A consistent theme that runs through the pages of Scripture is the theme of sacrifice. This is especially obvious in the Old Testament since the Jewish religion depended on the sacrificial system for covenant restoration. The sacrifice that was offered in faith would restore a person or the entire nation to the covenant they had with God.
In the New Testament the focus of sacrifice shifts to Jesus. When Christians talk about sacrifice we are usually talking about the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross so we can be saved. Since we are saved by Jesus’ sacrifice we often over look the sacrifice that we are to make when we follow Jesus.
What sacrifices am I making to follow Jesus?
That is an important question to ponder. Since many of us live in the United States, it is fairly easy to “follow” Jesus. There isn’t much of a cost to being a Christian. We have been spared from harsh physical persecution and we have been blessed with enough money that it isn’t much of a sacrifice to give to support the ministries of our church families.
A part of me wonders: “Does the ease of our faith cause us to miss out on God?”
Jesus said; “If any of you want to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24; NLT)
This verse seems to imply that sacrifice is part of following Jesus. That is what is meant by laying down our desires for life and taking on God’s will for our lives. We need to sacrifice our desires in order to do God’s will.
So the question is still out there for you to consider: What sacrifices am I making to follow Jesus?
To put it another way: How am I shouldering my cross?
Leon Morris in his book The Atonement points out:
The way of salvation is a way of sacrifice. That means basically that it is the sacrifice of Christ that takes away sins once and for all. But it also means that those for whom the sacrifice was offered live sacrificially. (p. 65)
To be honest this is difficult for me to think about living a life of sacrifice. When I evaluate my life I don’t see it.
In other words, I don’t know how if I would live my life very differently if I wasn’t a Christian. Don’t get me wrong, my beliefs shape the way I live, I just wouldn’t use the word sacrifice to describe how I give, how I serve, or how I love. It looks to me that I am still very selfish.
We can pat ourselves on the back for our generosity and our service, but the reality is that we are giving out of our abundance. It terms of true sacrifice it is minimal.
I don’t want to make us feel bad. Rather, I want to remind us of the great expectation that Jesus has for those who follow him. The expectation that we are to live lives of sacrifice.
How do we live lives of sacrifice?
Here is my suggestion. Pray and ask God what sacrifice He wants you to make. After you have an idea of the sacrifice, do it.
If God reveals your family should adopt a child then begin the process. If God reveals that you should give up overtime at work to help with the mid-week program at your local church then make it happen. If God reveals that you need to help you elderly neighbor with some groceries and bills, even though it will make it difficult for you this month, start making cuts in your budget.
Sacrifice is the result of obedience. The harder it is for us to obey the bigger the sacrifice God is asking us to make. It isn’t easy to follow Jesus on the path of sacrifice, but then again it wasn’t easy for Jesus to die on the cross. Ultimately our sacrificial obedience is an indication of our appreciation for the sacrifice Jesus made for us.