“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…”
~ John 3:16
It’s the most memorized verse of the Bible. One we know so well and see so often that we probably don’t really pause to think about it anymore. But the other week in church, it was one of the verses our speaker highlighted in his message of God’s love…and it followed a praise and worship chorus that reminded us of how He is worthy of our efforts, worthy of our sacrifices, worthy of anything we can do for Him. And it got me thinking.
How amazing is it that God loves us this much? That Christ loves us so much He was willing to do this for us? Let’s look at what He sacrificed:
- His home in heaven–He gave up a seat at the right hand of the Father to come to earth and walk in misery for us. His entire earthly existence was overshadowed by the cross. But He did it. For you. For me.
- A life of ease on earth–look at most ancient mythologies, and you’ll see gods who were selfish and demi-gods who used their divine blood to achieve fame and fortune. But Jesus defies all that. He came to live a humble life, not a kingly one.
- Daily comforts–not only was he born to modest circumstances, He gave up even those things in order to preach and teach about the Kingdom of God. He had no place to lay His head. No guarantee of the next meal. No nice house or fancy car–er, horse or even donkey–no savings account or college fund or good insurance program.
- And of course, His LIFE.
He did this because He loves us. The Father asked it of Him because He loves us. They PROVED their love for us in the most spectacular way imaginable–by giving up everything. Absolutely everything.
And what do they ask of us? A portion. A percent. Those are the sacrifices prescribed in the Old Testament. Then in the new, Jesus asks us to make what is strangely the hardest sacrifice of all: He asks us to give up our sins. He asks us to give up what’s coming between us and the Father.
Have you ever really paused to think about that? Let me say it again. He asks us to give up our sins. They are what’s coming between us and the Father. Give up our greed. Give up our hatred. Give up our bitterness. He asks us to give up our biases and our prejudices and our judgments. He asks us to give up the idols we’ve built with our own two hands, the things we spend more time worrying about and thinking about (aka worshipping) than we spend on Him. He asks us to sacrifice the bad so that we can grab hold of the Good with both hands.
And yet we struggle with that. So, so much. Just like the Israelites of old struggled to stay free of the snarls of idolatry. Why? Because idols offer us pleasure in the short term. A comfortable life. An exciting “romantic” encounter. Wealth. Fun.
The Lord teaches us what happens in the long term, of course. But as a race, humanity is short-sighted. Always have been and still are. That, too, is what He asks to give up–our own limited vision. He asks us to give up the illusion of being in control.
He asks us to trust Him instead. To admit that He sees what we can’t. That He knows the Good, not just the pleasant.
That thought really humbled me as I sat in church, thinking about how He gave up glory for us…yet we’re unwilling to give up sin for Him. He loves us so much that He gave us life…we love Him so poorly that we won’t relinquish our idols.
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: it’s true that He doesn’t ask all of us to give up everything. But He DOES ask all of us to give up something–namely, whatever we value above Him. He asks us to sacrifice those idols. Are we willing?