Lesson 37: The Law of Sacrifice
By Marnie Pehrson
This lesson also has a 15 minute audio to go with it:
We've learned several of God's laws throughout this course, but there is one that you probably won't hear in worldly circles. Yet, I believe it is one of the most powerful -- if not the most powerful of all laws. It rises above and compensates for our mistakes with the others. It is The Law of Sacrifice.
C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. … Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’"
Wow! That's a lot to ask, isn't it? Or is it? Jesus said it this way, “Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:27, 29).
At the beginning of this course we talked about your mission or the righteous desires of your heart. Since then, we've been discussing ways to fulfill those righteous desires and how to become the person we envision. But along the way, let us get wisdom, and with all our getting let us get understanding (Proverbs 4:7). To become someone amazing requires sacrifice. In order to choose one path, you must sacrifice walking a dozen others. Granted, many times this may feel like no sacrifice at all. For example, I find it no sacrifice to get up each Sunday morning, dress my children and go to church. It's a wonderful blessing. While I'm there I feel the Spirit of God and learn wisdom and find treasures of knowledge and understanding. But for someone else, doing this may seem like a sacrifice. Sacrifice many times is all in our perspective.
Yet, other times God requires hefty sacrifices. The more valuable the prize, the more sacrifice is required. Sometimes we're required to make a succession of consistent sacrifices over time. For example, sacrificing a little time every day to pray and study God's Word pays dividends. Other times we might be required to make one big sacrifice. One of my favorite patriotic quotes from the American Revolution comes to mind:
"These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; ‘tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."
Like freedom, there is a price attached to your mission. The greater the vision, the higher the price. Think back on your mission statement that you formulated at the beginning of this course. Does that mission get you excited? Does it stretch you? Does it perhaps even make you a little nervous as to whether you have what it takes? If it doesn't, then you aren't reaching high enough. But if it does stretch you, do you really think you can become that person without God? Did you know that your mission statement most likely only scratches the tip of the iceberg of what you can become with God's help?
"Yes, men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life."
Let me give you a scriptural example. As you may remember Abraham and Sarah were promised that they would have a son. When God changed Abram's name to Abraham (which literally means "father of many nations") he promised Abraham posterity as numberless as the sands of the sea and a promised land as well. Abraham and Sarah were a century old before they finally had their son Isaac. And just when things were going well, just when God promised that Abraham's seed would come through Isaac, God commanded Abraham to make a most peculiar sacrifice:
The Lord said to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."
Without questioning, Abraham rose up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son. They took wood for a burnt offering and went to the place God indicated.
Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, "Abide ye here with the donkey; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you."
And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, "My father."
And Abraham said, "Here am I, my son."
And Isaac said, "Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"
And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering." So they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham."
And he said, "Here am I."
And the angel said, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."
And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Genesis 22:1-18).
There are several things that I'd like to point out about this story that we can apply to our own heart's desire. Abraham wanted to be a father of many nations. That was a desire of his heart. God promised him that he would have this righteous desire, specifically telling him that this posterity would come through his son Isaac. Then just when things started to look up, God asked Abraham to sacrifice the son through which the promise was made!
In Hebrews 11 we gain a little insight into what Abraham was thinking. "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead..." (Hebrews 11:17-19)
Abraham went to that mountain thinking, "The Lord promised me that Isaac is my promised son through whom my seed will be called. Now He's asking me to sacrifice Isaac on this altar. I don't know how He's going to do it, but if God has to, He can raise Isaac from the dead."
What faith! Do we have that kind of faith? When we ask the Lord for something and He gives us a promise -- a confirmation of peace that our course is correct -- what happens when things start to look grim? Do we doubt? Do we falter? Do we blame God and say He isn't keeping His promises?
I want you to know that when you have set upon a path that will do great good, when you've received a confirmation from God that your course is correct, you will most likely come to a point where you are asked to make a sacrifice. It will appear as if God is asking you to give up the very thing you desire. He may ask you to lay on the line the very thing He promised you. It may look as if it's being taken away from you. Or it may look as if the odds are stacked against you.
Why? There are several possible reasons:
I believe that Abraham learned something about Abraham on that mountain. He learned just how committed he was to the Lord and how much faith he had that God would still fulfill His promises - even if it meant raising Isaac from the dead!
- God may be testing your faith;
- God may want to see how much you love Him. Do you love Him even more than the desire of your heart?
- Most likely, God may want you to learn something about yourself - about how much faith you have and how much you love the Lord.
I would be greatly remiss if I did not also point out the marvelous parallel between Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac and our Father in Heaven's sacrifice of "His son, His only son." That phrase runs like a refrain through Genesis 22, "thy son, thine only son." This sacrifice in Genesis 22 is a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son…" (John 3:16).
Like Isaac, Jesus carried the wood that would be used in his own sacrifice. Like Isaac, on a hilltop Jesus Christ willingly laid his life on the altar. Like Abraham our Heavenly Father loved His Son and offered Him as a sacrifice. But unlike Abraham and Isaac, there was no ram in the thicket provided for the Son of God.
His ultimate sacrifice activates the power of grace in our lives. It makes the impossible possible. And because He was willing to do so much for us, shouldn't we be willing to sacrifice all that we have, all that we are, and all that we hope to be for Him? Only by doing so can we unlock our full potential.
"Try as you may, you cannot put the Lord in your debt. For every time you try to do His will, He simply pours out more blessings upon you. Sometimes the blessings may seem to be a little slow in coming—perhaps this tests your faith—but come they will, and abundantly. It has been said, 'Cast your bread upon the waters and after a while it shall come back to you toasted and buttered.'"
Life in many ways is a test to see if you will "seek first the kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33) for only then can "all these things be added unto you." Examine your own life, and find one thing you can lay on the altar to more fully follow the Lord.
Take a hard look at your life and the desires of your heart. What, if anything, are you putting before God? How can you place it on the altar to show Him that you are choosing this day whom you will serve with all your might, mind and strength?
- Will you sacrifice a favorite sin?
- Will you sacrifice your time to serve others?
- Will you sacrifice your talents or your money to build the kingdom of God?
- Will you sacrifice something you own to bless another?
In doing so, you will unlock the treasures of heaven.