Date: October 14, 2018
Pastor Matthew Burt
Title: Our Acceptable Sacrifice of Worship
Text: Luke 9:28-38; 1 Peter 1:13-26
Wellspring Church Springfield, Ma.
SCRIPTURE: Hebrews 12: 28-29, Romans 12:1-2
28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29
I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c]but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12: 1-2
BIG IDEA: Our Acceptable Sacrifice of Worship
I wonder if you could look at your life today, no matter how old you are, and say these words looking back over your life; “I never made a sacrifice”. It comes from a speech given in 1857 by Dr. David Livingstone who had spent decades in Africa. The Europeans thought Africa was one big desert. For decades David Livingstone went into Africa. He is known as an explorer and a map maker. Livingstone said “I only made the maps so others could come behind me and bring the gospel”. His life was filled with turmoil and peril.
On another journey we read that he had suffered 31 setbacks of debilitating fever. This was a man who could say I never made a sacrifice. I’m not sure we hear that kind of language in our own mouths or the mouths of people that we love. Paul says present your body as a living sacrifice. Somewhere between what Paul is asking us to do and what Livingstone came to say at the end of his life is two different views of sacrifice.
OUTLINE: Today we want to expand our understanding of acceptable worship to God
Point 1: Get a proper understanding of the word sacrifice
Point 2: What does it mean to present our bodies?
Point 3: What are the characteristics of this sacrifice?
Point 1: A Proper Understanding of the word sacrifice
A) A general common definition:
- A sacrifice is to suffer loss, to give up or to injure or to renounce. These are negative connotations. We think of it as giving up something of value to us. I am not sure it is appropriate to think of sacrifice as a loss. We are giving up something in hopes of getting something more in the future.
- We talk about the sacrifice of the military so we can live in the freedom that we live in It’s a patriotic term. For instance Churchill has been quoted as saying “Never in the history of human warfare have so many been indebted to so few.”
- We sacrifice, for instance sacrifice time and money, today to purchase education in the future. It might be for ourselves or for someone else. An investment now for later.
- In paganism or animistic religions, a sacrifice is a gift (something that is brought of value) given to purchase or buy the favor of a deity. To placate the anger of that deity. In this sense, it is more like a bribe.
- In our lives, perhaps a better understanding is the word substitute. We substitute one present good for a better good in the future. We substitute a present desire and give up a future. For example, people sacrifice their family for some quick pleasure now.
B) What the Bible uses the word sacrifice for
- In the Old Testament, a sacrifice is the exchange of the life of an animal for assurance of God’s forgiveness for breaking of His law. The sacrifice was bringing of the animal. An atoning sacrifice. The word atonement is two words: atonement. So the two are apart: the sinner and God. They are at odds. The sacrifice brings them at one. The sacrifice in the Old Testament is meant to pay the life cost of sin. It is more than a payment or restitution. The life of the animal was meant to represent the life of the penitent. God is accepting the sacrifice of the animal instead of the life of the rebel.
- We know these sacrifices are meant to look forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. We don’t know what lamb of God means unless we know that lambs were sacrificed.
- Not all sacrifices were for sin. There were sacrifices of thanks. Sometimes it was a gift of incense to burn. Those were sacrifices of thanksgiving. To say I am thankful. To give this thing up to show how thankful I am. I want to donate this possession as a sign of how much I am thankful for a healing or an answer to prayer. A sacrifice of thanks.
- David speaks of a sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart.
- In the New Testament, the great sacrifice – the fulfillment of hundreds of thousands of lambs, goats, bulls, oxens – is found in our Lord Jesus Christ. We were not redeemed with gold and silver but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, a lamb without blemish.
C) What are we being asked to do in this passage?
- How can we understand this best? We are not being asked to pay for a debt or to pay a penalty for sin? That’s been done by Jesus Christ. It certainly is not that we need to show how serious we are or as a bribe. It is such a travesty for people who have given seed money to a televangelist. They are being duped. That’s not the sacrifice Paul is talking about.
- We are bringing the gift to God but the word gift implies that it is something I don’t deserve. It is freely given. There is no way that I can think of a gift to God as something he doesn’t deserve because He deserves all. So it’s not giving Him a gift.
- Here’s what we need to see. I am called to bring myself to God and returning to Him that which is already His by purchase. SO Paul can say “you are not your own” – you have been bought with a price. My sacrifice is returning to God what He has already purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ. I am coming to the one who has full authority over everything I am. I am bringing myself to my creator.
Maybe there are some other words than sacrifice that would work better.
- Think of this word sacrifice as relinquishment. I am relinquishing my attempts to be the ruler of my life. The parameters and perimeters of my life – I relinquish my setting those boundaries. I am relinquishing my efforts to control any aspect of my life. Why? As a child of God, I don’t belong to me. I am not the boss of my life. God is the boss of me. When I came to Jesus, I fired myself as boss. I have been bought with a price.
- The second word to consider is substitute. I am substituting God’s rule for my rule; His priorities for my priorities; His definition of happiness and success for mine; eternal joy for present pleasures.
- The third word to consider is investment. Sacrifice as investment. When I present myself as a sacrifice to God I am investing the now for the later. This is clear in relation to children. I’m investing time and money now for a reward later. So we need to hear Paul saying invest your life now. Invest your energy, your affections, your time so that you might know a future happiness.
The language of sacrifice is not that I am losing something but rather I am relinquishing, substituting and investing. There is a fourth word here that ties this all together – it is a duty. He alone is worthy.
Point 2: What does it mean to present our bodies?
Note the plural of the word bodies. The plural here is that he is talking to many people not that people have many bodies!
One way to look at this is as bodies is an all-encompassing term including body and soul. Another way to look at it is more consistent with Paul’s context. Paul is writing to the Romans (the educated) who would have been influenced by the philosophy of Plato. Platonic thought disregarded the body as unimportant – only the spiritual was good. So they might have been influenced by something like this: the body is the prison house of the soul. Paul is saying something very surprising to them. He doesn’t say present your hearts or souls or minds – he says present your bodies. With that Paul is giving us the doctrine that the human body is important. We can’t serve God without a body. The real dangers of Platonism are: a) thinking that uou can do anything you want with your body because your body is nothing and b) this whole emphasis on punishing the body – people beating themselves with whips and sticks; going without food. But we are not Platonist. We are Biblicist. The Bible tells us we are created in the image of God so we give everything to Him. It’s a full person investment into serving God.
Then he says it’s a living sacrifice. Only living bodies are any good to God.
Point 3: What are the characteristics of this sacrifice?
- Start with my mind: if I am going to invest my whole self, I would start with my mind. It is in my mind that I dream, create, imagine, plan. I give my mind over to God and His glory first; and not to myself. We are not as careful as we should be. We know that we shouldn’t be filling our mind with trash but we shouldn’t be filling our mind with trivia or useless information. We fill our minds with things that are of God. To invest my mind in the glory of God is to exercise it and fill it and expand it with the things of God.
We should leep our minds supple and flexible. We know the saying Garbage in, Garbage Out. We want to put in Godly information in so that Godly information comes out.
How do we feed our mind? What do we read? Fill it with things from the Bible.
- Secondly, the body includes my eyes and my ears. To serve God, I invest my eyes and ears to His glory. We are bombarded with images of self-gratification, immorality, violence, evolutionary propaganda. We need to be careful what we hear and see. We are so fixated with news and commentary. We hear news and commentary that’s in favor of our political stand. What if we spent less time using our ears for the world’s news and getting better acquainted with Gods news.
- Our body also includes our tongue. James is very clear about this. How do we use our tongues? Do we use our tongue to build others up? Or is our tongue used to tear down? Do we use our tongues to talk about other people or talk to God about ourselves? Use our tongues to grumble or praise? To talk about the worlds news or the good news of Jesus Christ.
- Hands and feet are part of the body too. Consider where my feet take me. Where do I go? Do the places I go serve to invest in God’s future or my present pleasures? Do I use my hands for work or idleness? Are my feet the beautiful feet of someone who brings the good news?
It is to be holy and acceptable. Holy is without spot or blemish. People of the Old Testament were not to bring a lame lamb. So too we are to seek to live our lives with the moral and mental purity of God. This is the goal that Jesus has for you. You as a believer, we as a church are the bride of Christ being prepared to be presented without spot or blemish. Wrinkle proof lives. This is how we are to live. This is what we read in 1 Peter. We need to be careful of this because so often we get caught up in the error that my relationship with God is merely some mental assent to the gospel. Our lives are to be lived today to show holiness and purity and conformity with the character of Christ. This then, our duty of worship, will be pleasing and acceptable to God.
Living a Christian life is very hard to work. It’s not easy to trust God and believe His promises and hope in an eternal future. It’s not easy to see the pain and grief. Invest your now; your pain, your grief; your effort as a sacrifice to Him and you will know eternal bliss, happiness and joy.
I beseech you by the mercies of God, by His abundant generosity- give everything you have to God as an investment. May we each one say, I never made a sacrifice. I count all things as loss compared to the exceeding riches of God.