My Life – A Living Sacrifice
By Wesley L. Duewel
Sacrifice is one of the measures God uses continually as He evaluates our lives. Measure your life by sacrifice. But beware how you measure the sacrifice of others. Sacrifice begins in the unseen realms of the heart, where none but God can see. True, it is manifest in many aspects of your life, but it is the thing easiest to misjudge. The deepest sacrifices are often not in the things most obvious to the human eye. Measure your own sacrifice, but let God measure the sacrifice of others.
Paul urges the role of sacrificial living as a part of our spiritual lifestyle. His illustration of sacrifice is something that perhaps would speak more loudly to a Jew in his day than it speaks to us today. Every Jew had experienced the presentation of a sacrifice in the temple. He knew it meant death for the animal that was totally devoted for the purpose of being offered in death as a sacrifice.
Now we are to present our bodies (undoubtedly including our whole selves) as a living sacrifice. We are to be as totally committed to God to live for Him as the offering of a sacrificial animal was committed to death. The difference, of course, is that we offer ourselves freely while the animal was offered by another in the worshiper’s stead.
“…I urge you… in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”(Rom. 12:1). Note the wealth of meaning in this verse:
1. You are a debtor to God for His mercy in providing salvation at the cost of the death of Jesus Christ His Son. You are a debtor for a host of subsequent mercies. It is in the light of this tremendous debt that you are to make a total love commitment to God – a commitment that is a sacrifice, a commitment regardless of the cost.
2. Your commitment must be voluntary. You freely offer yourself because of all God through Christ has done for you.
3. Your commitment is motivated by love because of God’s mercy. Love rejoices to sacrifice for the one loved.
4. Your commitment is to be as a whole burnt offering, holy and whole – totally dedicated and consecrated to God, totally surrendered whatever the cost to you. You owe God no less than your all.
5. Your commitment and your living out of its loving implications is your spiritual worship. The word “spiritual” can also be translated “rational” and has something of the meaning of both in it. Rationally, intellectually, you can do no less in view of how Christ gave Himself for you. It is worship to love God this much, to make such a total commitment of yourself and your all.
6. The word “offer” or “present” is in the aorist in Greek. Grammatically, this means that it is a decisive, momentary act with a permanent result. This is not a tentative consecration of self. It is an act that has an intentional finality about it and that determines your spiritual lifestyle from then on. You are not continually sacrificing yourself, but you are living in an attitude of permanent commitment, ready to make personal sacrifice whenever the Holy Spirit leads. It is a positive, dynamic commitment.
This attitude of sacrificial total commitment has practical applications in many ways. It may involve the giving of yourself in service, of your family, your time, your finance. It is an attitude of self-denial. It is taking up your cross. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
Self-denial, another word for sacrifice, is a part of Christian discipleship. The disciple must be ready to follow whatever the cost. To take up a cross meant only one thing in New Testament times. The cross was the instrument of execution, and the person to be executed carried it. It was no ornament or romantic symbol. To take up your cross meant to be led to your execution. Jesus was saying, “To be My disciple means to be willing to die for Me.”
Notice also that the cross is not placed upon you. You must voluntarily take it up yourself. This does not refer to sickness. You do not choose to be sick. It does not refer to an act that you are compelled to do. You must choose to stoop down, voluntarily take up your cross, and follow Jesus daily – even if it means great personal cost to you, even if it means risking your life for Jesus.
Today most Christians have a very cheap understanding of what it means to be a disciple. Today the average Christian lifestyle costs almost nothing. Jesus wants followers who are willing to volunteer to pay a price, to be willing to suffer, if need be, for Him. This is the holy commitment that He wants to characterize your spiritual lifestyle.
Measure your life by your willingness to deny yourself for Jesus’ sake. Be watchful for opportunities to obey God and glorify God even when it is personally costly to you. Measure your life by your daily commitment to love, whatever the cost. Measure your love for Jesus by your willingness to suffer for Him, if the Spirit leads and God’s cause and glory need this.
Measure your life by the number of times you deliberately choose to stoop to pick up a cross for which you qualify or of which you are capable and to bear this cross for Jesus’ sake. Measure your life by your attitude of watchfulness, for opportunities to sacrifice for Jesus.
Sacrifice may or may not involve finances and material things. Your financial commitment is important to Christ. He is concerned about your giving. When in Jerusalem, He watched the gifts people gave for God’s cause (Mark 12:41). He taught that tithing must be maintained, but that it also must be accompanied by a sacrificial spirit and by righteousness of life (Matt. 23:23).
Measure your life by your self-denial in luxuries and comforts so that you will have more to give to extend Christ’s kingdom. This is the area where you must be very careful in your judging. What is a luxury to me, may be a necessity to you in the place you live or the work you do. What is a luxury to a well person, may be a necessity to a sick or weak person. That which is a luxury to a parent may be a necessity to a child. Do not try to measure the self-denial of others. Measure your own.
The next time you are about to spend money for clothes, your adornment, your home, ask God if He has a different suggestion for you. In the Bible, simplicity is always associated with godliness. Many things may not be sinful, yet may hinder a sacrificial spirit. Cleanliness, neatness, and simple attractiveness strengthen our witness for God. But is there anything related to your personal attire, your habits, your recreation, your home about which God would like to whisper to you? Do not be too sure until you ask Him. Measure your life by your sacrificial lifestyle…
Measure you life by your sacrificial use of time. Nothing is wasted more extravagantly than time. Where your heart is can be measured by the things you find time for. Most people find time to do what they really want to do. If you really want to pray, you will take less time in casual social conversation, will fast a meal and use that time for prayer, will get up earlier, or will sacrifice time from something else.
If you really want to study God’s Word, you will take less time reading the newspaper or will cut time somewhere else. Are you willing to sacrifice the time and read five chapters a day, thus completely reading the Bible through from Genesis to Revelation every year? What you really delight to do, you will count no sacrifice in finding time for.
You can measure many other forms of sacrifice for Jesus’ sake. You may need to sacrifice the friendship of some people in order to obey God’s call. You may sacrifice fellowship with your family in order to serve God in a distant place. You may sacrifice rest in order to witness to someone, or to get up earlier in order to be able to pray at length for your church. You may sacrifice a person’s good will in order to be faithful in warning him of his sin.
You may sacrifice your chances of promotion in order to stand up for what is right in the sight of God. You may sacrifice your own plans in order to do the will of God. You may sacrifice a high salary by remaining faithful to God’s call. You may sacrifice time in wholesome recreation or hobby in order to put Christ and His kingdom first.
Every choice carries with it an opportunity for sacrifice, and the choice you make will serve as a measure for your life.
Measure your life by how continually you deny yourself to please God. Measure your life by how totally you keep surrendering your own life to do the will of God. Measure your life by how joyfully you deny yourself when you make sacrifices. Is sacrifice characteristic of your lifestyle? Is surrender to God’s will habitual? Is putting God’s interest ahead of your own and God’s will instead of your own so constantly your choice that your whole life is a living sacrifice to God? This is the measure of your life that is precious in the sight of God.
Measure your life, not by how much you get, but how much you give. Measure your life by the extent to which you sacrifice to put Christ’s kingdom first (Matt. 6:33), by the joy with which you deny yourself for Jesus’ sake. Measure your life by loving sacrifice.
– Taken from the book, Measure Your Life by Wesley L. Duewel. Reprinted by permission of the Duewel Literature Trust, Inc., Greenwood, Indiana.