Sheryl and I just returned from Chattanooga, TN, where it was freezing (literally), so I’ll get to the hot part of this post in a minute. I presented the oikos principle to 250 youth pastors at a training conference for the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists are a pretty tight-knit group, so I was truly honored to be included in the conference. The response was typically enthusiastic. That’s the beauty of the oikos principle—even if I butcher the presentation, the idea itself is such a slam-dunk, people assume I must have done a great job! We made hundreds of new connections with leaders from all over the Southeast.
I also had the chance to speak to the Hope Fellowship church family in Smyrna, TN, on Sunday. What a great church! Jared, the youth pastor at Hope was working with a small group of students until last year, when he discovered the oikos principle. He began to teach the principle and encourage the few students who attended to apply it in their lives. By year’s end, he’d baptized 55 other students who’d given their hearts to Jesus. Jared took the initiative to spearhead an oikos booth at the Convention Center in Chattanooga—his team had a blast sharing the idea with other youth pastors.
A huge shout out of gratitude to Senior Pastor Kent Shingleton and his amazing family—also to our friend Ray Fairchild, who’s been working to get us a shot down there for years. And a big thanks to those of you who were aware of the trip and prayed for us.
Every part of the Bible is important. You’ll never get an argument from me about that. But certain passages seem to resonate with us more often than others, probably because they deal with areas of our lives that can be so jacked up. One of those passages, for me, is Romans 12. For the next few posts, I’m thinking about cherry-picking a few ideas out of the first two verses. I’m not sure you’ll be as geeked up as I am about them, but you’d be hard pressed to find a richer series of word studies anywhere in the New Testament.
All right, now to the hot part. So, this guy from Illinois left the snow-filled streets of Chicago for a vacation in Florida. His wife was on a business trip and was planning to meet him there the next day. When he reached his hotel, he decided to send his wife a quick email. Unable to find her new email address, he did his best to type it in from memory. Unfortunately, he missed one letter and his note was directed instead to an elderly preacher's wife, whose husband had passed away only days before.
When the grieving widow checked her email, she took one look at the monitor, let out a piercing scream, and passed out on the floor. Her family rushed into the room and looked at the computer screen.
Dearest Wife—Just got checked in. Everything is prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Always, Your eternally loving husband
P.S. Sure is hot down here.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. —Romans 12:1
Maybe you missed it, but that’s funny, right there! A living sacrifice? Not in the Temple, that’s for sure. The Jewish priest would always kill the animal before placing it on the Temple altar. You know why, right? When they turned up the heat, any animal who’s still breathing would have jump off the altar and taken off in full sprint for the nearest door. Those poor guys would have been chasing sheep and goats all over the Temple! Poor worship environment.
So here, Paul (I’m pretty sure with a Holy Spirit-inspired smirk on his face) says we’re kind of like living sacrifices. That’s because we volunteered for this. We had the choice to walk away, but decided we’d be ahead in the long run if we just climbed up there. Okay, sometimes it gets a little hot up there and we jump off for a while. But, after the pity party, we always have the chance to climb right back on again.
Sacrifice is defined in the dictionary as "a loss incurred in selling something below its value for the sake of getting rid of it; the surrender of some object or possession to a deity." Even Jesus followers can be slow to embrace the idea of sacrifice because we’ve been acculturated with the idea that sacrificing something requires giving up something of greater value to somehow settle for something of lesser value. The main reason that people choose to not become a Christian is because, for some reason, they think they’ll have to give up too much, that Jesus wouldn’t give them enough back to make up for their loss.
Even suggesting that Jesus is a taker more than a giver is about as crazy as the thought of a group of stately Jewish priests trying to run down a herd of terrified sheep in their Temple! In Jesus’ economy, sacrifice isn’t even sacrifice—it’s investment. In our faith walk with Jesus, whenever we give up whatever we give up, we can always expect a greater return than the investment we tendered. A whole lot greater.