Before you reach for a pen, or steady your fingers to type a response to the suggestive title, I need you to know that it is not what you think. I am completely against the idea of murder. I do not worship Molech, nor do I support any idea of sacrificing people and or animals to appease a god. It is a horrible and sinful thing when people do this type of occultic worship. However, I am talking about a spiritual human sacrifice of sorts. We find this concept in Matthew’s gospel. He writes,
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?’” – Matthew 16:24-26
To be a true follower of Christ, we must first die to ourselves. This is why I not only support, but constantly try to live, this human sacrificing lifestyle. How do we do this? How do you live a life as a follower of Christ in light of these radical commands? These verses describe three ways we must die to self; I would like to briefly unpack them in hopes that you too will choose to live a life of continual self-sacrifice.
To deny yourself means to put your desires second to God’s. We are all selfish by nature. We want what we want. However, what we want is not always what God wants. Before Christ, we wanted to be our own god in a way. We wanted complete control of our lives. But, to follow Jesus, we must first deny our sinful desires through faith and repentance by relying on His grace for our salvation. It is no different once we are saved. We must still deny our fleshly desires if they do not line up with God’s. This is a daily task. We must die to ourselves. We must deny our flesh, and submit to the Lordship of Jesus. The glorious thing about this is, eventually it gets easier. When we deny ourselves, we start to take delight in the Lord as the Psalmist writes, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). To deny yourself is to commit human sacrifice (the sacrifice of your oneself), which is a requirement of the Lord.
Take up Your Cross:
The cross was a gruesome instrument of death. Jesus was telling His disciples that if they were to follow Him that meant they had to surrender their lives to live obediently to Him. It would identify them with Jesus . . . even unto death, to which 10 of the 11 true disciples would eventually succumb, through martyrdom. This is evidence that they fully surrendered to Jesus. The same type of surrender is required of Christians today. We should expect persecution. We should be willing to bear it, knowing that He is with us though it all and that He can sympathize with us. Taking up your cross says that you have a life-or-death devotion to Christ. I will live for Him with eternity in view. I will die for Him for the glory of the King. To take up your cross is to sentence yourself to death, but in doing so it identifies you with the One who overcame death in our place.
Following Jesus is not just saying a prayer, going to church, and giving financially to a church or other Christian organization. This type of Christianity would have been a foreign concept to first century Christians. Jesus said for a person to count the cost before following Him. To follow Him means to follow His teachings, and His example. It means swapping your sin for His perfect righteousness. Once His deposit has been made into your account, you are no longer your own. You have been bought with a price. You were once a slave to sin, but now have been made a slave to righteousness. To follow Jesus means that you have submitted to His Lordship and live as a citizen of the Kingdom, but also as an heir to the throne. He said that following Him would cost you something. In essence, it cost you everything. So, to follow Him is spiritual human sacrifice. You must die so that you can be raised up to walk in the newness of life in Him.
“Deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” “Deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” “Deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This is the cycle of the daily life of a Christian. This is the sequence of a disciple of Jesus. If we want to follow the Lord, we must first die to ourselves. This is why I believe in human sacrifice, and as a Christian you should too. If you have never experienced this type of life, then I hope you die today . . . so that you can truly live in the grace that abides only in Christ, who died in the place of all who would ever call upon His name. Human sacrifice is not only desired by God, but is necessary to know Him.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell