What does living sacrificially for God really mean?
As believers in Jesus Christ, we have been called to not only bring ourselves to the altar of sacrifice as covenanted children of God, but also to bring all that belongs to us and all who we love to the altar of sacrifice. The term altar of sacrifice simply means committing ourselves, what is ours, people and things we love sacrificially to the LORD.
The use of the word “altar” here is in reference to Abraham and how he obeyed God by preparing to sacrifice his son Isaac at the altar as he would do a ram or a goat. It was when he was about to kill his son Isaac that God stopped him and provided a ram as a substitute.
God then said “16..Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[a] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies.18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.” (Gen. 22:16-17NLT).
As in Abraham’s case, it is evident that it is not enough being covenanted or surrendered to God as Abraham was, He requires us to covenant or surrender all that we cherish to him.
God also led me to think further about what else constitutes a sacrificial life unto God. What came to mind is the fact that our calling is to not only love God but others sacrificially.
As much as we love God unreservedly or sacrificially and we love ourselves as a result, we are also called to love others, believers and non believers, unconditionally.
“Jesus replied, “..,You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’””Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” (John 10:26-28 NLT). One’s “neighbour” is either a Christian or a non Christian.
Sadly many hold back from expressing love and therefore care for others because of past experiences of being hurt or rejected when they had done so. Some leaders have also developed the erroneous mindset that the mark of a good leader is one who ensures they show their authority by not being too familiar with their subordinates.
Jesus ate at table with his disciples, washed their feet and allowed one of them John to rest on his bosom. Jesus did these things and more to demonstrate that in the Kingdom of God the mark of a great and true leader is one who is not afraid to demonstrate humility and love to those they lead.
One can give all one’s goods to the poor and manifest diligence in Godly service and have gifts of prophecy among others, but if one is not demonstrating the sacrificial God kind of love them one is actually not pleasing God. The Apostle Paul expressed it in this manner to the Corinthians
“If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.” (1 Corinth. 13:2 NLT).
Jesus who died a sacrificial death for mankind said “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13NLT).
Jesus taught as follows “…I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:44 NLT)
It is worthy to note Jesus used the word “friend” in Matthew 5:44. Indeed it is sacrificial to “lay down one’s life” for someone who is not even blood related to us and also for our enemies. It means we are willing to go the extra mile in terms of demonstrating unconditional love and kindness towards them.
Jesus was criticised by the Jewish religious leaders for keeping company with “many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners…” (Mark 2:15-16 NLT).
If we are able to love sacrificially despite being at the risk of making ourselves vulnerable and therefore open to criticism and rejection, then we are truly manifesting sacrificial behaviour for the sake of God as Christ did, hence affirming our love for God.
The Apostle John said “If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?” (1 John 4:20 NLT).
Let us always remember brethren that what constitutes genuine sacrificial living before God “at the altar of sacrifice” includes but goes beyond what we normally think of as sacrifice which is the giving of ourselves, all that belongs to us i.e. those we love, to God.
In fact the affirmation of whether we are true Children of God who please God is determined by how we relate to our fellow human beings.
Therefore Brethren, when we are committed to doing all that we desire to do as living sacrifices unto God, let us remember that God places great significance on how we conduct our interpersonal relationships on a day to day basis. May He help us in our weakness.
Poem – Altar of Sacrifice
At the altar of sacrifice
I arise from the fall,
surrendering before God,
I give Him my all.
My all is giving of my heart
and that is where I start.
My all is offering what’s so dear
’cause of reverential fear of God.
At the altar of sacrifice,
I give my all
to stand tall before the LORD.
My all is loving mankind
as I am loved by God
who is one of a kind.
My all is giving up my life for
friends and praying for my foes.
Always ready to pay a price,
I surrender all
at the Altar of Sacrifice.
©Deborah E.Nyamekye 11/06/2016