Last Sunday I taught a lesson to the High Priests Group on Sacrifice. The lesson went through some Old Testament history, and then had the bold heading,
“We Must Still Be Willing to Sacrifice Everything We Have to the Lord”.
Sacrifice in this day consists of yielding our will to the Lord, of having a “broken heart and a contrite spirit”. Sacrifice is learned by small degrees, and by small obediences every day. When the Holy Spirit moves us to say we’re sorry, or to study our scriptures, or to call a friend we haven’t been friendly with for years – these are the tokens that we lay on the altar of sacrifice. This is a broken heart – that we allow the Lord’s will to govern our actions. This is a contrite spirit – that we trust and eventually have powerful experience-powered faith, that the Lord’s way, and the Lord’s voice always brings us the joy and peace and love which we all yearn for.
As we contritely sacrifice daily in obedience to His voice, we are given opportunities to sacrifice larger things – like anger, or jealousy, selfishness, sarcasm or greed. If we have learned the lessons of small sacrificial offerings, we know and have great faith that not only is it the right thing to do – but that Jesus Christ himself will empower us to do it.
When the Holy Spirit urges to say we’re sorry, for example, and then we humble ourselves and say the words, our sacrifice triggers grace, and by this small process, Christ changes us. He takes away a portion of our pride, or anger or whatever weakness we have sacrificed in that act. He changes us, so that not only do we say we’re sorry, but we become, we evolve, we come unto Christ in that sacrifice. Over time, with prolonged sacrifice to His will, we are renewed, remade into the “image of the stature of the fullness of Christ”.
We pay a token by obedience, and Christ gives us eternity.
These lessons are life lessons. They tug at the fabric of our being. They punch holes in our defenses and tear down our safety nets – replacing them all with faith in Christ. It isn’t uncommon to progress, fall back a little, learn the same lesson again, and falter again. This is the reason mortality is called a “war against evil” because evil tries to reclaim our hard-won victories.
The war in heaven was not won – it was just moved to the earth, and we are continuing the battle within our hearts (which will be “broken” in the process) and our spirits (which must become “contrite”) by the obedience we yield to Christ, whose triumph over evil is assured.
It is not unlikely that people who lay down their burdens, then pick them up again and again, are trying to play leap frog with obedience. They want to give up anger, when Christ is urging them to speak kinder words to their spouse. They want to purge resentment, while Christ is trying to teach them to hold family prayers. The problem is, we can’t progress to greater things until we conquer and triumph and hold ourselves valiant in everything that preceeds the blessings we think we are ready to receive. We must fill in all of the blanks, take all of the steps, obey at every level before these higher gifts we desperately desire, can be received.
The process is to step back, fall to your knees, and prayerfully identify where we really are. Is it driving the speed limit which we arrogantly refuse to obey? Is it a refusal to help your wife clean house? Is it an unwillingness to freely give our mortal mansion to someone who doesn’t seem to deserve it? These are the little things that damn us (meaning to inhibit our progress). These are the little thorns in the flesh that keep the mighty blessings from flowing.
Find them – lay aside your own will – obey these things, and the greater things will soon follow. Not only will you lay aside these aching grief-causing flaws, but they will lose their power, their appeal and their hold. We won’t set them down, we will throw them down with disgust, despising the stench we once considered perfume. Then Christ’s grace will sweep them aside, and replace them with everlasting peace.
Tomorrow – sacrifice and making your Calling and Election Sure