Sacrifice

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Nobody wants to die on a cross.

At my core, I am selfish. So are you. My default mode is to pursue what I think will make me happy. I’ve been this way my whole life.

When I was a baby, I would cry until someone fed me. I whined until someone would play with me. I screamed until someone changed my diaper. Then I got older, and I wanted to have the Adidas Superstar shoes the cool kids had. I longed to get a Motorola Razr cell phone at the same time my friends were getting them. When I turned 16, I begged my parents for the right to buy a 1969 Camaro and fix it up (thankfully, they said no).

Now I’m adult (or so they tell me), and those desires have not gone away. I still chase things that I think will make me happy:

·      I want to be first in line at the drive-thru because waiting annoys me.

·      I want to have a pretty lawn so I look good compared to my neighbors.

·      I want new Nike running shoes because mine have a hole in the toe and don’t look very cool.

·      I work hard to stay level-headed and logical even in an argument, because it makes me feel good to be the one who is “in control” and who gets the last word.

·      I try to be funny and friendly, because I want people to like me and I like being the center of attention.

·      I work hard and avoid interruptions because I feel happy when I get my to-do list done for the day.

These are just a few of the ways in which I try to make myself happy. I am selfish, and I’m always trying to find pleasure in satisfying my own desires. Selfishness comes very naturally to me. It is not natural, however, for me to willingly lay those desires down. I doubt it is for you, either. It is not natural for us to sacrifice.

Nobody wants to die on a cross.

And yet, that’s exactly what Jesus tells us to do. Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Jesus tells us to set aside our hedonism and take up our cross.

The wonderful spiritual writer A.W. Tozer says it like this, “Deliverance comes only in the denial of self.”

Tozer continues by saying this: “In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne until he puts himself on the cross; if he refuses the cross he remains on the throne. Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. We want to be saved but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Mansoul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.”

Tozer is saying that the way to follow Jesus is to step off the throne (hedonism) and take up the cross (sacrifice).

In the first century, the cross was not a symbol of peace or hope or joy. It was a symbol of death. In our culture, the cross has become a symbol of love. Rightly so. Jesus’ death on the cross was the greatest act of love in history. But it was not fluffy, easy, happy love. It was bloody, painful, sacrificial love.

Jesus says that this is the same way we are to love others: sacrificially. We are to love others with a cross-shaped love, just like Jesus did. To follow Jesus is to sacrifice.

Nobody wants to die on a cross.

Taking up a cross is not natural for us. Sacrifice does not come easily. Laying down our desires is difficult! My son Judah is 1 year old. Nobody has to teach him to pursue his own desires. He knows how to ask for a snack, how to go get whichever toy he wants, how to cry when he doesn’t get his way. We don’t have to train him to be a hedonist. We have to train him to share, to be patient, and to lay his desires down. It’s the same thing with us. So how do we train ourselves to love sacrificially?

Practice the discipline of not getting your way. It’s not easy, but it really is quite simple.

For example:

·      Choose to let someone else have the last word in an argument.

·      Let someone else choose where to eat.

·      Find a creative way to serve: wash the dishes, buy flowers, do the laundry, let your spouse sleep in while you get the kids ready.

·      Find someone who is hard to love and encourage them.

·      Let a competitor of yours at work have their way in a decision.

·      Give some extra money anonymously to a friend in need.

Whatever it is, practice the discipline of not getting your way this week. You’re a smart person, I’m sure you figure out how God is calling you to sacrifice. I think the Apostle Paul said it best:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself by nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” –Philippians 2:3-8