Chapter 14 – The Law of Sacrifice

“If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matt. 16:24.

Here lies the great difference between the world’s Gospel and the Lord’s Gospel. The world says, when it bids you goodbye, “Take care of yourself.” The Lord says, “Let yourself go, and live for others and the glory of God.” The world says, “Have a good time. Look out for number one.”

The man that lets go gets all, and the man who holds fast loses what he has, and the Lord’s words come true, “Whosoever shall save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find it.”

The law of sacrifice is the greatest law in earth and heaven. It is written in every department of nature. We tread on the skeletons of thousands of generations that have lived and died that we might live. The very heart of the earth itself is the wreck of ages and the buried life of former generations. All nature dies and lives again, and each new development is a higher and larger life built on the ruins of the former. A grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die, or else be a shrivelled seed, but as it dies it lives and multiplies and grows into the beautiful spring, the golden autumn and the multiplied sheaves.

And so it is in the higher world as you rise from the natural to the spiritual. Everything that is selfish is limited by its selfishness. The river that ceases to run becomes a stagnant pool, but as it flows it grows fresher, richer, fuller.

If you turn your natural eye upon yourself, you cannot see anything. It is as you look out that the vision of the world bursts upon you. The very law of life is love, caring for others by giving away and letting go. It is self-destruction to be selfish.

The law of sacrifice is the law of God. God, who lived in supreme self-sufficiency as the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, gave Himself. God’s glory was in giving Himself, and so He gave Himself in creation, in the beauty of the universe, so formed that every possible sort of happiness could come according to a natural law.

God gave Himself in Jesus Christ. “God so loved the world that He gave.” He gave His best, gave His all, gave His only begotten Son. The law of God is sacrifice. He so loved that He gave. It is the law of Christ Himself. He came through God’s sacrifice, and He came to sacrifice. He laid His honors down, left the society of heaven for a generation, and lived with creatures farther beneath Him than the groveling worm is beneath man. He made Himself one of us, and became a brother of this fallen race. Christ was always yielding and letting go, always holding back His power and not using it. He was always being subject to the will of the men beneath Him, until at last they nailed Him to the cross. His whole life was a continual refusing of Himself, carrying our burdens and sharing our sorrows. And so sacrifice is the law of Christ, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.” The law of Christ is the bearing of others’ burdens, the sharing of others’ griefs, sacrificing yourself for another.

It is the law of Christianity. It is the law of the saint. It is the only way to be saved. From the beginning it has always been so. It was so on Mount Moriah, where Abraham, the father of the faithful, gave up his only child, the child of promise. All along the way was marked by blood and sacrifice.

Not only did Abraham give up Isaac, but Isaac gave up his life, and all through his life he laid himself down for others. We know how Jacob served for his wife, and then did not get the one of his choice. His was a suffering life, a passive life, a patient life.

And so Joseph died to his circumstances. Because he was to rise so high he must go down as low; down not only into banishment, but into shameful imprisonment and almost into death. When Joseph was out of sight, and all God’s promises concerning him seemed lost, and his prospects seemed hopeless, then God picked him up and set him on the world’s throne.

Moses had to be a fugitive. Moses had to try and then fail, and for forty years God had to teach him and train him; and when at last Moses was out of sight, God gave him his desire. At the very last moment, Moses had to let go the prospect of entering the Promised Land.

The Master’s last message to Peter was, “When thou wast young thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands and another shalt gird thee, and carry whither thou wouldest not. This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” And Jesus sent him to a life of crucifixion, to be yielded, submissive, surrendered and led about by others against his natural choice, till at last he should be crucified with downward head upon his Master’s cross.

It is so easy to talk about this. The longer I live, the longer I know myself and friends, the more thoroughly I am satisfied that this is the great secret of failure in our Christian life. We go a little way with Jesus, but we stop at Gethsemane and Calvary. They followed Him in His ministry in Galilee. The Sermon on the Mount was splendid morality. They loved the feeding of the five thousand, and said, “What a blessed King He would be!” They would not have to work as they used to do. But when He talked about Calvary and the cross, for them as well as for Him, and how they must go with Him all the way, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can bear it?” And a few days after you could count them on your fingers. They were not willing to go to the cross.

I am sure this is where multitudes have stopped short. They have said “yes” to self and “no” to God, instead of “no” to self and “yes” to God. Oh, it is so much easier to talk than to live! A writer has said that there are three baptisms to be baptized with. First, the baptism of repentance, when we turn from sin to God. Second, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, when we receive the Holy Spirit to live in us. Third, the baptism into death, after the Holy Spirit comes in. The Holy Spirit makes your heart His home, and then you have to go with Christ into His own dying. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” And so He said about Himself, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished.” He was going out into deeper death, and His heart was all pent up with it, until He went down into Gethsemane, down to Joseph’s tomb, down into Hades and passed through the regions of the dead and opened first the gates of heaven. That is what Jesus saw before Him after He was baptized on the banks of the Jordan.

Oh ye, who have received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, it is you who have to go down into His death. I know that in a sense we take all that by faith when we consecrate ourselves to Christ, and we count it all real, and God counts it all real too; but now we have to go through it step by step. I know God treats us as though it was accomplished and we were sitting yonder on the throne. But we must go through the narrow passage and the secret place of the stairs. There must be no trifling here. You may count it all done by faith, but step by step it must be written on the records of your heart.

Now, what does all this mean in our practical life? First, it is dying to self-will. After you consecrate yourself to God, then will come the tug of war, and tomorrow morning you will have the battle of your life. Just because you have given up your will the devil will want you to take it back. He will try to show you how unreasonable it is, how right it is that you should have your way. It will be a life-or-death struggle, perhaps, for days. Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days. The devil tried to have Him choose His own way, but He stood the test. He let His own will go. “I came not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.”

God could make Him a leader because He had been led. No man can govern until he has been governed. If God is going to make anything of you, you must let your will go into His hands. You will find a good many tests after the first surrender, but these are just opportunities for allowing the work to be done.

Then comes self-indulgence, doing a thing because you like to do it. No man has a right to do a thing because he enjoys it. I have no right to take my dinner merely because I like it. This makes me a beast. I take it because it nourishes me. Doing things because they please you, seeking your own interest, is wrong. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” We have no divine warrant to seek ourselves in anything. Seek God, and God will seek your good. Take care of the things of God and He will take care of you. “Look not any man on his own things, but every
man also on the things of others.”

Again, there is self-complacency, dwelling on the work that you have done. How easy, after performing some service or gaining some victory, to think, “How good!” How quickly this runs into vainglory! How many are more interested in what people think and say of them than of what they are themselves!

In the work of God there is nothing we need so much to guard against as vanity. The seraphim covered their faces with their wings; they covered their feet with their wings. They covered their faces because they did not want to see their beauty, and their feet because they did not want to see their service, nor did they wish that any one else should see them. They used only two to fly. Take care how you put temptation in another’s way. It is all right to encourage workers with a “God bless you.” But don’t praise. God does not say, How beautiful! how eloquent! how lovely! how splendid! That is putting on a human head the crown that belongs to Jesus. We have no more right to take Christ’s honors here than we have to sit on His throne and let angels worship us. We have to be careful when God uses us to bless human souls.

Philip, as soon as he led the eunuch to Jesus, got out of the eunuch’s way. There are subtle spells that come between man and man, and between woman and woman, and between man and woman. They seem sweet and right, but you need much of the Holy Ghost to keep your spirit pure. I am not talking here of sinful love. Surely, it is not needful to speak of that. I am thinking of a far more subtle and refined spell, which is at once dishonoring to God and dangerous to you. God keep us from every service, and every friendship, and every thought that is not in the Holy Ghost and not to the honor of Jesus alone.

Then there is self-confidence, that which feels its strength, spiritual or mental self-righteousness, power to be good or do good. We must lay all that aside and realize our utter nothingness. There is the self-life of sensitiveness, susceptibility to be wounded. There is selfish affection, wanting people to love you because you like to be loved. Divine love loves that it may bless and do good. You ought to love others, not because it pleases you but because it blesses them. Paul could say, “I am glad to spend and be spent for your sakes; notwithstanding the more earnestly I love you, the less I be loved.” He does not say I will help you as long as you love your tears. You are weeping because you say I will help you as long as you love me. No, I gladly spend my last drop of blood to bless you at any cost, even when I know you do not appreciate me the least bit. That is what is the matter with you. People hurt you; they do not appreciate you. Well, spend and be spent all the more when you are the less loved.

Time would fail to tell of selfish desires, covetousness, selfish motives, selfish possessions, our property, our children, and they give us loads of trouble, and care, and worry, just because we insist on owning them. There are selfish sorrows. There is nothing more selfish than the tears we often shed. When God saw Israel weeping, He was angry, and said, “You have polluted My altar with your tears.” You are weeping because you have not better bread. You are weeping because something else is dearer to you than God. You are weeping because you are not pleased or gratified.

Even our sacrifices and self-denials may be selfish. Yes, our sanctifications may be selfish. A sarcastic friend of mine used to say when he heard people testifying about their sinlessness, “Poor old soul, she committed the greatest sin of her life, she foretold the biggest lie.” Self can get up and pray, and sit down and say, “What a lovely prayer!” Self can preach a sermon and save souls and go home, pat itself on the back and say, or let the devil say through him, “You did it splendidly; what a useful man you are!” Self can be burned to death and be proud of its fortitude. Yes, we can have religious selfishness as well as carnal selfishness.

How can we get rid of this? Well, above everything else, we must see the reality of the thing, we must see its danger, we must see that it is sin. We must look at it frankly and choose that it shall go. The worst is that it deceives us. It says, “How that fits somebody else, not me.” God means you. Pass sentence of death upon it, or else it will pass sentence on you. You may keep it as long as you like. It is like the lovely little serpent with little spots on it like jewels. Ah, at the last, how it stings!

May God show us everything in us that will not stand the searching flames. Above everything, do not let us have a larger Gospel than we have a life. Having passed sentence of death upon ourselves, then let us take Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to do the work. Don’t try to fight it yourself. And then, when the test time comes, and God leads you out to meet it, BE TRUE. The test will come, but when the battle comes do not defend yourself, but say, “Lord let me die.” Perhaps some one will try to provoke you. Perhaps some one will try to praise you. Just say again, “Lord, let me die.” The Holy Spirit is able to take everything we dare to give, and give everything we dare to take. Shall we dare to take Him for the death of our subtlest foe, and truly pray:

O Jesus, slay the self in me
By Thy consuming breath;
Show me Thy heart, Thy wounds,
Thy shame, And love my soul to death.
When the Shekinah flame came down,
E’en Moses could not stay;
So let Thy glory fill my heart,
And self for ever slay.”