I feel excited about today’s blog, because I believe it is in God’s heart to give us an invitation. One that I hope we won’t be able to refuse.
So! Talking about personal ‘sacrifice’ is not likely to draw a crowd. Sacrifice is often associated with death, like the death of those in the wars who have ‘made the ultimate sacrifice’, but more generally, in the world at large, being sacrificial carries the implication that I won’t get my own way, or what I want, in a situation or a relationship. I have even heard recently that ‘sacrifice’ is now getting a bad press, and that far from denoting heroism, it is being aligned to being ‘walked over’, ‘suppressed’ and ‘not being your own person’.
We know that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. He offered His life for the sin of the whole world. He was the Sacrificial Lamb of God. His death on the cross was the price for our forgiveness, and the gift of His righteousness in exchange for those ‘filthy rags’ that we were talking about the day before yesterday. His coming to earth, to our world, was sacrificial in itself, Philippians 2:5-11, and His death was the sacrifice that has allowed us to enter into His world. He paid the price for our access to the throne room of heaven itself, both now in this life, and for eternity when we die.
So ‘in view of God’s mercy’, Paul urges the Christians in Rome ‘offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Romans 12:1,2. So there we have it, we can’t earn our salvation, Jesus the sacrificial Lamb has already paid the price for that, but we are invited here, in view of God’s mercy, to ‘offer’ something back to God, and that something is our whole lives to be a ‘Living Sacrifice’.
Now I don’t know about you, but presenting my body as a living sacrifice, can feel scary. It held me up a bit after I had become a Christian, because my fear was that it probably meant that I would have to become a nun, or a missionary in a lonely place. Often, when we become Christians, we talk of having ‘given our lives to Jesus’, or having made Him the Lord of our lives. It is like saying ‘yes’ to Him, before we have seen the plan, and before we know exactly where He will be leading us, so it involves trust.
The wonderful thing about the sacrifice that the Holy Spirit, through Paul, is encouraging, is that, unlike the soldiers who die, this is about ‘life’. Paul describes how, as we present our bodies to Him as these living sacrifices, far from dying, life is going to get richer and better. Two things are involved here; i) we will stop living according to the pattern we see all around us in the ‘world’, and ii) we will be transformed as our minds are renewed so that we see things God’s way. We will then get to realise how ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ His will for us is.
In other words, we are called to sacrifice the ‘old me’, the one that doesn’t please God and will probably mess things up anyway, for the new me ‘in Christ’. Giving myself wholly to God is about losing my old self and finding my new self, ‘my true child – of- God self’. John 1:12 (The Message). It’s a trade in – old for new – that I can’t refuse. I’ll be letting go of my selfishness and wilfulness – things that often cause me a great deal of trouble anyway – in exchange for His life fully flowing through me. What an invitation!! An invitation to a life of transformation.
I know that often times when the Lord has asked me to ‘Follow Him’, whether in a major life decision, or in a ‘nitty gritty’ day to day decision, and to say ‘yes’ to Him feels hard or sacrificial, the enemy then plants fears in my mind that this is not going to be good for me. If however I can give Him thanks for another opportunity to present myself to Him as a living sacrifice, that will help in the renewing of my mind, and I will begin to see how good this will be for me.
Thanking the Lord in those crunch moments will align me to His will and remind me again that He is for me and is changing me to be like Jesus. Thanksgiving will help me to accept the invitation to ‘offer myself again as a living sacrifice’- to do life His way, and then my renewed mind will remind me that I am going to get so blessed in the long run, because His will for me is always ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ and is planned from His heart of love.