8. Like Christ: In His Self-Sacrifice.
"Walk in love, even as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour."óEph. 5:2.
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."ó1 John 3:16.
What is the connection between self-sacrifice and self-denial? The former is the root from which the latter springs. In self-denial, self-sacrifice is tested, and thus strengthened and prepared each time again to renew its entire surrender. Thus it was with the Lord Jesus. His incarnation was a self-sacrifice; His life of self-denial was the proof of it; through this, again, He was prepared for the great act of self-sacrifice in His death on the cross. Thus it is with the Christian. His conversion is to a certain extent the sacrifice of self, though but a very partial one, owing to ignorance and weakness. From that first act of self-surrender arises the obligation to the exercise of daily self-denial. The Christianís efforts to do so show him his weakness, and prepare him for that new and more entire self-sacrifice in which he first finds strength for more continuous self-denial.
Self-sacrifice is of the very essence of true love. The very nature and blessedness of love consist in forgetting self, and seeking its happiness in the loved one. Where in the beloved there is a want or need, love is impelled by its very nature to offer up its own happiness for that of the other, to unite itself to the beloved one, and at any sacrifice to make him the sharer of its own blessedness.
Who can say whether this is not one of the secrets which eternity will reveal, that sin was permitted because otherwise Godís love could never so fully have been revealed? The highest glory of Godís love was manifested in the self-sacrifice of Christ. It is the highest glory of the Christian to be like his Lord in this. Without entire self-sacrifice the new command, the command of love, cannot be fulfilled. Without entire self-sacrifice we cannot love as Jesus loved. "Be ye imitators of God," says the apostle, "and walk in love, even as Christ hath loved us, and given Himself a sacrifice for us." Let all your walk and conversation be, according to Christís example, in love. It was this love that made His sacrifice acceptable in Godís sight, a sweet-smelling savour, As His love exhibited itself in self-sacrifice, let your love prove itself to be conformable to His in the daily self-sacrifice for the welfare of others, so will it also be acceptable in the sight of God. "We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
Down even into the daily affairs of home life, in the intercourse between husband and wife, in the relation of master and servant, Christís self-sacrifice must be the rule of our walk. "Likewise, ye husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it."
And mark specially the words, "Hath given Himself for us an offering to God." We see that self-sacrifice has here two sides. Christís self-sacrifice had a Godward as well as a manward aspect. It was for us, but it was to God that He offered Himself as a sacrifice. In all our self-sacrifice there must be these two sides in union, though now the one and then again the other may be more prominent.
It is only when we sacrifice ourselves to God that there will be the power for an entire self-sacrifice. The Holy Spirit reveals to the believer the right of Godís claim on us, how we are not our own, but His. The realization of how absolutely we are Godís property, bought and paid for with blood, of how we are loved with such a wonderful love, and of what blessedness there is in the full surrender to Him, leads the believer to yield himself a whole burnt-offering. He lays himself on the altar of consecration, and finds it his highest joy to be a sweet-smelling savour to his God, God-devoted and God-accepted. And then it becomes his first and most earnest desire to know how God would have him show this entire self-sacrifice in life and walk.
God points him to Christís example. He was a sweet-smelling savour to God when He gave Himself a sacrifice for us. For every Christian who gives himself entirely to His service, God has the same honour as He had for His Son, He uses him as an instrument of blessing to others. Therefore John says, "He who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" The self-sacrifice in which you have devoted yourself to Godís service, binds you also to serve your fellow-men; the same act which makes you entirely Godís, makes you entirely theirs. [*See N ote.]
It is just this surrender to God that gives the power for self-sacrifice towards others, and even makes it a joy. When faith has first appropriated the promise, "Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me," I understand the glorious harmony between sacrifice to God and sacrifice for men. My intercourse with my fellow-men, instead of being, as many complain, a hindrance to unbroken communion with God, becomes an opportunity of offering myself unceasingly to Him.
Blessed calling! to walk in love EVEN AS Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us a sacrifice and sweet-smelling savour to God. Only thus can the Church fulfil its destiny, and prove to the world that she is set apart to continue Christís work of self-sacrificing love, and fill up that which remaineth behind of the afflictions of Christ.
But does God really expect us to deny ourselves so entirely for others? Is it not asking too much? Can any one really sacrifice himself so entirely? Christian! God does expect it, Nothing less than this is the conformity to the image of His Son, to which He predestinated you from eternity. This is the path by which Jesus entered into His glory and blessedness and by no other way can the disciple enter into he joy of His Lord. It is in very deed our calling to become exactly like Jesus in His love and self-sacrifice. "Walk in love, EVEN AS Christ loved." It is a great thing when a believer sees and acknowledges this. That Godís people and even Godís servants understand it so little, is one great cause of the impotence of the Church. In this matter the Church indeed needs a second reformation. In the great Reformation three centuries ago, the power of Christís atoning death and righteousness were brought to light, to the great comfort and joy of anxious souls. But we need a second reformation to lift on high the banner of Christís example as our law, to restore the truth of the power of Christís resurrection as it makes us partakers of the life and the likeness of our Lord. Christians must not only believe in the full union with their Surety for their reconciliation, but with their Head as their example and their life. They must really represent Christ upon earth, and let men see in the members how the Head lived when if.e was in the flesh. Let us earnestly pray that Godís children everywhere may be taught to see their holy calling.
And all ye who already long after it, oh, fear not to yield yourselves to God in the great act of a Christ-like self-sacrifice! In conversion you gave yourself to God. In many an act of self-surrender since then you have again given yourselves to Him. But experience has taught you how much is still wanting. Perhaps you never knew how entire the self-sacrifice must be and could be. Come now and see in Christ your example, and in His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, what your Father expects of you. Come now and see in Christófor He is your head and lifeówhat He will enable you to be and do. Believe in Him, that what He accomplished on Earth in His life and death as your example, He will now accomplish in you from heaven. Offer yourself to the Father in Christ, with the desire to be, as entirely and completely as He, an offering and a sacrifice unto God, given up to God for men. Expect Christ to work this in you and to maintain it. Let your relation to God be clear and distinct; you, like Christ, wholly given up to Him. Then it will no longer be impossible to walk in love as Christ loved us. Then all your intercourse with the brethren and with the world will be the most glorious opportunity of proving before God how completely you have given yourself to Him, an offering and a sacrifice for a sweet-smeeing savour.
O my God, who am I that Thou shouldest have chosen me to be conformed to the image of Thy Son in His self-sacrificing love? In this is His divine perfection and glory, that He loved not His own life, but freely offered it for us to Thee in death. And in this I may be like Him; in a walk in love I may prove that I too have offered myself wholly to God.
O my Father, Thy purpose is mine; at this solemn moment I affirm anew my consecration to Thee. Not in my own strength, but in the strength of Him who gave Himself for me. Because Christ, my example, is also my life, I venture to say it: Father, in Christ, like Christ, I yield myself a sacrifice to Thee for men.
Father, teach me how Thou wouldest use me to manifest Thy love to the world. Thou wilt do it by filling me full of Thy love. Father, do ik that I may walk in love, even as Christ loved us. May I live every day as one who has the power of Thy Holy Spirit to enable me to love every one with whom I come into contact, under every possible circumstance, to love with a love which is not of me, but of Thyself. Amen.
One of the most earnest and successful labourers in the work of saving the lost writes as follows: "If I had not been led to a clearer and fuller experience of what salvation is, I never could have gone through the work of the last few years. But, at the same time, one thing has continually been becoming clearer, that we cannot speak of unbroken fellowship with our Lord unless we give up ourselves, and that without ceasing, to a world lying in the wicked one, to save in the strength of our Lord what He gives us to save. A consecration to the Lord without a consecration to our neighbour becomes an illusion or leads to fanaticism. It is this giving up of ourselves to the world to be its light and salt, to love it, even when it hates us, that constitutes for all really consecrated souls the true battle of life. To find in labour our rest, and in fighting the sin around us in the power of Jesus our highest joy, to rejoice more in the happiness of others than our own, and so not to seek anything for ourselves, but everything for others, this, this is our holy calling."
May God help us not only to admire such thoughts, but at once to join the little bands among His children who are really giving up everything, and making their life work the winning of souls for Jesus.