“In the Spring of 1194, during the third crusade to the Holy Land, crusader Henry of Champagne went to a mysterious castle in the rugged mountainous region of Nizari in Syria to meet with Abu Mansur, the notorious ‘Old Man of the Mountain.’ This man was the leader of the most dreaded commandoes of that era, the Assassins, who were specially trained to sneak into enemy fortresses and assassinate a king of other key leader on whom a contract had been settled. Abu Mansur welcomed Henry and entertained him with a lavish feast. At the end of the feast, to prove the unswerving loyalty of his soldiers, Abu Mansur summoned two men and commanded them to fling themselves from the ramparts of the castle. Without hesitation, these two men obeyed, and hurled themselves down to their deaths.
Now this story rightly horrifies our modern sensibilities. But the fact is that the most loving and gentle emperor in the history of the world, Jesus Christ, commands his subjects to do something vastly more difficult. Not just once, but possibly hundreds of times a day, he commands us to die to our self, to sacrifice ourselves for his glory. He summons us forward and commands us to lay down our lives, to ‘die’ before angels and demons, before friends and foes. The perfection of the Christian life is this: a constant death, what Paul calls, in a mysterious paradox, ‘a living sacrifice.’: ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.’ (Romans 12:1, ESV) This is the primary action of the godly Christian life. This is what Christ calls on all of his disciples to do every day: to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. A far greater thing he demands than anything any commander has ever asked of one of his soldiers, for it is a living death, offered countless times over the course of our lives. Other than the sacrifice of his own Son, it is the costliest thing God ever demanded of anyone, and only this pattern of life leads to heaven. All other physical obedience hangs on this first act, and it hangs continuously on it.” (Andrew Davis, An Infinite Journey, pages 293-294)