Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Living Sacrifice

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, a federal holiday during which Americans remember those who died while serving in the armed forces. Regardless of where you’re from, I believe it’s important to honor your nation’s soldiers who sacrificed their lives to defend freedoms often taken for granted.

The dictionary gives several definitions of the word sacrifice. One is “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.” Having served in the U. S. Army myself, it grieves me to see people dishonor military personnel. Many servicemen and women have been killed, wounded, or paralyzed so that even ungrateful civilians can live in a free society. 

Sacrifice is also defined as “an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure.” Although Abraham was instructed to offer his son Isaac as an obedience test in Genesis 22, God forbids the sacrifice of humans such as those done to the pagan deity Molech. Satanists conceive children for the purpose of offering them on an altar. Some consider abortion as another form of human sacrifice.

Various religions practice animal sacrifices. Muslims who make a pilgrimage to Mecca are required to sacrifice lambs and goats. They also sacrifice cows and camels in a festival known as Eid. Under the Old Covenant, Israelites sacrificed doves, bulls, lambs, and goats. For the most part, this practice stopped in 70 AD when the Roman army destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.

New Testament believers don’t need to sacrifice animals. Instead, Romans 12:1 commands us to “…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” One way we do that is not allowing our flesh to rule us and do things uncharacteristic of Christians. That can be more difficult that simply giving an offering to the Lord. It’s often said a dead sacrifice cannot climb off the altar.

We can also be a living sacrifice by praising God. Psalm 116:17 talks about offering “the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Hebrews 13:15 tells us, “…to continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Often the best time to praise the Lord is when we don’t feel like it. Rather than magnify problems we’re facing, we should magnify the God who can help us overcome those problems.

As you progress in your Christian walk, God will likely instruct you to sacrifice certain possessions. Often it’s because He wants to replace that with something better. Once I felt led to get rid of demo tapes of my music recorded before becoming a believer. Because most of those recordings were instrumentals, I questioned the necessity of doing that. Then one night at church, I approached a pastor’s wife who’s also a songwriter. Before I said anything to this woman, she suddenly told me, “You need to be careful of the music you listen to...even instrumentals because of the minstrel behind it.” I knew this was a confirming word from the Lord. After erasing the music from my past, I felt lighter inside. Since then I’ve produced new music that glories Him. 

Occasional fasting from food can be another form of sacrifice to honor God. However, no amount of personal sacrifices will atone for a nonbeliever’s sins. They need to put their trust in the One who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us.

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” - Matthew 9:13

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