When most people hear the word “sacrifice,” they start to worry and consider all the things they will lose in their lives; they do not consider what comes from the sacrifice or what may be gained from it. American commercialism conditions people to think that they can have it all and should have it all! Some people develop an entitlement that makes them feel that they should be given all without any sacrifice or work on their part because of who they are. For those who believe in God and hope to be rewarded in heaven, such entitlement leads to devastation in their spiritual lives. No Christian can have an eternal reward in heaven and enjoy all the pleasures of sin on earth, but many deceive themselves into thinking that such options are possible, and if God is a loving God, then He will allow His children their indulgences.
God predestined Christians to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29), so is the idea of one living however they want regardless of God’s plan the image of Christ seen in scripture? Christ suffered a terrible sacrifice for the sinners of this world. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ had done nothing wrong, yet He was treated as if He was a criminal of the harshest kind. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ left His throne in heaven, His comfort, His majesty, to be born of a woman, to be mocked, treated less than what He was, and finally beaten and murdered for nothing but the sins of others. Christ obviously did not want to go through such agony (Matt. 26:39). If God allowed His followers to get whatever they wanted from their paths to be conformed to the image of His Son, then why does the image of His Son look like one who didn’t get everything He wanted? Because the followers of God didn’t get everything they wanted to be conformed to the image of Christ! In the path of righteousness and reconciliation, no one, not even God or Christ, got everything they wanted. So why go through the process of reconciliation and the plan of salvation?
While many would think about the pain and suffering from the sacrifice, Christ knew what would come from the sacrifice. He would reconcile man to the Father, the Ancient of Days. What was Christ’s motivation for reconciling the world to His Father? “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). Christ loved the world enough to suffer a terrible sacrifice. Christ taught mankind the foundation of sacrifice, love. Christians must never let fear and greed burden their love. Such pollutions of the mind weaken love and create insincerity within sacrifice. If Christians are to be a “living sacrifice,” which means that they commit their lives to God and live in His name, then they must understand what such a sacrifice involves (Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 3:17).
Christians must run the race of life set before them with courage and conviction. “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air” (1 Cor. 9:27). Paul runs the race of life with conviction (certainty) and courage (fight); Paul doesn’t let himself be beaten by himself. Followers of God can allow themselves to be overcome by their own shortcomings, rather than the work of others. Nothing in this world can separate them from the love of God, but people can be their own worst enemy when they turn away from God’s love (Rom. 8:37-39).
In the fight for right, as a race through life, there are sacrifices that must be made willingly in love and conviction, not in spite or obligation. Christians must choose to study the Bible over the distractions of this world (Ps. 1:1-2). They must choose to attend worship over sitting at home and watching TV (Matt. 6:33). They must choose to put themselves around godly influences and not around wicked encouragements, which mean that some past friends and companions may need to be removed from one’s daily walks of life (1 Cor. 15:33). Believers must choose to be a servant of God over the servants of men, which means that they may need to pass up promotions at work or take a lower-paying job in order to give time and service to God; too many people have allowed their desires to make money overshadow their work and growth in the Lord (Gal. 1:10; Matt. 6:24). One sacrifice that has been the biggest problem for people is the sacrifice of family. Faithful followers must choose God over family traditions (i.e., going to the family’s church rather than Christ’s church); it can lead to one’s biggest downfall (Matt. 10:32-36). Christ died for the world; therefore, the faithful must live for Him!