Biographies are some of my favorite books. I love to read the stories, to learn about the faith of those who are now among the great cloud of witnesses. No matter how many I read, one thing strikes me every time…
Faith requires sacrifice.
Since Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for us, sacrificing today doesn’t look like trekking to temples with unblemished lambs or the first fruits of our crops. Still, sacrifice is a part of the Christian life.
“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 (emphasis mine)
What Is a Living Sacrifice?
“A living sacrifice” sounds like an oxymoron. It’s a bit like saying, “give up, and keep going.”
This is exactly what Christ calls us to.
Die to self –> Be born again
Surrender to God –> Receive true freedom
Crucify your sinful desires –> Experience new life
Take up your cross –> Participate in God’s work
As Christians, what we “give up” for Christ is also “set apart” for Christ. What we sacrifice with pure hearts, God uses for His perfect purposes.As Christians, what we give up for Christ is also set apart for Christ. What we sacrifice with pure hearts, God uses for His perfect purposes. Click To Tweet
A few examples…
Living Sacrifice #1: Opinions and Attitudes
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” –Romans 12:3
God gave us brains, emotions, and personalities. We’re entitled to have opinions and attitudes. However, Christ is entitled as our Lord to changing our perspective. He does this through the Holy Spirit, through His Word, and through His people.
Rather than holding tightly to your thoughts and feelings on a subject, sacrifice by taking the time to consider God’s perspective on it, by listening to others, and by praying for whatever you think or feel to glorify God.
Living Sacrifice #2: Reputation and Control
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” –Romans 12:16
Don’t get hung up on the “people of low position” phrase. The Pharisees Jesus preached the gospel to were appalled that he associated with lepers and outcasts. The “common people” were appalled when He ate with tax collectors and Pharisees. Jesus offended everyone by associating with everyone.
Think for a moment about the people God invited to participate in his work through Scripture. Did He commend them for their reputations or their skillful management of situations? Gifts of being likable or administrating well are great. Be willing to give them up if that what it takes for God to have His sometimes messier, riskier way.
Besides, if pride isn’t what we’re called to cultivate, why would we protect it from getting hurt?
Living Sacrifice #3: Time and Effort
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” –Romans 12:10-12
Earlier in this passage, we also read about using whatever gifts God has given us. This takes time and effort.
You might love that God has given you the gift of teaching- but presenting that to God as a living sacrifice will mean putting in the time and effort to seek His will and be open to His opportunities. And…to care more about whether your teaching serves others well than you care about getting it done efficiently, feeling accomplished, being recognized, or even being satisfied with your lesson.
Are there things you hold so dear you’re not willing to release them to God for His good purposes?
Heroes by Iain Murray is a collection of short biographies of faithful Christians. The biographies include names you’ll know, and several you probably won’t. One of my favorites is about a man who became a missionary to slaves!
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