IN A WORLD PROMOTING self-fulfillment as a consummate value, sacrificing for any reason is countercultural and even considered unreasonable by some. In past generations, self-sacrifice for public service, or in helping professions such as teaching or nursing, was an honored cultural value. Not so much anymore. Ministers and missionaries have also traditionally been examples of self-giving service. While many still model this value, even some Christian leaders have stopped living sacrificially and no longer challenge followers toward that ideal. In contrast, they have adopted an entitlement perspective for themselves and teach that God wants His followers to be rich, healthy, and happy. The only people, however, who enjoy these benefits are the unscrupulous preachers who teach these false doctrines and offer themselves as deserving recipients of their followers’ time and money.
While some devalue sacrifice, many Christians still personify this ideal as an essential part of Christian service. Sharing the gospel will require sacrifices on your part. It will cost your two most important commodities—time and money. It may also cost you relational closeness with people you love or the privilege of exercising your rights. Sacrificing so others can hear the gospel is a self-limiting choice to put the needs of others before your own.
Before defining and describing these choices more fully, a more basic question is, does advancing the gospel really require sacrifice? Unequivocally, yes. The certainty of this answer is revealed in the example and demands of Jesus. The timeless nature of this principle means it stretches across all cultures and all generations. Sacrifice is required to send the gospel across the street or around the world, among every people and in every era—even to the people you experience as life happens.
JESUS MODELED SACRIFICE
One of the most moving descriptions of Jesus’ incarnation, His taking on flesh and living among people is Philippians 2:5–8. Paul wrote:
Make your attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave…. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.
Jesus modeled self-emptying sacrifice by coming to earth and making our salvation possible.
Jesus, as part of the Godhead, has always eternally coexisted with the Father and the Spirit. He was and is fully God. When faced with the need for a Redeemer and His role in the redemptive drama, Jesus “did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage” (Philippians 2:6). Another translation of this verse is “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (NASB). Jesus gave up transcendent existence, sacrificing His state and status to identify with humankind through His incarnation. In doing so, He “emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:7). Scholars have written volumes trying to describe everything implied by those two words, yet it’s still impossible to grasp their full meaning. Jesus “emptied Himself,” sacrificing His position, forsaking everything pertaining to the privilege of His status as God’s Son eternally reigning in the cosmos. Beyond that, He came to earth “as a man,” and not just a man, but “assuming the form of a slave” (Philippians 2:7). From His birth to His death, Jesus fully identified with the gamut of human experience and condition, except for sharing our sin nature. Jesus went through the ultimate humiliation for the eternal, being subjected to death—the death of a common criminal. His execution was a crucifixion, usually reserved for criminals from the dregs of society, further underscoring His self-abasement and identification with all humanity.
Jesus modeled sacrifice. He gave up privilege and position for the good of others. He set aside His status and most meaningful relationships to meet humankind’s greatest need—redemption. Jesus abased Himself—first by going through the birth process, finally by experiencing a brutal, undeserved death. In every way, Jesus sacrificed for others and established by His example the experiential authority to demand His followers do the same.
Jeff Iorg, Unscripted: Sharing the Gospel as Life Happens (Ashland, OH: New Hope Publishers, 2014).
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