Sacrifice vs Surrender
Most of my life I’ve viewed God as a God who expects us to sacrifice our lives to Him. Many times I’ve pictured myself as Issac laid on the altar, and envisioned me sacrificing everything I have to God. I know this all sounds very holy, very righteous, very “self-sacrificing”, which is good, right?
I saw God as a God who takes from us, who demands complete obedience like a military commander or a dictator. The fear of the Lord, was well just that, a holy terror of sorts. I viewed God this way without even really realizing it, but it had been so engrained in me growing up in the Bible belt going to a Baptist Church every Sunday. Even now, I know what a “good, Christian girl” is “supposed to” look like, and what one doesn’t look like.
On top of that, behind the scenes growing up, my father, who most of the time was my pastor, demanded control over me and manipulated me to do whatever he pleased. But I dare say, even without that factor thrown in, most church going people would have this same bent towards God; seeing Him through this lens.
Please don’t hear me say that God is not holy, righteous, or completely worthy of every adoration. He is worthy of it all. He is terrifyingly awesome, but the more I am in His presence the less frightened I become and the more filled with holy awe I am. I still tremble at times with his complete overwhelming presence, and many times that feels like fear to me, but fear pushes me away from someone. What I feel from God is a drawing me to Him. It is wonder; an awestruck, jaw dropping sense of wow! You are so wonder-ful! This to me is closer to what the fear of the Lord should be like.
About a year ago, God began to challenge my view of sacrifice. There have been times He has asked me to make a sacrifice of praise to Him in situations or places that seemed hard. He’s been challenging me in the idea that though HE is not a God who demands a sacrifice of us, He does desire a fully surrendered life.
I’m walking through a season of Him asking for my full yes again, my full surrender of everything. I’ve seen Him surface every dream I’ve ever had in the past several months, only to shortly after ask me to lay it back down at His feet. It has been a painful place to be. Surrender is hard, because it involves complete trust in someone else. It means giving up my right to have control. Out of love for him I’ve one by one handed over to Him the things, people, dreams He’s asked for. Now again this sounds as if He’s taking; that He is a demanding, selfish God.
The thing is that every time I hand something over to Him, I see Him giving me more of Him. See, when I hold onto things or people or dreams or memories, anything quickly can become idols and become what I’m putting my trust in, my hope in. He knows this will lead me away from relationship with Him, and so for my own good, for my own benefit, and out of loving wisdom, He asks me to keep saying yes to him, and living a surrendered life.
Religion demands sacrifice. If you look throughout history, through every culture, every religious system is based on works or earning your salvation. Religion requires you to earn your way into heaven by how much you sacrifice, by how much you do, how good you are. This crept into the early Christian church because church leaders wanted control over the people, so they instituted the sacraments and religious rites you must to do, along with believing in Christ, to be good enough to earn your way into heaven. Even today these practices may look different from church to church but there are still rules in most denominations of what a good Christian looks like or does to be acceptable. It is taught the more you sacrifice yourself and your family to the church, the better of a person you are.
The problem with this thinking is that the sacrificial system in God’s eyes ended with the only, true sacrifice that mattered and that was when Jesus sacrificed His life for us.
In the Old Testament when God instructed his people to sacrifice their first fruits to Him, it was to be a foreshadowing of what His son would do for them. The blood of a lamb or sheep could never really cover their sin but it was a picture constantly before God of what Jesus would do for us.
Only once did God demand a sacrifice of a human and that was a test of Abraham’s heart. God told Abraham to offer His promised child, Issac on an altar on Mt Moriah. Abraham knew God’s character was good, and he obeyed without hesitation. God did prove, indeed, to be good, and stopped Abraham from killing his son. Instead, He provided a perfect ram for the sacrifice. Many years later, God allowed His own son to be sacrificed on that very mountain to be the final price for our sins. This destroyed the need for any further sacrifice from us.
In the Old Testament, God wanted relationship. He wanted obedience. Samuel rebuked King Saul for his sacrifice, because he did it out of a wrong heart, and he lost his kingdom because of his disobedience. Obedience is better than sacrifice. God always has been after our hearts, our devotion, our affection. Just read the Song of Solomon, a love song written for you.
In the New Testament, the whole sacrificial system ended with the perfect sacrifice of the spotless lamb Jesus. He abolished that system once and for all. We come to Him only through that sacrifice and none other, and this is through his grace, not by anything we can do to earn it. It is freely given at God’s great cost, because God is a giving God by nature. He’s not a God who takes. He’s not a God who demands sacrifice. He gave His only begotten son for us. He desires for sons and daughters who are in love with him. It’s all about relationship, about intimate passionate love.
That’s why the early Christians were willing to surrender even their lives to death, and why any Christian should surrender their lives to Jesus. He first loved us, so we respond to Him out of love.
In 1 Corinthians 13:1 it says that “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love Im just a noisy gong… ” If I give my body up to be burned, but I have not love it gains nothing. So I can literally give my life up for a sacrifice to a religious system out of duty, out of trying to earn my way into holiness, thinking I’m doing it for God, and gain nothing from it.
The word says many will come before Jesus and say “Lord, Lord we did this in your name.” They will present all their good works, their good deeds before Him, and He will say to them, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
God doesn’t measure how good we are by what we do or give to him. He only looks to see the condition of our heart with Him. His measure is how much of Jesus does He see in us. How much of His love does He see in us, which is received by grace alone.
It takes humility to receive grace. I guess that is why He says the kingdom of heaven belongs to children, because children can receive by faith. They don’t have to perform to receive. They just open handedly receive and are content with just being who they are made to be.
Yes, God has been changing my mindset about sacrifice. If He does ask me to lay something down, it’s because that something has the potential to hurt our relationship. He loves me. He knows what’s best for me. He wants me to trust and obey Him out of love, not because I fear a spanking.
His way flies in the face of religion, but it is the heart of the Father. Every day it seems, He challenges my thinking in this as He unravels the lies, mindsets, and perceptions of Him that I have developed by living in a religious system. But sweet surrender to Him is a beautiful thing. It becomes my joy to give my life to Him, not my duty, because He loves and gives so much more.