The crucifixion of Jesus was the end. To His followers and family, it was the end of hope and promise. It was the end of a son, a brother and a friend. It was the end of miracles and ministry.
It was the end of the trail of blood we picked up Good Friday (see The Problem Jesus Fixed), for at the moment Jesus breathed His last, the veil to the most Holy Place in the temple was supernaturally “torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). Because of Jesus, the most Holy Place is no longer a physical location accessible only to the high priest once a year on the Day of Atonement; through THE High Priest, Jesus, we have uninhibited access to God!
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Hebrews 10:19-22).
The end they grieved is the beginning we celebrate!
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, when He saves us by grace through faith, we become God’s temple and Jesus dwells in us! “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Just as the temple was a place of sacrifice, so now are our lives.
Salvation and life in Christ, while a gift, is not free of standards and expectations. As God’s children, He asks us to live for Him, not ourselves:
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:16-18).
We are told in Romans 12:1 to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Rather than shedding blood, we shed flesh. It’s sacrifice of the New Testament kind, the how of living out from among the world and separate. And it’s on the trail of blood from the first animal sacrifice to cover Adam and Eve’s sin to the foot of the cross where Jesus became the final sacrifice that we discover four characteristics of a living sacrifice.
Four Characteristics of a Living Sacrifice
“Let him offer a male without blemish” (Leviticus 1:3), meaning “compete, whole, entire, wholesome, innocent, unimpaired, having integrity” (Strong’s H8549 tamiym). It’s talking about perfection! The law couldn’t achieve it (Hebrews 7:19), and neither can we on our own (Galatians 3:3), but Christ, through the single offering of Himself, “perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).
As a living sacrifice, we must come before the Lord with a pure heart, “free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt; genuine, blameless, innocent, unstained with the guilt of anything” (Strong’s G2513, Matthew 5:8, katharos). For me, this means continually laying the motives and attitudes of my heart before the Lord, remaining vulnerable to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, holding up the Bible as my standard, confessing my sins and seeking His forgiveness.
“He shall offer it of his own voluntary will” (Leviticus 1:3). Ahen we don’t feel like it or can’t see what good it will accomplish. As fire consumed Old Testament sacrifices, the same is true for us, “for everyos God’s chosen people, He asked the Israelites and He asks us to bring Him our sacrifice of our own free will, even when it’s difficult. Even wne will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt” (Mark 9:49). Our faith will be tested by fire (I Peter 1:7), as will our works (I Corinthians 3:13). Therefore, may we “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2). He is our example. May the sacrifices we make on the altar of our lives be “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).
“And he shall put his hand upon head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” (Leviticus 1:4). When any man brought an offering to the Lord, he himself had to lay his hand upon its head, kill it (verse five), skin it and cut it into its pieces (verse six). In the same way, each one of us must do the hard things required to live in submission to our heavenly Father. No one else can do that for us. No one can be our living sacrifice but us.
Let us be in our offerings as the Israelites were in the building of the tabernacle, when the artisans doing the work report to Moses:
“The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded us to do.” So Moses gave a commandment and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, “Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.” And the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done – indeed too much (Exodus 36:6-7).
Their free will offerings exceeded what was needed for the tabernacle. We cannot out give God! Whatever He desires, when we respond in obedience, no matter the cost, no matter how impossible it appears to us, He will always supply all we need and then some. Imagine if God’s entire church, as defined by those who belong to Him rather than the four walls of the buildings in which we worship, gave as the Israelites gave and it was simply too much.
Our sacrifices today will be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but it’s not the suffering that pleases God; it’s the obedience. “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22).
And just as Jesus learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8), so will we. It’s another end that marks a beginning: as we die to ourselves we experience resurrected life in Christ.