In this world, we will give our lives to something. We will give our lives to education, to work, to family, to accomplishing our hopes and dreams. We might give our lives to our hobbies, to comfort, to money, to religion, to ideals or movements. We discovered previously that Christ actually desires that we be willing to sacrifice all of these pursuits so that we can follow Him. The lifestyle of the Christ-follower is sacrificial; and as we live a sacrificial life, giving up pleasantries for the benefit of others, we actually make the world a better place. We become more generous with our time and our money, even if we have to give something up. We become more loving toward others because we aren’t looking to gain for ourselves. Living sacrificially enables us to be good parents, good siblings, good leaders, good servants, good politicians, good children, good students, good husbands and good wives (I won’t be a wife, but I mention this so that I can promote the ladies reading this).
Sacrificial living, though, costs us so much. My wife and I have gone without television so that we could do ministry. I remember there actually being a time when I had to go fishing just so we could eat because we could not afford to get groceries. We could not afford groceries because we were following God’s direction and making the necessary sacrifices to do that. Sacrificial living is tiring, time consuming, mentally exhausting, expensive, and sometimes painful. Why would anyone commit to this sort of lifestyle?
Matthew 28:1-10 (HCSB)
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to view the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, because an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and approached the tomb. He rolled back the stone and was sitting on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his robe was as white as snow. The guards were so shaken from fear of him that they became like dead men.
But the angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead. In fact, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there.’ Listen, I have told you.”
So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell His disciples the news. Just then Jesus met them and said, “Good morning!” They came up, took hold of His feet, and worshiped Him. Then Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see Me there.”
Jesus’ death is not the end of the story. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us, but He was not defeated. On the third day after He was crucified, He rose from death, proving that He had authority over death and authority to give life to those who would give their lives to Him. Throughout His public ministry, Jesus said some pretty radical things about how people would gain this victory:
- In Matthew 6:19-21, we see Jesus teaching: “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
- We will either collect treasures for ourselves on earth, or will work to gain treasures in heaven. There is no in-between. Furthermore, if we build up treasure on earth, we will find our identity in those treasures. This will force us to continue to take and take and take; when Christ calls us to give for the benefit of others.
- In Matthew 16:24-27, we read that Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each according to what he has done.”
- Personal sacrifice is required; life, victory and eternal rewards are promised.
- There was a young man who came to Jesus asking, “What do I… lack?” In Matthew 19:21, we see Jesus’ response, “’If you want to be perfect,’ Jesus said to him, ‘go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.’”
- In his pursuit to gain, the young man lacked the most important thing: a sacrificial lifestyle. This kept him from gaining treasure in heaven and it kept him from following Christ. It also kept him from actually being a benefit to society. Let us not lose sight of the victory, though. If the young man would have given up everything, Jesus said he would have gained treasure in heaven.
The simple truth
The truth is this: when people of this world try to live a sacrificial life, they burn out and drive themselves into the grave. This is why everyone of this world seems to take and take and take, only making sacrifices when it will benefit them on this earth.
The American Dream tells us to go get everything we can while we can so that we can sit back and enjoy retirement later in life. Most religions tell us that we have to earn eternal life or oneness with the universe. Hollywood tells us that we need to draw all attention to ourselves. Many of the modern-day civil rights movements are filled with people who step on others to get what they want. False versions of the Christian faith urge us to fight for our place in society.
When the people of God, those who have given their lives to Christ, live sacrificially, Christ is with them. Christ is with us, sustaining us and preparing the eternal victory for us. Christ has made us victorious and He has the power to do that because He is victorious. It is Christ and only Christ who enables us and empowers us to live sacrificially for the benefit of the world and actually experience victory as a result. If we are not in Christ, we will not be able to experience victory and we will not be able to live a life that is actually a benefit to others in this world. This is why it is important to elect leaders who have given their lives to Christ. It is why it is important for us to strive to live according to Christ’s direction. We do not want to suck the life out of society; we want to act in such a way that society is revived as a result. The only way to do this is to follow Christ. There is no other way to make the world a better place, and I think we can prove that simply by observing the condition of the world today:
Political campaigns are about the candidates and not about the people. Many civil rights movements seem to create more hatred instead of solving the problems of hate. Our concerns with our preferences and our comfort cause us to look down on other generations and ethnic groups. Terror groups perpetuate hatred and murder because they have an agenda that is based on them. People are always trying to prove their own superiority by winning an argument or by attacking someone else’s character. There is worldwide persecution based on differences in belief, producing murder, terrorism, theft, vandalism, rape, and even more hatred.
The ways of the world are not working to create a better world. We need something different. We are in desperate need of Jesus Christ. Only when we turn our lives over to Him and follow Him sacrificially will we begin to see a better world and experience true, selfless victory.
This has profound implications for the way we live life. First of all, when we give up our time to be in church on a Sunday morning, we have claimed victory in Christ! In fact, I will ask this question: If we cannot give up our Sunday morning to be with our family worshipping Christ and learning from God’s Word, how will we ever be able to give up everything to claim victory in Christ? If we cannot give up a Sunday morning to present ourselves in worship to God, how will we ever be able to give up everything in order to make a better world? While I understand that there are people who cannot make it to church for valid reasons, most people can make the sacrifice to give God an hour and to share genuine love with others who are here. If you haven’t been in a while, please understand there is no condemnation here, but I have to ask the question. Claim this victory!
When we give up our lifestyles, our addictions, our preferences, and our time to be good parents, we have claimed victory in Christ! When we give up our money so that we can serve others with it generously, we have claimed victory in Christ! When we give up work hours or a promotion so that we can dedicate time to serving Christ and others, we have claimed victory in Christ! When we give up time to serve others and as a result our grades in school are not as good, we have claimed victory in Christ! This being said, we shouldn’t use victory in Christ as an excuse not to do well. For, when we sacrifice comfort to do things well at school or at work, we have claimed victory in Christ! When we feed the poor, provide for someone in need, give someone a ride, give someone a place to sleep, sell our possessions so that we can benefit someone else, donate clothes, study to prepare ourselves to teach well, honor our parents even if it makes life a little more difficult, we have absolutely claimed the victory in Christ!
So, if we do not know Christ, all of our sacrificing will be in vain. If we belong to Christ, however, sacrifice leads to victory and to a better world. It is time for revival in this community and in the world. Let it begin with us!