"Therefore doth my Father love me because I lay down my life, that I might take it again." (John 10:17)
Jesus chose His own death as an exchange for my life. Anything less would have been insufficient payment. But this verse burrows even deeper into this blessed truth. Jesus told those in his listening audience that day that His willingness to lay down His life kindled love in the heart of God. (I'm out of my depth here.) There is something about a sacrificed life that serves to appease (and I'll say it) impress God Almighty. We have only to think of all the animals laid on altars of sacrifice for the sin of Israel to know this is true.
Laying down one's life doesn't always mean the same thing. Obviously, to suffer physical death for the cause of Christ is a clear and apparent way. But you will recall, Paul said of himself, "I die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31). So, it is possible to lay down your life without actually ceasing to live. Life is made up of time, and the time we relinquish to God and His Kingdom is the measure of how much of our lives we are willing to lay down. Our time of active service may vary, even diminish, depending upon our circumstances; but our willingness to be called up for active duty at any given moment will remain as constant as our love for God remains.
We will miss another great truth, however, if we overlook the last six words of the verse. "...I lay down my life, that I might take it again." Don't mistake a sacrificial life—a "laid-down" life, if you will—for a dead one. On the contrary; it's resurrection life!