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Sacrifice.

 

I bet you don’t think about sacrifice when you’re getting dressed to come to church on a Sunday morning. Sacrifice is inherently tied to the worship of God.

Now, before you’re tempted to quip “sacrifice is just and old testament thing,” let me share this with you:

“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.”

Ro 12:1.

In light of the mercy of God (a.k.a. the gospel outlined in Romans 1-11), your worshipful response is to present sacrifices to God with your own body.

 

Patterns of Sacrifice

These sacrifices are unlike those of old because you are already reconciled to God and so you need not make atonement anymore. Jesus has done that once for all!

“[Jesus] has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, … since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”

Heb 7:27.

 

And these sacrifices are not offered at an earthly temple location with specific material requirements:

“…the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. … the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”

Jn 4:21–23.

 

Yet, sacrifice is still an integral part of worship, and I think large numbers of Christians have forgotten that. We are too well trained to look for the efficient and comfortable track and reject what is difficult and sacrificial as somehow lower quality or “not welcoming.”

Is CrossFit welcoming? You know that if you go to CrossFit you will be running until you puke. It’s part of the process and it is hard for a reason; to build people up for something they could not have by taking it easy. It is actually attractive to people because they know that there is something substantive there. It is real, it is genuine, it is going somewhere and it is worth the sacrifices entailed.

Yet when we turn our eyes to spiritual matters and we even have a small sacrifice to make we moan that it is too much and too hard. Yet Jesus calls us to what is hard, and what is costly:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

Lk 14:26–33.

 

The Christian life is a life of sacrifice. Giving over to God what we would otherwise keep for ourselves and our selfish desires. And if you are living in such a way that your faith requires no sacrifice, then I dare say you are being deceived.

From the earliest days worship included sacrifice. Cain and Abel prepared sacrificial offerings. If they were giving it to God, they couldn’t keep it for their own purposes (Ge 4:3–5).

Noah entered into a renewed earth after the flood. He had limited resources with which to restart society and feed his growing family, yet he took from what he had and offered to God a sacrifice that pleased him (Ge 8:20–21).

Abraham the Altar Builder regularly worshiped God through sacrifice and was even called to sacrifice his own son which he would have done willingly (Ge 22).

At the foot of Sinai the Lord called the people to worship, and they did, from afar. They made an altar and made sacrificial offerings. And with the blood of sacrifice they entered a covenant with God.

But…

Joy of joys, we are under the blood of the New Covenant! We have entered in by the sacrifice of Jesus, and now we do not stand far off from God but we have come to Mount Zion!

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant”

Heb 12:22–24.

Christ has brought us in by his blood, but worship through sacrifice continues!

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

Heb 12:28–29.

The author of Hebrews goes on from this exhortation to list a whole bunch of sacrificial ways we are to serve, including:

  • Loving one another

  • Hospitality

  • Honouring the marriage bed

  • Rejecting greed

  • Consider and imitate your leaders

  • Rejecting false teaching

And then he says this:

“Through [Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

Heb 13:15–16.

We must continue to offer sacrifices, including words of praise from our own lips, and generosity with our earthly possessions.

Monetary gifts given for the sake of Gospel partnership are called “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Php 4:18).

In another place God calls us to follow the example of Christ who gave his whole self as a sacrificial offering in love:

“Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Eph 5:2.

 

Sacrifice in Church

Now if our bodies, and indeed our whole lives are to be a sacrifice to the Lord, how much more so will our dedicated times of gathered worship be characterised by sacrifice?

For starters we are setting aside time dedicated to worshiping the Lord and serving His people. This is time that we could be doing other stuff. It could be used for other good stuff or selfishly, but no matter what we could do with that time, we sacrifice it to the Lord.

We make practical and financial sacrifices in worship in the way that we might serve the body with our time & talents, give money, and we make sacrifices in the way that we give way to others and help others. Parents make sacrifices from being carefree in worship to teach and lead their children to offer sacrificial worship of their own.

We could keep our money for other good things or to spend it on ourselves.

We could keep our efforts and hard work for endeavours that affect us personally.

We could keep our attention for ourselves so that I can have a more pleasant worship experience.

But that’s the thing about sacrifices, it means taking something good that I have, and joyfully giving it to the Lord. It shows that he is worth more than the good things he has given us. If he has given me something of great value and I give it back, then it shows that the Lord is worth more to me than those things.

We worth-ship the Lord; we ascribe worth to him with our sacrifices in the assembly.

 

In Church we bring other sacrifices too. We bring sacrifices of praise to God in the way we dedicate our affections and mouths to declare the praises of God, repeatedly and regularly (Heb 13:15).

We bring the sacrifice of a convicted and repentant heart:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Ps 51:17.

 

And we seek to bring all these sacrifices with a good heart. All this talk of sacrifice may have you thinking about sad and empty people. Yet it is the one who sacrifices to the Lord who expects a blessing from His hand. I lay this sacrifice down in hope that I will please and honour the Lord. The empty who serve the Lord will be filled to overflowing!

We bring our worship in joy! We happily seek to give over whatever the Lord asks of us, and indeed whatever else demonstrates our thankfulness. We don’t do it because we are compelled, but because we willingly seek to serve the Lord in gladness.

 

“What shall I render to the LORD

for all his benefits to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call on the name of the LORD,”

Ps 116:12–13.

 

 

Send out your light and your truth;

let them lead me;

let them bring me to your holy hill

and to your dwelling!

Then I will go to the altar of God,

to God my exceeding joy,

and I will praise you with the lyre,

O God, my God.

Ps 43:3–4.