A Living Sacrifice

By Pr Ay Nee Ng

Is any sacrifice too hard to accomplish? What about the cost involved in a sacrifice? Abram was asked to leave Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land. He took whatever He had and left, leaving his friends to start afresh. Likewise, we had to make many sacrifices when we first wanted to immigrate to Australia. One of them was to sell our home in KL and not bring Patch with us, to sell our home to someone who loved dogs and was willing to take Patch. It was a sacrifice to leave Patch, a female boxer cum bull terrier.

She was very loyal and very protective towards Alyssa and Karl (Toby wasn’t born then). But one day I discovered how protective she was towards me when I encountered a king cobra. As I was hanging out the clothes to dry on the line, Patch turned and growled at me. It was unbeknown to me, at that time, that she was pushing me away from going back into the kitchen because a king cobra was about to charge at me. Patch then turned and attacked the cobra until it slithered away. From that day onwards, whenever I ventured out to my backyard, Patch was always by my side. I love Patch, and it was a sacrifice for me not to bring her to Australia as we were uncertain of our plans. Thankfully, the new owners agreed to take the house and her; they took to her, and she to them.

What Is a Sacrifice?
From sakrɪfʌɪs (noun), it is act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to a deity. In the Christian Church, Christ’s offering of himself in the Crucifixion is an example of sacrifice. Another example is when Abraham was asked to offer Isaac, his only son, at the altar as a sacrifice.
Synonyms: ritual slaughter, hecatomb, immolation, offering, oblation.

According to the dictionary, a sacrifice is a loss or something you give up, usually for the sake of a better cause. Parents sacrifice time and sleep to take care of their children, while kids might sacrifice TV time to hang out with mom and dad.

The Cambridge English Dictionary puts “sacrifice”, as a verb, in this way: to give up something that is valuable to you in order to help another person.
Synonyms: give up, abandon, surrender, forgo, renounce, forfeit, relinquish, resign, abdicate, sign away, yield, cede, waive

Some of us make sacrifices, especially with parenthood to wake up early to get the children and family up and ready for the day’s activity. What about when someone is ill or an invalid, a sacrifice on our time, effort and our own life activities are all gone, thrown out to cater to the needs of an invalid. We regularly visit the Hew family in Liverpool, where Evan, now age 27 years old, is cheerful and sometimes oblivious to the sacrifices made by his parents in caring for him and his sister Elisa. From a brilliant student to totally being bedridden, his life changed completely. Yet, we are marvelled at the family’s strength for the daily chores in caring for Evan. He was first diagnosed at age 14. It was full blown when he entered University that left him an invalid. These seizures or strokes affected his brain and motor skills. The parents have sacrificed their own lives to care for their son and their youngest, Elisa, who was also diagnosed with the same rare illness at age 15. These kinds of sacrifices affect our resources, our lives, and the lives of those around us.

Can we say that we living differently? Are we a living sacrifice for Jesus? One way or another, we will undergo situations in our lives that call for sacrifices to be made. Are we to live with abandonment, renounce, forsaking the pleasures of the flesh and yielding all our rights to the Lord? Yielding our rights does not mean that we are pushed around, but we are to stand for what is true and good and surrender the outcome to God. God is asking us to make a kind of sacrifice that will also affect our lives and the lives of those around us. Being a living sacrifice brings eternal life, faith, love, grace and mercy to us.

At camp “Different for a reason”, we learned that we will always be different from everyone else of the world because Jesus Christ lives in us and we have taken on His standards of living. He is the reason. When we take on His standard of living, desiring more of Jesus Christ in our lives and giving Him the reigns and lordship over all areas of our lives, we will stand out as to some as a sore thumb and to others as different.  But we are not just to take His standards of living but also be a living sacrifice for our Lord. “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. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:1-2; NIV).

Sacrifice to every believer means giving to the Lord whatever He requires of our time, our earthly possessions, and our energies to further His work. The Lord commanded: “Seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Our willingness to sacrifice is an indication of our devotion to God. People have always been tried and tested to see if they will put the things of God first in their lives.

Is Any Sacrifice Too Great a Price to Pay or Hard to Accomplish?
No, because Jesus Christ is our example, and He paid the greatest price—His life laid on the cross for the redemption of our sins and for mankind to have that relationship with God restored. He died and was raised again so we no longer live in darkness, lies, and deception but live in the light of His Word, shinning forth His truth and revelation and being hopeful, faithful, and obedient to His call in our lives. He paid the price so we can live in acceptance of ourselves and in truth, love, grace and mercy. Our willingness to be a living sacrifice is seen as an act of our devotion and worship to our Lord Jesus Christ.

What Is It to Me? How Are We to Offer Ourselves as a Living Sacrifice?
Let us go back to Romans 12:1-2, which says: “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. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”.

1. We are to be a living sacrifice. This request is probably intended both for the Jews and the Gentiles. What does “living” mean? How many of us have seen the movie “God is not dead!” Now they have a sequel to it: “God is not dead 2.” The meaning is clear–Jesus died about 2,000 odd years ago, but His memory is still very much a part of all believers. In fact, it is more than just a memory for all Christians around the world because a memory just lasts for a short moment, like when we choose to reflect on someone, but Jesus’ life is more than that. He rose from the dead after 3 days of burial. What do you make of that? He is not dead but alive! But we were once dead to sin. Through the blood of the Lamb—Jesus—sacrificed for the redemption of mankind and the forgiveness of our sins, we are made very much alive. We are miraculously saved and pulled from our doldrums and misgivings and mistakes we make in life. Satan has no power over us. So Church, are we dead or alive? Beware! We are not lukewarm!

Being alive implies moving and “making noise”, not empty worthless natter or chatter and gossip noises, but speaking encouragement, sharing goodness and kindness, shouting with joy that we are saved, and having momentum of wanting more of God in our lives. Having our ministries aligned with the vision God has given to our local church, are we willing to go the extra mile and grow our local church– SGC—and ourselves in God’s Word to serve others?

A living sacrifice is something in opposition to those dead sacrifices, which the Jews were in the habit of offering while in their Jewish state. Remember the phrase, “More of God less of me” as a reminder that God has to increase and we have to decrease.

2. We are to be holy and pleasing to the Lord. Holy means without spot or blemish, set a part; referring still to the sacrifice required by the law. Let us check out what the Bible say about this.

“Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13).

“Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16)

“I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness” (Rom. 6:19)

“To be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16).

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Cor. 1:10).

“You were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:20).

“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

Presenting our bodies, holy and pleasing to God as a living sacrifice is a metaphor taken from bringing sacrifices to the altar of God. The person offering a sacrifice picked out the choicest of his flock, brought it to the altar, and presented it there as an atonement for his sin. In the light of this, Paul exhorts the believers to give themselves up in the spirit of sacrifice; to be as wholly the Lord’s property as the whole burnt-offering was, no part being devoted to any other use. Then, the sacrifice and the intention of the offeror are considered perfect in its kind, acceptable, and well pleasing to God, who searches the heart.

All these verses show that there must be a complete surrender of the person—the body, the soul (the mind and the heart), and the spirit—to God; we are not to consider owners of our own life anymore but the entire property of his Maker. Church, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and what we put in will affect us. Like physical body needs to exercise so our spirit needs to exercise in the gifts and the fruit of His Holy Spirit.

3. Being a living sacrifice is our reasonable service. When we present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, and pleasing unto the Lord, we do it because it is our reasonable service as Romans 12:1-2 says in the New Kings James Version (NIV, “this is your true and proper worship”). It is an act of our devotion and worship.

But it is not an exceptional service but a “reasonable “service. God asks us to be a living sacrifice– to be different—and as His work and creation, it is consistent that we glorify Him, the Author and Creator. We are not our own; we are the property of the Lord. We belong to God by the right of creation and redemption; and it would be as unreasonable as it would be wicked not to live to and for His glory, in strict obedience to His will.

The reasonable service, that is, an act of devotion and worship (λογικην λατρειαν), which Pauls talks about, may refer to the difference between the Jewish and Christian worship. The Jewish religious service consisted chiefly in the sacrifices of irrational creatures (δι’ αλογων; i.e., the lambs, rams, kids, bulls, goats, etc.) offered under the law. The Christian service or worship (λογικη) is rational because it is performed according to the true intent and meaning of the law; the heart and soul is being engaged in the service. So, if we intend alone to live a life of a fool and a madman, it would reflect that our lives are the lives of sinners against God. There is such a warning to sinning against our Maker because when we do so, we wrong our own soul, as if we loving death and troubles; and the rewards are evil unto our own selves.

Church, in the end, we choose what kind of life we want to walk in. Being a believer, we called and made different from the world! There are choices to be made every day, and what we choose will affect us. God has a higher standard than the world’s standards, but if we choose God’ way, it will bring blessings and strength to overcome obstacles in our lives.

We are to be a living sacrifice, which is reasonable, not over the limit or unattainable for everyone, but reasonable service, reasonable worship, and reasonable adoration to our Lord Jesus Christ. No deadwood or dried bones but living and alive coals of fire for our Lord.

Church, may we have our hearts checked and renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit and sow seeds that will germinate and grow for we are all called to grow His local church, SGC.