• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

The lost art of sacrifice

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.””  (Matthew 16.24)living-sacrifice1

A fellow pastor named Jack used to say that Jesus’ message here was not one that would resonate with many. Basically, He was declaring, “If you want to follow Me, come and die.”  The message of the Gospel is the message of the cross, the message of sacrifice.

Oftentimes when this subject comes up, the lost art of sacrifice, two thoughts are most on people’s minds. First, it’s a generational issue.  Second, sacrifice is mostly about material possessions.

I’m afraid the first thought misses wide the mark of what Jesus was talking about in this text. Sacrifice is an inter-generational issue.  It’s something with which everyone struggles.  True, the younger generation may be more connected to technology than the older crowd.  However, the older crowd may have settled in comfortably to their cross cultural worker lifestyle and believe there is no more ‘sacrifice’ to be made.

The second thought clearly demonstrates our superficial understanding of the deeper work of the Spirit in our lives. Material possessions are part of the sacrifice Jesus may call us to make, but so is our time, our relationships, our thought life or our work.

Take a minute to consider this thought below and its application of sacrifice to our work today. Replace the word, ‘pastor’ with ‘cross cultural worker’:

“To have power in your life as a pastor, it is supremely important that you make it a first order of business for the rest of your life not to do things to impress people or gain a reputation or protect your reputation. It is very clear from the Gospels that Jesus is calling us to deny some basic things in our personality–things that need to die. Jesus says in Matthew 16:24 to deny yourself; take up your cross and follow me. And I think that means dying to our fleshly love of impressing people in this way for glory for ourselves.

8 Responses

  1. Amen to this post. A year ago I spoke with a 70+ year-old missionary who commented that the younger generation of missionaries doesn’t want to commit their whole lives to missions like his generation did. As we talked he recognized that generations preceding him packed their bags in coffins, knowing they would likely die and be buried on the field. How WE measure sacrifice usually has more to do with where we’re starting from than where we end up. I really appreciate what David wrote that as we follow Jesus, he will constantly lead us to further sacrifice if we’re willing to follow him there. As Paul wrote, that it is our joy to “know the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Php 3:10). I’ve served in Haiti now for six years and I can feel the temptation now to just settle in. Thank you for the challenge to recognize that as a temptation to be avoided and to keep on following Jesus wherever he wants to take me.

    • It’s good to get other perspectives like yours Sean! And it helps to confirm the need we all have to continually ask the question of what is God calling us to ‘die’ to.

  2. To deny self is the first and last act in following Jesus. Self always wants to be on the throne without the cross, but being a living sacrifice means being crucified with Christ daily. Why we invest in material things whether the latest itech or something else like food, or porn, or brand name clothes, the thing behind it all is the self: my self, your self.

  3. I was reading an article the other day which underscored this very point: that our lives are centred around ‘me’. It’s all about ‘me’. Self denial is the call of the cross. Thanks for saying it so succinctly.

  4. I didn’t know the older generations think we don’t know much about sacrifice. Makes me want to sit down and have a frank conversation with them…whoever they might be…

    • It’s always easier to ‘categorize’ people from afar, rather than sit down and talk with them to understand how they think or feel about a topic. This goes in all ways as I have heard both young and old comment on the other. And in most cases, their comments were generalizations that were not really true.

  5. This is something I continue to learn! It seems to me the fundamental thing about following Jesus and being a servant as he was (Phil 2:1-10)

  6. I think we may need to ‘contextualize’ the notion of sacrifice to our world today. The issue of self denial is the starting point in helping us better understand the root of sacrifce and its implications that flow from a change of heart.

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