Monday, July 5, 2010

Secret Sacrifice

Secret Sacrifice
July 5, 2010
Matthew 6:4 ". . . Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Sign me up for sacrifice. If only I could say that with sincerity. To sacrifice is to willingly give up something of value in exchange for nothing in return. This is contradictory to human nature. We like to receive; it is gratifying to the self. Seldom have I heard someone say that sacrificing their own wants, needs, or possessions was gratifying, even satisfying. Sacrifice is seldom satisfying, especially if it isn't done willingly. But God asks that we sacrifice, willingly.

God has instructed us to sacrifice; He wants us to do it willingly AND to do it secretly. If I'm not going to get anything in return for my sacrifice, can't I at least gain the respect and honor of those around me for my sacrifice? Nope. God doesn't want anyone to know that you actually had to sacrifice anything. It starts with His instructions given through Jesus in Matthew 6. We are instructed to give our money, to pray, and to fast, all without anyone else knowing about it. In short, we are asked to make a sacrifice in secret. While this doesn't really sound that exciting, Jesus tags the line three different times by saying, "Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Unfortunately, the Bible never says what that reward will be. God did that on purpose. If God told you what your reward would be for your sacrifice, then it would not be a sacrifice, it would be payment in exchange for goods and services (a market transaction).

But it's not just your money, time, and prayer that God wants you to give. God wants you to be willing to give up everything for Him, to be a living sacrifice. The apostle Paul was a perfect example of this. Paul wrote that he counts everything he had to give up for God (sacrifice), as a gain (Phil 3:8). How in the world can you gain by giving up everything? I'm not sure this is actually true in the physical realm, gaining by giving everything up, but Paul didn't say he gained physical wealth by His sacrifice. Paul said he gained Christ. Paul actually figured out something that you and I seem to be missing. There is something sanctifying in your own personal sacrifice. By sanctifying, I mean, cleansing to the point of holiness. While true sanctification (being made holy) can only happen through faith in Jesus Christ, we are still instructed to live a holy lifestyle. To that end, works of sacrifice, willing sacrifice, teach us how to be more like Christ on this earth, to be holy.

I miss this lesson all too often. I sacrifice so much in life, every single day, but since I don't do it willingly, I feel I am owed payment or a reward on this earth. Since no one acknowledges my sacrifice, I figure out how to reward myself, treat myself (or I simply whine and complain). I just said out loud what you know in your heart to be true of your situation. When you don't sacrifice willingly, you feel you are owed something. That wasn't what Jesus was talking about and that wasn't what Paul figured out. Paul figured out how to rejoice in all that he sacrificed (whether he gave it up willingly or it was taken from him). It made him more Christ-like and he left the possibility of reward up to God's discretion.

In your sacrifice (whether you give it up or it is taken from you) God is not after what you lose; He is after YOU. God's reward for you and what you do on this earth is a secret, just like your sacrifice, but in the least, you'll learn it is a sanctifying experience. People will see you become a little more Christ-like each and every day.

1. What have you sacrificed; what was taken from you?
2. How can you see those things as a gain unto the Lord?
3. How can you allow your sacrifice to teach you to be more Christ-like?

Don't take my word for it; study it for yourself: Matt 6, Rom 12:1, Eph 5:2, Phil 3:8, Heb 13:16, 1 Peter 2:5

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