'Christ in You...'
by Dale Krebbs
Why should there have ever been sacrifice - of any kind, of anything, ever? Why was there ever a need for such? The word "sacrifice" can strike uneasiness and even fear in many of us depending upon our nature, our circumstances, our experiences. It is a very good question. The simple answer is, God planned it that way. If that seems an over simplification, it is, and it isn't. Most of us do not want to hear that we will need to sacrifice something or for something, or someone, or for a principal, etc. However, many are willing to sacrifice for a "cause", most are willing to sacrifice for someone they truly love. But still the question, WHY?...why and where did this thing called sacrifice begin?
Sometime in eternity past within the hidden counsels of God, He created the angelic hosts. These innumerable beings were given the capacity to choose. They could even choose to obey, honor, and worship God, or not to do so. Eventually, approximately one third rebelled, and even attempted to replace God as ruler of all (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-15). In a word they were given FREEDOM. Over the years it has become more and more striking to me just how much God values freedom. God is FREE. He loves freedom! Over the past few years, the President of the United States has stressed the importance of all people possessing the right to be free. God loves freedom so much that He has mandated free choice to the creatures He has created. That includes you and me. God loved freedom so much, He allowed Adam and Eve to SIN against Him. He told them not to sin, He told them the penalty, but He allowed it (Genesis 3). He allowed it knowing that a terrible SACRIFICE WOULD HAVE TO BE MADE to fulfill His eternal plan! But, again, WHY a sacrifice? God is perfect. He is perfect in ALL respects! He IS perfect justice. He lives in and as this perfection. He is a God of equilibrium, of balance. We are all familiar with the scale of justice often seen as representing justice as a logo, etc. There MUST be something to counter-balance. This falls within God's inherent righteousness! Something or someone must level the playing field again. But what does all this have to do with "sacrifice'?...
There - in the Garden of Eden - is where "SACRIFICE" really began. The leader of the heavenly rebellion, Lucifer (now Satan) has tempted God's creation, man and woman, whom He made "a little lower than the angels" (Psalm 8:4-5), to rebel and to sin also. There is where the reality of sacrifice commenced and was destined to extend its effects upon eternity from that time forward. It begins with a very subtle hint of what is to become the meaning of sacrifice: "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife GARMENTS OF SKINS and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21 ESV). Up until that time in the Garden of Eden, there had been peace, tranquility, and life for all - including the animals that Adam named. Many Bible scholars believe this reference to "skins" must imply that God killed an animal or animals in order to cloth Adam and Eve. Blood was shed, death for life. Blood was shed to "cover" Adam's and Eve's sin (Hebrews 9:22). A subtle type of a much later and greater sacrifice that would, and must, come. The picture is easy to see. That first "sacrifice" was actually given BY God. The typology is inescapable, made more forceful when we realize that the word "atonement" referred to so often in the Bible means "to cover" or "a covering". Even here, we can see forward to the sacrifices in generations to come. We can see foreshowed here Abel's sacrifice (Hebrews 11:4), and Cain's bloodless, unacceptable offering. We can see forward to the sacrificial system God imposed upon Israel, all the way down to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:2)!
The PRINCIPLE of "sacrifice" is laced throughout life. Not only our lives, but throughout all of creation. The principle of something being substituted for something else runs through all the activities of human life and even animal and plant life. Think of the food you eat - SOMETHING had to "die" (be sacrificed) so that you may live, whether it be a once-living creature, or a plant that was once "alive", but has now been sacrificed for you! Sacrifice purchases for us the freedom to go on living. A soldier knows he may be required to "sacrifice" himself for his country and other humans beings so they can live and remain FREE (John 15:13). When we earn money to live, we are simply "sacrificing" our time in exchange for the ability to go on living. We make a willing sacrifice - the sacrifice of a segment of time - as substitute for something we consider more valuable. Husbands and wives sacrifice, even when they are not aware of it. Parents sacrifice for their children, and sooner or later, "what goes around finally comes around" - the children must sacrifice for their parents. "Once an adult, twice a child". This is mostly done WILLINGLY. Both children and parents understand that sacrifices were once made FOR THEM. Now they are willing to sacrifice for those who sacrificed for them. I believe you can see a reflection in all this, of what God HAS DONE FOR US, and IS DOING for us in Jesus Christ! No, what He did for the world IS NOT "FAIR" - by all the principles of fairness, all the world, including you and me, should PAY THE PRICE. We should pay the price for what we have done, and what we have been, and even for what we are! That is the whole issue that is involved in SACRIFICIAL love. Real, true Godly sacrifice is entered into with complete abandonment of consideration for self. It is utterly voluntary, and emptying of self consciousness in deference to someone or something else. The point is that virtually NOTHING in all of God's creation moves, changes, lives, or exists without some type of SACRIFICE! It is universal. It is certain, and constant.
There is, of course, a dark side to the human concept of sacrifice. This also, as with many elements of human existence, can be manipulated for devious ends. Methods are sometimes devised to influence someone to make an UNWILLING sacrifice under duress, to obtain a given result. The desired result may or may not be legitimate or "good". This illustrates a crucial factor in understanding what Christianity is and is not. It is very difficult for some minds, especially those committed to a another religion, to comprehend the WILLING sacrifice of Jesus FOR OTHERS. As we say, it does not "compute" for them. They are often offended. I am familiar with an individual who for many years was offended and angered at the very mention that Jesus Christ died FOR others IN THEIR STEAD, VOLUNTARILY. It was absurd to this person that any substitution should be made. No one should be allowed to "get something for nothing" - it should be earned. Somehow, the concept of Jesus' sacrifice and atonement violated their sense of justice. However, it is interesting that those who embrace this type of thinking seldom REFUSE to accept or "get" something "for nothing" if they have the opportunity. OTHERS should not be allowed to "get off the hook", and get off "scot free", as was said. This violated the whole idea of "fairness". Yet, the truth is, if I may use some of the world's terminology, it is really NONE OF OUR BUSINESS HOW GOD RUNS HIS BUSINESS (John 21:20-22)! This is very important to keep in our mind when we are tempted to question the providence of God. Most understand, however, that sacrifices must be made, in order to GET something of greater value to them. There may be a high "price to pay", but some will pay it, if they desire it enough.
We live in a time when many are BEGINNING to believe that there should NEVER be any sacrifice, for anything, or anyone, at any time. Some feel that EVERYONE "owes" them, somewhere between something and everything. The world owes them a living, prosperity, even happiness. It is the responsibility of all around them to cater to their needs (free of course). They should not have to sacrafice anything - their time, their interests, or their desires. There was once the expression "blood, sweat, and tears" applied to situations where great personal sacrifice were evident. Most at one time understood as a given that there is ALWAYS some sacrificing to do by everyone, in some form or another. At all times, in all circumstances, for anything to exist - there must be sacrifice. For anything to happen, someone, somewhere, sometime HAD TO SACRIFICE - something!
There are sacrifices that God calls on us to make, as His children. One that should never be difficult is the "sacrifice of praise" (Hebrews 13:15)! God made those things we use in praise and worship of Him, whether they are music, song, or prayerful words and emotions, and has given them to us freely. We are only returning toward Him the gifts and abilities which He has already given us. We are called upon to offer up SPIRITUAL sacrifices continually (1 Peter 2:5)! When we petition God on behalf of others, we offer up a "spiritual sacrifice". When we comfort others when they are suffering or hurting, or just "down", if it is truly done in Jesus' name and to His glory, that is a "spiritual sacrifice". When we forgive because we have been forgiven, that is a "spiritual sacrifice"! If we sacrifice our natural inclinations, desires, and "rathers" on the alter of sacrificial love for others, and to the honor and glory of God, that is "spiritual sacrifice"! If we belong to Christ, He wants us to LIVE for Him, not die for Him. There was a time when I faced something in which I felt could result in my death, depending upon a choice I had to make. I made the choice based on that belief - that God would have me live for Him rather than die for Him. We are to present even our bodies as "LIVING SACRIFICES" to Him (Romans 12:1-2)! All our spiritual sacrifices - and even our physical sacrifices (if offered from the heart) - have a GREAT recompense of REWARD (Hebrews 10:35; Revelation 22:12)! When there is no "spirit of sacrifice", there can be no real love. Essentially, love IS sacrifice. Hence the term "sacrificial love"...
In doing these things, God is telling us that in His creation, through all the sacrifices that we offer up to and for Him, the sacrifice principle in all elements of matter and existence taken together, are to lead us to understand something much bigger and much more profound - and that is the ENORMITY of the SACRIFICE THAT HIS SON MADE FOR THE WORLD! The enormity of the sacrifice is a measure of the enormity of the offense! Sacrifice and the principle of sacrifice was made by God to be a part of reality from eternity past, because God is a sacrificing God. This is what makes Him worthy of the all-encompassing title - "LOVE"! (John 4:8,16) This Love is not simply a title. God IS LOVE because He is SACRIFICIAL Love! This kind of love is not known, experienced, or comprehended until the Holy Spirit administers it into the human heart. Therefore, ALL SACRIFICE POINTS TO JESUS CHRIST! Sacrifice begins, and ends, in Christ (Revelation 13:8)! We should all praise God that He is a self-sacrificing God. Otherwise, we WOULD all have to "pay our own price". Jesus sacrificed His life for all - even WHILE WE WERE HIS ENEMIES! The Sacrifice - Jesus Christ - has taken up into Himself through His death on the cross, both Justice and Mercy - there is now no more tension between the two. They are now be made one harmonious whole - IN HIM (Psalm 85:8-10). Therefore, SO CAN WE!
As with His angelic hosts, God has also given us the freedom to choose (Deuteronomy 30:19) The choice is ours...
Someone once asked the rhetorical question: "Which would you rather have: justice, or mercy?" As we have seen, for some it is a difficult question. For others, it is easy.
How will you answer this question?...
"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:6-8 (ESV)
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