We are a Living Sacrifice
- May 06, 2018
- Jared Odenbeck
At some point in our life, we will come to the end of ourselves. We will run out of energy, strength, will, and desire. It is what we do at this point that defines us, both in the now and the eternal. When that moment knocks, we must answer. The knock is a divine gift, a heavenly intervention, that prompts introspection and jars us awake from the worldly slumber of self-indulgence and glorification.
“You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19), and if we live for ourselves, for our ambitions, for our five-year and ten-year plans, or for our deepest desires, we will surely lose them, and likely lose ourselves in the process (Matthew 10:39, 2 Corinthians 5:15). Far deeper than that, we will forfeit the joy of servanthood in humility.
The church chronically mis-defines “humility.” I enjoy Tim Keller’s definition, which says, “humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less,” for I find it inseparable from Paul’s charge to the church in Philippi in Philippians 2:3 – “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Attempts at humility that spring from the flesh or from a heart of religion – if I do this, then God will bless me or love me – often err into self-deprecation. True humility, as Keller articulates, thinks less of the self and more of others. It does not mean we disregard the self entirely, for Paul follows with the command to “let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4), but rather, it sends us along the rocky, obstacle-ridden road that leads to the joyful discovery of the greatness of servanthood (Matthew 23:11).
For we now live as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Paul hopes “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15). So, we lay down our lives to go low and lift up others. We seek to build up, encourage, and follow the Lord’s example of discipleship and love. In our careers, in our rest, in our relationships, in every moment, we walk in humility and servanthood for the sake of the others, for in that we taste true greatness. Jesus says “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). If we want to walk in love (Ephesians 5:2), we must be prepared to put ourselves last in every way, even if it means death.
But, we must walk with caution. The snare of the misguided motivation of self-exaltation lies in waiting. Jesus says “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:12). Our motivation is not exaltation. If it is, he will surely humble us. Jesus became nothing, and we must become like him (Ephesians 5:1) so that “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).
If you think, “ah, now I see! If I only humble myself, then God will give me what I really want!” then I would urge you to walk with caution. This way plunges into caverns of deep error. He will not be used. He knows the hearts of man. A genuine heart that aches for and rejoices in the causes and needs of others is humble. A heart that sees humility as a means to a desired end of exaltation lives for self-glorification and the adoration of others.
But when genuine humility rises from the barren, dusty soil of our hearts by the watering of the Holy Spirit, then we will be exalted. Even if no one sees. Even if no one commends us. Even if we become irrelevant in the eyes of the world. We know we will receive a far sweeter award (Matthew 6:2)!