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A Free Sacrifice

Scripture: 1 Chronicles 21:1-30, 1 Samuel 15:15, Hebrews 13:15-16
Date: 04/07/2007 
True giving to God is sacrificial. It is shown in our tithe and offerings, but springs from a heart after God.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

We’ve had a rich Sabbath morning already and last night we had a beautiful agape feast and communion service, and this in some ways represents the beginning of the year for a church. When we think about the sacrifice of Christ of course you’ve got the Roman calendar and then we’ve got the calendar of Christ so to speak. The Passover was the beginning of… a nation was born during that time. I’d like to think that we’re all going get a new beginning this weekend. Amen? We dedicate ourselves, a lot of things are happening, a lot of things are happening in the world, a lot of things are happening in the church and some very exciting things. We solicit your prayers. Even Amazing Facts’ board will be meeting tonight after Sabbath and tomorrow exciting things happening so we appreciate your prayers.

Now some of you know that I have an ongoing collection of what we call oxymorons and it probably doesn’t shock you to know that there was a day that I had no idea what an oxymoron was. After someone explained that to me I started to collect them. I’ve added to my collection since I shared with you, oh, it’s probably been a couple of years ago. Just in case you’re wondering, don’t feel bad if you don’t know what an oxymoron. An oxymoron is a brief phrase, usually just a couple of words that contradict each other when you put them together. An example would be like “jumbo shrimp.” I mean, they’re opposites. You think of shrimp; you think of something small. You think of jumbo; you think of something big. Yet we’re used to saying jumbo shrimp. Hopefully here not too many of you order that, but… Like the word old news, two contradictions in that. Civil disorder. Civil and disorder are opposites, but it’s a word that you use as one word. Politically correct, there’s a contradiction for you. You’ve heard the expression small fortune. A partial monopoly, no such thing. I always like to include military intelligence, elevated subway. Some of the world think they are engaged now in what’s called the holy war.

Is there anything holy about war? Recorded live. well, the fact that it’s recorded means it’s not live. Instant water, what do you add? Water. Black light. A light heavyweight. Criminal justice. Let me see here. Oh, I’ve got some I was going to mention, but it’s probably not a good idea, things like female driver or… so I’m not going to say that. Wireless cable. An original replica. Limited lifetime guarantee; have you seen that one before? Freezer burn. Random order. Barbarian civilization. Honest politician. Found missing. Resident alien. Alone together. Legally drunk. There’s just lots and lots of them. You may send me some. I think it’s interesting when you say sometimes on a label it will say “free with purchase.” A nonworking mother, see if I can redeem myself after female driver. Liquid gas, they’re opposites when you really think about it. Anyway I could go on. You can see I’ve got hundreds of them. But the reason I mention that is in preparation for today’s message… Oh, by the way, another oxymoron little sin. Have you ever heard someone use that before? Maybe you’ve used it, “Aw well, it was little sin.” Is there anything little about something that would cause the death of Jesus? No such thing. Little sin is an oxymoron.

In our sermon title today it’s titled “A Free Sacrifice.” Free and sacrifice do not go together. That is an oxymoron. Just yesterday on the news, maybe you saw it as well, during the Easter season there is a place in the Philippines, San Pedro, Philippines not too far from our new university that we have there, where devotees (and the church does not endorse this) they reenact the crucifixion, but they don’t just go through the motions. They actually have individuals that volunteer not only to be flogged, many people will go down the street and they’ll be whipped until they’re bloody and a variety of self-punishment, but seven people are actually crucified. They have their hands and their feet nailed with stainless steel nails to show their devotion. And again I’d like to reiterate the government and the church does not endorse this, but it’s become such a pattern nobody stops it that tourists now gather to watch the event. They’re hoping to gain some merit by reenacting the sacrifice of Jesus believing that in some way they can atone for themselves by going through this. Is that what the Lord is asking for when He asks us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice?

What is a sacrifice? It’s a good idea sometimes to start with a definition. A sacrifice according to the dictionary is something highly valued that is forfeited or relinquished for the sake of someone or something considered to have greater value or claim. When you sustain a loss in order to accomplish something. Even those of us who remember the baseball era know what a sacrifice was. The batter might be willing to get himself out to bring somebody else home. Of course that’s just a game. Real sacrifice is usually much more costly. Sacrificing something of great value in order to obtain something that you believe to be of more value. Now we’re going to talk about some of the true forms of sacrifice and there’s a lot of misconceptions about what sacrifice is, but I’ll tell you right now there’s no such thing as a free sacrifice. The Bible is filled with sacrifice. This is the weekend where we think about it. way back in the beginning we read also for Adam and his wife Eve, Genesis 3:21, God gave them tunics of skin. Skin? Remember they tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves, but evidently there in the Garden of Eden God established the sacrificial system reminding them that someday His Son would come as a sacrifice. So God, probably God the Son, took an innocent little lamb, maybe a couple of lambs to cover Adam and Eve, and these innocent little creatures died to cover their nakedness. There’s no other way to get skin so most scholars believe this is the place where the sacrificial system was instituted. It’s also interesting to consider virtually every religion in the world believes in some form of sacrifice. Some civilizations had human sacrifice.

Many and most civilizations had various forms of animal sacrifice. It’s also interesting, most civilizations of the world would only sacrifice what we would think of as clean animals but there were some that would even sacrifice unclean animals, but virtually every nation had sacrifice as an atonement for sin or for bad behavior or to appease the gods, to bring the rain. Then you go to the last book of the Bible and just about every book in between and you read in Revelation where it pictures a lamb “as it was slain in the midst of the throne.” Of course that depicts Jesus as John the Baptist identified “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” So sacrifice is a central theme in the Bible, but I’m surprised how much misunderstanding there is about what is real sacrifice. It certainly is not free. The sacrifice that God made for you and me was not free. It’s important to understand the value of a sacrifice. Let me illustrate. I used to give out a lot of literature and I found as I stood on the street corner or as I went from door to door and gave people books and literature sometimes just a half a block away you’d see where they’d thrown it on the ground or it was in the garbage can. You’ve seen that where people are giving out tracts, they say, “Thanks,” and they discard it. But if when you hand somebody a tract you say, “This has a coupon worth $50” they don’t throw it away. As soon as they know there is value attached to it, they treat it differently. While salvation is a free gift for you to receive the sacrifice was not free. It was a very expensive gift. See what I’m talking about?

I don’t know if I dare tell you this. I say these things and whenever Karen hears me say this, she’s thinking, “Don’t say it!” but I’ll see if I can word it carefully. Somebody gave me a gift and I thought, “That’s nice. I don’t know what I’d ever do with it. I don’t know what I’d want with it,” and so one day I was talking to my next door neighbor and he hinted that he might need something that was just what I had received. I said, “You know what? I’ve got one for you.” I brought it over and I gave it to him. He was extremely grateful, almost did not believe it. After he took it and installed it, I found out it was a very expensive. I had no idea what they were worth. If I’d known what they were worth, I would have taken it back to the store. I would not have given it away. For him it was free, somebody paid for it. Now you’re all never going to want to give Pastor Doug a gift again so that’s why I hesitated telling you that story. We’ve still got some wedding gifts we aren’t sure what to do with after all these years. Yeah, we do. I’ve hidden them.

I want to tell you a story in the Bible. Actually I’m going to contrast a couple of stories to help illustrate the value of sacrifice. Why don’t you begin by going with me to I Chronicles chapter 21? Now to give you the background, this is a story in the Bible. David made a mistake and he numbered Israel. God had told them not to number the people so they could boast about how big they were because He did not want them to trust in their numbers when they went into battle, but after David began to become settled into the throne he thought, “Boy, I’ve got a great big kingdom! I wonder how many people in our kingdom.” He sent Joab out to number all the people in spite of the fact that even Joab the general said, “Don’t do that. God will bless us.” But anyway he went ahead and he numbered Israel and the basis for it was pride. It was not just for a census purpose. Well, God to humble them sent a terrible judgment. There was a great plague that went through the land of Israel. David was boasting about the numbers of people that he had, and so God withdrew His protection and a plague came in and they were decimated. Now I’m in I Chronicles chapter 21, verse 14, “So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell.” Especially the men because David was boasting in the size of his army.

Now this angel of judgment was coming through. Some have heard about the angel of death; it comes from this story in the Bible. In verse 16 it says, “Then David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem.” The plague had been making its way from the north to the south and now it has reached Jerusalem. “So David and the elders,” they can see this angel in the sky “clothed in sackcloth,” they’re mourning, they “fell on their faces.” And so David is interceding. Verse 18, I want to jump ahead here. “Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David…” Gad was the prophet. “…that David should go and erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” So here in Jerusalem there’s still some Jebusites that live in the city. David is being instructed to erect an altar. What do you do on an altar? It was a place for sacrifice. Go and erect an altar and sacrifice to the Lord on this threshing floor. Now a threshing floor it was a big flat stone paved area where they would toss the wheat in the air and the wind would blow away the chaff and they’d separate the wheat from the chaff. This threshing floor was a very large area and a big flat spot. And it says, “So David went up at the word of Gad, which he had spoken in the name of the Lord.” In verse 20, “Now Ornan turned and saw…” Now this to me is incredible. Matter of fact, I called a theologian this week to say, “This verse, I’ve just never really understood.” It says “Ornan turned and saw the angel…” Did you get that? This patriarch sees the angel with his sword drawn “and his four sons who were with him hid themselves, but Ornan continued threshing wheat.”

Now if you were threshing wheat and you see an angel between heaven and earth with a drawn sword, what would you do? I’d probably do what his four sons did and hide myself. Maybe this man was such a noble man as you read on he had such peace with God, he said, “I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do and I’m in God’s hands. I’m not going to run and hide.” He just kept doing his job, kept threshing wheat. “Then David came to Ornan, and Ornan looked and saw David. And he went out from the threshing floor, and bowed down to David” the king “with his face to the ground. Then David said to Ornan, ‘Grant me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an altar on it to the Lord. You shall grant it to me at the full price…’” I’m walling to pay the full price for this area, for this land because I’ve been instructed to sacrifice to the Lord here. Ornan shows that he’s a prince of a man. He says to David, “Take it to yourself, and let my lord the king do what is good in his eyes. Look, I” give it to you. I give you not only the land, I’m going to “give you the oxen” here that I’ve used for threshing for a sacrifice, and “the threshing implements,” you can break them up the wood of the plow and the threshing instruments use them for wood. I’ll give you everything you need, and I’ll even give you the wheat for the grain offering. I give it all. Oh, what a great spirit. He said I’ll give you whatever you need to offer to the Lord. Isn’t that a magnanimous spirit? Well, listen to David’s answer, and this is what I especially want you to notice. King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will surely buy it for the full price...” I’m not even going to ask for a discount because I’m the king. That’s really an abuse of power to do that. “…for I will not take what is yours for the Lord…” Listen, underline. “…nor offer burnt offerings with that which costs me nothing.” Is it a sacrifice if it doesn’t cost anything? I would say no.

A sacrifice is when you give something. I’m not just talking about money here. People are always suspicious pastors are making vague references to giving money. It does include that, but it’s really talking about giving of yourself, giving something that costs. Think about sacrifice I think about this young Mormon gentleman that was out hiking, you remember a couple of years ago by himself rock climbing a rock fell pinned his arm, he could not escape and after a day or two, do you remember what happened? He had to make a difficult decision. He took a knife he had with him and he had to cut off the part of the arm that was caught. He had to sacrifice a limb to save the body. You give something of value to obtain something of greater value. It doesn’t mean he didn’t care about his arm, but he cared more about his life. That’s why Jesus said it might require the cutting off of a hand or a foot or plucking out of an eye. Isn’t that better to enter heaven maimed than to go to the lake of fire with a whole body? That’s what sacrifice is all about. It’s being willing to relinquish something that does have value but you’re doing it in the interest of obtaining something that has greater value. David is interceding for the nation. His people are perishing and so this sacrifice is a sacrifice to the Lord to forgive his sin that the people might be spared. Whatever it cost he was willing to make it because lives were on the line. He said I’m not going to let somebody else especially Ornan was a Jebusite. He wasn’t even an Israelite. He said I need to pay. I’m the king. It’s my sin.

Now contrast that spirit of David, a man after God’s own heart, understood the principal of sacrifice, with his predecessor King Saul. I’ll give you the background now. Go with me in your Bibles to I Samuel 15:15 and while you’re finding that I Samuel 15:15. God told King Saul through Samuel the prophet, “Go and attack the Amalekites.” This was a very barbaric warlike people that had been attacking and robbing and plundering the children of Israel. They believed in human sacrifice and would offer their children in the fire to Malek and just a very base nation of people that were constant thorns in the side of Israel. Saul was told go and attack the Amalekites, do not spare anyone. Same thing God said to Joshua regarding the Canaanites. Do not let any person life, do not let any animal live, you are to exterminate them. I know it’s hard sometimes to understand biblically endorsed genocide. That was the command of God to this king. He said if it’s not you against them, it’s them against you. You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to be severe.

So the king understood his orders. He goes and he attacks the Amalekites and he does, he annihilates all the people, but he saves the king Agag. He thought I don’t want to kill the king, I mean, I want to bring a trophy back, lead him in chains with a parade, me ahead of him put my foot on his neck, and then we’ll make a big public execution. See if we can get some political revenue out of this. So he disobeyed in that respect and as they were conquering the city some of the people said to Saul, “Surely the Lord doesn’t want us to kill all these cattle. It doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong. Some of them look like they’re pretty good. Matter of fact, since they’ve got to be killed, we have to offer sacrifice to the Lord, why not save some of these? We can offer some of these; we don’t have to offer ours when we get home. Save them, we’ll bring them back and sacrifice them. Whenever sacrifices are needed we’ll offer the Amalekites’ sheep and goats.” Seems like a good bargain. So he comes back and with all these platitudes he says to Samuel, “I have done the command of the Lord.” And Samuel says, “If you’ve done the command of the Lord then what is the sound of the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen that I hear in my ears.” And Saul responds, “Oh, the people brought them from the Amalekites for the people spared…” he won’t take the blame himself; he’s the king. “The people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God. Remember He’s your Lord.” He doesn’t say my God. “The Lord your God. The rest we destroyed. We destroyed the stuff that wasn’t any good but we’ve saved some of the good ones to offer to the Lord.” Now Samuel said, I’m jumping down to verse 22, I Samuel 15, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft…” God says, “What I really want is for you to obey what I say. That’s worth more to Me.” Does God want goats and lambs? Is that what He’s really interested in? Is anybody in the world ever going to be in heaven because of the death of a goat or a lamb or a cow or a dove? No, that’s all symbolic of Christ and what God wants from us is to give ourselves. It’s not that He wants us to give a certain amount of money because if you’re giving the money and you’ve not first given yourself, you haven’t sacrificed. You should give and obey because “to obey is better,” but if He has your heart, He’ll have everything else. God had David’s heart. David had repented; he was willing to give whatever the cost because God had his heart. God did not have Saul’s heart. That was the real problem. He thought, “I don’t have to give. Let the Amalekites give. I’m going to make a sacrifice.” It was a sacrifice that didn’t cost him anything because they were taking from someone else. If I say… the offering plate is coming by and I’m sitting next to you in the church, just using this as an illustration as it’s coming to me so I don’t know how good it’s going to be, and as the plate is coming by I say, “You know I really think that we should give $10 today,” and I elbow you and you’ve never met me before, and I say, “Could you put in five for me? I’d like to make a sacrifice today.” Is that a sacrifice for me? “The number five comes to me. Does that sound good to you? Why don’t you give five for me?” It’s no sacrifice for me because it doesn’t cost me anything. It’s like the story, I think I actually heard one of our pastors here use this before, but I’m going to do it again.

A farmer unexpectedly his cow gave birth to two calves, and so he was happy about that. He was so happy that he told his wife, “You know I feel so good about that that I think we ought to dedicate one of those calves to the Lord. There’s a black one. There’s a white one.” He said, “We’re going to dedicate one of them to the Lord.” She says, “Which one?” He says, “I’m not sure yet.” Well a few years later they had a freeze and one of the calves died during the night and the farmer came in, he told his wife, he said, “Well, it looks like the Lord’s calf died.” Didn’t want it to be his calf. If they’ve got to suffer loss it’s the Lord’s calf that died. Well, it was no sacrifice. It didn’t cost him anything. So that’s the way that sometimes we go through life. You know the Bible it talks about the sacrifice of fools. In Ecclesiastes 5:1 I’ll just read this to you and elaborate a little bit. “Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.” And he goes on to say the sacrifice of fools is speaking. It’s the sacrifice of words without anything to follow up the words. Doesn’t Jesus talk about that in Matthew 15:8 when He said, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” And I’ve just got to tell you, before I was a member of this church I went to a charismatic church where there was a whole lot of verbal praise, there was a whole lot of auditory worship.

A lot of noise, a lot of tongues, a lot of praise, a lot of testimony, but I lived in that town, a small town and I knew the people during the week. They left it all in church. It was all lip service and they thought that they could compensate… I’m just thinking of a few individuals, you don’t know who they are, but to me it was always kind of hypocritical because they thought they could compensate ungodly lives by a lot of verbose religion. They drew near with their mouths, but their hearts were really obviously somewhere else. And these people who you knew in their business practices and in their lives they were pagan, but boy were they loud in church. The sacrifice of fools. The best thing we can do to obey is better than sacrifice. It reminds me of a husband. Right after dinner he began to recite romantic poetry to his wife. “For you, my love, I would climb the highest mountain. I would cross the widest ocean. I would traverse the deepest valley, go across burning deserts just for you! For you!” She said, “Will you do the dishes?” I mean, that’s sometimes how we are with God is we get very eloquent in trying to offer the sacrifice of our lips but our hearts are far away. He’d rather have you keep quiet in church and have you live for Him through the week.

Now there is a place to praise God and there is a sacrifice of the lips. Hebrews 13:15 and 16 “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Don’t forget about praising God, thanking God, the sacrifice of our lips. That means consecrate your words to God. Make sure your words are holy. That’s the sacrifice of praise. Praise Him, give Him the glory. So often we take the credit. Give Him the glory when it’s due. But he said also don’t forget the other sacrifice is to do good. That’s what the Lord really wants.

I want to go to Malachi 1:8, “And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil?” Let me illustrate. Part of the Bible command about offerings was, Leviticus 22:19, 20 and many places in the Bible it says when you bring an offering to the Lord bring an offering without blemish. They were not to go through their flocks and try to find those that looked like they were ready to die (like that farmer) and say, “Well, it doesn’t look too healthy anyway. Let’s offer this one to God.” The ones that were lame or the ones that were crippled or they were blind and then bring those to the temple. Matter of fact, there were priests that were supposed to inspect the offerings to make sure that they were qualified to be an offering. I’m trying to play that out in our church today how that would work. If a deacon stood at the row when the plate went by and lined up what you put in the plate next to an online credit report or financial statement, get the taxes. Here somebody is paying $100,000 in taxes and they put a dollar in (Of course that’s probably why they’re only putting a dollar in is because they had to pay so much for taxes.) But our sacrifices aren’t really investigated. They’re not inspected, are they? But Bible times the priest would inspect the lamb; he’d inspect the goat. But pretty soon it got sloppy because some of the inspecting priests had a relationship with some of the people who were making the offerings.

They said, “You know I’ve got some old cows and sheep here. I do need to bring an offering. Can we let them go on by?” And they’d be stamped. So this is the context of what’s happening. Listen to what Malachi says. “And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor!” If you were going to offer it to somebody for a feast or for dinner, you’d never offer something that was diseased. “Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” Now I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. If all you’ve got is one lamb and it’s not that healthy and that’s all you’ve got, God is going to bless you. What God is talking about is when we give Him the leftovers and save the best for ourselves. There was a whole principal in the Bible economy about giving the first fruits and the best to God. But it’s like if we’re paying our tithe or our offerings you say well first we’ve got to make sure that all the bills, got to make sure that we’ve paid for the cable TV and we’ve paid for all these other things, and then if there’s anything left we’ll give tithe and offering. Should that be the attitude of a Christian after God has given the life of His Son? Should Jesus be at the bottom of our list? After working so hard for the world all week long if we can still manage to roll out of bed one more time well or “I think I might sleep in today. I’m so tired.” What gets you out of bed the rest of the week? It’s a lame offering. Sometimes we’ll dress up better for our boss than we do for God on His holy day. I’m not trying to criticize anybody. Well, maybe a little bit. Just if it fits you just wear it, so to speak. But I think that we need to say are we giving God a lame sacrifice? Are we glorifying Him with the glory that’s due His name? If I can fit it in my busy schedule I’ll see if I can find some time to open my Bible and get on my knees, but we usually find time for what’s important. When it comes to our devotions are we giving God a lame sacrifice, or is it we’re giving Him the best when we think about what He gave for us. Now I’m going back and forth between examples.

Look with me at the story of the widow in Mark chapter 12, verse 41. You know the widow who gave her two mites. Let’s read that together. “Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.” Just to give you the context for that, you remember where the Lord talks about, “Therefore,” Matthew 6:2 “when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” The only reward they get for their offering is the glory of men who see them blow a trumpet and drop their offering in. This was happening that day evidently in the temple. Rich people were coming by and others were making a big fuss about their big offering and it was getting a lot of attention and the reason they were doing it was so obvious it was for the glory of men and the attention they were getting about how religious they were. Jesus looked past all of that and He saw a woman who kind of looked both ways. Maybe she had a couple of kids with her, a widow. She snuck in, she wanted to give, she loved God, she didn’t want anyone to notice how little she had to give. And it says, “Then one poor widow,” I’m back in Mark 12:42. “Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites,” the very smallest coin. It’d be about half a penny for us. “…threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.

So He called His disciples to Him and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow…’” Jesus saw it. He knew what was going on in her life. She “has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury…” So now Jesus was in the temple that day and He was seeing what was given and He was moved by what that widow did. Why was Jesus moved? Because he was impressed with the two cents, or He was impressed with how much of her heart was in the gift? Does the Lord still look when people give? I’m not just talking about money, friends. I’m talking about giving from our hearts. Christianity is all about giving. What’s the most memorized verse in the Bible? John 3:16 recite the first few words for me. “God so loved the world He gave…” It’s famous because it involves an incredible sacrifice. Those who take up the cross and follow Jesus live lives of letting go and giving. Now I don’t know why this widow gave everything she had. It might have been all she had left. That might have been her tithe. I don’t know. It might have been God had been good to her and she wanted to just show some gratitude. Maybe her kids had been sick and God had healed them and she wanted to give a thank offering and that was all she had in the world. I’d like to believe that somehow the Lord sustained her afterward. We would like to believe God miraculously provided for her that day. It’s hard to believe Jesus looked at her and stopped his apostles and said, “See that widow? She has given more to the treasury than everybody else,” and then He would let her suffer want after noticing that gift. I believe that Jesus says if you seek first His kingdom, everything else will be added. Amen? That means a heart priority needs to be first. She gave that kind of gift. It was a sacrifice from the heart.

I believe that real sacrifice means that you give so that it hurts. If it doesn’t hurt a little bit, it didn’t cost you anything. Most of us, myself included, when we come to church and we give we typically drive home in the same car, we sleep in the same house, we eat the same food, we’re very rarely, there are exceptions and I’ve heard some amazing stories of people who gave and because of what they gave they experienced great sacrifice. I know of people who had two cars and said, “You know we just, we want to do something special for a certain project,” and they sell one car and it greatly inconveniences the family but they wanted to give to a project. I’ll tell you that really moves you when you hear that story because in reality and again I’m including myself, most of us in our giving it is not sacrificial giving. Let’s face it. Say amen. It’s true. I think that we don’t really understand the kind of sacrifice that they had in the New Testament times. “No man said that ought that he had was his own, but all men had everything in common.” They sold their property and laid it at the disciples feet so the gospel could spread. There was this incredible spirit of benevolence and investment. I get phone calls every now and then on the Bible Answers program and you know a lot of Christians in other protestant churches, even catholic orthodox churches, they think that tithe is no longer required for New Testament Christians because there’s only a couple of references in the New Testament, which is true.

Those references are enough for me. Two witnesses are enough for me. but they say there’s really no New Testament teaching about tithe. It’s not as clear as it is in the Old Testament. And I hear people call and they say, “Pastor Doug, can you sign some kind of waiver biblically for me that we’re not required to pay tithe anymore.” You know what my answer is? I say, “Tithe is not done away with in the New Testament. Tithe is kindergarten in the New Testament. If you read your New Testament they gave a lot more than ten percent.” In the New Testament they were selling everything they had. I mean, it was a big commitment. Reminds me of another farmer story. One day the chicken and the pig were talking to each other and they wanted to do something for the poor and they said, “Why don’t we make a breakfast for the poor?” The chicken recommended, “Let’s make a ham and egg breakfast for the poor.” The pig said, “Well, that’s easy for you to say! For you it’s a donation. For me it’s a total commitment!” But that’s how the New Testament was built. So I say, “Well, if you think that tithe was done away with, let’s go to the New Testament model. Tithe is the basement. It’s the starting place for New Testament Christians. If they can’t even trust God on the ten percent level, how can you be a New Testament Christian? It was must bigger than that. An example and case in point, Mark 10:17, you know this story. It’s the story of the rich young ruler, and you find this in several gospels. It’s also in Matthew. “Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not bear false witness,” “Do not defraud,” “Honor your father and your mother.”’” He’s beginning to go through the Ten Commandments that every Jewish boy knew from heart, and I think he may have even interrupted Jesus because it was just so basic. “And he answered and said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.’

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” I think He loves us. “…and said to him, ‘One thing you lack….’” Now he’s asking about eternal life and Jesus said “one thing”. I sometimes think of the long list of things in my life that need changing. You maybe have your own list. Do you have a list in your mind you can think of areas that need improvement? Wouldn’t you be encouraged if the Lord said to you, “Doug, Bill, Mary, there’s only one thing left”? Oh! My list is down to one thing! Praise the Lord! But you know really all of us, we’ve just got one thing. There’s just one thing that we lack. That one thing is our whole heart. If you take care of that one thing, everything else gets taken care of. Sometimes I think what we do is we try and change the fruit on the tree by plucking off the bad fruit and tying on the good fruit and what you need is a new tree. Once you get to the stock of a whole new graft, a whole new tree, the fruit will all be different. So often we try to pick off the bad fruit and tie on the good fruit and we’re doing it the hard way, actually it’s impossible. “One thing you lack…” He says to this young man, “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Now what was the one thing? Was the one thing liquidating all of his assets or was the one thing following Him? Well, that really all was one thing. By the way when He invited Peter and James and John and Andrew to follow Him, what did they do?

They forsook their nets, by the way, they were bursting with fish when they did it, and they followed Him. When He invited Matthew to follow Him what was the context? He walked away from his cash register and followed Him. They forsook everything and followed Him. If you’re being invited to follow Jesus you’re being invited to let go of everything and follow Him. I wish I could market Christianity differently and make it more popular, friends, and tell you, God’s got a new deal and the new deal is if you give ten percent then you get eternal life. But you know the Bible says that it’s like finding a pearl of great price. What does the finder do? He sells everything he has, how much? to get that pearl. Or the man who finds a treasure in his field; he goes back home and he liquidates. He sells everything he has. How much? to get that treasure. Christianity requires a total sacrifice. And you thought I was giving you a hard time about ten percent. It’s much more than that. It’s everything. He wants you, all of you! Forgive me, but an old Willie Nelson song comes to mind and it was old when he sang it. “All of me, why not take all of me? Can’t you see I’m no good without you? You took the part that once was my heart, so why not take all of me?” There’s another song that says “Nothing less than all for the Master.” That’s what the Lord wants; He wants everything. But what did He tell that young man? What is sacrifice? You give something of value to obtain something of greater value. Isn’t that right?

What was the greater value that Jesus was offering this young man? He said, “You will have treasure in heaven.” The question is did he believe that? Evidently not because he “went away grieved, for he had” a lot of earthly “possessions.” Where is your treasure? That’s where your heart is going to be. What does the Lord want? He wants your heart. What is your treasure? If your treasure is in heaven, you know… I know some people who have taken the risk of cashing in their resources sometimes their retirement because they’ve gotten a stock tip and they have invested everything they’ve got in this ostensibly hot stock. Whenever they get the paper they go right past all of the headlines, they go to the financial section; they scan through all those microscopic numbers to find that one stock of that one company that they have invested in. You know why? That’s where their treasure is and they are so interested in the prosperity of that company, every little bit of news, good or bad, sends them soaring up or down. Have you ever met people like this? Their heart is there because their treasure is there. Is your treasure in the kingdom of God? Is that what sends you soaring and when God’s kingdom suffers some reverse; does it hurt you when Jesus is defamed? Do you rejoice when the kingdom is prospering? Is that where your treasure is or is it in your stock portfolio? Is it in the world? Is it in your social relationships here and the things of this life?

In Christianity a simple principle is you’ve got to let it go in order to get a hold of it. You’ve got to give it away to get it. Jesus said whoever will seek to save his life will lose it, but if you lose your life, if you sacrifice your life for My sake and the gospel’s then you get it. Matthew 16:25 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” You’ve got to give it to get it. Maybe you’ve heard the story about this man who was hiking across the desert one time and he came to one of these old cattle stations and there was one of these old pumps and it so happened he was out of water and desperately needed water for both him and his horse. And there by the pump was a glass gallon jug with water in the jug. The water howbeit was a little warm, but it was at least the life giving fluid. But there was a note on the gallon jug and it said, “Do not drink this water! Use this water to prime the pump.” In other words, if he wanted the pump right next to the gallon to work, he had to pour that gallon away to get the pump to work. Under it says “Trust me, it works.” Now you’ve got to make a choice. That’d be pretty tough. Am I going to pour this away and believe that by pouring it down the nozzle of that pump it’s going to prime the seal and create a vacuum and bring up much more by pouring it away, or should I drink what’s in the jug? That man, of course you know the story, he said, “Alright I’m going to pour it down the well.” And he used it all because he wanted to make sure it would work. Pretty soon he starts pumping, and he felt the resistance and the water came out warm at first and then cold, cascades of water once all of the air was taken out of the line and it would come as long as he’d pump, and of course he filled the jug again before he left. Trust me, it works. That’s how it is with the Christian life.

You’ve got to be willing to say, “I’m going to let go. I am going to give this life to Jesus.” I was talking to Harold yesterday, and I said, “I want you to make me a sign.” Pastor Harold. I call him Harold when you’re not around, but when you’re around I call him Pastor Harold. It’s an old slogan. You’ve probably heard this before. “One life to live will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” That’s the kind of thing you ought to pin up in your house somewhere. We forget that these lives are so short in the scope of eternity and yet we’re afraid to give these lives to get something worth so much more in heaven and in eternal life. You’ve got to give it away in order to get it. I’d like to read you a quote from that classic Steps to Christ. I’ve just started reading that again for the umpteenth time. Page 46. “But what do we give up when we give all? A sin polluted heart for Jesus to purify to cleanse by His own blood and to save by His matchless love and yet men think it hard to give up all. I’m ashamed to hear it spoken of. I’m ashamed to write it.” what do we give up when we give up all for Jesus? you know I was reading a quote by David Livingstone. He wrote in his journal, “People talk of the sacrifice I’ve made in spending much of my life in Africa. Can it be called a sacrifice which is simply paying back a small part of the great debt owing to our God which we could never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blessed reward in healthy activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind and bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice! Say rather it is a privilege to give our lives to Jesus.” Because what you’re doing is typically with a sacrifice you’re giving away something of value to obtain something better, but we’re giving something that is dead and dying to obtain something much better. Isn’t that right? We’re all terminal and if we don’t make this transaction, you’ve got everything to lose and nothing to gain.

What’s the sacrifice the Lord wants? It’s the heart sacrifice. Now this goes back to our verse in Micah chapter six. “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil?” Their sacrifices were oil, they were wheat, they were animal sacrifices. Ten thousand rivers of oil and he’s saying he doesn’t want multiplied stockades full of cattle or oil. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He owns everything we have anyway so what is it that He wants? What does all this symbolize? “Shall I give… the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” They even had a law about offering the firstborn to the Lord. Now you wouldn’t literally sacrifice them, but they were consecrated to the Lord like Hannah did. Talk about a sacrifice, Hannah giving her son, Abraham giving his son, or was it for the sin of their soul. “He hath shown thee, O man, what is good…” It wasn’t a new concept in the Old Testament. “…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” All He wants is you. That’s the sacrifice. He wants you to be a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1 and 2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable…” Christ will make us holy, just present ourselves.

There’s probably countless examples of the story I’m going to tell you, but it happened in Viet Nam more than once where somebody threw an explosive device, a grenade like bomb into a trench filled with soldiers, and then one of the soldiers leaps upon the grenade and wraps his body around it to save his buddies in the ditch. They often receive the Medal of Honor. It happened many times. Sacrifice your life to save many lives. That sort of makes sense, right? To sacrifice one life to save many lives. Then there have been many people who they love somebody so much that one person would give their life to save another life. That also makes sense. Some people have given their lives to save a total stranger just because they were raised it was instinctive to do it. Mothers, it’s an instinct even in the animal kingdom will offer themselves to save their young. Sacrifice. Well, that’s what the Lord wants from us, but He wants it from our heart. Psalm 51:16, 17 “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it…” This is King David, the one we started with at the threshing floor of Ornan. “You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God” here it is “are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart These, O God, You will not despise.” Isn’t it amazing that the poor widow was willing to give away her last two mites because God had all of her heart? The rich man was not willing to give away anything. She left with peace and contentment and the approbation of Jesus, and the other man walked away with all of the earthly treasures and he was grieved. Those are the same two choices everybody has. You give all your heart to the Lord like David Livingstone said, you get so much more back in peace of mind, joy, purpose for life by sacrificing your hearts.

You know while we’re on the subject of sacrifice few things trouble me more than when you hear about what may be a wasted sacrifice. Sacrifice is expensive. You expect a return on a sacrifice. When someone wastes a sacrifice, that is very sad. My heart goes out when I hear sometimes these, pardon me, but just slimy televangelists. You’re going to think, “Pastor Doug, what right do you have to talk?” But you know what I’m talking about. They bamboozle their congregations, they exploit them by fear and take their money and get them to buy these halleluiah oil and holy prayer handkerchiefs and all this stuff and people give believing. Sometimes they give everything because they’re desperate. I heard of a friend recently I was talking to whose health isn’t good. Some dubious medicine salesman talked them into buying two thousand dollars worth of vitamins to supposedly heal them and to me it just broke my heart because knowing what I know it’s just a wasted sacrifice, but they’re desperate. You hear these stories. I heard about a plane that made a rough landing. The plane burst into flames. Everybody got out except one person that was in the seat. The pilot ran back in to get this one fellow out, but wasn’t able to get him out and the pilot didn’t get out. And you think, oh, here he laid down his life to save somebody and he couldn’t save him. Now was that a wasted sacrifice? You know, anything that’s given for God is not a waste, is it? I think there’s even a German proverb that says “That which one sacrifices is never really lost if it’s sacrificed for someone else.” How many sins did Jesus pay for when He died? Would that be all of my sins? All of my sins. That seems a pretty big payment right there. All of your sins? All of the sins of everybody in the world? Did He pay, did He suffer enough to cover everybody’s debt? Will the majority of people in the world be able to capitalize on that sacrifice or will a lot of people not take advantage of it? It breaks your heart when you think that God has paid enough for everybody to make it, but very few believe. Doesn’t that hurt you to think about that? And how much should that motivate us to get out there in the world and let everybody know it’s possible for you to make it. It’s been paid! What a shame for you not to get on the boat to salvation when your ticket has been paid, to stay in the city of destruction. You’d want to tell everybody that news, the sacrifice has been paid. It’s free for you, but it was not free for Him.

Now I’ve often said during this message that a sacrifice is to give something of great value to obtain something of greater value. Jesus gave the greatest value, His life, to obtain something of greater value. Wait a second! What could be more valuable than God’s own Son, the life of God the Son? Well, what makes anything valuable? They say in economics something is worth what others will pay for it. It’s amazing what people will pay for things. I heard somebody paid thousands of dollars for a potato chip that looked like the Virgin Mary. I guess that’s what it was worth if someone will pay you for it. How much are you worth? How much was paid? Evidently Jesus thinks that you being in heaven with Him for eternity, and me, was worth it. And the very fact that when He died, He made a payment, it’s complete. He made a sacrifice and then He rose again and He’s alive showing that what He paid for is worthwhile. He’s going to collect it. He’s coming soon to collect what He paid His life for. Amen? That’s good news for us. There has been a sacrifice made. I’d like to invite everybody. Tell you what, why don’t you start by reaching for your hymnal. Turn to 526 “Because He Lives.” 526. I’d like everybody to think about have you really given everything? He wants your entire hearts. It costs everything, but you get everything. You’ve got to be willing to trust Him and like that man hiking across the desert pour it all out and then He will fill you again with that living water. Would you like to pray that prayer with me today? And it’s because He’s alive that’s all possible. Let’s stand and sing this from our hearts.

God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus, He came to love, heal, and forgive; He lived and died to buy my pardon, An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives. Because He lives I can face tomorrow, Because He lives all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Amen. That sounds so rich to hear you sing that chorus with the organ. I’d like to give you an opportunity to respond maybe more tangibly. Some of you may have some special needs. There may be some who are listening either on this program or here in our congregation who realize that you’ve only made a partial sacrifice and God is calling you to surrender yourself as a living sacrifice. He’s asking for your heart. That’s the sacrifice that the Lord wants. He has your heart; He has everything else that’s connected with your life. Amen? And maybe you’ve been holding back, and you feel Him calling now to make that total surrender and you’d like to ask for prayer. We want to pray for you. I’d invite you to come as we sing the last verse of this song and we’ll pray together. Verse two.

How sweet to hold a newborn baby, And feel the pride, and joy He gives; But greater still the calm assurance, This child can face uncertain days because He lives. Because He lives I can face tomorrow, Because He lives all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Amen. How many of you would like to say before we pray together, “By God’s grace I want to give all of my heart.” Sometimes we feel like our promises are like ropes of sand, but by His grace, Lord, whatever I’m not capable of giving, You take it. If I’m not willing, make me willing to be willing. Amen? For we know it takes everything. Let’s pray.

Dear loving Lord, our hearts are stirred as we consider how much You have given. You are the prime example of complete loving sacrifice, total surrender. You emptied Yourself that we might be saved. All of heaven was emptied when Jesus came. And Lord, we’re very thankful for the truth that today there is an empty tomb providing evidence that You are alive and that the price was accepted and that we can be in that kingdom with You. Lord, You’ve told us that You’ve paid for everything, but it requires everything. We must be willing to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, to take up our cross and follow Jesus knowing we receive so much more in this life and eternal life in the world to come. Help us, Lord, really to have our treasure stored in heaven because that’s where Jesus is. Bless each person. We all face a plethora of different struggles, but they’re all wrapped up in selfishness and sin. Cleanse us from our sin; fill us with Your love. I pray we can have a new beginning during this season. Thank You for the promise of Your Spirit and be with us when we go from this place because You’ll be with us always. In Jesus’ name we ask. Amen.

You may be seated. I would like to also remind you if there are any who are visiting today and you are accepting Christ for the first time we’d like to invite you to visit with the pastors. Please fill out the card in the back of your pew or if you’ve been attending and you’d like to maybe be a member of the Central Church please take one of those cards, fill it out, and we’d love to have you join our church family. Also want to remind you, there is a special SAA program reenacting some of the scenes of the cross and the sacrifice and the resurrection this afternoon at five o’clock right here. God bless you and happy Sabbath.

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The Jesus Difference by Herbert Douglass

The Jesus Difference by Herbert Douglass
God's Promises




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