Here are some words to think about:
Just bounce those words around in your head for awhile. They won’t be lonely up there for long.
Ask any Christian if they are living abundantly.
Ask any Christian if they are living sacrificially.
Are we called to live abundantly or sacrificially?
The answer is yes.
Where are we actually living? We probably spend most of our days somewhere in between never really reaching abundance or completely giving our lives as a sacrifice. We are somewhere in between.
The name of that in between place is known as existence. We exist.
I have mentioned before that we often live between mystery and revelation and we should accept that is our journey for our time in this life. Much about God remains a mystery but he has revealed enough for us to know him, love him, trust him, and obey him. We know enough. God has revealed enough that we should seek him and his righteousness.
We don’t have to know it all. We know enough.
But living in between abundance and sacrifice is not a desirable place to be. Just existing is not living. Jesus came so we could live to the full—so we could max out life.
We are told to take our whole life and sacrifice it to God.
That’s the way we often understand Paul’s words.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
What sort of sacrifice is God looking for?
A living sacrifice, yes, but not just the sacrifice of our existence, but of a real and abundant life: God wants a sacrifice of a life that is being lived to the full and fully given to him.
Sometimes we are offering our lives to God as if we had rounded up the scrawny runt with one bad eye to give as our offering instead of the unblemished lamb.
We don’t sacrifice bulls or goats or lambs to atone for our sin anymore. The Unblemished Lamb we know as Jesus made our sacrifice for us. It was a onetime deal. It counts for all time. No more blood must be shed to atone for sin.
Jesus paid it all.
You know the song, “Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe.”
The problem is that we can’t figure out the all to him I owe part. Living our lives fully and then giving our lives fully to God is the all to him I owe part. That is our reasonable response—our acceptable service and worship.
This is the sort of sacrifice that pleases God. In that sacrifice he once again pours out his favor and abundance and good gifts upon us.
Our mind is often dichotomous but God’s teachings frequent the paradoxical.
The one trying to hold on to everything in this life will lose it.
Remember the story of the rich you man or perhaps some of your Bibles label it the rich young ruler. He said that he had followed all of the commandments since he was a child.
Jesus told him that if he really wanted to be complete, if he wanted to be perfect, then he needed to go sell everything he had, give the money to the poor, and then follow Jesus.
The man went away sad and we generally rejoice that we were not that man. Who today really wants to sell everything we have, not to sock it all away for a pampered retirement but to give the proceeds of the sale to the poor?
Really, who wakes up in the morning thinking, “I am have the home and yard sale of the century. I am selling everything and giving all the money to the poor.”
Is there anyone in today’s world seriously entertaining that thought?
No. We are thankful that we were not the guy in that story. The problem is that we are the guy in that story. We have some stuff and we want to keep it and even get some more stuff. We like owning stuff.
The problem is that our stuff owns us. If you can shake off your denial and have eyes to see, you will see that our stuff—to include our real property—owns us.
It owns us.
The only way to know that it doesn’t own us is to give it away. If we can freely give and freely receive, then we might be the master in this stuff equation.
The man who owned so much owned nothing at all. He was nowhere near abundance and surely not disposed to sacrifice.
This story occurs in three of the gospels. I enjoy Mark’s account the most. Before Jesus told the young man to sell everything, we are told that Jesus looked at him and loved him.
It didn’t say that Jesus tested him.
It doesn’t read that Jesus assessed his dedication.
It says that Jesus looked at him and loved him.
Jesus loved him.
Jesus loves me this I know.
He told me to go sell all my stuff though.
I’ve been following the rules and that just seems wrong.
I need my stuff it makes me strong.
If telling this rich young man to go sell all of his stuff is love, then is telling us to make a sacrifice of our entire lives anything less than the love of our Master.
We are owned by our stuff and our conventions and our habits and our patterns of thinking. Jesus wants to set us free from everything that owns us except love.
We have a debt of love.
We are charged to love one another.
Love gets us to sacrifice.
Love brings us to abundance.
Jesus looked at the rich young man and said “Your stuff owns you. Get rid of it. Do something good in the process, and then come and see what it is to truly be rich.”
So are we called to live this life to the full or must we sacrifice all we have?
The answer is yes. That’s yes to both because they are one. In our sacrifice we find abundance and in our abundance we are led to sacrifice.
Our stuff does not own us and we don’t need to own our stuff. We might have to have some legal paperwork these days at least for our real property, but our house or car or boat or fancy BBQ cooker that is the size of a boat must not come before our relationship with Jesus Christ and each other.
Linda Ronstadt once sang Love is a Rose. These few lyrics say a lot.
Love is a rose but you better not pick it
Only grows when it’s on the vine
Handful of thorns and you’ll know you’ve missed it
Lose your love when you say the word mine.
Lose your love when you say the word mine.
It’s mine, but the truth is that it all belongs to God. The truth is that often those things that we call “mine” are saying that it is the other way around. We are the possession.
So often our abundance comes in the form of what does not own us. Abundance is enjoying what God has given us as free men and women.
We enjoy this life unshackled by sin and death.
We are not bound the burden of sin. Death has no power over us. We still mourn when we lose a loved one in this life but we know that is just a temporary separation.
Abundance and sacrifice are not the goal posts at opposite ends of the field. They are not opposite extremes.
They are tightly intertwined. They fit hand-in-glove.
Forrest Gump would call them peas and carrots. They just go together.
We often say that we can’t out give God, but how often do we live that way?
How often do we give God our entire lives? How often do we let go of everything that we think we own and just tell God, “It’s all yours. Tell me what you want me to do with it.”
Most are afraid that God might just say, “Sell it all. Give the proceeds to the poor. Then come and see what it really is to live?”
Come and see what abundant life really is.
Come and see the very thing that you think you are getting close to every time you buy a new house or a new car or a new toy or a new app.
Come and know abundance in the things that don’t own you.
It seems that sometimes we who follow Christ are afraid of abundance and just want to remain a slave to our stuff.
Jesus once was talking to a group of people when a young man interrupted him wanting him to take a break from his teaching and divide his father’s estate. Jesus responded but surely not in the way the young man expected.
In the course of this response, Jesus said: A man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions.
We can have abundant possessions without abundant life. We can also have an abundant life without a whole stack of possessions.
In the course of this encounter, Jesus told the parable of the rich fool. The question for all of us at the end of this parable is, “Are we rich towards God?”
Is our whole life lived richly for God?
Are we maxing out this life and giving it all to God at the same time.
Only when we pursue both extremes with passion can we know either one and seldom can the follower of Jesus know one without the other.
Sometimes the words “Living Sacrifice” bring to mind a vow of poverty.
When I hear those words “Living Sacrifice”, I think of a vow of life—one lived to the full and fully for God.
Abundant life and a living sacrifice are intrinsically linked. This world places the two miles apart. God’s Kingdom has them living side by side.
Let us live our life to the full and fully for God. Now that would please God and he would continue to bless us for living such a life.