In my last study I shared about a concern I used to have. I used to think that God would ask me to sacrifice all of the good things that I love. From the example of the scriptures I felt that there were three things that God asks people to sacrifice.
- Their sins. Such as when Jesus told the woman taken in adultery to “go and sin no more.”
- Their pleasures. Such as when Jesus told the rich ruler to sell his possessions and give to the poor.
- Their loves. Such as when Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac.
I was always at peace with the first two. I was excited to sacrifice my sins, and while I may not have been so “excited” to give up my worldly luxuries, I was resolved to the importance of it.
But when it came to that third, giving up the things that were good in my life, I felt a strong resistance. It frankly seemed wrong to me. God has since worked with me and helped to resolve my spiritual confusion. I now understand what things He asks us to sacrifice, what things He asks us to consecrate, and what the differences between them are.
Genesis 14:18-20, 22:10-13
And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
And he gave him tithes of all
Lay not thine hand upon the lad…for now I know that thou fearest God
We commonly say that God required Abraham to sacrifice his son, but that is not true. What God required was for Abraham to be willing to sacrifice his son. It might seem a subtle distinction, but I believe it is significant.
- In the end, Abraham did sacrifice his tithes to Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God. Nothing was held back.
- In the end, Abraham did not sacrifice his son. He was held back from actually following through.
Now I don’t mean to discount the mental anguish that Abraham must have faced just by preparing to sacrifice his son. It surely was immense. Even so, it would seem that Abraham was able to recover from it. His life went on, and he continued faithful to the Lord.
I believe that much of the fear I have had in regards to sacrifice is that I don’t want God to break me by mistake. We have all manner of people who ask things of us: parents, teachers, friends, spouses; and even the ones that mean well sometimes ask more than they know, sometimes they hurt us in ways that they shouldn’t.
When we see this failing in those around us it can be easy to project the same fear onto God. What if he asks more of us than He should and accidentally damages us in irreparable ways? It is a misplaced fear, though, for He knows our own limits better than even we do! He knows what He should ask of us, and He knows what He should not. He will test us and He will bend us, but through it all He will maintain utmost respect for our tender hearts.
Genesis 17:7, 18:19; Matthew 16:25
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord
God viewed the children of Abraham as set apart. God made a special covenant with them, and He expected Abraham to raise them in a particular manner. These covenant children were to be taught to follow the Lord, to maintain covenant marriages, and to be circumcised. The Bible carefully notes that Abraham faithfully adhered to each of these details with his own son. Even though Abraham did not end up sacrificing Isaac, by this obedience he consecrated Isaac to God.
Consecrated means to set apart for a holy purpose.
And if Abraham hadn’t consecrated Isaac to the Lord, then he would have lost his promise and eventually his son. Sooner or later death would have separated them and they would have no assurances in the afterlife. That is the way of the world. Each of us is given family relationships, but without some divine intervention all of them would be taken away by the grave.
The promise of heaven, though, is that we can forever dwell with those we love. The power of the grave is therefore defeated in the resurrection…but only if we are willing to turn ourselves and those we love over to the Lord.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
This, I believe, is the central lesson that the Lord was teaching Abraham when he asked him to sacrifice Isaac. Because Abraham did not try to withhold Isaac from God, God would preserve Isaac and return him to his father. Not just in that one moment, but in eternity.
I am a father myself, and right now my wife and I are the most important people in my young son’s life. I want to be with my son forever, though, and that means I need to raise him so that he will move from my embrace and into God’s. It will hurt when he matures and comes to rely upon God more than me, but that is how it has to be.
If we love something, our natural tendency is to keep it for ourselves. But if we do this we will literally love it to death, and then we will have it no more. We have to surrender that which we love to God. When we do, it is not lost, it is found in the hands of the only one who can preserve it to us forever.
Acts 9:1-2, 19-22
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests
But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord
But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ
Saul was a very committed, very motivated man. He seems to have been a being of great power and capability, and one that struck fear into the hearts of the saints. Indeed he had a gift, but he put it to a terrible use.
When Saul was converted, two changes occurred in him, and I think it is important to note the difference between those changes.
First, he no longer breathed out “threatening and slaughter.” Indeed, some of the most beautiful messages of love and peace come from the epistles he later wrote.
- 1 Corinthians 13:2- If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
- 1 Corinthians 13:13- And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
It would seem that Paul sacrificed, or forever gave up, all of his hate and violence. He did not, however, become some meek simpleton. He was still just as committed, motivated, and powerful. Therefore it would not be appropriate to say that he “sacrificed” his gifts and talents. What he did do, though, was channel them to a new purpose. He consecrated, or set apart, these skills for the building up of God’s kingdom.
Coming to God entails sacrifice and consecration. Our evil parts are given away, but the good parts are repurposed for something higher.
Isaiah 1:11, 1 Samuel 15:22, 3 Nephi 9:19-20
To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? I delight not in the blood of bullocks
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams
And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
Sacrifice is important. When we are laden with sins the only proper action is to sacrifice them, to give them up forever. When we have vain desires and idle habits, these too need to be sacrificed. Sacrifice is how we remove all of our distractions to make way for the work of God.
But after we have done this we come to a higher form of offering, one that evidently gives God even greater pleasure than sacrifice. This is consecration, the act of spending our hearts, spirits, and actions in the service of God.
Sacrifice is, necessarily, a dead offering. By this process something is destroyed or made inactive, something worldly that has kept us from being in alignment with God. Consecration, on the other hand, is a living offering. By it we create something or perform some action, something that is in harmony with God.
2 Nephi 9:39, 3 Nephi 27:7
But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name that he will bless the church for my sake.
Ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee
Therefore, whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name
Another way to understand consecration is that it is still your performance, but it is being rendered in the name of Christ. Examples of this would be giving a sermon in church, donating to a charity, or being a friend to someone in need. We do these things, and then we give God the glory for them, attesting that they were performed for the purpose of building up His name, and not our own.
That act of ascribing these works to God is what “sets them apart” from other good works that one might do. The question naturally arises: “Does God actually deserve the credit for what I did? Am I being falsely modest by ascribing it to His name?”
It’s an understandable query, but the answer to it is “no.” Once we recognize that God is the one behind our every good act, then giving Him the credit for them is only natural. Quite simply, no one does any good without the idea and desire for it having first been put in them by God, regardless of whether they realized it at the time or not.
Or as Jesus, himself, said: “Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God…the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.”
So let us do good actions, and let us be pleased with ourselves for so doing! But also let us remember to give to God the credit that He is rightfully due.
I shared at the end of my last study series about a fear I once had. This fear was that if I really tried to follow God, sooner or later He was going to ask me to sacrifice my creativity. He was going to point to all those silly, little stories that I loved to write and say “Enough of that childish stuff, you need to dedicate yourself to some real work now.”
That was a hard thing to face, because I had always considered my creativity to be an essential part of me. Surrendering it would feel like denying a core of who I am. As I spoke with God about these fears, He assured me that He had no intentions to make me sacrifice my creativity. In fact He pointed out that He is an extremely creative being Himself, and that I feel these creative longings because I am His son.
And then He did a most beautiful thing. He asked if I would allow Him to help me with my creativity. He asked if I would be willing to make a joint effort on the stories I write, one where I use my passion to communicate His messages. After all, why can’t a writer ask God’s advice on where a plot should go, or what a story’s theme should be?
So God didn’t take my stories away from me…but He did change them. And I have not sacrificed my creativity…but I have consecrated it.
And ever since that moment my writing has had so much more purpose, and my stories are full of so much more heart. When I write, I feel so much more enriched and complete. I feel that I am doing what I love, and that in so doing I am giving glory to God.
I had very personal reasons to do this particular research. Which makes sense, this is a personal blog. But even if my situation was different from yours, I do believe that the principles we have discussed are generally useful.
The differences between sacrifice and consecration are an excellent example of how the gospel is both wonderfully simple and delightfully complex at the same time. To satisfy both laws all one has to do is give to God whatever their conscience moves them to give. One’s duty is not any more complex than that.
But behind that simplicity there are systems and reasons. Behind the “what” we are supposed to do there is always the “why” we are supposed to do it. I am grateful for a God who recognizes that we will be naturally curious, and takes the time to explain things to us. My faith is reaffirmed whenever I go to the scriptures, and there discover that He already wrote the answers before I even conceived of the questions.
We Sacrifice Our Obstacles
Jesus might have done away with animal sacrifice, but that does not mean that sacrifice itself was done away with. That law is still in full force. The only difference is that instead of giving up our animals, we give up whatever things obstruct us from fully following God.
Most obviously this means our sins. We sacrifice anything that he has declared unworthy, anything that makes us feel guilty. We also sacrifice our excesses. For example, there is nothing wrong in entertainment and media…though we need to keep these indulgences within moderation.
This is not all, though. At times our conscience will prompt us to perform other sacrifices, too, even of things that are not inherently evil. I once had a dream to become an artist. I tried my hand at it and found it did not provide me the joy and fulfillment that I had hoped for. Artistry is a very right thing for some people, but after some soul searching I concluded that it was not right for me. I let that dream go.
3 Nephi 9:19-20- And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
We Consecrate Our Talents
There are things that we do not need to sacrifice, but that we do still need to offer to God. These offerings are called “consecration.” It means that we will set apart this thing for His work and His glory. This fundamentally alters the thing that we offer, but it does not destroy it.
Our talents are an example of something that we consecrate. Each of us has unique abilities and skills, and we are meant to use them for building up God’s kingdom. He does not ask us to give up the things that we were born to do, but He does ask us to do them in the way that He intended.
For myself, I have decided to consecrate my writing to God. Any novel that I intend to publish will purposefully be written with His messages at its core. It will be designed as a tool for promoting His kingdom and helping His children. But this is just the right choice for me and it might not be the right one for you, even if you are a writer. It is a personal thing that you have to work out with God.
2 Nephi 9:39- But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
Consecration Preserves Forever
In the end our talents die with us. That which we perform on Earth, one day we will perform no more. And if we used our talents to obtain worldly wealth or glory, then all those will be lost when we pass on.
But if instead we used our talents to give a goodness to the world, that good will persist after we are gone. And if we used our talents to give glory to God, that glory will yet remain with Him because He is undying.
And God has declared that it is His intention to share His glory with us, and so that glory which we gave to Him will be returned to us in the hereafter. It would seem that karma does not end in the grave.
The more we understand consecration, the more we will want to commit our lives to it. In fact the idea is that we commit our whole selves to God, which then allows Him to restore us back in full measure. Each of us will live again, but only those who consecrate will have their heart waiting for them on the other side.
Matthew 16:25- For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.