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Building God’s House
Building a Sacrificial Life
You can listen to the audio at: https://mega.nz/#!iBsS1AyB!GF5TkgbL9glQc9m0nUY4vQskz8XDqAZ7Ys1QSnXJV_s
As we ready ourselves for our July 4thcelebrations, I thought about our discipleship series, and how we build God’s house within us as being a life of sacrifice, and that’s because on July 4thwe celebrate and remember the sacrifice many made at the founding of our nation, and then hopefully remember all those who have died since then in defense of our nation and the freedoms we hold so dear.
Also, building a sacrificial life is a perfect follow up to last week’s message on building a purpose-filled life.
A newspaper journalist was assigned to Jerusalem. He decided to get an apartment overlooking the Wailing Wall. After several weeks of watching, he realized that every day the same elderly Jewish gentleman would come and spend most of the day praying vigorously at the wall.
The journalist wondered whether there was a story here, so he went down to the wall and introduced himself. “I see that you come every day to the wall. What are you praying for?”
The elderly man replied, “In the morning I pray for world peace; at lunchtime, I pray for my fellow man. Then in the late afternoon, I pray for the future of this earth.”
The journalist asked how long the man had been doing this, and he told the reporter that he had been doing it for about 25 years. The journalist was amazed and asked how it felt to come here every day and pray so much.
“How does it feel?” the elderly man replied. “It feels like I’m talking to a wall.”
I have the feeling that this is what God feels like when He is talking to us, especially when it comes to being those living sacrifices wholly devoted to Him. Yet we are told that this is exactly what God desires us to be.
In his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul said,“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1 NKJV)
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are told that we are to present ourselves as “living sacrifices,” with the full understanding that there is no such thing as a partial sacrifice. It is impossible to have a partial sacrifice. We are either fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, or we’re not. It’s impossible to be partially sacrificed.
There is a story about a pig and a chicken walking down a country road when they saw a sign saying, “Breakfast to Benefit the Poor.” The chicken said, “We should donate a ham and egg breakfast.” But the pig replied, “Not so fast, for you it would just be a contribution, but for me it would be a total commitment.”
The pig understood that it’s not possible to offer a partial sacrifice.
To be that living sacrifice is to commit ourselves to God, which means that we are to yield, surrender, and entrust ourselves totally to God, which means to place ourselves completely at His disposal.
I think it’s safe to say that there are no take backs when it comes to sacrifices that have been offered. You cannot take back a sacrifice.
A sacrifice is something that we offer up to God. And Paul’s argument is that the appropriate response to the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf is to be those living sacrifices, holy, and acceptable to Him, which Paul says is the reasonable thing to do; it’s our reasonable act of worship.
Yet, when we look at these two words, “living” and “sacrifice,” they are what is called an oxymoron, that is, a combination of two seemingly contradictory words. Yet, they are not, and it is important that they remain together.
You see, sacrifices are normally thought of as being offered in death, like the bulls and goats associated with the Old Testament sacrifices. But in our situation, Jesus, has given His life as a sacrifice on our behalf, and has therefore offered the sacrifice of death for us. He took the punishment we deserve, death, because as the Bible says, the wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23), and the reason Jesus did it is to bring us into a new life.
And so, to be those living sacrifices means that we are dead to sin and totally sold out to God, that is, alive to God, fulfilling His will in our lives and in this world. Therefore, the ultimate sacrifice on our part isn’t death; rather it’s living 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year being completely surrendered to the will of God.
General William Booth, founder the Salvation Army was asked the secret for God using him in such an effective way. Booth’s answer was, “Other people have greater minds, more talent, and greater resources, but God has gotten all there is of me.”
Charles Stanley made this observation: “Why do you suppose that there are close to 100 million church members in America yet they are not making more of a moral and spiritual impact? Why is that on Sunday morning thousands of churches have more empty pews than full? Why is it that only 50 percent of the number of any church membership roll can be expected to attend? If Christians really believe in a real heaven and a real hell, how can we be so silent? The answer to all of these questions is tragically simple? God’s people have made a decision about Jesus…but have never made a commitment to Him.”
Making a decision for Jesus Christ is not the same thing as being committed to Him.
Therefore, we need to present ourselves to God as those living sacrifices; holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable and spiritual act of worship.
C.T. Studd, who gave away his vast wealth and became a missionary said, “If Jesus Christ is God, and if He died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to give to Him.”
It is this word “give,” which is at the heart of building up a life of sacrifice.
A father took his son to McDonalds and ordered some fries for him. After sitting down, the smell of those fries got the better of the dad, but when he reached to take one, the boy slapped his hand and said, “Dad, you can’t have one. Those aren’t your fries.”
Three thoughts immediately went through the Father’s mind.
But then he realized that he didn’t need his son’s fries, he could get himself an order of fries. What the father really wanted was for his son to learn to be unselfish.
In the same way God wants us to learn to be generous and give. Actually, giving is the most talked about value in the Bible.
The Bible talks more about giving than all of these other important values put together, and maybe the reason is because giving is the expression of faith, hope, and love.
So, in our time together I’d like to share why we need to be generous, and why we need to give sacrificially.
Giving in View of God’s Mercies
For this point I’d like to go back to our signature verse.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1 NKJV)
Being a living sacrifice isn’t accomplished by winning God’s approval through good works; rather it’s in response to God’s mercy that He has shown to us, in that while we were yet sinners Jesus Christ came to this earth to die for us, to extend the Father’s mercy towards us.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NKJV)
Therefore, we are to live our life as those living sacrifices recognizing the ultimate sacrifice given to us, when Jesus died for us; when Jesus took our place and died the death that we deserve upon the cross.
A mother approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. Napoleon responded that her son had committed the offense twice and justice demanded death. The mother responded, “But I don’t ask for justice, I am pleading for mercy.”
Napoleon responded, “But your son doesn’t deserve mercy.” To which the mother cried, “Sir, it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.” Napoleon then extended mercy and spared her son’s life.
Therefore, to be a living sacrifice is based upon God’s mercy, which is part of God’s character.
“For the Lord your God is a merciful God; He will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which He confirmed to them by oath.” (Deuteronomy 4:31 NIV)
God is merciful, and because of His mercy we don’t get what we deserve, and that is, justice, leading to death. Instead we get grace, leading to eternal life.
“The Lord is merciful and gracious; He is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love. He has not punished us for all our sins, nor does He deal with us as we deserve.” (Psalm 103: 8, 10 NLT)
Therefore, God is a merciful God, giving us mercy, when we don’t deserve it, along with great and precious promises, not to mention supplying all our needs when we seek Him and His kingdom first in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
Giving Makes Us More Like God
The Bible says that we have been created into the image and likeness of God. And so, if God is a giving God, He created us to be givers as well. Think about the mercy and compassion God extends and gives to us, and how, through that mercy and compassion, He gets us through difficult times. The Bible then tells us that we are to give to others in the same way.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV)
Also, think about just how generous and sacrificially God has given to us; in that He has given to us His Son, Jesus, to die the death we all deserve because of our sins. Seeing all of this, we therefore need to be able to give back what He so generously gave.
Consider King David’s prayer.
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” (1 Chronicles 29:14 NIV)
David is saying that we need to be generous in our giving to God and to His kingdom purposes, because of His generosity to us. And when we do, then we are fulfilling that which God created us to be.
Giving Draws Us Closer To God
When Jesus told His disciples to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and He will supply all they need, He ended with these words.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34 NIV)
Wherever our treasure is, there is where our heart will be. Money is like a magnet. Wherever we put it, our heart will be drawn after that. When we give unto God, then it will pull our hearts towards God.
Now, God doesn’t need our money. He can buy all the French fries He wants. But what God wants is what the money represents, and that is our hearts. It is said that giving is spiritual aerobics. It’s good for the heart, enlarging it and making it stronger.
As parents, we desire for our children to be unselfish, and while we tell them of the need to be unselfish and give, do they see the same from us. Are we giving generously?
A father told his son to hurry up and get ready because the church van would soon be pulling him up to take him to Sunday school. The boy asked, “Dad, did you go to Sunday School when you were a boy?” The father replied, “Yes I did.” The boy then said, “Then it probably won’t do me any good either.”
We need to be those positive examples of God’s children to our children, because we cannot ask them to be what we are not.
Giving Breaks Materialism’s Grip
I think we all would agree that we live in a very materialistic culture. We walk into a store, or look at a catalog and wonder how we ever got along without what they are selling.
In this kind of materialistic culture it’s very difficult to keep our values on track. So how do we keep from becoming materialistic? The only antidote to materialism is giving, and that’s because the very essence of materialism is to get more. So every time we give, we’re breaking materialism’s grip.
It’s completely counter cultural. It’s not buying into the myth that says that life consists of what we accumulate, or that our net worth and self worth are the same thing.
Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13 NIV)
The Apostle Paul said,
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, Who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” (1 Timothy 6:17-18 NIV)
Notice the two words, “enjoyment,” and “share.” God not only wants us to enjoy what He has given, but He also expects us to share it with others.
And this is what we need to show our children and grandchildren. They need to see such sacrificial giving on our part. They see us make money, spend money, and even enjoy money. But do they ever see us giving? They need to see the enjoyment of giving so that they can enjoy it as well, rather than growing up to be selfish and mean spirited.
Giving Strengthens Our Faith
Sooner or later we’re going to have to decide whether or not we can trust God with our finances. Can we count on God to keep His promises?
“You will be glorifying God through your generous gifts. For your generosity to them will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT)
Giving proves the reality of our faith, whether or not we believe God at His word.
In the last chapter of my book, “Wells of Living Waters,” I tackle the sticky subject of giving, and look at what the Bible says about the giving of the tithe, offering, and alms.
I also tell a story about a pastor who got up before his congregation and said, “This church, like the crippled man at the gate called Beautiful, it has to get up and walk!”
“That’s right pastor,” said the congregation. “Let it walk. Let it walk,”
The pastor then said, “This church, like the prophet Elijah after Mount Carmel, has to start to run.”
“Let it run, pastor. Let it run,” the congregation responded, more loudly and enthusiastically.
And finally in full animation mode the pastor said, “This church has got to mount up on the wings of eagles and fly.”
“Let it fly! Let it fly!” shouted the congregation.
Then with all the enthusiasm the pastor could muster, he said, “If the church is going to fly it takes money.”
Subdued the parishioners said, “Let it walk, pastor. Let it walk.”
God has given the church everything it needs to change the world. God is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills, and while all the gold and silver is His (Haggai 2:8), He’s given it to the church through His saints.
If Christians gave as outlined in God’s word, then the church could not only meet the needs within the congregation, but also in the community and beyond.
What is God’s word when it comes to giving and the tithe?
“‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’” (Malachi 3:10 NKJV)
What I find interesting, but also sad, is that we want God to supernaturally supply our needs, to supernaturally get involved in our finances, but we are not willing to follow His directions so that He can pour out His blessings.
Please understand; giving isn’t an obligation, it’s an opportunity for our faith to grow and strengthen. Giving isn’t an obligation it’s an opportunity.
And if any of us wonder if God pays attention to what and how we give, consider what Solomon said, who was not only the wisest man to have ever lived, but also the richest.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10 NKJV)
Discipleship, building up God’s house that resides within us, means to build our lives into lives of sacrifice, which is offering to God the whole of who we are because of the sacrifice Jesus made, giving Himself as that sacrifice for our sins upon the cross.
“God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” (Romans 8:3b NLT)
To build a great life, we need to be living sacrifices for God, which, according to Paul, is the most reasonable thing we can do. In other words, when we think about what God has done for us, then giving sacrificially really isn’t too much to ask.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study