Before Jesus died on the cross, God called the Israelites to offer animals as sacrifices for their sin (remember the sermon about burnt offerings?) Sacrifice was a symbol for the coming Jesus who would one day die for all sins. Sacrifice also showed the people they needed to be present to God and His instructions. The act of sacrifice acknowledged God as the holy ruler of everything. Because sacrifices were offered at regular time intervals, they also provided a way for God's people to develop some spiritual disciplines.
Then Jesus came and gave his own life on the cross to pay the ultimate everlasting sacrifice for our sins. Just before He died, Jesus said, "It is finished."
He died for all sins; past, present and future. We no longer have to offer sacrifices to pay for our sins. When we accept Jesus as Lord of our lives, our sins are transferred to Jesus' account and are forgiven. PAID IN FULL! The really cool bonus is that Jesus' righteousness, His perfection, is credited to our account.
However, we are called to be living sacrifices. We die to ourselves and surrender our lives to Him. He wants us to turn the control of our minds and bodies over to His care and plan: Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done; not my kingdom come, my will be done. He views the total submission of our lives to His control as our ultimate act, our living sacrifice.
A living sacrifice sounds so formal and daunting. But a living sacrifice is simply committing your actions, conduct or behavior to God. What are your actions? Actions are just the final step of your heart, your attitude, your viewpoint and your values. All this together, including the end action (which can be an internal one that nobody sees, or an external one that others do see) is the decision‐making process. The reason I pound away at the importance of decision‐making skills and strategy, is that decision‐making is our spiritual worship. Godly decisions are an awesome form of worship. Garbage decisions occur when you worship yourself or something other than God.
Most of us like to feel in control. The thought of turning control over to someone else, even a loving and caring God, can seem frightening, risky or just unappealing. What we need to remember is that God is a merciful and compassionate God. He wants what is best for us -- and only He knows what that really is. He is all‐knowing and all‐powerful. We aren't.
It's far better to submit to His control and to trust His plan than to stick to an attitude that declares, "I can do it myself."
Offer yourself as a living sacrifice. Sacrifice your agenda for God's. Why not? Look what your way has gotten you. Apply God's agenda for one week. Really practice it daily. Ask others for their prayer, encouragement and accountability in this quest. See the power of God when you submit completely to His plan. Dying to self and offering your body as a living sacrifice is truly your decision, and yours alone, so choose well.
Editor's note: The Rev. Dr. Scott Stewart is the pastor of Pea Ridge United Methodist Church and Brightwater Methodist Church. The opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 479-659-9519.Religion on 04/03/2019
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