Intro: I have heard some Christians say, I was active in serving the Lord before but… or when I retire I will give all my time to serve God. I hope there is still enough strength and good health left to serve the Lord after that? I believe they have the right perspective in serving the Lord as a sacrifice. Christians who do not serve the Lord will not lose their salvation for the lack of it. But they will miss out of the opportunity to be used by God for the glory of His Son, which is the next greatest blessing after salvation. Then there are those who serve in different religions in order to please their god so that they will be rewarded with heaven. But will that save them? No, because salvation is not by works or service to God. But for those who are already saved, it is God’s will that we serve the Lord.
“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.” Heb. 9:14
Does serving God involve a sacrifice? I wonder if you have come across what seems to be a contradiction to what the prophet Samuel said in relation to the message last Sunday about offering our body as a living sacrifice. Here’s what Samuel wrote inspired by God.
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” 1 Sam. 15:22
Careful examination of this passage, we find that there is no contradiction. Sacrifice has no meaning if it is not done out of obedience. What was the cost to Jesus to obey the will of His Father as His sacrifice to God? The suffering that He would go through at the cross, receiving the punishment of God for sins He did not commit as His ultimate offering to God.
“It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one: he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him…First he said, Heb. 9:23-28; 10:8-10“Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus once for all.”
Last Tuesday in a home Bible study, we took up the lesson on the way and one of the questions was, what is another definition of sin?
“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins.” James 4:17
When I asked for examples of the good things we ought to do, one of the attendees pointed worshiping God and was quick to admit that she sinned because she did not come to worship. Even though she wanted to but there was a mix up as to her ride to church. Is it a sacrifice to come church to worship? If it is done in obedience to give up activities and things you love and would rather do, then it is a sacrifice and a living sacrifice.
But what is the living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God? We already took up last Sunday what a living sacrifice is. In the Old Testament God used the offering of blood of bulls and goats to atone for sins. That was only a pattern of what was promised until the Messiah who takes away the sins of the world comes. This was fulfilled when Jesus came as the Lamb of God. His death took care of those who believed God in the OT by obeying what God required, the shedding of blood. Their faith was looking forward to the promised Messiah and their obedience was the evidence of their faith. However, in time this lost it’s meaning. They were doing the right thing but only to satisfy the law out of obligation but not out of a love relationship with God. In the last book of the Old Testament in Malachi, the chosen nation Israel has so adulterated the Word of God and His law that God rebuked them and then was silent for four hundred years until Jesus came.
“When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king.” Says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.” Mal. 1:13b-14
Thank God, He provided for us the perfect sacrifice, pure, sinless and without blemish in the person of God the Son who left heaven to live in a body and shared in our humanity so that He could die and His blood shed to wash away our sins. Jesus offered His body as a living sacrifice by living in holiness for 33 years. He was holy because He never sinned and pleasing to God because He gave His all to do the will of God and did it out of…
“The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” John 14:31
The cross was the ultimate sacrifice of Christ but even as He grew up He lived his life as an offering to God His Father, in perfect submission.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation of those who obey him.” Heb. 5:7-9
Jesus did not refuse nor ask to be saved from suffering, instead He,
“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, from whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Heb. 2:10-11
So as brothers of Jesus and sons of God, how are we to live our lives? The same way Jesus lived His life. By sacrificially live for God.
“Offer your bodies as a living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Rom. 12:1b
Does God force us to offer our bodies? No. Otherwise it is no longer our choice nor offering but an obligation. That’s why Paul reminded us not to forget how God had mercy on us to save us from death and hell. He saved us because He loved us. God’s act of mercy and grace came out of his love, the same love that He had for Jeremiah and His chosen ones in Israel.
The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you in loving kindness.” Jer. 31:3
And this is also true of those whom God has chosen and loved.
“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” Ps. 103:17-18
When we gave our sins to Christ, He took it and gave us in exchange His righteousness. So in God’s sight He sees the righteousness of Christ. However, we may not yet be holy in our walk because we still want to have control of our lives and live the way we want to. That’s why we go through a process called sanctification, the growing of our spiritual life compared to a,
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me.” 1 Cor. 13:11
So, when we offer our lives to God, it ought to be holy for God to be pleased and for Him to use as He pleases. On our own we cannot make ourselves holy neither can we always live daily a holy life. But we can, and here’s how we can live a holy life to offer to God.“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.” After we received Jesus we became a child of God by being in Christ. Jesus is the only one who is holy and only He can make us holy. How then can we be holy? By…
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20
This is a daily decision to put to death our old self and surrender to Christ as Lord so He can live His life in us. This is in response to Christ’s invitation. This is our decision to surrender our will and let Him have full control of us.
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Think of the cross. Cross mean death. Jesus went to the cross and died. And after three days was raised from the dead. He is alive and now in us. What does He want us to do? The same way He did by going through the cross.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2
We need to go through the cross and die daily and be cleansed of sin so Christ can live in us and be Lord. We die to our wants, ambitions, desires and even our rights to ourselves. We yield completely in total surrender and submission to Christ to lead us where He wants us to go and do what He wants us to do. This is what Jesus said to Peter,
“I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18
How does this work out in practical life? A life that is fully surrendered to Christ will be led by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the will of God. When you go to work, you will be in the center of God’s will and you will be a witness to Christ because you will do a good job joyfully and stand out because you are different among those around you. Christ is in you and living in you and He is seeking for His lost ones while He is being glorified through you. When Gina and I go out to buy groceries or eat we watch where God is working and whom He is drawing to His Son. We are ready to be used by God, however He wants to use us, trusting that Christ is the One living in us and seeking His lost ones. We make this commitment to offer our bodies daily as living sacrifices for Christ to live through us and do what He wants to do through us. Does He really? Yes, He can, He will and does because this is the will of God. We need to believe, trust and by faith offer our bodies to God to do as He pleases as His will for us in Christ.
A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matt. 17:5b
When we listen to Jesus and do what He says, God the Father accepts our offering and He is now free to do what He wills to glorify His Son. We will be right in the center of God’s will and will experience God.
Today after our worship service, we will be affirming our covenant with Christ by observing His ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. This is to proclaim His death and in remembrance of what He did for you and for me.