutely essential to realize that you cannot come to God by your good works?
- How can we truly praise God in the midst of severe trials? Should we praise Him even if we don’t feel like it?
- With unending needs in the world, how can we know where to direct our service and monetary gifts?
- Why is our joy in God inseparable from glorifying Him?
The Meaning of Sacrifice
Sacrifice means giving to the Lord whatever He requires of our time, our earthly possessions, and our energies to further His work. The Lord commanded, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Our willingness to sacrifice is an indication of our devotion to God. People have always been tried and tested to see if they will put the things of God first in their lives.
The Law of Sacrifice Was Practiced Anciently
From the time of Adam and Eve to the time of Jesus Christ, the Lord’s people practiced the law of sacrifice. They were commanded to offer as sacrifices the firstlings of their flocks. These animals had to be perfect, without blemish. The ordinance was given to remind the people that Jesus Christ, the Firstborn of the Father, would come into the world. He would be perfect in every way, and He would offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. (See Moses 5:5–8.)
Jesus did come and offer Himself as a sacrifice, just as the people had been taught He would. Because of His sacrifice, everyone will be saved from physical death by the Resurrection and all can be saved from their sins through faith in Jesus Christ.
Christ’s atoning sacrifice marked the end of sacrifices by the shedding of blood. Such outward sacrifice was replaced by the ordinance of the sacrament, so teaches the Mormon church.
We Still Must Sacrifice
Even though sacrifice by the shedding of blood was ended, the Lord still asks us to sacrifice. But now He requires a different kind of offering. He said: “Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood, … and your burnt offerings shall be done away. It is right that we continue to confess our sins and recognize with a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” that we must change our ways to follow God’s Ways. We should feel a deep sorrow for our sins as we humble ourselves and repent of them.
We Must Be Willing to Sacrifice Everything We Have to the Lord
The Apostle Paul wrote that we should become living sacrifices which are holy and acceptable unto God (see Romans 12:1).
If we are to be a living sacrifice, we must be willing to give all our mind, our strength and our focus to building the spiritual foundation for the new world to come. That world will come very soon with the return of Jesus our Christ. We cannot build this foundation into everyone. It is they who must willingly come to receive the Holy Spirit and their Salvation through the final sacrifice Jesus made for us.
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
https://www.biblegateway.com/ New International Version
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!
The young ruler was a good man. But when he was put to the test, he was not willing to sacrifice his worldly possessions. On the other hand, the Lord’s disciples Peter and Andrew were willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the kingdom of God. When Jesus said unto them, “Follow me, … they straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matthew 4:19–20).
Like the disciples, we can offer our daily activities as a sacrifice to the Lord. We can say, “Thy will be done.” Abraham did this. He lived on the earth before Christ, in the days when sacrifices and burnt offerings were required. As a test of Abraham’s faith, the Lord commanded him to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Isaac was the only son of Abraham and Sarah. The command to offer him as a sacrifice was extremely painful for Abraham. This would be the end of Abraham’s direct family line. There were other implications. How could he be gathered to his people if there would be no more people from his son? And that son, by the way, was a mature young man, strong enough to overcome his father and run way. But together they were willing to sacrifice themselves for God, without understanding why they were required to do this. They may have questioned if they were indeed hearing the voice of the true and living God!
Nevertheless, he and Isaac made the long journey to Mount Moriah, where the sacrifice was to be made. They traveled for three days. Imagine Abraham’s thoughts and his heartache. His son was to be sacrificed to the Lord. When they reached Mount Moriah, Isaac carried the wood and Abraham carried the fire and the knife to the place where they were to build the altar. Isaac said, “My father … behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb.” Then Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it.
He bound Isaac and laid him upon the wood. He then took the knife to kill Isaac. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven,“ Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied. (It was “Here am I.” which is to say, I am your servant.)
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
[This is interesting. An ANGEL of God called out and ended with, “…. you fear God, because you have not withheld from ME your son….” This points again to God being a family and one of the family can speak for many and for The Father. It indicates we can be ONE with the Father. That is an awesome thought and a long often made request by many, at last fulfilled!]
Abraham must have been overcome with joy when he was no longer required to sacrifice his son. But he loved, feared, and trusted the Lord so much that he would do anything the Lord required of him.
Sacrifice Helps Us Prepare to Live in the Presence of God
Only through sacrifice can we become worthy to live in the presence of God. Only through sacrifice can we enjoy eternal life. Many who have lived before us have sacrificed all they had. We must be willing to do the same if we would earn the rich reward they enjoy.
We may not be asked to sacrifice all things. But like Abraham, we should be willing to sacrifice everything to become worthy to live in the presence of the Lord.
The Lord’s people have always sacrificed greatly and in many different ways. Some have suffered hardship and ridicule for the gospel, and still do. Some new converts to the Church have been cut off from their families. Lifetime friends have turned away. Some members have lost their jobs; some have lost their lives. But the Lord knows our sacrifices; He promises, Matthew 19:29 New International Version (NIV)
29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[a] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
As our testimonies of the gospel grow, we become able to make greater sacrifices to the Lord.
Common people have tithed for years, served as a teacher or preacher or simple “housekeeper” giving of themselves expecting nothing in reward.
People have traveled for days to receive God’s gift of eternal life, and even now, this minute, I know people threatened by Anti-Christian governments in India, Pakistan, and China who risk ending dead or jailed – all because they were giving away Bibles or preaching The Gospel.
Some have lost jobs because they refused to work on the Saturday Sabbath.
Young men and women have given up or postpone good job opportunities, education, or sports to serve as missionaries.
Many more examples can be found. Yet a place in our Heavenly Father’s kingdom is worth any sacrifice we have to make of our time, talents, energy, money, and lives. Through sacrifice, we can know we are doing as God requires of us for our faith, for our families, and for the betterment of our community. God rewards a faithful and happy giver.
Why Sacrifice for God?
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
Most religions have a common theme: sacrifice yourself for your god and your god will reward you. But true followers of Jesus do not think like that because it is not true to the Bible. Yes, we do understand that we are not to live for ourselves, and that sacrifice is an essential part of our discipleship … but not in order to gain God’s approval. We are already accepted by Him when we believe in Jesus Christ and receive His mercy. This new relationship is a privilege, freely given and gladly accepted: nothing we do can add to our security in God.
However, in the same way that children need to be taught how to respond to parental love, learn to please their parents and how to take a responsible place in the family, so do Christians. So Paul urges those who have been saved by the precious blood of Christ (who gave everything for them), to re-orientate their lifestyle. Instead of being self-pleasing, they were to be God-worshipping. But their worship was not to be restricted to church meetings. Every part of their lives should show that they belonged to Jesus, by living as He did – sacrificially pleasing Father God.
It is easy to talk about being holy and pleasing God, but our old nature keeps calling us back into self-centred thinking and living. That is why believers need to ask, “How can I best live sacrificially, like Jesus, in this situation?” Then we have to do it! Always, the instinct of our flesh will try to find ‘what is in it for me’, but the Holy Spirit will be urging, ‘what is in it for Jesus’ reputation?’ That battle is so strong that the Apostle has to urge the believers in Rome to serve rather than be served by others; to work hard rather than slack off; to give rather than receive, as an expression of God’s love to others. None of this is easy, but it is the proper way to express our relationship with God who has given us a free pardon for all our sins although at great cost to Christ. Put simply, sacrifice is an essential part of the normal Christian life: anything less is ungrateful disobedience.
Merciful God. I want to thank You for saving me: thank You for the precious blood of Christ which has paid for my sins and made me fit for Your presence. I am sorry that I keep putting my interests before Yours. I am sorry for enjoying worship services in church but being a hypocrite because I refuse to sacrifice my time, energy and money in Your service. Please help me to understand the importance and urgency of changing my pattern of life so that it will become a holy and pleasing thank-offering to You, because You have been so merciful to me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Bible Book: Romans
7 Important Bible Verses About Sacrifice
by CRYSTAL MCDOWELL · Print · Email
Sacrifice is a part of the Christian faith. We sacrifice our lives daily as we live with the impact of Christ’s sacrifice for us. While making a sacrifice isn’t easy, it does remind us that we need to hold loosely to the things of this world. Heaven is our true home and everything we give up on earth is temporary compared to eternity. Since the concept of sacrifice is so important for believers, take time today to learn from the 7 important Bible verses about sacrifice.
Sacrifice doesn’t replace obedience
“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).
Many believers sacrifice their time, money, and energy doing good works for God. However, we must be careful to not let the sacrifice take precedence over our obedience to the teachings of the Bible. A sacrificial gift to the Lord is honored as long as we are obeying His commandments and teaching others to do as well.
Sacrifice costs something
“But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing”” (2 Samuel 24:24).
A sacrifice may be freely given, but it’s not a genuine sacrifice if it doesn’t mean anything to us. When we feel the pain of our sacrifice—we know that we are really giving up something important. As we grow in our faith, we give our sacrifices to God more freely because we understand His greater sacrifice that allows us to know His grace.
Sacrifice can be a broken heart
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
When we sincerely seek after God’s forgiveness for our sins, it’s a sacrifice that He will never turn away. The Lord wants us to come to Him and be made clean from our sinful choices. Many times pride blocks us from admitting our sins. Yet when we humble ourselves, we find His grace and forgiveness.
Sacrifice is an everyday occurrence
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).
Every day we have the choice to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. The Lord doesn’t force His children to obey Him; rather He longs for us to choose His ways over our own desires. Our sacrifice of living for Jesus on a daily basis in spite of the temptations, trials, and tragedies of life encourages an investment of sacrifice with an eternity of rewards.
Sacrifice comes through thanksgiving
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
When we take the time to be thankful, we are giving God a sacrifice. It may not feel like a sacrifice to us, but when we consider His faithfulness to the world—we respond with gratefulness. Many people will go about their day-to-day activities and never once give God the sacrifice of thanksgiving. However, as believers we press towards being thankful every single day.
Sacrifice is pleasing to God
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are often compelled to do good for others even though they don’t always return the favor. Yet we sacrifices with good works and the sharing of our resources as to the Lord and not to men. Our Father in heaven is pleased to see His children doing the right things in spite the pressure to only please themselves.
Sacrifice ultimately was paid through Jesus Christ
“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith” (Romans 3:25).
The sacrifice of Jesus covered the sins of all people once and forever. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, there was no longer a need to sacrifice animals. It was finished at the cross. When we put our trust in Jesus, His blood shed covers us so that we don’t have to pay the penalty for our sins—not that we ever could.
Sacrifice your Life
We are given opportunities every day to sacrifice our own wants and needs for the furthering of God’s kingdom. As we daily sacrifice, let us keep in mind that everything we do in the name of Jesus Christ is a gift to the One who paid it all at Calvary.
Something else to read about sacrifice: Romans 12: Bible Study
Resource – New International Version Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblca, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Article by Crystal McDowell
Crystal McDowell and her husband of 22 years raise their five children in the Midwest. She writes, speaks, and teaches with a passion to encourage women with Biblical truths. As a freelance writer for over 12 years, Crystal has written numerous Christian curricula for Sunday School and VBS as well as many articles dealing with marriage, motherhood, and relationships. She gives weekly words of encouragement on her blog: Crystal McDowell Speaks
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2/23/18 The Key to Success
Sacrifice is not a popular subject today. Churches across a wide spectrum are moving rapidly toward a teaching that limits duty while broadening freedom to live as you please. We would be hard-pressed to prove this is supported by The Bible. Any religious teaching not based on the Word of God is a pointless pretense.
We who follow Christ can rejoice that the Bible is true, and when we interpret it according to reasonable, time-honored rules, we find that Bible religion is very demanding. One of its demands—the demand of sacrifice—is clearly stated in Jesus’ own words.
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
In the work of God, sacrifice is one requirement for success. We may even say that a religious career without sacrifice is not true Christian service. Why? Because sacrifice is necessary to accomplish anything of eternal value. You cannot get something for nothing. If you read the lives of great Christians, you will discover that they paid a price to be great.
Since definitions are the bedrock of clear thinking, we will start by proposing a definition of sacrifice. Sacrifice is simply giving up something for God or giving something to God. To illustrate the concept, we will give three outstanding examples of saints who served Christ sacrificially.
The apostle Paul
Paul was a high-born Jew (Phil. 3:5-7) with the best rabbinical education available in his day. His teacher was Gamaliel, still regarded as one of the greatest rabbis who ever lived (Acts 22:3). Already as a young man, Paul held an important place in the governing councils of his nation (Acts 8:1-4; 9:1-2). But when he became a Christian, he fell from these heights to the level of the despised and downtrodden. The litany of his sufferings in the cause of Christ is astonishing (2 Cor. 11:23-28). It is hard to imagine that a human body could survive so much cruel treatment. Yet he had no regrets that he exchanged a life of privilege for a life of hardship. He said that he counted all his losses as dung (Phil. 3:8). Why? Because the sacrifice gained him something better—”the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8).
Paul gave up living at a high Rabbi, receiving respect and constant honor from peers and local citizens, a comfortable home, and a good living. He walked away from all of that for the sacrifice for God and The Christ.
In his youth, Martyn was a top scholar at Cambridge University. He graduated in 1801 after taking a first in college examinations and winning two math competitions. It was said that he was without a rival in mathematics. But instead of pursuing a career in England, he dedicated his life to foreign missions and in 1802 became a chaplain with the East India Company. In succeeding years he devoted most of his time to the work of translating the Bible into Hindustani and other tongues. The crowning achievement of his life was to translate the New Testament into Persian. He had always been sickly, however, and on the mission field, he contracted tuberculosis. He was on his way to present his Persian New Testament to the Shah of Persia when he died at the age of 31.
What had he sacrificed? A brilliant career in math leading perhaps to fame, wealth, prestige, a university teaching position, a comfortable living, perhaps a peerage (honorary title), perhaps he might have worked in physics and made discoveries that could have advanced science for which he would have been honored and rewarded. He walked away from all the benefits that one of the most brilliant minds of his generation might expect to achieve. Was his a wasted life? He did not think so. A few days before he died, he wrote, “I thought with sweet comfort and peace of my God. . . . Oh, when shall time give place to eternity! . . . None of that wickedness which has made men worse than wild beasts shall be seen or heard of anymore.” In his eagerness to reach heaven he placed no value on the worldly things he had left behind.
Borden, born in 1887, was the gifted son of a wealthy family in Chicago. From an early age, through the influence of his God-fearing mother, he had an interest in spiritual things. He attended Moody Church when the pastor was R. A. Torrey, and at the age of seventeen, he surrendered to missionary service.
He attended Yale University and quickly became one of the leading figures on campus. Among his achievements was to play all the major sports, including football, wrestling, baseball, and rowing, and to be elected president of Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation, he went to Princeton Seminary. During his years there he donated $70,000 of his personal fortune to Christian work. After completion of seminary training, he became a director of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
But he was not satisfied to help others go the mission field. He wanted to go himself. Soon after deciding to dedicate his life to reaching the Muslims in China, he took passage on a ship and was on his way. He reached Port Said in Egypt on New Year’s Day, 1913, when he was age 25. But just a few months later, before he was able to travel further toward his goal, he died of cerebral meningitis.
Here was a man who made sacrifices. During his college years, when he was giving thousands to Christian work, he denied himself a car, thinking it an unjustifiable luxury. Because he expected to go someday to a difficult mission field, he never married, saying that it would be cruel to take a woman with him. Why would it be cruel? “Because the woman always fared the worst, often succumbing when the man survived.” What else did Borden give up? A life of every possible comfort and pleasure, because he was rich—a life of worldly achievement and influence, because he was a born leader with an exceptional mind.
Was his a wasted life? Consider this. Shortly before going to the field, Borden willed most of his fortune to the work of God, so that at his death almost a million dollars (equivalent to about 25 million today) was pumped into missionary enterprises around the world. Moreover, this man was so highly respected that his death sent shock waves throughout the Christian world. The number of young people stirred by his sacrifice to dedicate their own lives to God was beyond count.
The problem today is that we no longer have top scholars at Cambridge and Yale surrendering to missionary service. America has fallen into such apostasy that far from giving our brightest young people to God, we are giving Him hardly any young people at all. The reason is that today’s young people are unwilling to make sacrifices. They think that the purpose of life is to “be happy” and have a good time.
The natural human reaction to any problem is to hide from it, hoping that it will go away. The problems children have do not “go away.” If anything, with today’s modern social media and constant bombardment of music, sex-and-Satanism videos, and more, the problem raising wise and competent daughters and sons is more difficult than ever. The mother who throws her hands up and says, “They’ll grow up” is living in her own fantasy land.
Why are Asian kids, and many Jewish kids so capable? It is because their parents demand perfection of them, and more and more education “into” them all the time. These kids develop brain pathways for self-discipline and learning that no one else learns.
Why do the best schools have an excellent music program? It is because when a young person learns and then begins to teach him/herself by daily practice to be a good musician, s/he also learns self-discipline and gains gratification from seeing his/her own improvement.
We in The United States, in the rearing and education of our children, are going in the wrong direction. Now we have a great many young men (age 25 and older) still living at home, wasting time with computer games and social media, instead of working. Another warning sign is that so few have any belief or interest in Christian study and no interest in service to Christ. Five measures will help us turn around.
- Teach duty first, pleasure last.Everything good and necessary should take precedence to pleasing self. We do need times of rest and recreation, but as a rule, we should structure our lives according to duty. I used to tell my sons, “Work first.” Indeed, children should do their homework before playing outside. They should do their chores before calling their friends on the phone. But duty not only requires work before pleasure. Also, it gives priority to serving God. We must teach children that you go to church rather than go fishing. You take part in soul winning instead of staying home to watch television. You must study written devotional articles and seriously read the Bible and pray every morning early, instead of sleeping late. Eventually one sees the value of this and would never want to go without it.
(Actually I cannot find any justification for sleeping late! When I was young and owned a sailboat on weekends I slept aboard and was raising sail and out catching a breeze with the sunrise. Why waste such a beautiful experience?)
Training children to make these right choices should be one of the main objectives of a Christian upbringing.
- Do not spoil your children by giving them so many material luxuries! We are heaping possessions and entertainment on our children to a degree unprecedented in history. If you are a parent, compare what your children get for Christmas with what you obtained, and then with what your parents obtained. Compare the time your children spend watching TV and videos with the time you spent on similar entertainment, and then with the time your parents spent.
We are being good to them by doing this. Actually, as they spend more and more time with social media and other nonsense they are losing time that should be applied to becoming competent for work later. This constant “gift giving” is a form of child abuse!
We are teaching them a false concept of happiness—that happiness depends on having things and filling your life with fun and games, even beach resort vacations and strange lovers meeting and exchanging physical only sensations, instead of behaving as God told us to do.
It is not good if we are teaching them that the purpose of life is not sacrifice and service, but pleasing yourself. It is not good. It is the spiritual equivalent of buying your son or daughter a ticket on the train to Hell. If the kid comes up as a drug addict by age 30, the one to blame is yourself.
Christian colleges have become much more luxurious and entertainment-centered over the years. College is a business and money is a powerful temptation to management more interested in statistics than doing right before God.
These colleges are failing to prepare their graduates for lives of sacrificial service.
One author writes: “I know the difference between schools sixty years ago and schools today from first-hand observation. In the 50s, one of my two sisters attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and the other attended Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada.
“I was very familiar with Moody because my father worked there. Moody in those days was squeezed into a single city block, and surrounding it were rat-infested slums at some stage of demolition. On the campus itself there were no trees or grass, as I remember, only a hodgepodge of buildings and sidewalks.
“The school in Canada was built by poor farmers who wanted a place to train young people for the mission field. When my family traveled by train to attend my sister’s graduation, it seemed as if we went on and on forever until we finally came to the very edge of civilization.
“The school, situated in the middle of the cold northern prairie, was a collection of drab wooden buildings put up at minimal expense. Dorm rooms were small and rudely furnished. My bed was a tick mattress laid on the floor. The auditorium was a plain wooden structure with hard benches for seats. There were no recreational facilities, no sports teams—hardly an inviting place to spend your college years. Yet my sister has said, “I never sensed that students were bothered by the Spartan conditions of life there. Many came from rural areas that lacked modern conveniences.
“We were children of the depression. Who knows how many of our parents had struggled during those difficult years? Finances were always short when I was young, so I wasn’t expecting anything luxurious. In many ways, Prairie was a reflection of L. E. Maxwell [founder and principal]. He spoke often of the kernel of wheat falling into the ground—of death bringing forth life. He was a wonderful example of being a servant to all. When we were there, the staff shared and shared alike no matter what position they held. People were friendly and in general, I believe that students were happy. I really had a lot of fun.”
The modern trend today is that contributions have built roomy and comfortable dorm accommodations, beautiful auditoriums, fabulous dining and modern recreational facilities. The old Prairie school was very successful in preparing students for a sacrificial life advancing the Kingdom of God. Many made the work a lifetime career.
What percent of Christian college graduates today become useful in Christian work? What percentage are even competent to know comparative religious doctrine and argue well for their point of view? My experience with young preachers indicate they had such a serious lack of understanding doctrine and science that could prove their doctrine, they were more likely to chase new congregants OUT of the church than draw more into it!
- Encourage the reading of Christian biographies.Young people find it much easier to understand what sacrifice means if they see illustrations in the choices of real people. They find such illustrations in Christian biographies. Reading about the great servants of God also teaches them two important lessons: first, that the sacrifices made by these saints were necessary to do a fruitful work for God and, second, that despite their sacrifices they had lives rich with joy and satisfaction.
- Set an example of sacrifice.Your children are unlikely to make sacrifices if they do not see you making them. Show your children that you are hard-working, frugal, God-fearing and generous with your giving to serve God and be charitable to those deserving of charity. As you live your life before them, make choices that put service and integrity and God’s will above wealth and success. This may demand a change in your life style too. If what you do now is similar to the wild life you led in college, it’s time for you to repent and then lead the family into repentance too. As you change physically and emotionally, they will notice and see the benefits of the power of the Holy Spirit changing your health and personality for the better.
- Teach the principles of sacrifice.There are five.
Principle 1: Sacrifice Faithfully and Truthfully, or Don’t Do It!
In Malachi’s day, the Jews thought that they were giving God every sacrifice the law required. But in disregard of the law, they brought polluted bread and inferior animals—animals that were not strong and unblemished, but lame and sickly. God was angry with the Jews. He said that He rejected their offerings as well as those who gave them (Mal. 1:7-10).
The man who goes to church occasionally and drops a dollar in the offering plate is most likely there only for social contact reasons. He isn’t a believer. He drops a dollar into the collection plate as if this is a sacrifice. It’s really “no sacrifice.”
Principle 2: God wants complete submission to His Ways and Rules
A woman is seen in the Temple giving two last nearly worthless coins. It’s the last money she had in the world. Luke 21:1-4 New International Version (NIV)
The Widow’s Offering
21 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
God sees and knows and that is what is most important. Maybe all you will give is your labor to help a brother in Christ. That might be the most important sacrifice to your brother in Christ you could ever make! Maybe you helped him save his house or business or fixed his car so he can continue to work. To you it might have been out of your lack that you gave only labor and use of your tools. To him, and to God it was a tremendous offering and will not be forgotten.
Jesus articulated this principle when He said, 25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate (be willing to leave) father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26).
Jesus was not talking about a requirement for salvation. Rather, He was talking about a requirement that God will put upon you in the course of your Christian life.
Principle 3: What ARE you really sacrificing that is yours? Nothing….
You have nothing. It all belongs to God. (Psa. 50:8-12) . What you have in this world is a temporary loan from God. He expects you to use temporal possessions properly and for the right purposes. It is legitimate to use them for sustaining your body and your physical life. These are the investment God made in you as illustrated by the Parable in Luke 19. It is best to use what God has given us to help build a better world and a foundation for the new world to come when Jesus returns. We should always be mindful to advance God’s work and thereby make eternal friends and earn God’s consideration.
The Parable of the Ten Minas
11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’
14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’
18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’
24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’
26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”
(Luke 16:1-13) Luke 16 New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Shrewd Manager
16 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “‘Nine hundred gallons[a] of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels[b] of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Life is hard and likely to get harder as we move deeper into these last years. We must trust God that whatever happens does happen for His good reasons.
Principle 4: Sacrifice is unavoidable.
Whatever you refuse to sacrifice, God may take from you so you’ll learn to put His kingdom first.
The sacrifice that you dreaded will in some fashion fall upon you.
If you choose anything in place of sacrifice, you will find the results disappointing. Either you will not enjoy it, or you will not keep it. Give yourself and your life to God and in the end you’ll gain the greatest satisfaction.
2 Timothy 4 New International Version (NIV)
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
This is amazing. Paul went to his death. They intended to crucify him. He asked to be crucified upside down because he didn’t deserve the death The Christ endured. Actually, I suspect this was a far faster and less painful way to die. But Paul wasn’t writing about his fears of torture unto death. He has his eyes on the prize to the very end, and that’s a great example for you and me.
Principle 5: If you want blessing, be willing to sacrifice.
The Bible teaches that if we give priority to seeking the Kingdom of God, we will attain it and receive “all these things” besides (Matt. 6:33). By searching the context, we discover that “all these things” refers to food and raiment and the other material necessities of life (Matt. 6:31-32). What we receive will be a hundredfold greater than what we sacrifice (Mark 10:29-30). Indeed, if we choose to serve God, He will give us everything that a godly person needs and a godly heart desires (Psa. 37:4).
There is no blessing without sacrifice.
1 Peter 2 NIV: But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[e]
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[f] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
GREAT Christian Leaders Have Suffered For Their Reward
In the spiritual realm, as in every other, you cannot get something for nothing. The more you would gain of eternal rewards, the greater the sacrifice required of you.
Serving God brings great joy and blessing. You don’t have to die in prison in Arabia to serve God. The local college campus needs you. Speak to people there if that’s your calling. If your calling is teaching, teach a class, even teach in your church to children. It’s safe, clean, and you’re giving good service. You might do other service for your local church body. That also is respectable service. You don’t need to grind yourself to dust to serve God. Some did and they are legendary but most don’t and some of us must be here to support the church. Every servant of God should not rush off to China attempting to reach those lost. Reach the American public. Just look at their condition. The field in America desperately needs modern young voices speaking their language and culture to speak to them!
Did you know that the people you minister to here, in this world, will be your special friends forever (Luke 16:1-13)? They will be an unending source of precious love and companionship. Thus, you will never exhaust your reward for Christian service. The benefit will last throughout eternity.
Do not shrink from making sacrifices. Do not let your great potential for doing good be squandered on a self-centered life. Rather, spend your life helping others. The paradox is that while you are making others your focus, you will be heaping up treasure for yourself, an incorruptible treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20).
March 18, 2018 — I will have more for this discussion coming soon.
3.20.18 I’m taking a dare.
I received something so important I decided to add it here and see if I get complaint letters. I’m struck that so many people want to live the way of “GET” instead of living to Give. God wants us to give and many want God to give them all they can get. It’ll only lead to misery. He who dies with the most love and prayers from others, wins. Remember that!
“I Never Made a Sacrifice”
THE CALL AND QUESTION OF DAVID LIVINGSTONE
March 19, 2018
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org
Today is David Livingstone’s birthday. He was born March 19, 1813. He gave his life to serve Christ in the exploration of Africa for the sake of creating access to the gospel. He was the first European to cross the width of Africa, and the first to set his eyes on Victoria Falls, which he named after his queen. He also laid his eyes on the horrors of the East African slave trade, and devoted himself with passion as an abolitionist.
Many doubted Livingstone’s sincerity as a missionary, since he spent so much of his time exploring. But his own perspective was clear: “As for me, I am determined to open up Africa or perish.” He said, “The end of the exploration is the beginning of the enterprise.”
A year before he died in 1873, he wrote in his journal on his 59th birthday, “My birthday! My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All. I again dedicate my whole self to Thee.”
Shadows of Suffering
On December 4, 1857, he addressed the students of Cambridge University about “leaving the benefits of England behind.” In this address he spoke the sentence that, of all his sayings, has made the greatest impact on me. I read it many years ago as my Christian Hedonism was taking shape in the bright shadow of missionary suffering.
I knew that, if I was ever to see Christian joy the way the Bible sees it, I would have to do my ministry in the joyful shadow of those who suffered as they spread the gospel. These are the servants whose testimonies that can bear the weight of scoffers who say the New Testament is naïve when it tells us repeatedly, “We rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3; Matthew 5:10–12; Luke 6:22–23; Acts 5:41; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 2:17; James 1:2–3).
Here is what Livingstone said to the Cambridge students. It’s the last sentence that captured me.
For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. . . . Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice. (Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 1981, 259)
Is that a biblical thing to say? “I never made a sacrifice.” Yes, if we listen carefully to what he says and then turn to the words of Paul in Philippians 3 and the words of Jesus in Mark 10.
All I Once Thought Loss
Livingstone did not hide the painful experiences of “anxiety, sickness, suffering, and danger.” Most people would consider those sacrifices. But then he explained that he was speaking comparatively. “All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us.” They are “nothing” — no sacrifice — by comparison!
He is speaking the way Paul does in Philippians 3:8: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” The worth of knowing Jesus is so great that by comparison all else is as if lost.
In Mark 10 the rich young man turns away from following Jesus “because he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22). Peter realizes that Jesus calls for radical “sacrifice.” “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). This is why “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25).
Christian Obedience as Gain
In response to Jesus, Peter announces that he and the other disciples have made the necessary sacrifice: “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). I wish I knew his tone of voice when he said this. Was there a tinge of boasting? Was there a tinge of self-pity — the flipside of boasting? Perhaps it was only an observation.
However that may be, Jesus certainly did not approve of any such boasting or self-pity. In fact, he did exactly what David Livingstone and Paul did. He showed that this so-called “sacrifice” that Peter and the others have made is not really a sacrifice. Here’s what Jesus said to Peter and the others who had “left everything”:
“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:27–30)
I cannot escape the impression that this is a rebuke.
Peter, you speak of what you have left behind in order to follow me! Really? No, Peter, what you have left behind is as nothing compared to what you gain in following me! Don’t you see, Peter, that if you think of Christian obedience in terms of loss, rather than gain, you dishonor me.
I did not call you to me because I am poor and need your sacrifices. I called you to me because I am all-powerful, and all-wise, and own everything in the universe. I have called you into my family as fellow heirs of all I have (1 Corinthiand 3:21–23), and I am giving you eternal life — eternal joy with me in the presence of my Father.
No, Peter, you have not made a sacrifice to follow me. Not any more than if you sold your house to buy a field of hidden gold, or sold your fishing boat to buy the finest hidden pearl.
In the silver rimmed shadow of David Livingstone’s suffering, I could see the point of Jesus’s words more readily — “Following me, you do not make a sacrifice.”
Whether David Livingstone was the first suffering missionary to use these words — “I never made a sacrifice” — I don’t know. But what I do know is that the words show up, more or less, again and again after 1857 in the stories of other missionaries.
For example, Hudson Taylor, who founded the China Inland Mission in 1865, used these very words to describe his own experience. In Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, Taylor’s son, Howard, and daughter-in-law, Geraldine write,
“I never made a sacrifice,” said Hudson Taylor in later years, looking back over a life in which that element was certainly not lacking. But what he said was true, for the compensations were so real and lasting that he came to see that giving up is inevitably receiving, when one is dealing heart to heart with God.
Later, when Joy Guinness wrote the biography of Geraldine Taylor, she described how Geraldine at first thought missionaries who talked like this were exaggerating. But her own experience proved it to be true:
But now I know that such words are wholly true. Talk of sacrifice, this is no sacrifice! There is no such word to the Christian. . . . Count it all joy — all joy!
After a riot, when our lives had been saved by a miracle, when we were sitting bruised and bleeding amidst the ruins of our home, in that hour, believe me, heaven itself was opened to us, and we tasted then and afterwards a joy so marvelous that I scarcely like to speak about it here, as we realized that we had been permitted to suffer something for Christ’s sake. . . . No words can tell you the joy which filled our hearts. We have never known anything like it since, and we would not miss that experience out of our lives for all that you could give us. (Mrs. Howard Taylor: Her Web of Time)
I give one more example from this lineage who know from experience that following Jesus is “no sacrifice.” Samuel Zwemer was born in 1867 and spent his life in the cause of reaching Muslims in the Middle East for Christ. Along with all their other hardships, in 1904 in Bahrein, in the space of eight days, he and his wife Amy lost both their daughters, Ruth, age 4, and Katharina, age 7.
On their graves are inscribed, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive riches.”
Zwemer’s biographer writes,
Yet, in spite of all the opposition and the small outward results that were apparent, in spite of the sacrifice of life and the intense heat and fever and loneliness, Zwemer could exclaim as he looked back fifty years later, “But the sheer joy of it all comes back. . . . How gladly would I do it all over again in some unoccupied seaport of Western Arabia.” (J. Christy Wilson, Apostle to Islam)
Of course, this lineage continues in our own day where Christians suffer. Three years ago, Noël and I watched a set of documentaries called The Cross: Jesus in China. The first three parts tell the story of suffering and triumph-in-suffering in the Chinese church. The overwhelming theme pervading all them all is Joy, Joy, Joy. And those who suffered longest often speak the most sweetly about the satisfying preciousness of Christ now, and the hope of pleasures forevermore.
His Call and Question
So, on this birthday of David Livingstone, may the risen Leader of the greatest movement in the history of the world make us respond with joy to the explorer’s radical call and radical question:
“If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”
“If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”
(minor editing : StepheN)