Summary: A look at the components that go along with making a proper sacrifice.
Resolutions and Sacrifice
It was once said that if Christmas and Thanksgiving are the holidays of excess, then New Year’s Day must be the holiday of regret. I think that I am in agreement with that statement. New Year’s is a time when we think back on the year that was and try to come up with a way to make this coming year better than the one before. We think about all we ate and the extra pounds we put on and vow to lose weight. We think about the decisions we made and how they affected us, and we put forth the effort to use more wisdom this year. We think about areas in which we fell short and promise to improve on them.
Now, for me, it is a tradition for me to make a New Year’s resolution, but it does not appear to be the standard anymore. Just 10 years ago, studies had shown that over 70% of Americans had made a New Year’s resolution. Of the 70% that made resolutions, 67% had made at least three resolutions. The most encouraging statistic however was the fact that 63% of those who made resolutions were still keeping them after 2 months.
In recent years, the importance of the New Year’s resolution has definitely gone in a downward spiral. Those who make resolutions have gone from 70% to 49%. That means that less than half of us are making resolutions now. Of those 49% that make resolutions, 79% do not plan to keep them for longer than a month, and only 9% plan to implement the changes permanently.
Why are people so quick to dismiss the New Year’s resolution? I believe that it is because there is too much cost. Think about it for a moment. The top resolution every year is to lose weight. In order to do it, you must give up eating some food you love, cut back on others, and put in the effort to exercise. That is a lot of work, and to most people, it is not worth putting in the effort to lose a few pounds. The second most popular resolution is to quit smoking. In order to do it, you must put up with the constant cravings and nicotine fits. To most, it is not worth the agony. You see, in order to achieve our goals, there has to be some amount of sacrifice, and sacrifice is always painful.
We have been talking about the characteristics of God’s church and we are half way through. Let’s see if we can remember them. We started off by talking about the cornerstone of prayer. Then, we showed that church should be exciting because it is to be a place of revival. Then, last month we took a look at the aspect of worship in the church. Now, we are moving on to the fourth characteristic of God’s church. It is to be a house of sacrifice.
Sacrifice was a big part of the Old Testament believers. After all, they could not be forgiven for their sins if they did not offer a sacrifice. They had to shed the blood of the best of their flock in order to make a payment for their sins. Now, we have Jesus’ blood as a covering over our sins, so we do not have to worry about actual animal sacrifice anymore. That is great news, but I still think we need to look back to the practice of offering an animal sacrifice to see what we can learn. After all, we are still called to make sacrifices for Christ. Let’s take a look at probably the most well known story about sacrifice in the Old Testament by turning to Genesis 22:1-19.
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Early the next morning, Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes my son,” Abraham replied. “The fire and the wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then, he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by the horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.