Giving Ourselves

For according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints: and this, not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God (2 Corinthians 8:3-5).

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in life is learning how to do what we ought to do with the spirit in which we ought to do it along with the proper motivation for doing so. This is especially true in the “religious” sphere of existence. It is quite easy to fall into the trap of empty ritualism, or for people to work with the intent to earn merit. Too many are only willing to do the commands of God that are comfortable for them; many treat religion as they perhaps treated high school, trying to figure out how to do just enough to “get by.”

While all of these forms of religious service are popular, they are not what God intends, and they cannot lead to a saving faith. If we really desire to be saved, we will have to do as the Macedonians did so many years ago: we must first give ourselves to the Lord. If we are able to accomplish that, then everything else can fall into its proper place.

Yet, as with many things in life, such is easier said than done. Giving ourselves entirely over to Jesus is a challenging proposition. It requires us to be crucified with Him, making the decision to no longer live in sin (Romans 6:1-7, Galatians 2:20). We must then live as His servants, seeking His will in every facet of our existence (Ephesians 5-6). The cost is high– the path of Christ involves sacrifice, suffering, and persecution (Romans 12:1, Acts 14:21, Romans 8:17-18). The reward of eternal life, however, will make up for it and beyond (cf. Revelation 21-22)!

It is easy to understand why the temptation is always there to promote or to live a half-hearted religion, a belief system in which you go along with God as long as it is comfortable and does not infringe too terribly strongly in one’s life. Yet we must understand that a religion without cost tends to be a religion without benefit. Jesus came to the earth not to be served but to serve, and He gave fully of Himself for us (Philippians 2:5-11). If He gave Himself fully for us, how can we expect to get away with only giving a little bit for Him?

Jesus Himself makes it quite clear in Matthew 10:35-39 that becoming His disciple is an all-or-nothing proposition. You either put God in Christ first in your life or you do not. You are willing to allow the Lord to dictate for you through His Word how you will conduct yourselves toward your parents, spouse, children, employer, friends, and others, or you are not (cf. Ephesians 5-6). You either allow God in Christ to dictate how you will use the blessings of material abundance, time and talents for His purposes, or you do not (Romans 12). Half-hearted service, empty ritualism, or reward-based work is not true service to God, no matter how much it may feel as it is (cf. Matthew 7:21-23). It is only when we first and foremost decide that we are going to give ourselves over to the Lord that we can finally begin serving Him.

Thankfully, no matter how we have lived in the past, as long as we live, we have the opportunity to give ourselves to the Lord. Let us do so and become full servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, knowing that if we glorify His name, we will share in His eternal glory!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Giving Ourselves

Freedom From Bondage

Jesus therefore said to those Jews that had believed him, “If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Jesus’ words in John 8:32 have provided comfort and encouragement for believers for generations. Many seek and hope to be set free in Jesus Christ, and we all know the great value present in freedom!

Sadly, in context, Jesus’ words were understood as anything but comforting and encouraging. The Jews, in fact, took great offense at them: how could Jesus insinuate that they were enslaved to anyone when they were children of Abraham (cf. John 8:33)? Despite Jesus’ attempts to explain to them that anyone who sinned was a slave of sin, a servant of “their father” the Devil (John 8:31-47), the Jews would not listen. The very Jews who “believed” in Him before now considered Him to be a demon-possessed Samaritan, worthy of being stoned for blasphemy (John 8:48, 59)!

It is evident that Jesus’ message of freedom does not sit well with those who do not perceive the burden of their sin. Those who believe that they are “healthy” and in no need of redemption find His message for them distasteful, even if they are willing to intellectually concede the value of His other teachings (cf. Matthew 9:11-13, John 8:30). It is one thing for Jesus to claim that He has a close relationship with His Father; it is quite another to claim that His hearers are enslaved and sons of the devil!

This is why the beginning of Jesus’ statement is so important: those who know the truth that will set them free are those who abide in Jesus’ word and who are His disciples (John 8:31)! The truth cannot liberate those who refuse it or reject it. The truth cannot liberate even those who hear it but do not act on it. It can only liberate those who believe in Jesus Christ and who abide in His word– His obedient servants!

Such is an important reminder for those of us who enjoy great freedoms in our country. When many people think of freedom, they think of license: “I am free to do as I please.” Freedom in Jesus Christ is not license; instead, it is deliverance. The truth sets us free from sin and death in order to serve Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1-2, 6:16-18). It does not give us license to act as we please, as if recognizing that Jesus is Lord can somehow save us from ourselves. Instead, it delivers us from our earlier “father,” the devil, so that we can begin to serve our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. It means that we throw off the yoke of sin and death and take on the yoke of the meek and gentle Shepherd of our souls (cf. Matthew 11:28-30).

Freedom in Jesus Christ is most precious indeed; it was paid for by His own blood. Let us learn to appreciate His sacrifice and our deliverance from sin, and seek to serve our Lord and to be His true disciples!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Freedom From Bondage

The Cost of Sacrifice

And the king said unto Araunah, “Nay; but I will verily buy it of thee at a price. Neither will I offer burnt-offerings unto the LORD my God which cost me nothing.”
So David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver (2 Samuel 24:24).

David here demonstrates an excellent understanding of the core idea of sacrifice: sacrifice must come at a personal cost.

The heart of the definition of sacrifice is “to suffer loss.”  If David accepted the gift of Araunah and made sacrifice, then David would not have really sacrificed anything– he was just using Araunah’s sacrifice for his own purposes.  He recognized that such is not really sacrifice– what has he really lost?

It is very easy to seek after “painless sacrifice”: this mirage allows people to have the good feeling of having done some good without actually suffering any loss.  The conscience is soothed and life is well.  But is that what God is after?

Jesus saw many people putting lots of money into Temple coffers and yet commends the widow for her two mites (Mark 12:41-44).  The people were providing painless sacrifices: they had plenty of other resources on which to live.  The widow truly sacrificed: she gave all she had!

The way of Jesus is not “painless” sacrifice, but demands true sacrifice.  The cross is not painless (Matthew 16:24).  Losing one’s life for His sake is not painless (Matthew 16:25).  Forsaking all other relations for Jesus is not painless (Matthew 10:34-39).

And, above all, living the life of a humble servant of Jesus is far from painless (Matthew 20:26-28)!  As it is written,

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service (Romans 12:1).

A “living” sacrifice– by no means a “painless” one.  We can only be a “living sacrifice” when we suffer great loss of all that we have for His purposes– to devote our material resources to brethren and those in need (Galatians 2:10, 6:10), to devote our time to those in distress and for the furtherance of the Kingdom (James 1:27, Matthew 28:18), and to show in all things that Christ is our Lord and Savior (Galatians 2:20).

It will not be painless.  Our offering to God will surely cost us.  Yet if our living sacrifice is found pleasing to our Lord, the reward will make it all worthwhile (Romans 8:18).  As God suffered great loss for us, let us suffer loss for God and His purposes!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Cost of Sacrifice