In the Old Testament, God required His people to offer sacrifices to Him on a regular basis. They were primarily animals—doves, lambs, and bulls—that they would slaughter and burn on an altar before God. These sacrifices, or offerings, were given to receive forgiveness for sin and to express thanksgiving and devotion to God. It was a hallowed ritual that no one took lightly. It was meticulously planned and had to be executed exactly to God’s specifications (please see the book of Leviticus for more detail). In the end, it cost the giver something.
This is the true meaning of a sacrifice. It’s giving up something of value for the sake of someone or something else. The Israelites could have used their offerings for their own gain. They could have used the animal fur and skin for their own warmth and clothing. They could have fed their family with the meat. They could have sold the animal to add funds to their pocketbook. Instead, they obediently and reverently gave up what could have benefited them, and offered it to the One more valuable and deserving. They sacrificed.
Gratefully, we no longer must slaughter and burn animals to show our allegiance to God and keep our lives pure of sin. Our sacrifices now come in the form of our surrendered lives—all coming from a heart made pure by the Blood of Jesus.
The Living Sacrifice
Our first sacrifice is our bodies. No, we don’t have to lie on the top of a stone altar and allow ourselves to be burned to show our allegiance. God is simply asking us to use the bodies He has given us to glorify Him. It’s our “reasonable service”—our logical response—to what Jesus has done for us with His own body on the Cross. Rather following the world’s lifestyle, we are to give ourselves to God in the way we live, not in the way we physically die. Our only responsibility is to fully surrender our bodies to Him for the purpose He chooses. We may not always feel like doing what’s right and honorable, but a heart of true devotion will put aside the feelings and live out of love.
I beseechyou therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
The Praise Sacrifice
Another sacrifice God deserves from us is the sacrifice of praise. Once again, we may not feel like speaking or singing songs of exaltation to our God. The challenges we face may not inspire us to give Him thanks for all He’s done. But when we choose to lay our emotional and physical feelings aside, God will inhabit our praise (Psalm 22:3). He deserves our praise, regardless of what we’re going through. This is a true sacrifice, for it’s not a sacrifice unless it costs us something.
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15).
The Giving Sacrifice
The giving of our material goods and finances is also a sacrifice. We may feel like spending our money on something we need or desire, or keeping our things for our own pleasure. But like the other sacrifices, God deserves our giving first and foremost. It shows that He, not our earthly goods, is our priority. Nothing we have on this earth really belongs to us, anyway. They are blessings from God, meant to bless others and advance His Kingdom through us. Yes, we have physical and financial responsibilities we need to keep. But our tithes, financial offerings, and gifts to those around us are of greater value (Malachi 3:10, Proverbs 10:17).
But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews 13:16).
God is not asking us to do something that He has not first done for us. He set the greatest example of a sacrifice by sending us His Son. When we receive His sacrifice by faith, He places in us His nature, making us a fit sacrifice to give to Him in return. Without His offering of Jesus, we would still be as inadequate as the Old Testament animals with spots or broken limbs. Instead, we are now accepted by Him, bringing Him joy with each choice we make to live pure, and each moment of praise and offering we give.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 5:1-2).
And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool (Hebrews 10:11-13).
Like the loving and just God that He is, God has promised blessings to follow our sacrifices. When we give to God what He deserves, He gives to us what He has promised (Luke 6:38). God contains everything we need, but we must first give Him what He deserves as the proclaimed Lord of our lives. Yes, it will cost us something—our time, energy, money, desires, and dreams. But the result is a satisfied God who sacrificed to satisfy us!