Tithing at the church, giving to food banks, donating to charities – these things are all well and good, but are they the sacrifices God really wants?
This was the question posed in the prologue article to this Acceptable Worship series. I think as Christians, we often get so caught up in the motions of daily life, that we forget to stop and ask ourselves, is this really what Jesus wants me to do with my life?
We live in such a self-gratifying world, that it’s no surprise to hear a variety of self-centered beliefs from Christians. Some take the sacrifice of Jesus for granted, using his grace and goodness as an excuse to do pretty much as they please without ever considering sacrificing any part of themselves for the good of others.
Those of us who are more zealous about the faith understand that this line of thinking is not acceptable, but what about us? What are we doing to honor Jesus in our lives?
Some view going to church regularly or helping out with some church function as an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord. Some view their ministry work as making a sacrifice. Others become involved in activism of some kind, charitable works, or some other good deed.
There’s nothing wrong with being involved in a God-fearing church, reaching out to those in need, and doing good in general. The problem is when we esteem our good deeds to be higher than they are, maybe even becoming proud of ourselves for being such “good Christians,” because of all the “sacrifices” we make.
What are we really sacrificing? Is giving up time that we have on loan from God really a sacrifice? Is doing good to receive praise from other Christians a sacrifice? Is giving things to charity, of which we already have in abundance sacrificial? No. These are just the beginnings of what is our reasonable service, if that.
What Did Jesus Say About Acceptable Sacrifices to The Lord?
Jesus is the lamb of God that was shed for the remission of sin. Yes, this is very true. However, this does not mean that we do not have some duty of sacrifice ourselves. What about, “take up your cross and follow me?” What about “suffering for his name’s sake?”
I think the best way to deal with this is to let the Lord’s word speak for him. Here are some scriptures to get us thinking about what Jesus wants from us:
Matthew 5:41-45 – And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from that would borrow of thee turn not away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray from them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 12:7-8 – But if ye had known that this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
Matthew 13: 44-46 – Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Matthew 16:23-24 – But he turned and said unto Peter; Get thee behind me Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Matthew 19:29 – And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or fathers, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
Mark 12: 30-31 – And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Mark 12: 41-44 – And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and behold how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury; For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
Luke 17:10 – So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Do What is Your Duty to Do
All the above verses are important, but I particularly like the last one. What do we have in this life that was not given to us by God? What could we possibly sacrifice to the one who made all things? What could we possibly do to earn this life, much less life eternal that was bought with the blood of Jesus? Absolutely nothing!
All the good we do should be done to bring glory to God, and because we have love and respect for the Lord, we will not live for ourselves, but for Him. We do this by living for others. That is, at best, our reasonable service and duty.
Romans 12:1 — I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
We need to get rid of the mentality that says, “I did enough” and instead seek to do all things to the glory of God. We need to get rid of the mentality that praises ourselves or others for doing what should be done anyway. We need to understand that our lives belong to the Creator, and if we truly appreciate what salvation brings, we will go out and earn it – not because it can be earned, but because we want to and because we should.
Offer a Holy, Acceptable Sacrifice
As you’re probably aware, God’s people made sin offerings to God during the old covenant. These offerings had to meet certain standards in order to be acceptable. However, even these were not what God really wanted. The sacrifices were not to be done because God needed these things, but for man. What God really wanted was obedience.
Jesus, who came to fulfill the law, became the ultimate sacrifice for sin—and in return, we are to sacrifice ourselves. The same is true for today as it was under the old covenant. Jesus does not desire out outward performances like going through the motions of church or giving to charity. Instead, he desires a change of heart that keeps his commandments and honors his name.
Sure, doing the outward acts will be a natural result of the inner change, however, we do not want to be those who honor God pretentiously. If we seek to conform to the laws of the kingdom of God — an obedience that can only come by power of the Spirit and not our own efforts, then we will begin living a life that pleases God–a life of servitude and sacrifice.
As Christians, we have wonderful promises that offer freedom from the destruction of this present wicked world. We do not have to continue a life of sin. Through the power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit within us, we are to learn how to walk in righteousness. We are to put aside the cares and covetousness of this world and gain the everlasting inheritance of God’s kingdom.
Have faith that Jesus will work all good things in you over time. Our salvation is his work, and he will perform it. Seek him and repent of your sins. Ask the Spirit to convict your heart of sins that might be hidden from you. Ask Jesus to give you the strength to stop doing the things your flesh wants to do and your spirit despises. These are the fruits of salvation—and sacrificing the things of this world for the good of mankind are the fruits of sacrifice we are to truly make!
Some Food for Thought
I want to close this article with an excerpt from Isaiah. The people in his day also had a problem with making unacceptable sacrifices to God. When you read this, can you think of how this might apply to us as Christians today?
Isaiah 1: 11-20
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
This article is part of the series, “Acceptable Worship.” Click the link to view articles written within this series.