Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1 (NASB)
Our Connect Group (Sunday School) has been studying the Seven Deadly Sins lately as part of the Gospel Project. These are pride, envy, greed, sloth, gluttony, lust, and wrath. I think though that all seven of these lessons could be boiled down to one: Putting ourselves and our evil desires on the altar of sacrifice to our Lord. That’s not a popular concept nowadays. Nobody wants to hear about sacrifice. Church for most people seems to have become all about what God can do for me: Can He heal my broken marriage? Can He get me out of this huge financial hole I’ve dug for myself? Can He get me that job I desperately need but don’t really want to work that hard for? Can He make my children and grandchildren straighten their lives out and become upstanding citizens? Can He fix the economy and make the president and Congress do the thing I want them to do? At the same time, can the music ministry entertain me with the kind of music I want to hear at the volume I want to hear it?
In the Old Testament, people sacrificed animals as “a sweet aroma” to God. God instituted this system when He sacrificed an animal to make clothing for Adam and Eve after the fall. Abel’s offering of a firstling of his flock was pleasing to God, which infuriated his brother Cain so much he killed him. At the temple in Jerusalem, millions of animals gave their lives through the centuries to atone for the sins of Israel, but it never lasted. “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”(Hebrews 9:22b) Only Christ’s blood could permanently atone.
So if Christ permanently paid it all, why do I have to sacrifice anything? Maybe if you’re like the thief on the cross and die immediately after accepting Christ, you don’t. You will immediately enter heaven. But if you’re not planning on dying anytime soon, and Jesus doesn’t return before you get the chance, Romans 12 tells us that sacrifice is our “reasonable service.” If we truly gave our life to Christ, why wouldn’t we want to allow Him to change us, to set us free from all the things like greed, envy, lust, etc. that have held us captive, to become all that He would have us to be?
The Bible warns that in the end times people won’t listen to sound doctrine, but will seek out preachers to “tickle their ears.” What does that mean anyway? It means they tell you the things you want to hear, and there are plenty of them around. The message of the gospel is good news. It’s all about a message of grace, a free gift of God, and people do like to hear that part. But it’s also about repentance, rejecting evil, turning away from our sins, and becoming a new creation by letting Jesus chip away the rough edges day by day. That’s the hard part. It’s like people want to “have their cake and eat it too.” They want heaven but they also want to wallow in sin. It doesn’t work that way. No, we can never work our way to heaven. It is a free gift. But it cost Jesus everything.
And no, we will probably never get there this side of heaven, but it’s the process of continually sacrificing that will allow us to become all that we can be in Christ and do the mission that He has called us to do on this earth. Why do we have to do it? Because there’s a big world out there that needs to hear the good news, and God has chosen to use us to tell them. Our lives must reflect Who He is if we’re ever going to reach them. No one wants to listen to a hypocrite. Think about it. That’s the biggest excuse non-Christians have. What’s it worth to you to see someone you love spend eternity in heaven instead of hell? Make the sacrifice.
Taboo Tuesday Question of the Day: Which of the 7 deadly sins do you struggle most with? Place it on the altar today.