Given the title of this chapter, I'm surprised that you are reading it. Who wants to grow in sacrifice?
It brings to mind the old story of the pig and chicken who met a poor, hungry man. The pig said, "We ought to do something to help that poor guy."
"Why don't we give him a ham and egg breakfast?" the chicken suggested.
"That's easy for you to say," the pig responded. "For you it is a generous contribution, but for me it is a personal sacrifice!"
The pig has a point. Who wants to grow in sacrifice? Nearly everyone wants to grow in dependence, knowledge, commitment, prayers, and fellowship but sacrifice?
On the other hand, if we are serious about growing with Christ, we will certainly have to grow in our sacrifice. Nearly everybody knows and loves John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." But a companion verse, 1 John 3:16 carries the same thought one step further, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."
Some wise man has said, "The four most important words in the English language are I, me, mine and money." Sacrifice is something most people avoid if they can, perform if they must, and brag about forever.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who buy fur coats and those who buy firewood. The first seek to warm themselves; the second seek to warm others. The first comes into a room and says, "Well, here I am!" The second comes in and says, "Ah, there you are."
Self-centeredness is the religion of our age. Its Bible is the sales catalogue; its temple is the shopping mall; its high priests are advertising executives; and its creed is "please yourself."
Consumer mentality may be good when deciding between brands of toothpaste or wall paint, but it is fatal as a philosophy of life. It destroys life's most valuable relationships.
Self-centeredness destroys marital relationships. The only difference between a marital relationship and a martial relationship is a misplaced "I." The same misplaced "I" will turn a united home into an untied home. In a futile effort at fairness husbands and wives try to balance their equally self-centered interests. It usually ends with the husband telling the wife what to do and the wife telling the husband where to go. Self-centeredness turns holy wedlock into unholy deadlock.
Self-centeredness destroys civic relationships. Some voters swing to the right and others swing to the left, but most are self-centered. They evaluate every law and governmental action by how it benefits them personally. President John Kennedy called attention to this in his famous speech when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
Self-centeredness destroys divine relationships. Ever since the garden of Eden mankind has been arguing with God whether it is "My will be done" or "Thy will be done." Grammarian C. S. Lewis said that man was created to be an adjective, but is sinfully trying to be a noun. God cannot possess the self-possessed.
Self-centeredness just doesn't work as a philosophy of life. The problem is self-seekers never find themselves. Jesus said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). People who live by themselves and for themselves are likely to be corrupted by the company they keep.
Christians know all that, but their minds have been so corrupted by the spirit of the age that they continue to talk the talk while they no longer walk the walk or live the life.
We are like the Romeo who wrote to his Juliet, "I would climb the most rugged and precipitous mountain to see the light of your eyes. I would swim any body of water far wilder and wider than the Hellespont to sit at your side. I would go through tempests and torrential rains to sit at your feet. Yours forever. P.S. See you tomorrow night if it doesn't rain."
You fool yourself, but not your Lord when you sing:
Your problem is not weak will power; it is strong won't power. God can't have his way while you are in the way.
Are you flirting with Christ or following him? Flirtation is attention without intention. A flirt is someone who wants all the excitement of a relationship with none of the responsibilities. Do you want the candy and flowers of salvation, but not the loyal devotion of self-sacrifice? Do you want the crown, but not the cross? If so, then you are not following Christ. You're just flirting with him.
The polar opposite of the self-centered religion of our age is the self-sacrifice of the religion of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Romans, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).
We are motivated by mercy. It is the mercy of God, not the fear of God that moves us to sacrificial love. The big "therefore" in the first verse of chapter twelve looks back to the first eleven chapters of Paul's epistle to the Romans. It marks the transition from the doctrinal to the ethical, from the theological to the practical, from what Christians believe to how they behave.
Paul begins the book of Romans by observing the condemnation of the whole world in sin (1-3:20). Then he announces justification by faith in the finished work of Christ (3:21-5:21). Then he declares sanctification and renewal through union with Christ (6-8). Finally, he vindicates God's dealing with Israel's rejection of the Messiah (9-11). His theme through it all is the mercies of God. We are motivated by mercy.
We would not work our souls to save
We are motivated by the mercies of God to present our bodies, not just our hearts or souls, as a sacrifice. Christian life is physical as well a spiritual. You can't give Christ control of your heart unless you also give him control of your body.
I have heard people say, "It's my body. I have the right to do anything with it I want, don't I?" Usually they are saying it in reference to drugs, tobacco, sex and abortion.
I'm telling you on the authority of God's word, No, it is not your body. And you don't have the right to abuse it or misuse it. Paul asks, "Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God's glory" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
God wants your body as a sacrifice. The Romans knew all about sacrifices. They had seen the blood, heard the death cries of victims, and smelled the burning flesh. But this is sacrifice with a difference not an animal but yourself, not a dead corpse but a living body.
Invited to a beer party, a Christian girl responded, "I'm dead and cannot come." That's the attitude of Paul who said, "I am crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
The hardest funeral you'll ever attend is your own when you die to self.
When asked to undertake responsibilities which interfere with their own self-interests, many people respond, "I don't want to be tied down." Christians, on the other hand, are not just "tied down," they are nailed down to the cross.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." A religion that does nothing, gives nothing, costs nothing, suffers nothing is worth nothing. Nothing left loose does anything creative. No work horse plowed a field until it was harnessed. No steam or gas drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is turned into light and power until it is channeled. No life grows great until it is focused, dedicated, disciplined.
Montaigne observed, "It is easier to sacrifice great things than little things." To give your life for Christ appears glorious. To pour yourself out for others, to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom and go out in a blaze of glory is heroically appealing. But that is not the way it usually works.
You think that giving your all to the Lord is like laying a $l,000 bill on the table and saying, "That's it, Lord. Here's my life. I'm giving it all." That would be comparatively easy. But what usually happens is that the Lord sends you to the bank and has you turn the $l,000 bill into quarters. Then you go though life sacrificing two bits at a time. Nothing heroic, just everyday drudgery.
It would be easier to go out in a flash of glory; it's much harder to live the Christian life little by little. You bless someone who curses you. You do good to someone who has done you evil. You go the second mile with someone who has compelled you to go the first.
Self-sacrifice is a gift. During the second world war a soldier was seriously wounded in battle. When he awakened in the field hospital the doctor said, "It's all right, kid. You're going to get well. But I'm afraid you've lost your arm."
The soldier smiled, and in a faint voice, replied, "I didn't lose my arm I gave it."
Give your bodies as a living sacrifice. Those who give up are quitters. Those who give over are cowards. Those who give out are weaklings. Those who give in are compromisers. But those who give all they are and have on the Lord's altar of sacrifice and service make this world a better place because they have lived in it and heaven more beautiful and enjoyable because they are there.
Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.