- ABOUT US
- Calendar and News
- READING PLAN
- The Chosen
A Christian’s Heart
“A Sacrificial Heart”
Watch on YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l76yVqg4XnE
Today’s Message in our series on a Christian’s Heart is entitled “A Sacrificial Heart,” and it’s a perfect follow up to the message on building worship-filled hearts.
A newspaper journalist assigned to Jerusalem decided to get an apartment overlooking the Wailing Wall, or that which is now referred to as the Western Wall. After several weeks of watching, he realized that every day the same elderly Jewish man would come and spend most of the day praying vigorously at the wall.
The journalist wondered whether there was a story here, so the next day he went down to the wall. After introducing himself he said, “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 in much the same way as I had pointed out in the past which every lady would get, and that is it’s impossible to be partially pregnant. You are or your not, and the same thing goes for our being sacrificed. It is impossible to be partially sacrificed. We are either fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, or we’re not. It’s impossible to be partial in that.
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.
As it was mentioned in our text, a sacrifice is what we offer up to God, which is nothing less than the whole of ourselves. 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; that is, it’s our reasonable act of worship.
Yet, when we look at these two words, “living” and “sacrifice,” they are what we call an oxymoron, that is, a combination of two seemingly contradictory words. Yet, they are not, especially in what God is calling for us to be, and therefore, 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, that is, 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 and abundant life.
And so, to be those living sacrifices means that we are dead, not only to our own wants, desires, and ways, but we are also and more importantly dead to sin, which means being 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 answered, “Other people have greater minds, more talent, and greater resources, but God has gotten all there is of me.”
Charles Stanley, who after 50 years of pastoring and preaching and who recently went home to be with the Lord 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.”
We addressed this earlier in this series on a Christian’s heart being a Commitment-filled heart. 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 act of service or as some versions quote this verse as being our 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 having a sacrificial heart.
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 flashed through the father’s mind.
But then he realized he didn’t need his son’s fries, he could get himself an order of fries. But 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 is 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.” Upon hearing this, Napoleon 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.
Consider what it says about this in Deuteronomy 4:31.
“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.
In Psalm 103, King David said, “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).
Next, what we see about our giving sacrificially is that it makes us more like God.
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 helps us through the difficult times. The Bible 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.
Next, what we see in our giving sacrificially is that it draws us closer to God.
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 and grandparents, we desire for our children and grandchildren 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 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 and grandchildren because we cannot ask them to be what we are not.
The next aspect of sacrificial giving is usually not thought about, and that is giving breaks the hold that materialism and possessions have on us.
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 it’s a joy when we do.
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.
And the last aspect of our giving sacrificially is that it strengthens our faith.
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 told 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)
But there is a second part of this promise that is often missed. As the Lord goes on to say, “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field.” (Malachi 3:11 NKJV)
Now, the prophet Haggai, who was also prophesying for the Lord during this time describes the devourer for us as the Lord said, “Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” (Haggai 1:5b-6 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 be strengthen.
Now, 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)
A Christian’s heart is then a sacrificial heart, that is a heart that offers 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)
Therefore, we are to be those 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?
A Sacrificial Life
“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.” (Roman 12:1 NKJV)
Other versions say that it is our reasonable or spiritual act of worship.
The words sacrifice, and the word living, are two words not usually associated together, because to sacrifice means the death or loss of something, and living is the exact opposite. The one produces death, the other produces life.
But for us as believers in Jesus Christ, they work in complete harmony.
Jesus, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the word, sacrificed His life so that we could gain eternal life.
But going back to Paul’s admonition for us to be living sacrifices, is best define by the next word, “holy,” because for us to be holy, means that we must be such living sacrifices.
Now, why do I say that, well it comes from the word “sacrifice,” which comes from two Latin words, “sacer,” which means to set aside, and “facere, which means to make, thus both together means to set aside or to make something exclusively for God.
Noah Webster defined the concept in a simple phrase: “To devote with loss.”
Therefore, to live a sacrificial life would be a life devoted to God, and in the process loses those things that have been made in order to set them aside for God.
And here is where my world got rocked this past week, because this is the meaning of the word “holy,” which means to set something, that is, ourselves, aside for God’s use, that is to be dead to ourselves so that we can be alive to God.
And so, to be those living sacrifices means to be holy, and even God promotes this in the Law He laid down in the Old Testament.
“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2b NKJV)
How can we possibly be holy as the Lord? Well, we can’t. What the Lord is saying is that as He is separate from sin and from this world so filled with sin, we are to separate ourselves from sin and the sinful world as much as possible.
Now, I’m not talking about physical or spiritual death, but I am talking about living a life that is dead to sin and to this sinful world. Yes, we are to be living in this world going about our Father’s business, that is, to share the good news of His Son Jesus Christ, but we are to be dead to all that this world represents.
“Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 20:7 NKJV)
Now, the word, “consecrate,” in the Hebrew is the same word for “holy,” and so He is telling us to dedicate ourselves, to set ourselves apart from all that defiles and be holy as He Himself is holy.
And both these descriptions are brought out in the New Testament
“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV)
And the idea of then separating ourselves from all that defiles and be holy is seen in what the Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians. “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7 NKJV)
Someone defined sacrifice as, “An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.”
Jesus gave up his life for us. He found us to be more important. Jesus’s death on the cross embodies just how much God loves us. When we focus on this act of love, we realize that God’s love for us is sacrificial, eternal, and unconditional.
As I began thinking about this whole sacrificial living idea, I began to see how the lines between those of different ideologies, religions, philosophies became blurred, because sacrificial living isn’t relegated to Christianity, or believers in Jesus Christ alone.
There are many hard-working, compassionate, and giving people in this world who generously give of their time and finances, that in truth, should make us as Christians take a step back and think about it, because this was given for us to be and do, but because we don’t, others have stepped in, and in the process, Jesus has been lost in the conversation.
So, then what distinguishes someone as a true living sacrifice? It’s not integrity or kindness; it’s not serving those less fortunate, because these attributes aren’t limited to followers of Jesus.
I think that Paul has brought that reality out and defined it for us. And that is, those who are living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God are those who, like Jesus, have crucified their flesh in order to live by faith in Him.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)
And so, just as God tells us to live sacrificial lives, holy lives, because He is holy, is telling us how we live sacrificial lives for Him.
Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 NKJV)
To live a sacrificial life, to be those living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God, is to pick up our crosses and daily put to death our own fleshly desires, so that we can live for and look forward to His kingdom here on earth, until we go home to be with Him in His kingdom in heaven.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 NKJV)
Wednesday Evening Bible Study