Monday, 6 June 2016

Living sacrifices

Recently we have been looking, in church, at the Holy Spirit and us. One of the things that has been coming up in my studies preparing the sermons on this is the call to be a "living sacrifice".

Rom 12:1  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.

Tozer in his book "Life in the Spirit" talks about separation, which occurs when believers are filled with the Spirit, his example is the disciples after Pentecost. This point being that the Spirit brings a separation between believers and the world. Not physically but spiritually, this separation is a part of the living sacrifices that we are to be. He goes on to tell of the Moravians in 1727, who having experienced this filling with the Holy Spirit, became some of the most enthusiastic evangelists of their day, giving up the comforts of their homes to spread the good news.

Being a living sacrifice suggests a need to put something before our desires and wants - Jesus, the one we are called to imitate as best we can, with the Holy Spirit's help. But there is an obvious problem for most of us, we don't want to give up the things that we have come to like, trust, put our faith in, so that we can devote more time to knowing God, serving him, going wherever he asks us to. What we often want is a mission that means we can stay at home, have our job and enjoy the fruits of it, a life not too disturbed by sacrifice.

Sacrifice comes with a call to let go, to hold loosely to some things, to offer all that we have, our bodies included, to be where God wants us. A couple of missionary friends have just gone to Central Africa, the wife being pregnant, for a short trip to see how things are and what their mission might be when the baby has been born. That, to me, is sacrificial.

Does this concept of being a living sacrifice embody other types of sacrifice? For example, opening our homes to others, or lending treasured possessions to others, or maybe making meals for others even inviting them to our table. What about giving up a significant part of our time and of our income to God's work, that would be a sacrifice? I am sure there are many ways.

In a culture where me, my and I tend to come before anything else when we are looking at life  -my new car, my holidays, my home, my security, what I want, what I deserve - it is, I think, getting more and more difficult to be living sacrifices. And yet as Tozer says, the Spirit separates us from the world and Jesus tells us:

Mat 16:24-26  Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

We must lose our lives in Christ, be living sacrifices, and then we will find the joy and wonder of true life in Christ. I think it was exactly this that allowed Paul to write that he was an offering being poured out, a sacrifice, as he imitated his Lord and Saviour who gave himself as a sacrifice for Paul and us.

Another book I have been looking at is "The Wind in the house of Islam", a detailed survey of people coming to faith in Jesus, in predominantly Muslim parts of the world. The thing that is repeated over and over is the sacrifice of many such believers, their love for Jesus has reshaped their lives, often requiring huge sacrifice and danger, but they seem not to turn from it, they embrace it. There is an example for all of us in that of being living sacrifices.

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