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- Is sacrifice the entry point or the graduate school of the Christian life? It’s both. There is no Christianity without self-denial. You cannot come to Jesus without a surrendering of your will to His. “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” If you have never said “no” to yourself in order to say “yes” to Jesus, then you are not a follower, according to Jesus. Sacrifice and self-denial are part of the response required. Once we make that initial surrender, however, sacrifice continues to be the way that we follow Jesus and grow spiritually. We surrender the throne of our lives to Him and allow Jesus to do His work in us and through us.
- Is self-denial the ultimate goal? No, sacrifice and self-denial is not the end game. The Christian life is not simply about emptying ourselves of self-will or self-focus. We don’t earn God’s favor by how much we give up. We don’t try to pay back God for what He has done for us by trying to match His sacrifices. When we deny ourselves, we are actually giving up the lesser for the greater. We give up a life of being enslaved to ourselves so we can surrender Jesus, who comes to give us abundant life (see John 10:10). Being enslaved to ourselves can be the worst kind of slavery. As strange as it seems, it is in surrendering ourselves to Christ that we find true freedom and joy. So self-denial is not an end in itself. We release control of our lives so that we may embrace Christ, who is the goal. And in holding on to Jesus we find that what we gain far exceeds what we give up.
- What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? In Romans 12:1, Paul says: “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” In the Old Testament, sacrifices were offered on the altar as something that shed its blood and died for the sins of the people. Our spiritual worship directed to God involves being a living sacrifice. What does this mean? It means that though we live, we no longer live for ourselves but for Christ. We live as if we have died, and that the life we are now given does not belong to us but to God. We are given stewardship of this life, but God is the owner. Are you living this way? I’ve heard it said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they want to crawl down from the altar. Do I willingly submit myself to God and live my life as a sacrifice to Him, or do I crawl off the altar so that I can live my own life? One of the best ways to live this principle out is found in the next verse of Romans 12: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” May God renew our minds by His Word so that He can transform us more into the likeness of His Son.
 The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Lk 9:23.
 The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Ro 12:1.
 The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Ro 12:2.