“Our notion of sacrifice is the wringing out of us something we don’t want to give up, full of pain and agony and distress. The Bible idea of sacrifice is that I give as a love-gift the very best thing I have.” (Oswald Chambers)
The promises of Scripture are so breathtakingly liberating that total surrender becomes the most obvious step in the world. God says he’ll never leave or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). In fact, the one who’s in me is greater than the one who’s in the world (1 John 4:4). I’m free from any guilt of my past life, because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). My old life’s gone, I’ve got a fresh start (2 Corinthians 5:17). I can have absolute certainty about where I’m going, because the Scriptures were written “that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). I’ll never lack anything I need, because God will meet all my needs “according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13), so I can dream big dreams and challenge the impossible.
What more could we ask for? We have a fresh start. Our slate has been wiped clean. We have a guaranteed future. We have purpose in the present. We have a privileged position as “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:17 — note how the verse ends though), and Jesus calls us ‘friends’ as opposed to ‘servants’, “because a servant does not know his master’s business” (John 15:15). God has “blessed us in the heavenly realm with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). So as I gaze at Jesus’ painfully outstretched arms on the cross, I ask myself: how far is too far when he went that far? As Oswald Chambers said, “Our notion of sacrifice is the wringing out of us something we don’t want to give up, full of pain and agony and distress. The Bible idea of sacrifice is that I give as a love-gift the very best thing I have.”
C.T.Studd was the best English cricketer of his day, and a man of huge inherited wealth. In light of what Christ did for him, however, he gave all his fortune away, turned his back on the adulation of his sporting fans, and embraced the privilege of laying down his life in total surrender to Christ on the mission field. He said, “If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.” David Livingstone was another man with countless admirers (legitimately so, as he was a fearless and intrepid explorer, as well as a humble man of God). In response to people’s extravagant praise and comments to him concerning his ‘selfless’ life, he wrote in his journal:
“People talk of the sacrifice I’ve made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paying back a small part of the great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blessed reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind and a bright hope of glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege.”
In the early twentieth century, some pioneer missionaries were holding an evangelistic outreach in the backwaters of Togo, West Africa. On the first night of their preaching, a destitute peasant woman was powerfully impacted and decided to surrender her life to Christ. As was the cultural custom, each subsequent evening those touched by the message would bring gifts of yam or maize and lay them on the altar at the front in gratitude to God. This particular woman was so poor that she had nothing to bring each evening, although she desperately longed to show how grateful she was. However, on the last night of the week’s outreach, she came forward in the throng and triumphantly placed a silver coin on the altar. It was worth a dollar, which was a significant sum in those days. The missionary in charge saw her and feared that she’d stolen it; but he didn’t want her to lose face in public. So he waited until after the meeting had finished before he approached her and asked her how she could have afforded such a lavish gift. Eyes beaming, she replied that she was so happy to be free from her crippling guilt, to know where she was headed, and to discover the depth of the love Jesus had for her, that she wanted to contribute to making Jesus known to others who hadn’t yet heard. She’d considered it a privilege to go to a nearby plantation owner and sell herself as a slave for life for one dollar. That was the gift she laid on the altar that night.
Through the centuries and through the generations, thousands of people have chosen to lay their lives down on the altar in total surrender. May we likewise be willing to pay the ultimate price. A while back I wrote in my journal: “Lord, thank you so much for choosing me. What an incredible adventure is the life of faith! You could have allowed me to opt for an easier life, but what richness and depths of emotion and experience would have been missed out on. Do I envy what the world has to offer, which so many are enticed by? I answer a resounding ‘NO!’ You are worth everything, and I gladly surrender it all to you. I bless your glorious name for the privilege of being your child. Conform me ever-increasingly to your likeness. For your name’s sake. Amen!”
If you want to read ahead you can purchase Simon’s book of daily readings — ‘Choose Life 365’.
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