“When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he bound his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar.” Genesis 22:9
“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
In these days of Prozac, Tivo, and Microwave ovens, sacrifice is not a word we like to use. Convenience is the mantra of our culture, and it is one that is easy for us to adopt. But scripture is full of encouragements for us to “take up our cross,” “beat our bodies into submission,” and “to offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices.” It is easy for us in America to forget – Christianity is not easy or convenient. God has called us to be his body on this earth, and with that comes incredible joy, but it is also accompanied by difficulty, persecution, and yes…sacrifice!
What are we to sacrifice? We aren’t going to go get a ram and offer it on a stone altar, Christ’s death on the cross was the final blood sacrifice! But let’s look at what the ram was. Old Testament sacrifices were generally livestock or portions of harvest. This was their livelihood. With the sacrifice they were saying, “God you are my provider, and I will lay aside conventional wisdom and offer this to you.” Conventional wisdom says, if you give something away you will have less. God says, if you sacrifice to me, you will have abundance! (Mal 3:10)
So with this in mind, what does sacrifice look like here and now? I want to offer four suggestions; together these constitute this week’s homework:
- A sacrifice of Forgiveness. Forgiveness is not dependent on our emotion. We do not have to feel like forgiving. We sacrifice our right to be mad. We tell God that we trust that He will vindicate us, and we give the unforgiveness to Him. (Matt 6:14-15) Who do you need to forgive? Pray the simple prayer, “God by an act of my will, I choose to forgive ______ for ______. I give you my anger and cynicism.”
- A sacrifice of Tithe. With a tithe we tell God, “I am aware that you, and not my job, are my provider. I am aware that everything I have is from you. I choose to give this first tenth back to you, and trust that you will provide for all my needs.” The question to ask yourself this week is not “Do I tithe,” but rather, “Do I truly trust God to provide for what I need?”
- A sacrifice of Time. How important is God’s kingdom? When we give our time to God we tell him that we agree with him about what is important. Giving our time to teach children, feed the poor, clothe the naked, and serve those around us puts our priorities in line with God’s. Ask God this week, “Where do you want me to serve your kingdom?”
- A sacrifice of Praise. We all love upbeat songs. Me especially! But a sacrifice of praise is far more than singing. We say to God, “No matter what I feel like, even if I am upset or depressed, I choose to tell you how worthy you are. I choose to acknowledge you with my words and with my songs. Your holiness is not dependent on how I feel, so I will worship you despite my current emotions!”
This week let us identify with Abraham and Christ in their sufferings by sacrificing these things to our Heavenly Father.