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You may think this is just another article about pushing harder, enduring more, and sacrificing more; and in a way you would be right. But that is not the whole picture. In fact, if that is all you can see, then you have the wrong picture and you are thinking like the Pharisees who were trying to reach God in their own strength. This article is about spiritual sacrifice, not physical sacrifices, although they are connected.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 talks about how seemingly great acts of faith and sacrifice amount to nothing if we do not have love. Love is the spiritual motivation which sanctifies our human efforts to please God. Without love, it seems, we cannot please God.

In 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul goes on to say, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things".

What is he talking about?

Here is a man who was "a Pharisee of the Pharisees", almost perfect in how he followed the Jewish law. But he now considers that childish. He is saying that it is our motivation that really counts with God now, and not so much what we do. (Matthew 12:7)

When we first became Jesus Christians, we were spiritual children and we thought like children. We thought that forsaking all was the ultimate proof that someone was a Christian, but we now realise that this is not entirely correct. Forsaking all, physically, is a necessary stage of spiritual growth, but it is only a stage. The real key to spiritual growth is, as you would expect, something more spiritual. It is forsaking yourself. As you let go of your self image, pride and desire for attention, and focus on loving others, it becomes clear that this is the real battle ground for Christians. It is a spiritual battle to overcome our human nature, so that we can take on God's supernatural nature of love and sacrifice.

Once we have forsaken all physically, and are busily doing "good works", it is easy to get complacent and forget where the real battle is to be fought. It is great that people are getting out and achieving significant things for God. It's important; but remember that when you die, it is your spiritual condition that will really count, not so much the physical things you did. Outreach is telling people about the kingdom of heaven, but overcoming your human nature and being responsible for your own spirit, in order to love others, is the kingdom of heaven.

Revelation 2:4 says, "Remember your first love". What God is talking about here is getting back to the radical spirit of fanatical sacrifice that motivated us when we first forsook all. But don't merely apply it to forsaking physical things. Apply it to the vastly more important, eternally significant problems in your own spirit.

It seems that some people are able to get through the physical forsake all okay, but are not willing (or able) to forsake whatever spiritual baggage they have been carrying from their past life. So they are not able to move forward spiritually. Going through the motions of following Jesus may be convincing for some time, but eventually it will become clear to the rest of us that you have lost your love and if you don't have love, then everything you do will, as Paul says, "come to nothing".

Getting back to what I wrote earlier, this article is about trying harder, pushing further and sacrificing more, but it is about doing these things in spiritual areas, not necessarily in "the works of the flesh" (e.g. putting more hours in on the street). Often when we think of working harder we only picture physical work. However, we must work hard spiritually as well, and quite often, to get more work done spiritually, we must reduce the amount of physical work we do, so that we will have the time and energy to deal with spiritual problems and issues. Short-cutting in this area will only result in getting you into a deeper and deeper spiritual crisis. Don't fall for the lie that doing more physically will solve your spiritual problems. Spiritual problems call for spiritual solutions.

The devil is very clever at creating diversions to distract us from the real battles. He tries to make us run from illusionary monsters and demons instead of facing our real problems of pride, greed and fear. He tempts us to put our energies into looking good instead of just using our time and strength to love others. He uses fear and pride to get us to hide ourselves when God wants us to trust him like little children and be totally transparent... to him, to ourselves and to our spiritual family.

Our weapon against the Devil in these areas is to keep forsaking all, but to do it at a deeper spiritual level.

John the Baptist said, "I must decrease, so that he can increase". (John 3:30) I believe this statement was something like a parable about the flesh and the spirit. Our flesh must decrease to allow God's spirit to increase. We all have problems with our flesh in one way or another, but the problems which involve the "fleshy" part of our minds seem to be the most significant, and they are what we need to target most.

We need to start taking risks, like we did when we first forsook all. Jump off that spiritual high-diving board and throw ourselves into God's mercy. Don't live in fear. Live in faith. Have the courage to make those fanatical sacrifices in areas like pride and dishonesty, so that you can be finally broken on his rock and continue to be fashioned into a new creation by God's spirit.

What have you got to lose... except your soul?!

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