Monday, February 11, 2008

Christmas Sacrifice (1-17-08)

It’s always a bit tiresome coming back from break. You know how it goes. You’re walking down the dorm hallway and then you see an acquaintance that you hardly ever talk to. Recognizing the need for acknowledgement, you pause momentarily to ask the question-of-the-week: “How was your break?” It’s the question you’ve heard and asked a billion times by now. It’s beginning to wear thin, and your mind wanders as your friend gives their answer. Then comes the moment for the inevitable follow-up question, “So, did you get anything cool for Christmas?”

After about a week of school, the newness of your snazzy iPod, cute clothes, and sweet snowboard, along with the asking and answering of these questions, starts to fade. It no longer seems quite as important as it did early Christmas morning as you eagerly ripped off the wrapping paper. The truth is, we live in a world full of consumer ideals. TV ads, billboards, and the Internet all beckon us to obtain as much material goods as we can. We find ourselves vainly grasping after the treasures of this world, building up our mansions here on earth rather than in heaven. While the happiness may last for a time, as soon as a newer gadget hits the shelves we are rarely satisfied until it is in our possession. Satan has created this vicious cycle to entrap us, and it is incredibly hard to break free. Only by letting the Holy Spirit change our hearts can we begin to share Christ’s values.

What if, instead of asking the question “What did you get this Christmas?” , we were to ask “What did you give up this Christmas?” No, I’m not talking about handing over your cash to the Hollister sales-clerk in order to get that suave new jacket for your brother. It is a different type of self-sacrifice that God asks of us. The kind of sacrifice that is pleasing to God is one that has His goals and motives at heart. (Psalms 51:16,17) He asks not for the meaningless sacrifice of the Pharisees, who gave just so that people would think they were pious. Rather, He requests that we bring Him our two mites, just like the poor widow in the temple. What are your two mites? It’s easy to think, “Oh, but I’m just a college student. I don’t even have the money to pay my school bill.” I would remind you that those two mites were ALL that the widow had in the world. But there are also other things that we hold back from God every day; things that are more important than money. What have you been holding back from God? Is your spare time being spent on TV shows and video games? What about your imagination; are your thoughts focused on God or on things of this world?

Only by being “crucified with Christ” can we escape the everlasting death that awaits us because of our sin. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) To put it plainly, without sacrifice with Christ, eternity will NOT be yours. By following His example of self-denial, we too can gain a reward that will never become outdated. In stark contrast to the world’s love of display and public approval, Christ, “who, being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in the appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

The rewards that we receive in return far outnumber the costs. When we sacrifice ourselves to the Lord, we empty ourselves so that we have room for God to fill us to the brim with His blessings! Not only will He take care of our physical needs, but He will also expand us spiritually in ways we never thought possible.

What would it mean in your life if you were to live not for what you want in life, but for what you actually need. Think about what could happen! I challenge you to consider what ways you can offer yourself as a living sacrifice in the year 2008. I promise you, this is the only way to discover lasting joy.

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