Living Sacrifices

It’s the 4th of July here in the States. A time when we celebrate our independence from that monarchy and reign of the British so long ago. I joked it was the original Brexit on a couple of social media platforms because IT WAS. We often take this time in America to show our respect for the Founding Fathers of our quite young nation (look at other countries y’all, we’re pretty green behind the ears still) and honor those who have sacrificed for our country through battles and wars.

We are very sentimental that way as Americans, remembering the sacrifices of others to give us the independence we exercise through tubing on the lake, shooting off fireworks until the neighbors call the cops, and playing Florida Georgia Line at top volume. We like that word sacrifice alot around this time of year, what with Memorial Day and 4th of July, and the regal nature in which we honor those that ultimately sacrificed their lives so that we can not be under a reign of a monarchy or dictatorship.

But I don’t think we like that word being applied to our lives, or what we are asked to do. It’s good for others, but no so much ourselves. Believe me when I say I wrestle with this just as much. Because sacrifice means something has to be given up, it has to be surrendered…or even killed. So I look at Paul’s words to the Romans in chapter 12 and start to see the bigger tension evolving.

“That you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

See we are living…breathing…acting…doing…and yet, we are to be sacrificing ourselves for God, to Him, because that is the reasonable response to the God who saves, redeems, loves and sacrificed Himself for us. It means to me I have to kill off myself in every moment, give myself over not to my whims, desires and emotions, but the Spirit within me. Not choosing this world (as Paul continues on telling us) to live into but transformed by Him in every single part of us. It is the surrender of ourselves for the sake of something better-the very best we could ever encounter, God Himself.

So when I want to dwell in this place of sacrifice and seeing how others have given of themselves I cannot help but look at the sacrifice of Christ and the daily act as this living being of sacrificing myself unto Him, His reign, His rule and His will. Not for some selfish pursuit or half-hearted liberty I can conjure up but for the ultimate liberty in Christ.  Not to pursue my own life, but one sacrificed fully for the very best thing…Christ.

Oh that I wish it were as easy as I like to deceive myself that it is. But sacrificing myself and all that selfish desire, ambition and emotion is hard. The person that says it’s easy is lying, but just because it is hard doesn’t mean I give in and lean back into a self-pursued life. It means going hard into transforming my mind, knowing my strength is not my own, but Christ’s in every. single. moment. if I but ask, seek with my heart. Y’all, this Christian life of sacrificial living isn’t easy but it’s worth it. It’s worth it to surrender my attitude, my mouth, my mind, my weakness…every single bit of me even the parts I really don’t want to give up, to know I am serving God in faith.

So where might you need to live as a sacrifice today? What area has God been hammering in on you that needs to be killed off in order to be set apart?

Leptas, Perfume, and a Bag of Silver

Can I just share with y’all that this digging into Holy Week has really been such a divine interruption in my normal writing and study? That it has brought some deeper understandings of Scripture and this week for me than I had before?

download (1)Between yesterday and today we see the objects of money, offering and sacrifice come up in some pretty profound ways in the life of Christ and His followers. From the prior day’s teachings, Christ is in the temple when a “poor widow” came and put in leptas that she had to live on-a couple of pennies in today’s terms. She gave out of her poverty, while others were coming in giving out of their riches, casting in large amounts. Christ was pointing here not to the amount but the heart behind it, the giving out of sacrifice and in devotion to God. It was about the offering in the heart, not the offering in the hand.

The following day, as they stay in Bethany, a woman came as they were reclining at the table, probably following a feast. Do you ever linger at the table with friends? Leaning back from full bellies, but wanting to lean in to fill your heart? I have a feeling that’s what was going on here, gathering at the table for long discussions and listening to the heart of Christ, although we don’t know what was talked of, we do see this woman come to them. She brings in a jar of expensive perfume…this is important because it’s not oil to anoint Him with. It is that pricey bottle of Chanel No. 5, fragrant and hard to come by, expensive to everyone, and used for burial preparations specifically. She poured out this entire gift on Christ, right there before everyone. It was uninhibited devotion to Him, it was her offering of all she had to Him. While others complained of the excess, Christ saw it as her recognition of Who He was, loving Him truly with all that she had.

I love how Christ schools those around the table on this act, as the fragrance fills the room, it coating Him from the head down. In the NIV translation He states, “She did what she could.” He acknowledged her faith and her understanding, receiving her full sacrifice that cost much because she knew, her sacrifice going beyond herself and what others thought of her. She only cared about what she could do for Christ, giving all that she had for Him in His very presence.

Whoa.

How often do I take for granted that He is with me? That I am right there in His Presence? That instead of sacrificing all that I have, all that I am, I choose the way of Judas.

Yep, the verses right after the perfume are of Judas Iscariot choosing to betray Christ to the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees seeking to kill Him, for the price of a slave…thirty pieces of silver. We don’t know his reasoning for it, but we see the contrast of the costly devotion in one moment and the small price of betrayal in the next. Judas choosing his own wants over the Presence of Christ. Bob Goff put it perfectly, “For a couple silver coins, Judas traded who he was, for what he thought he wanted.” The lure of power? Authority maybe? To be in the in crowd with the Pharisees? Maybe he worried what others thought of him, his association with Christ?

I don’t know the root of it, but the betrayal was costly…it would lead to Judas taking his own life not long after Christ’s crucifixion. But we look at these two people, we see their offerings and sacrifice not from a lens of monetary reasoning but from their heart reasons, the faith reasons.

It’s a hard question to face, even in the small decisions daily. Because the big questions have been built upon the smaller sacrifices, the steps further towards Him or away from Him. The choice to sacrifice more of self or more of Him. And so on this Wednesday of Holy Week I am left asking the same question myself.

Do we sacrifice ourselves for Him or do we sacrifice Him in order to get what we want?