Monday, 28 August 2017

Being a Living sacrifice- Rom 12

When I think of human sacrifice what comes to mind is the movie Joe Versus The Volcano. 

Tom Hanks plays a man who works in a dreary factory. One day Joe is diagnosed with a terminal disease that will kill him within 6 months. Joe quits his job and tries so spend his remaining time well. He is approached by a man who says he has been trying to extract a certain element from an island, but the islanders will only let him put a mine on their island if he provides a human sacrifice for them. The rich industrialist promises to pay for whatever Joe wants for him to live his last days as long as he jumps into the volcano as the needed sacrifice so he can start mining. … I won’t ruin the ending for you in case you haven’t seen it. 
 It is probably one of the more humorous examples of human sacrifice that come to mind. 

That is what it would mean to be a dead sacrifice- to throw yourself into a volcano. … What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? It no doubt takes as much courage and dedication. It takes more actually, because you have to make that decision every morning. It means handing your life over and it is no longer yours. It means handing over all that is yours- all your wealth, all your talents, all your strength. 

This is a shocking idea in a world where we often treat Christianity like a hobby- Some people golf on Sunday mornings, other people go to church. This is amplified because we often treat Christianity from the basis of consumerism- comments like "I didn't get much out of that service" or "that didn't feed me" betray this attitude.  

Are we willing to be living sacrifices? Are we willing to be like Joe, but instead of jumping into the volcano, to be living sacrifices- every day offering ourselves, our talents, our time, our treasure, and our will to God?

We should remember that a sacrifice isn’t a waste. There is a kind of return. For ancient Israel, sacrifice had to do with their relationship with God and that meant sacrifice often had to do with dealing with sin. A sacrifice was for something. You gave your animal as an offering to be healed from your sin. To be a living sacrifice means that there is something to receive as well as give.

Romans chapters 12 to 15 is where the rubber hits the road after reading Romans 1 to 11. Paul sees Christ’s death and resurrection as a new beginning for humanity. He sees all of the world split into two at that point. We either belong to Christ and his kingdom or we belong to the world and its kingdom. There is no gray area- you are in one kingdom or the other. Christ’s kingdom is everlasting. The world’s kingdom is doomed for destruction as it is under the power of Sin. Do we stay in Egypt, or go to the Promised Land? Even as we join Christ’s kingdom we still battle sin, but we are given the power of the Spirit to live in God’s ways. 

To give our lives over to God as living sacrifices means that we give our lives to Christ and his kingdom, which will last into eternity, rather than remain in a kingdom ruled by Sin that is doomed for destruction.

Maybe this is an overly simple example, but I sacrifice a bit of money to get an ice cream cone. I offer something and in return I get something I want more. I want the ice cream more than I want the couple dollars in my pocket. That is what sacrifice is about. We don’t focus on what we give up as much as we focus on what the effect of the sacrifice is. That all sounds very economic, but at its most simple that is kind of what we are dealing with. The ancient Israelites didn’t think as much about the sacrifice they offered as they did about the relationship with God they wanted. That has to be it, or they wouldn’t have done it.

If we are going to truly sacrifice, we have to believe that what is received is better than what we offer. We offer up our sin-sick lives in exchange for eternal life. That doesn’t just mean heaven when we die. It does mean that, but it primarily means eternal life right now that won’t end. It means a life energized by God’s Spirit- A life transformed into the image of Christ. It means giving up the life that is ruled by the power of sin and receiving instead a life filled with the fruit of the Spirit. 

We sometimes burn through the list of the fruit of the Spirit so quick we don’t really think about what kind of life that is. So I invite you to truly think about what that life looks like. Imagine a life primarily marked by 
 love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
 Regardless of what you think you would be giving up in sacrifice, wouldn’t you ultimately want a life like that? A life filled with love… joy… peace… patience… kindness…goodness… faithfulness… gentleness… and self-control… Isn’t that the kind of life we try to use our money to buy? Isn’t that really the kind of life we are always trying to get- A life that is happy and joyful? A life that is under the rule of peace and patience rather being ruled by our anger and constantly feeling like there is someone we are in a scuffle with? A life filled with kindness and goodness without worrying about being taken advantage of, or of our fragile egos being wounded? A life where we give up our anxiety and instead are filled with faithfulness, trusting that God has things under control no matter what the circumstances look like, and that He loves us and only wants good for us? A life of gentleness where we don’t feel the need to push and shove to get our way? A life that isn’t ruled by our addictions to pleasures, but is filled with self-control? …

Isn’t that the kind of life we ultimately are trying to have? … What if we can only truly get at that life by giving up our life to God? Jesus said, 
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (NLT Matt 16:25).

The way we usually try to get at that life doesn’t really work that well. We can’t really buy happiness. We can buy things, and trips, but they are fleeting and (given enough time) you can be bored on a yacht just as you can be bored in a shack. You can give into your urges for pleasure and allow drugs and alcohol to rule your life, but that ultimately leads to a destroyed and hollow life. You can try to use anger to control others and get your way, but that leads to a life of pain and alienation- people don’t really want to be around you, you are always in a fight with someone, and people are afraid to be honest with you. 

The life we really want is the life God is offering us. The trick is that we try to get at that life by saving our life and not losing it. Wouldn’t you rather be happy in a shack than sad on a yacht? What if the way we try to get at that life is all wrong? What if we have to sacrifice our life to get that life?

If that is the life we want then we should present our 
“bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God”. This means “not [being] conformed to this world”. When the Bible speaks about “the world” it doesn’t mean the rocks, trees, birds, lakes, and sky. When the Bible talks about “the world” it means human society organizing itself while trying to ignore God. It means profit at the expense of human lives. It means pleasure at the expense of morality. It means exploitation, abuse, apathy, and corruption. It means short term gain, in exchange for long term pain. It means life polluted and ruled by Sin. 

To be a living sacrifice requires being 
“transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God”. To be a living sacrifice means being in a continuous state of discerning and giving yourself over to God's will. It means to be constantly saying with Jesus “not my will but your will be done” (Lk 22:42). 

To say otherwise means that we don’t trust God. To not be willing to give ourselves to God's will means we don’t trust in God’s will. We think that God’s will is ultimately not for our good. ... That's what it looks like inside me. When I pray to fully give myself over to God's will there is a twinge of fear that God will hurt me, or hurt my family, or people I care about. Some part of me doesn't believe God wants good for me.  

The Christian life is a life of transformation. A life of trusting in God’s will for us. A life where we sacrifice our own ideas and plans when God has other plans. That is why humility is the basic virtue to the Christian life. Pride is having our way regardless of what God wants because we know better, or our will is more important. If we aren’t willing to submit our will to God, then we have chosen to remain in “the world”. We have chosen to believe that we know better than God. We have chosen to believe that if we don’t look out for ourselves no one else will, and God certainly won’t.

But this isn’t a life we can live all on our own. This is a hard way to live. It is a way of life that will look foolish to "the world". It is always easier to be a fool when you are with others. There is a scene in the movie "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" where St. Francis and his brothers are begging and singing in the streets in the rain. People slam their windows, yell at them, and throw things at them. But when I watch that scene I feel like I would much rather be in the rain than in any of the houses. Mostly, though, it would be because I wouldn't be alone begging and singing in the rain. We need Christians around us to inspire us, to give fellowship in the midst of what looks like foolishness. 

"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."
But we also need Christian community because living life with others forges our character. We need people to rub against us to teach us patience. When the Bible speaks about being a Christian it assumes this is a life lived with a community. As St. Cyrpian (b.200AD) said, 
“He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the church for his mother”.
 We need each other to live this life... as messy as that is. Paul says, and this is not the only place, that to be one with Christ is to be one with his Body. It means to be intimately interrelated with other followers of Christ, all of whom are ideally trying to be living sacrifices and serve Christ in others.

The life we are asked to live as Christians is a life of extreme dedication- so extreme that it looks like a living sacrifice. There was a little boy who fell out of bed one night and his father asked him, “How did you fall out of the bed?” The boy answered, “I guess I slept too close to where I got into bed”. We are called to a deeper walk with God. We are called to be continuously transformed into a greater likeness to Jesus. If we stay too close to where we got in (keeping a simplistic faith that asks nothing of us), like the boy, we are in danger of falling out of bed. We will fall back to the old ways of the world instead of the way of the Kingdom. Paul tells us what it means to be a Christian. It means that when we get involved with the living God we are transformed. When God’s Spirit truly gets a hold of us we are never the same- Our minds become his mind, our bodies become his Body, and our ways becomes his Way. And in that we will find the true satisfaction for our deepest yearnings. As Augustine said to God, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you”. Let's trust that God knows the way to satisfaction for our hearts. 

1 comment:

  1. Hello Rev.Chris Roth. I am a Pastor from Mumbai, India. I am glad to stop by your profile on the blogger and the blog post. Your post on "Being a Living Sacrifice is worth reading and very strengthening. I am truly blessed and feel privileged and honored to get connected with you as well as know you and about you being the Pastor of an Anglican church in Alberta, Canada. My son live in Calgary, Canada. Recently I was there visit our son and his family. God blessed him and his wife with a beautiful baby girl on 3rd April. Me and my wife had a great time with our grand daughter. God willing I will be coming to Calgary, Canada and will be so glad to visit you and know you and get connected with you. I I love getting connected with the people of God around the globe to be encouraged, strengthened and praying for one another. I have been in the Pastoral ministry for last 38 yrs in this great city of Mumbai a city with a great contrast where richest of rich and poorest of poor live. We reach out to the poorest of poor with the love of Christ to bring healing to the brokenhearted. We also encourage young and the adults from the west to come to Mumbai to work with us during their vacation time. We would love to have young people from your Parish to come to Mumbai to work with us during their vacation time. I am sure they will have a life changing experience. My email id is: dhwankhede(at)gmail(dot)com and my name is Diwakar Wankhede. Looking forward to hear from you very soon. God's richest blessings on you, your family and the ministry.


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