Chapter 45 Self-Sacrifice In The Cross

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 (1 John 3:16).

Self-sacrifice is the pouring out of life on behalf of others. This is the high point of taking up our cross and following our Lord. There is no compulsion in the things of God. God never compels. The things of the Spirit are voluntary, else they have no value. We read that the Romans “laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus” (Luke 23:26). The cross-bearing of true discipleship is not so. It is born of love, and it is taken up voluntarily. It must be pure delight—an expression of gratitude for His redeeming love.

Our Lord’s love was very practical. It came down to where we were and met our deepest need. And this is what we are to do in relation to others. So, after telling us what our Lord did, John tells us that we should do the same. He also suggests what that may imply. “Whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17)

The implication is that when we see persons in need we are to alleviate that need. We are to give food to the hungry and shelter to the homeless. We are to befriend the friendless, care for the aged, visit the sick, extend help to the deformed and the retarded. Love has an open hand, and that hand of help must be open if we are to follow the Lord.

The liberality of God is easily seen in the lesser realm of our physical need. How lovingly and abundantly God has provided—and that for a race most undeserving. He wills, and crops abound. He speaks, and garners overflow. God’s provision is an inexhaustible feast. It feeds the hungry and never fails.

But God’s supreme example of giving is in the cross. When God gave His beloved Son, He gave all. Had He given all the angels in Heaven, it would have been a mighty spectacular, but would have been as dross compared to the giving of His Son. God gave His Son—not some animal, man, or angel. Moreover, He gave His Son to die the shameful death of the cross, and He gave His Son for rebellious, degenerate, and ruined man. Because of this magnanimous giving the beloved Son became our Surety and our Saviour, and through His sacrifice we are redeemed and saved with an eternal security.

We have no part in that redeeming act of God but, receiving the life of God into our souls through faith in His Son, the kindness of God becomes the chief characteristic of the life of the child of God. His children give and give and give. Their joy in salvation expresses itself in gratitude, and gratitude expresses itself in giving to those who are needy, though undeserving. These good works are the surest proof of faith. An empty hand proclaims a graceless heart. No true believer can see others perish through neglect. Christian life is a constant pouring out of self on behalf of others.

It is possible, of course, to give money, food, time, and much more, yet not give yourself. These things are not substitutes for the giving of oneself. On the other hand, you can give money, food, time, and much more as a genuine expression of self-giving. You can give yourself in your gifts.

This is what the cross meant to our Lord and Saviour. He gave Himself. He poured out His life for us. He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. How great was His love! How dear we must be to His heart! He, who is the precious-ness of Heaven, descended to serve the worst.

What can we render unto the Lord for all His benefits? We must give ourselves—our souls, our bodies, our every faculty and gift, our influence, our means, our morning, our midday, our evening hours, to be a free-will sacrifice. Our whole life must be one clear blaze of flaming love and ever-brightening service to others. This is what taking up the cross means to us. It was so with our Lord. “He humbled Himself.” He emptied Himself. We must do the same. He has left us that example in the cross.

More and more, giving should be the motto of our lives. Higher and higher should be our heavenward flight. Deeper and deeper should be the stream of love. Wider and wider should be the fruit of that service. All this, not to gain salvation, but as an expression of our gratitude for salvation, and as an exhibition of the kindness and goodness of the life of Christ within us.

What grace, O Lord, and beauty shone
Around Thy steps below!
What patient love was seen in all
Thy life and death of woe!

Oh, give us hearts to love like Thee—
Like Thee, O Lord, to grieve
Far more for others’ sins than all
The wrongs that we receive.

One with Thyself, may every eye
In us, Thy brethren, see
That gentleness and grace that spring
From union, Lord, with Thee.

Edward Denny