We are an army that is non-sacramental – I believe this, but we must actually embrace and preach/teach the necessity for real, authentic sacrificial living its soldiership. Without this crucial component of sacrificial living, we will have not only rejected ritual observations of the Church by way of communion and other such practices, we will have neglected the true essence of Christ himself (who was without sin, yet suffered and died for us). If we are to be Holy as He is Holy, we must become like Him in every way – which includes sacrificial living. The season of Lent is upon us, and although we do not practice much of the traditional Church practices within Lent, we would be remiss if we did not explore this extremely important topic of Sacrificial Living.
But First let us clarify what Sacrificial Living is not:
It is NOT:
-A great display and sanctimonious actions for others to see you and know your piousness and holiness.
-A ploy for promotion or power play for position or status.
-A means to compete with other soldiers and prove who is “holiest”
-A means to fool the world – but you can’t fool God.
If any of the above mentioned motives for Sacrificial living exist within us, we must eliminate them from our hearts and reconsecrate ourselves before God!
5 Truths About Sacrificial Living:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)
- Sacrificial Living Requires Consistency
“But Samuel replied: ‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” 1 Samuel 15:22 We cannot simply declare that everything we do in the corps will be the place of my sacrificial living – NO! It is all or nothing. God doesn’t want our sacrifices in one area while other areas of our lives are still not surrendered. That’s like saying to your spouse, “I will be faithful to you in this city, but I can’t promise anything when I leave this city.” How can we love the Lord with all of our hearts when we compartmentalize our relationship to Him? If we are to be soldiers of the faith who are daily living sacrificial lives, we have to subject ALL of our lives under the sovereign, perfect rule of Christ. Consistency is not easy, and there will be constant struggles to bring these areas of our lives under control. But rest assured we have One who is with us – The Holy Spirit!
- Sacrificial Living Takes Work
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” –Romans 12:1.
If we are to be consistent in our declaration of sacrificial living – we have to mean what we declare – and this takes work! We have to roll up our sleeves, so to speak, and intentionally, moment by moment surrender our wants and desires to God. We have to declare Thy Will be done, instead of my will. The work done on our knees in prayer before the Almighty will set the momentum going forward. If we neglect this spiritual discipline of prayer, we will jeopardize our entire sacrificial existence. This is a merging of our identities with that of Christ’s. When we do this, we are essentially saying “I want to be Imago Dei” I am not just imitating Him, I want to be Him in every way. There will be moments of stumbling. We will experience great stress in temptation, because surely the Father of Lies will begin to see how dangerous His people will become to his devious plans on earth. We will experience adversity, days of defeat, weakness – but these are only symptoms of us dying to our old-self.
- Sacrificial Living Is An Outpouring of Holiness
“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.” -Acts 2:44-45
When we declare our desire to be
likeChrist in every way, our crosses will be carried, and our path will be set. It sounds paradoxical, but while we experience great sacrifice and discomfort, we will at the same time experience great peace too. Sacrificial living is not the end result, no this is the outpouring of our longing for holiness in all that we are as Children of God. This is more than just words uttered. This is something on a molecular level – changing us from the inside out. I believe something metaphysical happens when we make it our goal to be Christ in our hearts, minds and soul. You know that when you have been married for a long time – you and your partner take on the mannerisms of each other…sometimes you even begin to resemble one another. Holiness lived-out with the greatest of intentions and devotion will produce men and women of God who deeply resemble Christ in every way. -This is what Sacrificial Living looks like and is the evidence of a commitment to Holiness on the deepest of levels. Dare I say, but we as an Army have yet to even scratch the surface of real, tangible Holiness amongst its ranks. We talk a good game, but I fear we are no where near it yet.
- Sacrificial Living Has No Room For Ego
“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” -Acts 4:32
There’s an old phrase that perhaps you know, it goes like this: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”…even in the Army there is a hunger for power, whether it be in our corps and local officer positions or the Corps Officer, Divisional Officer, Territorial Officer…and so on. Power is a dangerous vice. Authority is necessary in any Church, Movement or Mission, but the hunger for power and man’s authority can corrupt all of the above. In fact, this is what Satan hopes will happen to any adversary of his: that they become bogged down by their own egos and blinded by their own ambitions and thirst for imagined power. You might say, “but we are The Salvation Army – we have no power.” – every organization, movement or Church has many places of authority and assumed places of power. What we do with those roles, how we conduct ourselves if we become stewards of such positions determines not only the course of our Army, but the depth of our sacrificial living. There is no room for ego in sacrificial living! “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” -Psalm 51:17.
- Sacrificial Living Must Be Evidenced In Our Soldiers & Officers!
“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” -Philippians 3:8
If we are truly a Holiness movement – then we must act like it! We must eliminate every element of back-biting, gossip, slander, ego, power-plays, Church politics that elevates one over another, personal vendettas and all other kinds of selfishness! Somewhere along the way we left the call for holiness in a pulpit sermon and lost our way. We will not move or correct any kind of mission drift that is egocentric if we are not really actively engaged in sacrificial living. Let’s stop talking a big game, and putting on a big show as we tout our Holiness Movement member’s cards (I’m being facetious)…let’s drop the pretenses. If we want to see an Army on the move and if we long to save souls, then we first have to start with our own. I am not questioning our salvation, I am questioning our depth of Holiness and Sacrificial Living. Let’s practice what we preach…and perhaps for some of us, we need to fall in love with God all over again in reconsecration. I love this army, but without soldiers, officers and adherents who are living sacrificially, and committed to the great commission of saving souls and making disciples, we could face extinction a generation from now.
Something more for our Army world to Ponder today.
*Disclaimer: the thoughts and opinions expressed here are the writer’s thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of The Salvation Army. Reader discretion is advised.*