What do you think of when you hear the word sacrifice?
You might think of the animals sacrificed on an altar in the Old Testament. If so, you could be prone to thinking of sacrifice as something that was for another time and place. Perhaps, instead, you think of something that you give up for a greater good. If this is the direction of your thoughts, you are probably apt to use sacrifices as a bargaining tool. Do you “sacrifice” dessert in order to keep your weight in check? Do you “sacrifice” eating out to keep your budget in line?
Perhaps you are more churchy. When you think of sacrifice, you can hear the words of a preacher linking sacrifice to giving as in the oft used phrase “sacrificial giving.” If this is your thought process, you want to be part of something bigger than yourself, so you give your money to the church or a good cause instead of spending it on yourself.
In the sports world, the term is used of a player who surrenders his own opportunity for the sake of the team. A baseball player offers a sacrifice bunt or a sacrifice fly when he willingly makes an out to advance a teammate to another base.
Are these the things we should be thinking about when we hear or read the word sacrifice? These are all fine, but we are “sacrificing” the best meaning and the best application into our lives. For starters our English word has the same root meaning as the word sacred. A sacrifice is something holy.
When I read in the Old Testament about sacrifices, I try to apply the term in two ways. This morning I read in 2 Chronicles of Solomon offering thousands of sacrifices to God before he prayed that God would grant him wisdom and knowledge. As I chewed on this passage, I knew that I could not repeat his actions. First of all, I do not have thousands of animals available to me. More importantly I have a better sacrifice. Jesus’ death on the cross takes the place of all of those animal sacrifices. The Bible teaches us that Old Testament sacrifices were a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice. The perfect Son of God gave his life for this wretched, sinful man. Just as Solomon gained access to God following his sacrifices, we have access when we trust in the death of Christ as our sacrifice. We should be thinking of the gospel when we read of these Old Testament sacrifices. We come to God in Christ alone. This is the backward, historical glance when it comes to sacrifice.
A present focus should also come into play when we apply these Old Testament passages. Paul wrote:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
We are to present our bodies to God as living sacrifices. Paul defines this as our spiritual worship. Do you want to worship God? Place your body on a sacrificial altar. Give your body or whole being to God for his use. As Abraham laid his son on the altar, give your body in such a way that if God desires even to take your life you are willing. You might even think of the various parts of your body and how you can sacrifice them.
- Give your mind that you would think the things of God.
- Give your eyes that you might see as God sees.
- Give your mouth that your speech would be seasoned with grace.
- Give your ears that you might hear the voice of God.
- Give your hands that your might do the work of God.
- Give your feet that you might go where God sends.
- Give your sexual parts that you might honor the marriage bed.
When you think and act like this, we have a mind to obey God. That is the goal after all. In fact, sacrifice that does not include obedience is misguided.
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
(1 Samuel 15:22 ESV)
Sacrifices that fall short of the death of Jesus or the laying of our lives before God are not what God desires. I am confident that when you live life with a clear focus on the gospel and on giving your self to God, these sacrifices will bring you near to God. Anything less separates us from God. I challenge you to come to God with right sacrifice. Will you?