Saturday, 27 December 2008

Book Review: Living Sacrifice by Dr. Helen Roseveare

One sentence blurb by Noel Piper (the wife of John Piper whom I find helpful time and again through his writings and sermons), "Each time I read one of her accounts, I want to be like her, I want to know God as she does." undeniably helped in making my decision to purchase this book, Living Sacrifice by Dr. Helen Roseveare. I expected that I would learn a bit about "living sacrifice" by reading this book, and I would benefit from it. No surprise there. But I honestly did not expect the book to be so piercing and relevant. When I started reading the book, I started sensing my heart wrenching. The stories and the message Dr. Roseveare was delivering in the book were more challenging and confronting than I had been faced by any other authors I read recently. Sure, it probably has something to do with my current circumstances and my late discontentment too, but again, I cannot deny it was God's doing that I had read this book just so recently during my attempt at hiding from God because of building resentment toward Him and even some other people.

Dr. Helen Roseveare first draws the reader's attention, in prologue, to the fact that we can never talk about sacrifice before we first consider Jesus' sacrifice, the ultimate, once-for-all, complete, perfect sacrifice. Then through four chapters, drawn from the famous command of Jesus, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30)", she tells us what it is like to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind, and strength, through her own experiences, often her failures and learned lessons. She often tells of seemingly small things she learned to sacrifice for God, and yet, those small things were in fact showing what was in her heart as clearly as when bigger things were at stake, if not clearer, and those stories challenged and pierced me deeply.

In the epilogue, she summarises the lessons she learned and concludes that she had none of her own rights to claim before God, and she could not in clear conscience demand anything from Him.

Rather than me talking more about the book, let me just present you a section from the epilogue, which convicted me greatly. I hope you find it helpful and challenging that leads to transformation of your attitude, world-view, and life. (Excuse the long quote.)

Some today, in an apparent attempt at greater honesty, would substitute the word "obedience" for the word "sacrifice," saying that there is no sacrifice that we can make; and the only way we can show our love is by our obedience.
"He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me" (John 14:21; see also verses 15 and 23).
How much we should lose of challenge by such a change! Obedience tends to be a cold, legal word of calculated action: sacrifice throbs with life and passion. Certainly the one will inevitably involve the other. Sacrifice can only be worked out by obedience, but obedience will need sacrifice to give it fire and momentum.
Today it would appear that we Christians prefer to talk of a measure of commitment, the length to which we are willing to become involved, rather than the depths of God's immeasurable love in which we long to become immersed. There is abroad an atmosphere of careful calculation, "thus far and no further," maintaining certain reasonable limits. The carefree abandonment of love that marks the sacrifices of Paul, of second-century Christians, of nineteenth-century missionaries, seems sadly lacking. Today we weigh up what we can afford to give Him: in those days, they knew that they could not afford to give Him less than all!
Oh, that we Christians today might be set ablaze with love for our Lord andn Master so that we too must give Him all, as did the poor widow, who coming to the treasury "put in tow small copper coins, which amount to a cent" - she of who Jesus said to His disciples: "This poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on" (Mark 12:41-44)
What do I today consider to be my most precious possession? The woman in the home of Lazarus had a long-necked flask of pure ointment, worth a workman's annual wage. To her, it was precious. She broke the flask, and anointed the head of Jesus with the ointment, and the fragrance filled the whole house. She gave what she prized, and He accepted it as a love gift, calling her action a beautiful thing (Mark 14:3-9).
Ointment would not be very precious to me, whatever it cost. But at the present time, when the great stress is on human rights, how many of us have got caught up in the language and attitude of our day, so that our "rights" really are the most precious thing we possess? My right to be heard, to voice my opinion, to be consulted; my right to make my own choices and decisions as to what I'll do and where I'll do it; my right to be myself, and to be considered as a human being. Can there be anything wrong with such attitude?
(A little break for you to ponder and meditate while you give your eyes a bit of rest away from the screen.

Now, ready for the last paragraph?)

There is nothing wrong with an appreciation of individual human rights, but perhaps God is asking us to be willing to have a different attitude with regard to ourselves.
"'My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isa. 55:8-9)
"I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Rom 12:1)

I recommend Living Sacrifice by Dr. Helen Roseveare to all my brothers and sisters in Christ. You can get it from Koorong or Amazon.

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