I love the teaching found near the end of Hebrews 13, beginning in verse 15. “Through him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” The “Through Him’ refers to Jesus who had sanctified us with his own blood. So through Jesus we are to make our sacrifices as well. Obviously this starts with our presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to God as described in Romans 12:1-2.
Normally when we think of sacrifice we think of something we must give up, a price to be paid or something that requires a huge effort on our part. It might be a sacrifice of our time, money or effort but it will surely be costly on our part. But, when we read the challenge of the Hebrew writer it is to offer a sacrifice of praise to God. Probably, our first response would be “well how do we do that?” But he leaves us no room to raise such a question because he launched immediately into telling us what he means. “That is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to his name.” There are several ways we can use our lips to offer praise to God and to give thanks to his name. We can certainly sing his praises. When Paul told both the churches at Ephesus and Colossi to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to one another and to make music in their hearts to the Lord it involved the sacrifice of praise in song. While neither of these verses are found in a context discussing our times of gathering as the church for worship, they certainly apply to that time as well as tons of other times when we can sing praise and thanksgiving to God, thus offering the sacrifice of praise to him.
But we also offer such a sacrifice in prayer to the Lord. As we pray, at least one major aspect of the prayers should be praise and thanksgiving to God for all the ways He has blessed us and how he continues to bless us all the time. Surely there should never be a day in our life when we don’t offer such prayer to him. Certainly there are times when we are in trouble or struggling that we need to rush past the praise and thanksgiving to simply ask for what we desperately need. But most of the time praise and thanks ought to be dominate themes in our prayer life, both privately and in public. Read some of the prayers recorded in the Psalms, in the life of Jesus as in John 17 and the prayers of Paul in almost every letter, but look especially at his prayers recorded in Ephesians 1:15-22; 3:14-21 and Philippians 1:10-13.
But never let us forget that another way of using our lips to offer praise and thanks to God is by simply talking to others in our family and friendship circle about what God has done in our own lives. It should be natural for us to say “Thank God for his grace and mercy that made it possible for even people like us to be forgiven of all our sins.” “Thank God for this beautiful weather.” “Thank God for our sweet family.” “Thank God for the church where we worship and serve the Lord along with so many wonderful friends and brothers and sisters in the Lord.” The list could simply go on and on.
But, the challenge didn’t stop with the sacrifice of praise. He went on to say that we must not neglect doing good and sharing for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. So, one form of sacrifice that God loves is praise and thanksgiving. Another is doing good and sharing. What kind of good does he mean? All kinds of good. When we do good for other people, especially in the name of the Lord it is a great sacrifice. Far too often we want to limit the kinds of good to some formula that we have devised. But the good might be making food for someone in need or it might be playing with a child, encouraging a friend or someone who is discouraged. It might be calling an elderly person to check to see how they are doing. It could be to write a card to a prisoner to tell them you are thinking of them and praying for them. Just allow your imagination to go wild in thinking of all the ways you can do good for Jesus. Let him open the doors for you and see how many opportunities you really have.
Finally, share with others as a sacrifice to Jesus. Remember him saying when you do good for one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do good to me. He listed a variety of people to whom we might share or help in some way. He mentioned the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner, the stranger, the sick but this wasn’t intended to be the whole list. It illustrates the kind of people with whom we need to share.
The next time you think about sacrifice consider the options the writer of Hebrews offers us here.