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- Jacob Ninan
Under the old covenant, the way back to God after doing wrong was to make a sacrifice to the Lord. This is the approach many people take, even in other religions. Instead of being careful not to do wrong, they find that this is a somewhat easy way to settle things with God and to avoid His punishment. God has no delight in such sacrifices, because His desire for us is to obey Him in the first place (1Sa.15:22). David found this truth for himself after his great fall (Ps.51:16,17). The old covenant sacrifices could not actually atone for sins but they were only pointers to the sacrifice that would come through Jesus Christ which would be the only one capable of taking away sins (He.10:4).
But when we think about sacrifice, it is not only in terms of making up for sin. There is a sacrifice involved in obedience, that of our own will. Certainly God recognises that. Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily, deny ourselves and then follow Him (Lk.9:23). It is this sacrifice that is many times more difficult for us to bear than things like giving some extra money to the church, going through a fast, doing some extra good to others, etc.
There is also sacrifice in serving others, when we have to lay aside our own comfort and convenience, and consider the others more important than ourselves (Php.2:3). If we do this publicly where we get applause then it is really not a sacrifice inside us (Mt.6:2). But if we do this secretly, before the Lord's face, He will have a great reward waiting for us (v.4). Those who intercede in secret for others are actually sacrificing a part of their lifespan for the others, and they may not get any recognition on earth. But surely they will be treated as 'great' in heaven. Those who travel to distant places preaching the gospel at great personal sacrifice will also have their great reward.
On the other hand, Christians who revel in their earthly blessings, enjoy the 'good life' sightseeing, tasting new cuisines, trying out the latest fashions, exchanging older phones for new ones, and give to the Lord only out of their surplus, may find themselves extremely poor in eternity! Sacrifice was missing in their life.
The greatest sacrifice ever was that of Jesus. The apostles and many godly men and women have followed Him making self-sacrifices in different ways. The believers in Macedonia first gave themselves to the Lord, and then tried to convince Paul to receive from them more than they were actually able to give (2Co.8:1-4). Theye did not do this, as many do now, expecting hundredfold returns, but it was from an overflow of their love for others. Paul reminds us that he who sows abundantly will also reap abundantly (2Co.9:6).
If we put away TV time for prayer, take pains to visit those who are poor or sick, write to those who need encouragement--there are many things we can do--we will fulfil God's plan for our lives. We have been blessed so that we can bless and serve with sacrifice.