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Living Sacrifice The Power of God | What Does Sacrifice Mean?

Jesus shows us what it means to sacrifice by washing His disciples' feet. He gave Himself on the cross, as a sacrifice for our sins…

by Donny Abbott on February 01, 2022

On May 5, 1945, the Allied forces were on the offensive during the Battle of Okinawa. On that day, Corporal Desmond Doss was assigned to the 377th Infantry Regiment as a combat medic, and the American forces were taking heavy casualties from the Japanese Army. This was just the type of situation that Desmond Doss was made for. 

As a devout Seventh Day Adventist, Doss was a “conscientious objector” and had no desire to carry a weapon or kill an enemy soldier. Yet for twelve hours on this day, and under extreme enemy fire, Doss saved the lives of 75 wounded infantrymen. Doss is a real-life example of what it means to sacrifice. Although most of us won’t experience enemy fire during war time, we are all called to live a life of sacrifice. 

There is an interesting Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban, which means “something which draws close.” The purpose of sacrifice was then, as it is now, a way to bring people closer to God. It is a giving over of the sacred. That’s what I would like for you to think of when you hear the word sacrifice. Don’t think of it as giving something up, but instead it is giving over in total surrender to God. It’s giving over something that is precious to you.

Moms probably have the best understanding of what sacrifice means.

When you were pregnant, you sacrificed your body to give nourishment to this little human who was forming inside of you. Once the baby was born you continued providing nourishment and in doing that you had to be mindful of the things you consumed. 

The body you used to know has changed. Certain parts have gotten wider, and you’ve been stretched and scarred with marks that will never go away. All of this is done out of sacrifice for your child. I think that’s why we see so many NFL players, when interviewed after a football game will first of all say, “Hi Mom!” Then they go on to talk about how their moms gave up so much of their lives; working two or three jobs, giving over their lives as a sacrifice just so their son could play football.

There is a wonderful passage where the Apostle Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, says: 

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1 

This passage tells us that Jesus gave Himself up for who? For you and for me. 

Why did He do that? As a sacrifice to God.  

We know that the Old Testaments version of sacrifice was centered around the giving of animals on the altar to God. But if we fast forward to the New Testamentwe see Paul writing to the Church in Rome, where he gets more personal by stating: 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1

Remember in the Ephesians passage above, we saw how Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice to God. And now in this passage in Romans, Paul is sharing that as followers of Christ we need to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.

Keep in mind that Paul’s audience was Jewish and they would have known exactly what sacrifice meant. They were still offering animal sacrifices at the Temple, so, they would have equated sacrifice to animals. But Paul is moving away from the thought of animal sacrifice and introducing something new by stating that you and I are to sacrifice our very lives. 

How in the world do we do that?

He’s stating what you need to sacrifice is you! Paul doesn’t just say our lives should be a sacrifice. Our lives are a sacrifice. The question for you and me is what are we sacrificing our lives to? 

My favorite commentator David Guzik says:  “You may do all kinds of work for God, but never give Him your self.” 

And really that’s what God is looking for isn’t He? He is looking for you. He is looking for your heart and for my heart. An old friend of mine, Paul Rhoades, once said, “God has been seeking you your whole life. Your job is to respond. Christian spirituality is always a theology of response.”

The practice of sacrifice and other spiritual practices are ways you and I respond to the goodness of God. So, the question for all of us as Christ followers, is how will we respond when it comes to sacrifice? Maybe it’s sacrificing your time by mowing your elderly neighbor's yard or shoveling their driveway. Maybe it’s offering free tutoring to students or showing kindness to an unkind co-worker. Or you might take part in tithing or fasting or giving of your time through volunteering. Whatever it is, I can almost promise you that whatever you sacrifice, will be for your own good and will help you grow in your faith in Jesus. 

I would be remiss to write a message on sacrifice and not talk about the sacrifice that Jesus made for you and for me. First off, simply leaving his office in Heaven to come to Earth and take on human form, not as a powerful, conquering soldier but as an innocent baby, fully dependent on the love and care of others.

Paul again somewhat captures the essence of what Christ did, in writing to the church of Philippi:

“In your relationship with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—  even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8

In His life Jesus shows us what living a sacrificial life looks like.

He sacrificed by going against social and religious norms by touching the untouchable, giving dignity to women and children, and healing those without hope. He shows us what it means to sacrifice by taking on the role of a servant on the last night that He was alive and washing His disciples' feet.

And finally, He gave Himself on the cross, as a sacrifice for our sins. If Jesus did that for you and me, surely we can sacrifice for Him.

What is God asking you to sacrifice?

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