A Living Sacrifice Thursday, November 23, 2017
A LIVING SACRIFICE
By, James L. Thornton
This is the time of year when we focus on the ultimate sacrifice when Jesus Christ, God's only Son, God Himself, gave Himself, for us in order that we might have life. We are going to spend time examining that sacrifice, the events that surrounded it, and the results of that sacrifice.
As we do, I want you to ask yourself this question: Jesus sacrificed everything for me in order that I might have life; what am I willing to sacrifice for Him and in order that I might worship Him and in order that I might help others to accept that sacrifice as payment for their sins?
Before you are able to answer that question, you need to understand some more about sacrifice and what it will do in your life and your world.
Our thought will center on John 19:16-42
1. Sacrifice means that you look out for the needs of others even when you are hurting.
Take a look at what Jesus was enduring at this moment in His life. John 19:23-24 Not only was He going through excruciating physical pain, but He was also enduring extreme humiliation and extreme apathy concerning His pain.
We don’t like to think of Jesus being naked on the cross, but the verses here talk about the fact that the soldiers had stripped Him even of His undergarments. It was one final act of humiliation that they could subject Him too before He was gone. Then, while He hung there on the cross, they had the gall to argue over who was going to get His clothes. They had become so calloused to the event of crucifixion that they could feel no compassion for the one who was dying.
I don’t know about you, but when I am in pain, I want other people to notice. I want other people to console me. I want to be the center of attention. Look at how Jesus reacted to His situation John 19:25-27. Instead of focusing on Himself, Jesus focused on making sure that His mother would be provided for.
Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father, was probably dead by this time. It was Jesus’ responsibility as the oldest son to take care of His mother and to meet her needs. Jesus knew that He was not going to be around to do this.
He saw His mother weeping there at the foot of the cross, and He saw one of His disciples, John, standing with her. In the middle of all the agony that He was feeling, He had compassion on His mother for the agony that she was feeling and took the opportunity to communicate to John that Mary was to now reside in his home and was to be his responsibility. In the middle of His pain, He helped to ease the pain of someone else.
For me to give you $100 when I have 100 million dollars in the bank is not a sacrifice. It is an insult. I am giving you something which costs me absolutely nothing. But for me to give you $1 when I and my family are about to starve to death, that is a sacrifice.
In 1 Kings 17. we have the record of a time when God used Elijah to bring an end to rain in the land of Israel for 3 years. This drought brought a desperate famine into the land. Once all the water had dried up, God sent Elijah to a widow in a town not far away. Elijah found the woman picking up sticks off the ground and told her to get him some water and a piece of bread.
The woman replied that the reason she was collecting sticks was to make a fire to cook the last bit of food that she and her boy had. Once they had eaten it, they were then prepared to die. Elijah was rather bold with the woman and told her to fix something to eat for him first before she and her son ate. He promised her that if she did this, their food would not run out until the drought was over.
At that moment, the woman had a decision to make. Was she going to sacrifice her last meal and the last meal of her son for this stranger who claimed to be from God? She chose to do as he said. She gave out of her need. She sacrificed the very last of her food, and for that she was rewarded just as Elijah had promised.
Most of us would probably classify ourselves as giving people. We give to our children, we give to our communities, we give to our church, and we give to others whenever we see a need. But are we sacrificial people? A sacrifice is a gift that hurts us.
David, that great king of Israel, when given the opportunity to sacrifice an offering that was given to him said, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” 2 Samuel 24:24. In order to truly worship the Lord, the offerings that you bring must be a sacrifice, not a tip.
2. Sacrifice means that you will experience dry times.
“I am thirsty,” (John 19:28-29)
The Bible records that after Jesus knew that every prophecy concerning the cross had been fulfilled and the penalty for every sin had been paid, He finally asked for something for Himself. He asked for something to drink.
His body had been hanging on the cross for hours now, and the loss of fluids from the blood that flowed from his body would have made him extremely dry, not to mention the fact that He had probably had nothing to eat or drink since the supper that He had enjoyed with His disciples in the upper room the night before.
His mouth would have been so dry at this point that it might have been difficult for Him to enunciate His words. His tongue would have been swollen and would have stuck to the roof of His mouth.
At the beginning of Jesus’ crucifixion, He had been offered something to drink, but Jesus refused it Mark 15:23. The drink that He had been offered was a mild sedative, something that would have helped to ease the pain just a little bit. Jesus wanted to be fully aware of the pain of the sacrifice that He was making. He didn’t want to cushion the blow. He wanted it to hurt so that all mankind would be able to see the extent of His love for them.
But now, near the point of his death, after He had fulfilled His mission and the sacrifice had been accepted as the payment for the sins of mankind, now He was willing to receive some refreshment.
Do you know that this generation of Christians is probably the first to think that being a Christian and being comfortable can co-exist with one another?
We have preachers that tell us that if we just give financially, then the Lord is going to pour out His blessings on us so much that all of our bills are going to be paid, and our kids are never going to get sick, and our cars will never break down, and nothing bad will ever happen in our lives.
Try telling that to Stephen as he is being stoned for proclaiming the name of Jesus.
Try telling that to the Tribulation Christians as they watch their children have their heads chopped off because they would not deny Christ.
Try telling that to Paul. Look at 2 Corinthians 11:23-30.
Try telling Jesus that living as a Christian and living comfortably can go hand in hand with one another.
Try telling that to Him as you looking up at him from the foot of the cross.
The Christians of the past knew that living in right relationship with Jesus was going to cost them something. When they wanted to know God’s will about something really important, they fasted, they gave up eating food until they got an answer from God. They knew that standing up for Jesus might very well cost them their lives.
Mark 8:34. “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; ..”
Sacrifice is supposed to be something that is unpleasant.
Did it hurt when the alarm went off this morning to get you out of bed? I hope so. If it didn’t hurt, then getting out of bed wasn’t an act of worship. Did you feel the pain when you put your check or that bill in the offering plate? If it didn’t hurt, then it was just a gift, not an act of sacrificial worship.
Did you hold back from talking to somebody to the Lord this week because you figured the cost to your self-esteem or the cost to your friendship would be too high? Then you missed an opportunity to worship.
In the church, we have a few people who can sing very well and who enjoy singing. May I suggest though that the Lord receives more worship from the person who can’t carry a tune than He does from the person who sings with a beautiful voice. The person who can sing risks nothing by letting his voice be heard. But the person who can’t sing risks the laughter of others.
They don’t sing because they enjoy it or because they seek the praise of others but because they want to offer a sacrifice of praise to God.
Sacrifice is not pleasant. It may very well drain you dry. You may never see an end to the pain until you have completed your mission. But when you have done what God intended you to do, and you stand before the Father, then it will be your turn to have your needs attended to.
Look over at Revelation 7:14-17. When our mission is completed, then we will reap the benefits of what we have sacrificed for Jesus.
3. A living Sacrifice is the means for you to fulfill your intended purpose in the world.
“It is finished;” (John 19:30)
What was Jesus’ purpose for coming to earth?
Jesus did a lot of teaching. Was it to teach us?
Jesus did a lot of healing. Was His purpose to heal all the diseases of all the people that He encountered?
Jesus fed people. Was His purpose to alleviate the hunger of the entire world?
Jesus calmed storms. Was His purpose to make the job of weather forecasting easy?
Some religions have said that Jesus really fouled things up when He sacrificed Himself on a tree. Think of how much more good He could have accomplished if He had lived another 30 years or so. His teachings would have spread far beyond the shores of Israel. He might have gotten to stand before kings and leaders and declare His message. He might have become an earthly king himself. He could have gotten married, been the perfect dad, had perfect kids, and been the perfect husband for all of our wives to compare us to.
Just think of what might have been! But none of those things fit into Jesus purpose here on earth. What was His purpose?
Matthew 20:28. “Even so the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
1 John 3:8b. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
Jesus’ purpose here on earth was to pay for the sins of mankind that the way might be opened for man to enter into a relationship with God. The only way that could happen was through His sacrifice.
Hours behind the runner in front of him, the last marathoner finally entered the Olympic stadium. By that time, the drama of the day’s events was almost over and most of the spectators had gone home. Limping into the arena, the Tanzanian runner grimaced with every step, his knee bleeding and bandaged from an earlier fall. His ragged appearance immediately caught the attention of the remaining crowd, who cheered him on to the finish line. Why did he stay in the race? What made him endure his injuries until the end? When asked these questions later, he replied, My country did not send me 7000 miles away to start the race. They sent me 7000 miles to finish it.” (The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart)
What is your mission, your purpose on earth?
Why have you been placed here?
Is it to be a great parent?
Is it to find the cure for cancer?
Is it to make great music for people to enjoy?
Is it to be a great teacher, or salesman, or medical care-giver, or manufacturer?
What is your purpose for living?
Jesus told Paul his purpose:
Acts 26:15b. “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
16. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;
17. Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
18. To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
And Jesus has told us our purpose:
Matthew 28:19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
All those other things that I mentioned a moment ago may help you achieve God’s purpose for you. But always remember that your purpose is to tell people about Jesus. That is going to require sacrifice.
4. A living Sacrifice will tear down barriers.
“The curtain of the temple was torn in two . . .” (Matthew 27:51a)
When the Jews wanted to worship God, they didn’t have churches that they went to; they went to the temple. It was there that they could pray to God and offer sacrifices to Him.
But the Jews were very limited in how close that they could get to God. The Jewish temple had a courtyard around it where any Jew could come. But entrance into the temple itself was limited only to the priests. The most restrictive area of all was called the “Holy of Holies”. It was the place where God’s presence dwelled.
Only one person could enter into this room, and he could only come once a year. When he did come, he had to have a blood sacrifice with him, or he would be struck dead. Anyone who entered this room who was not qualified to be there would face God’s immediate wrath and be struck dead.
Separating the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place, the area where any priest could go, was a thick curtain. It was made up of many layers of heavy material which had images of angels embroidered into it. It was so thick that no light passed through it, and it took great effort to move it to the side when it came time for the high priest to enter the one time of year he was allowed.
The common man did not have access to God.
There were barriers that had been erected between the common man and God so that man had to go through a priest in order to have access to God. This curtain or veil was a physical symbol of the spiritual separation that existed between man and God because of man’s sin and God’s holiness.
It was this curtain which was torn in two from top to bottom.
It was God’s way of saying that He Himself by the sacrifice of His Son had torn down the barrier that separated mankind from God. Now man no longer had to go through a human priest to get access to God, and He didn’t have to bring a sacrifice. The final sacrifice had been paid when Jesus sacrificed Himself.
Hebrews 4:16. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
There is no curtain that separates us from God.
The curtain was rent from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51)
Turn over to Ephesians 2:11-19. In this passage, Paul talks about three fighting groups that were able to achieve peace through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
The Jews were fighting against the Gentiles, and mankind was fighting against God. Jesus’ sacrifice provides the way for all the fighting to end and all groups to enjoy a fulfilling relationship with one another.
Sacrifice removed the barrier between us and God, and it can remove the barrier between you and that person that you are at odds with. Most fights between two people or two groups of people could turn into friendships if one party was willing to sacrifice for the other.
Have you and your neighbor been fighting over something? Why not take your neighbor a meal made up of your favorite dishes. Or how about sacrificing your Saturday afternoon to go and mow your neighbor’s yard. Give to them that which is most valuable to you. Do that job for them that they know you hate to do. Give up for them something that they know costs you a lot. A living sacrifice will break down barriers and build friendships.
Romans 12:19. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
5. A living Sacrifice will shake the world.
“The earth shook . . .” (Matt 27:51b)
Acts 17:6. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also,
7. Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.
“These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, ..” (N.I.V.)
“These that have turned the world upside down . . .” The things that Paul and those who had turned to Christ were teaching were turning the world upside down. They were saying that the one who was seated on the throne in Rome was not the king. The King was some Jew named Jesus who had been crucified on a tree.
Think about some of the things that Jesus had to say.
He said the one who will be great among you must be your servant.
He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for they will see God.”
He said, “He who will lose His life for me will find it.”
He said, “Love your enemies.”
Jesus didn’t come to tell everybody that what they were doing was good and okay. He didn’t come to maintain the status quo.
Mat 10:34. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
37. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--
36. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (N.I.V.)
Jesus came to shake things up.
His sacrifice on that cross and the coming of His Holy Spirit so ignited His followers that they changed the world forever. They challenged everything that the people of their time had come to believe. They shook the world with their teaching and millions of lives will never be the same.
Do you want to shake the world? Sacrifice something.
Do you want to shake up Your Town? Sacrifice something.
Do you want to shake up your marriage? Sacrifice something.
Do you want to shake up your kids? Sacrifice something for them or for God in their full view.
Do you want to shake up this church?
Sacrifice something for God in this church.
Romans 12:1. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
God calls us to sacrifice ourselves to Him.
That includes our future, our thoughts, our ideas about how things should be done, our notions of what is right for us, our kids, our bodies, our finances, . . . everything!
What will be shaken up then is our thought processes so that we begin to think like God. We will start to think sacrificially and righteously rather than thinking selfishly and sinfully.
A hymn says,
“Change my heart, O God, make it ever true;
change my heart, O God, may I be like you.”
In order for that to happen, we have to have the ground shaken from underneath us. And it may feel like we’re falling out of control, but it will really be us falling into the hands of God. There is no safer place that we can be.
6. Sacrifice will bring life to dead things.
“Bodies . . . were raised to life,..” (Matthew 27:52-53)
Matthew 27:52. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53. And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
Can you imagine? You’re walking through the streets of Jerusalem, and you see a stranger, only he looks a little familiar. He looks like your uncle Aaron who died 10 years ago. And then you see a guy who looks really old and you turn to your buddy and ask, “Hey, doesn’t that guy over there remind you of how our Synagogue teacher described the way that Moses would have looked?”
All kinds of people turn up all over town. There’s a guy who claims to be Abraham, and a woman who claims to be Ruth, and another guy who claims to be David. And their all saying the same thing. They’re saying that Jesus is alive and that He was the one who brought them back to life.
The Bible describes you and I before we came to Jesus as dead people.
Ephesians 2:1. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 4. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5. Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened (made alive) us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
6. And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
7.That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
8. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was what took away our death and gave us life.
If sacrifice can bring life to us who were dead in our sins,
sacrifice can bring life to a dead marriage.
Sacrifice can bring life to your dead relationship with your kids.
Sacrifice can bring life to your dead workplace.
Sacrifice can bring life to your dead soul;
His sacrifice for you and your sacrificing yourself back to Him.
In 1989, an 8.2 earthquake almost flattened Armenia, killing over 30,000 people . . . In the midst of utter devastation and chaos, a father left his wife securely at home and rushed to the school where his son was supposed to be, only to discover that the building was flat as a pancake. After the traumatic initial shock, he remembered the promise he had made to his son: “No matter what, I’ll always be there for you.” And tears began to fill his eyes. . . . it looked hopeless . . .
He began to concentrate on where he walked his son to class at school each morning. Remembering his son’s classroom would be in the back right corner of the building, he rushed there and started digging through the rubble. . . .
Other well-meaning parents tried to pull him off of what was left of the school saying: “It’s too late! They’re dead! You can’t help! Go home! Come on, face reality, there’s nothing you can do!” To each parent, he responded with one line: “Are you going to help me now?” And then he proceeded to dig for his son stone by stone.
The fire chief showed up and tried to pull him off the school’s debris saying, “Fires are breaking out, explosions are happening everywhere. You’re in danger. We’ll take care of it. Go home.” To which this loving Armenian father asked, “Are you going to help me now?” The police came and said, “You’re angry, distraught, and it’s over. You’re endangering others. Go home. We’ll handle it!” To which he replied, “Are you going to help me now?” No one helped.
He dug for eight hours, twelve hours, twenty-four hours, thirty-six hours, and then in the thirty-eighth hour, he pulled back a boulder and heard his son’s voice. He screamed his son’s name, “Armad!” He heard back, “Dad, it’s me, Dad! I told the other kids not to worry. I told them if you were alive, you’d save me and when you saved me, they’d be saved. You promised, “No matter what, I’ll always be there for you! You did it, Dad!”
After 38 hours of digging, that father’s hands would have been torn and bloody. But the sacrifice that he made enabled children who would have surely died to enjoy life once again. As each of those 14 surviving children emerged from the rubble of what once was their school, they were greeted by a hug from the one who had rescued them. And you know, I doubt that those children minded very much that the hands that hugged them were covered in blood, for it was that man’s willingness to sacrifice his blood that had given them life.
Here’s that question again. Maybe you can answer it a little more intelligently now. Jesus sacrificed everything for me in order that I might have life; what am I willing to sacrifice for Him and in order that I might worship Him and in order that I might help others to accept that sacrifice as payment for their sins?
Let’s make it as personal as we can.
Am I willing to sacrifice my . . .
Maybe there is someone reading this who has never accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as payment for your own personal sins. You can receive forgiveness for your sins and Jesus as your Savior and Lord right here today. But in order for that to happen, it’s going to require some sacrifices on your part too. It’s going to require you to give up the idea that your way is the best way. It’s going to require you to give up the idea that you are okay just the way you are and admit to God that you are a sinner who needs His forgiveness. It’s going to require you to sacrifice your whole life and say, “Here, Jesus. I am giving up control of my life to you. I’m not going to follow my own plan anymore. I’m going to follow you.”
The Jews at Pentecost asked Peter, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37b.) Peter’s Response.
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:28)
If you would be willing to do that, I want you to pray this prayer after me.
“Dear Lord in the light of your sacrifice at Calvary, I am persuaded to also give my life to you. Take me as I am and use me for your glory, I give all to thee.”
If you are willing to sacrifice everything for Jesus, regardless of what He demands, that’s repentance, give your life totally and completely to Him, turn from the sins of your past, begin now to walk a new path, then I want you to come to Him now, and put it all before Jesus. Find someone to baptize you in his wonderful name for the remission (pardon or removal) of your sins, seek Him until you are filled with His Spirit.
Romans 12:1. says that living our lives as a daily sacrifice to God is just our reasonable service in light of what has been sacrificed for us.
Will you give Him everything? Make a living sacrifice of your life to Him now.
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By, James L.Thornton