“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14) (ESV)
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me.” (Psalm 50:23) (ESV)
The words jumped off the page at me and I had to read them again:
“Sacrifice of thanksgiving.” “Glorifies me.”
As believers on this side of the cross, we tend to confine sacrifices to the Old Testament law system, from which today’s believer has now been freed. Yet the sacrifices of thanksgiving are not the bloody sacrifices carried out in the temple worship during the time of the Bible.
No, we no longer offer animal sacrifices as a means of finding favor before the Lord, for Christ took care of the sacrifice for sin once and for all on the cross: We are fully accepted in the Beloved before the Father.
While these verses were written during the Old Testament time-period, I believe they provide valuable instruction about giving tanks that that can be applied to the believer.
Observation #1: Such sacrifices are a way to worship and glorify God.
The Psalms clearly state that a thankful heart is a sacrifice that renders glory to God.
Why is the attitude of giving thanks called a “sacrifice”?
The New Testament discusses the believer’s relationship to sacrifices with specific language, for Romans 12:1 tells the believer to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (ESV)
While Christ has done away with the need for offering the sacrifices of bulls and goats, we are now called to offer up the sacrifice of our own bodies, our own living bodies.
Did you catch that? The acceptable worship that we are now called to offer to the Lord takes place with our bodies–our physical bodies.
Observation #2: Spiritual sacrifices involve our physical bodies
How then, do we offer our bodies as a sacrifice? If this is not a literal, physical, blood-shedding sacrifice, we must be called instead to offer some form of a spiritual sacrifice.
It is here that we often get stuck: the concept of spiritually yielding our physical bodies as a living sacrifice feels ambiguous and the implications of such are difficult to understand on a day-to-day basis. How does “offering up the spiritual sacrifice of my living body” impact my morning that is filled with soiled laundry, a sink filled with dirty dishes, and a fussing toddler’s oatmeal-smeared face?
I believe Hebrews 13:15-16 gives us a glimpse into how offering up our bodies–the members of our physical bodies—as a living sacrifice plays out in a very practical way: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (ESV)
All these things are very practical, concrete things that we do with the physical members of our bodies: the acknowledging His name with ourlips, the doing good (with our hands, feet, and mouth), and the sharing of our goods. These verses help us connect the spiritual with the physical and show us how we can do spiritual sacrifices with our physical bodies.
Such a connection makes the concept of offering up spiritual sacrifices that are pleasing to Him somewhat easier to grasp.
So, if our spiritual sacrifices consist of using our physical bodies, then these spiritual sacrifices are carried out with the very members of our bodies: our hands, feet, mouth, mind, and heart.
This gets very practical, does it not? We use these members of our body every minute of every day. Every day, we have opportunities to think, speak, handle things, and go places that are pleasing to God, and in turn offer up a living sacrifice pleasing to Him.
Or at those same moments, we can yield our physical members as instruments of unrighteousness and choose to think, speak, handle things, and go places that are not pleasing to God.
Observation #3: We offer up sacrifices every day
And it is here that we learn what a sacrifice of thanksgiving looks like:
How often throughout the day are we not tempted to be irritated about having to pick up the fork our toddler threw off the table for the tenth time or annoyed with that person we talked to yesterday who always seems to “have it all together”?
How often are we not tempted to have a pity party for ourselves because we haven’t had any “me” time or to text to a friend to complain about something?
How often do we tend to fail to see that choosing to be content and thankful in even the most mundane ways is in fact the very significant form of offering up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord?
Suddenly, the insignificant becomes very significant.
To offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving now becomes very clear: yield up those moments of temptation and turn them into moments of sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Lord. Instead of grumbling and complaining about the particular situation that is planting seeds of ingratitude in your heart, turn it into an opportunity to offer the specific sacrifice of thanksgiving that is pleasing to the Lord.
And in turn, we glorify Him.