Do We Really Understand Sacrifice?

Hands giving a flowerJesus is the perfect example of what it means to sacrifice.  Instead of living as many men, Jesus was committed to living a life in accordance with the will of God.  Before His arrest, Jesus prayed, “…Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me:  nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36).  Keep in mind, as God in the flesh, Jesus could have stopped what man did to Him at any time.  Instead, He fully understood what it meant to sacrifice.  He was not going to allow anything to stop Him from obeying His Father’s will.  In fact, John recorded, “…When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.  And he that sent me is with me:  the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:28-29).  Always, what a statement!

          Are we willing to sacrifice so much to obey God?  Do we put our selfish desires and ambitions behind doing the will of the Father?  If not, then we have not yet learned true sacrifice.  Jesus explicitly taught, “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  Self-sacrifice is an absolute necessity to being a true follower of Christ.  Denial of self involves mental strength and commitment.  Just like Jesus, we should have the mindset of “nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36).  Obedience to the Father’s will must not be something that never becomes insignificant to the child of God.  Jesus mentioned, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  and in thy name have cast out devils?  and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you:  depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:21-23).  I can almost hear some people saying, “You are too rough”, or “Don’t you think you need to give a little more grace”.  I do not want to seem too rough, nor do I want to seem as if I do not extend grace, but stating the importance of sacrificing self is not a matter of take it or leave it!  It is a matter of eternal importance.

          While writing to the church in Rome, the inspired apostle Paul begged the brethren to be sacrificial.  He stated, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).  “A living sacrifice!”  That means that even though my physical body remains alive, I must do away with stubborn pride and self-will.  That teaching is directly opposed to what many are teaching and doing today.  You may have heard someone say that a person “is living his best life”.  Many times that is because a person has decided to act in ways to please himself.  To truly “live his best life” a man will put himself behind the Lord.  Instead of seeking to please self, he will sacrifice to make sure that God’s will comes first.  Also, notice that Paul claimed that this is “reasonable service”.  Sacrificing selfishness is not “unreasonable”.  It is not something that should be thought of as strange or out of place.  Instead, it will help a person to be in a better relationship with God and man.

          Jesus left us the perfect example of how to live.  His devotion to the Father was absolute.  Likewise, His commitment to serving the needs of man were also notable.  It is written, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.  For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me” (Rom. 15:1-3).  This reference is immediately following Paul’s discussion on scruples, and how to handle them.  The answer is sacrifice.  We must never be ones who demand our desires in the areas of liberty.  To do such is to show a lack of love for God and our fellow man.  We should suppress selfishness in order that we can live more like Christ.  Paul wrote, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3-5).

          I truly hope that each of us will come to an understanding of what sacrifice really is, and how it is to be done.  We will never fail in this area if we study our Lord, and live as He lived.
~ Corey Barnette