Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sacrifice

Something has been stirring in my heart and I feel like I must get it down on paper.
I might be crazy who knows but I just have this thought that I must process and writing is always the best way for me to do just that.

The word: sacrifice. The problem: comparison. I have no idea why my heart is so upset over this topic. Usually this means the Lord is about to teach me a lesson, some thing that I will never forget. Whatever the case, my prayer is that He changes me, teaches me from His word, and helps me never to get over it!

I have been struggling over the topic of sacrifice for a long while now. I saw on my blog how I wrote something about studying it on May 2nd so I know it has been on my heart since then at least.

I guess the issue I am having is that it feels wrong in my heart to compare the struggles and sacrifices of one person to another. I could be completely 100% wrong, it just doesn’t feel right.

The first mention of the word sacrifice in the bible is that Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mount. The word translated into english is Zebach and it means sacrifices of righteousness, of strife, to dead things, the covenant sacrifice, the passover, an annual sacrifice or a thank offering. Webster defines sacrifice as : destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else or something given up or lost.

In the case that we are using Webster’s definition in order to describe sacrifice, a sacrifice to God would be anything that the Lord destroys in my life to make me more like Him. This reminds me of the refining process, sanctification. Inevitably, sanctification involves denying or giving up of parts of our fleshly self to become more like Him and must involve surrender (a heart attitude) for the sake of having a closer walk with Jesus.

Webster’s definition links right back to the first Hebrew definition of sacrifices of righteousness. If I am interpreting this correctly in Psalm 4:5-6, sacrifices of righteousness involve giving up one thing in order to choose what is (Tsedeq) right and just. So practically, giving up one thing for the sake of being righteous, more righteous, or more like Christ. It doesn’t seem as if the object one is giving up has to be a bad object, just something the Spirit has laid on the believer’s heart that is of course ultimately for the good of the believer and when laid down with the right heart attitude, and not taken up again (you all know what I’m talking about!!), sanctifies the person making the sacrifice.

Am I making any sense at all, I have no idea? But, my thought process is not finished and I must go on.

All of what has been typed to this point, I don’t believe anyone would argue with, or at least few. But, I want to venture to another idea. The core issue I am having involves the tendency we as humans have to compare our sacrifices to others or other people’s sacrifices to other people’s. In practical terms, I have caught myself on a bad day saying, “I know I don’t have family here because we moved far way to help with this church plant and it is hard to raise two small children but what kind of sacrifice is this compared to ________.” You fill in the blank. It could be anything. While, I don’t believe God wants me to sit around and wallow in self pity. I know that for certain.(Romans 5:3, Matthew 11:28-30, James 1:2-12) I’m not sure it pleases Him for me to simply brush off the sacrifice of moving here with a comparison to how bad it could be for me if I lived overseas, didn’t have parents at all, were beaten every day for my faith.

These thoughts in no way draw my eyes back to Jesus in whom I have to be thankful for so many things. Instead, this causes me to feel guilty for ever thinking I have it bad and to push those feelings deep inside or confess them because they are “sinful” and move on with my day.

Again, I could be way off, but I am in the process of learning these verses in Colossians and like Christ so wonderfully does He just brought them to mind. They say, “If then, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above and not on things of this earth, for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, appears, you will also appear with Him in glory.”

Ok, I got a little carried away there but the point is that we are to set our minds on things above, not to compensate by comparing our sacrifice with another person’s or group of people’s and then telling ourselves we don’t have it that bad and to stop complaining.

You see, the problem is, we do not have the capacity to look into people’s hearts and see their motives. Only God can do this. It says in 1 Samuel 16:7, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”

A missionary can be living overseas in a mud hut looking to the world as if he is the most godly man alive while his heart is eaten up with anger, jealously, and hatred toward God, while a person in America can be working at a 9-5 job and live in a beautiful house and might have given up every opportunity possible to climb the proverbial “ladder” at work because he knew he would have to sacrifice his righteousness to do so. These are not real examples but you see what I am saying, right? All that matters is our heart attitude no matter our situation or our call to sacrifice.

I guess I am trying to make the point (to myself, ha!) that we can never judge. (Matthew 7:1) The bible says this so many times. People may look like they are sacrificing a lot and some people little but God only cares about the heart of a person and what He has told them to do and if they are obedient.

So, how do I apply this practically?

The only comparison of sacrifice that my conscience will allow me to make, is between what I sacrifice for Christ and what He has sacrificed for me. This brings me back to Colossians 3, we are to think on things above, to think of Christ.

When I think of what Christ sacrificed for me, everything else starts to fade away. I’m not talking about thinking on it for a second and then moving back to my feelings of self pity, I am talking about meditating on the fact that he suffered, bled, and died for me and that he didn’t have to, he chose to. One song that is great for this is “How deep the Father’s Love for Us.” This gives me such a peace and satisfaction.

So when I am tempted to push my sacrifice to the side and compare my situation to others around the world to make me feel better instead, I will focus on Christ. On how I can make sure my heart attitude is right in what He wants me to sacrifice for him that day because He will ask me to sacrifice if I am allowing Him to work on me. (Luke 9:23.) There is no doubt about that.

Christ knows our sacrifice. He knows whether our hearts give freely, not at all, or if we just play a good faking game. He knows. He knows how much it hurts to sacrifice, He knows how much we have sacrificed. He knows how much it has changed us and made us more like Him and He knows how much further we have to go. He knows.

2 comments:

Rachel said...

So good, Ash. And so true! We can't demean the process of sanctification that God Himself has set out for us and us alone. And I think another good way to combat that is something God has been working on my heart recently and something you do every Tuesday..."Be thankful." And not just thankful that He hasn't called me to be beaten everyday or to sacrifice my family, but thankful that He, in His wisdom, has set about making me more like Him--
"whatever the cost" (think there's a Lewis quote about that), and whatever it may look like in MY life.

Sorry it's a long comment. I had to work that through in writing too. :) Love you!

1ofsix said...

As I read this all I could hear echo in my mind is Psalm 51:16-17: "For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." That's all I ever want is to be broken at the foot of the cross, whatever He calls me to here on earth!