At the beginning of 2015 I named this year Sacrifice. I knew when I did that that I was opening myself up to all kinds of scary stuff, because sacrifice is a scary concept. I saw within my heart a selfishness and a love of comfort and ease that I knew God wanted to deal with. And on January first, God gave me my word, and I bowed my head and said yes, Lord to the sacrifice.
I had no idea what I was saying yes to. Do we ever? And isn’t it good that we don’t?
Because the first thing God did when I said yes to the sacrifice had nothing to do with me or my behavior or my attitude or my selfish heart. Instead He took me back to the Cross and said here is the sacrifice I want you to understand. For maybe the first time in my life I really stood and looked at the miracle of grace completed at Calvary, and I was so humbled.
It is so easy to grow so cold to truth, to gut-wrenching, painful, horrifying truth– to the Son of God, in all His perfection and sinlessness, beaten and gory and broken and mocked and spit upon. It is so easy to forget the agony in the garden where His flesh cried out against the injustice and the pain to come and yet He said yes, Lord. He thought of me in all my unworthiness and my sinful rebellion and He said yes, Lord.
This is not the place our eyes want to rest. We like the manger with the baby and the angels and the fuzzy sheep. We like the empty tomb. We don’t mind our cleaned-up versions of Calvary, with a vaguely sad-looking European male with a crown of thorns hanging off a nicely polished cross.
I really think our enemy loves it when we clean up Calvary, don’t you? I mean, if we can gloss over the death of our Savior, then it’s pretty easy to start thinking that maybe we somehow deserve a life of ease, or that when Jesus told us to take up our crosses He probably meant to wear a shiny gold one around our necks.
My eyes hate to stare at the cross, because it is not pretty, no matter how fancy the one around my neck is. And the reality is hard. The sacrifice is hard. What Christ did on that cross– we can’t even really imagine it, I don’t think. And He did it for me. The reality is that’s exactly what I deserved– every horrifying, unthinkable, shameful moment of it. All the embarrassment and humiliation, every cruel lash of the whip, the bloodied back and bloodied head and naked destroyed body hanging there for all the world to see. All the grief and heartache, the agony of separation and the weight of sin, the gasping for air– that was what I deserved.
What wondrous love is this, oh my soul!
The thing about the cross is that when I linger there, I realize how small I am, how amazing my Savior is. I love Him more every time I think about it. I type with tears in my eyes because I am overwhelmed by the sacrifice of my Jesus, my Friend. It is here, at the cross, that I become willing to take up my cross. Because how could I say no to someone who said yes, Lord on my behalf? Who endured so much suffering so that I could know Him?
I am learning that there is no sacrifice too great to be made for such a Savior. I used to flinch from sentences like that. I know that in so many ways my faith is untested. I have not had a hard life. He hasn’t asked so much of me. But I stand by that statement, because by His grace He has put a new desire in my heart– to know Him and the power of His resurrection.
A sacrifice is all fire and death and pain. I am so weak. I have prayed so many times this year, Lord God, I hate this sacrifice. I hate that You want me to do this. And He says to lay it down. And sometimes He says it a hundred times in a hundred ways before I finally do. But there is beauty in the sacrifice, as I come one step closer to the heart of the Jesus who died for me, who lives for me, who makes intercession for me.
Tonight we read the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Nothing else satisfies but Jesus. None of it. Not status, not my own works, not a giant bowl of ice cream or a cup of the best coffee in the world, not your approval, not a huge bank account or house or church. Not a closet full of clothes or a body free of rheumatoid arthritis or the two babies I lost or a maid to do my laundry or a successful writing career or kids who obey all the time. None of it.
The only thing that satisfies is Jesus, because He is my righteousness.
He makes every sacrifice worthwhile, every cross easy and every burden light.
Let me cling to nothing but Jesus.