Everyone loves good news! And this morning God tells us something quite wonderful! It is a promise that should encourage each of us in good times—and continue to encourage each of us even during difficult days. It should be a guiding light to direct our steps each and every day! What is this good news? It is this... Our Heavenly Father never gives up on us!
He which hath begun a good work in you, St. Paul writes, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. This is most encouraging! This tells us that God does not do things half well. He does not start a project, then leave it uncompleted! He does all things well! And so should we!
Work when you work; play when you play. That’s the way to be happy each day! Whatever you do, do with all of your might. Things done in halves are never done right!
What is important for us to note this morning is that the Apostle Paul employs two terms in this grand statement which apply to the making of a sacrifice! The first term is translated He which hath begun a good work in you… And the second term is translated will perform ituntil the day of Jesus Christ. In other words, He who hath called us to be sacrifices for Him will continue to work in us and with us until the sacrifice is complete on the day Jesus Christ returns in glory! He began this work... and He will complete it!
This is worth pondering... understanding… and implementing!
In the Old Testament, there were many offerings in the sacrificial system instituted by God. But the top two sacrifices were probably the sin offering and the burnt offering! And they were different!
The sin offering was made in order to obtain expiation. What is expiation? Expiation is forgiveness, but it is much more. It is the payment of a penalty that must be paid. Select parts of the animal being offered were consumed on the altar and expiation was thus acquired. Jesus Christ, of course, became the great sin offering for mankind. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (I Corinthians 5:21).
The burnt offering, on the other hand, was consumed as a whole (in total). It was not offered for atonement. It was offered for surrender… consecration… commitment… to the Ancient of Days! It was meant to bring a pleasing fragrance (smell) to the LORD!
Having been brought near to God through Christ, we – in our own day -- have now become this burnt offering! We are to surrender ourselves to God… we are to consecrate ourselves to His purposes… we are commit the details of our lives to the Almighty. For these please our Maker and Redeemer and Sustainer.
There are many in our day who seek God in order to obtain life and fire insurance! But to be a sacrifice is much more than this. Sadhu Sundar Singh – one of the greatest of all the Christian missionaries of India once so capably caught its essence. And I quote...
Should I worship Him from fear of hell, may I be cast into it. Should I serve Him from desire of gaining heaven, may He keep me out. But should I worship Him from love alone, He reveals Himself to me, that my whole heart may be filled with His love and presence.
St. Paul reminded the Christians in Rome: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a livingsacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. There is an holy obligation upon us to serve God and not man! There is an holy obligation upon us serve God and not the world! He who is a friend with the world, the Scriptures tell us, is the enemy of God.
And we learn in this morning’s Epistle Lesson that it was God Himself Who began this sacrifice in us… and it is He who will complete this sacrifice through us. And that is a comforting thought! There is so much sacrifice to be accomplished, it takes a lifetime! But He who begins the sacrifice in us, we are told, will end the sacrifice in us. This was true for the Twelve... it has always been true for Christ’s followers. It remains true for us today!
Jesus said: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it (St. Mark 8:35). He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose!
Can you picture your own life as a sacrifice for Christ? Can you picture yourself giving up the ways of mankind as a sacrifice for Christ? This is what it means to be a living sacrifice for Him.
“What are we sacrificing?” You ask. To sacrifice is to kill! We are called to sacrifice (or kill) our old former ways of life. As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly writes the Proverbs-writer and also St. Peter in the general epistles bearing his name..
We are also called to sacrifice (or kill) our old natures (the “old man” in us) that would drag us away from God. Man cannot serve two masters, Jesus taught – only one! And if we choose to serve God, we will need to sacrifice – get rid of – all other idols in our lives.
We are further called to sacrifice (to kill) irreverence. If there is one thing Christ’s churches need today – it is reverence – born out of an appreciation of the holiness and greatness of God! The reason churches have traditionally installed stained glass windows is to block distractions for one hour a week – when God’s people gather to withdraw from the world and its irreverence toward God in order to show reverence for Him!
How do we show reverence on Sundays? In several ways… Through punctuality (by being on time). By wearing our best clothing before Him and not our worst clothing before Him. In a day of “come as you are” we need to remember to “come as you should.” By being silent and thoughtful in His House. By focusing and participating in the service instead of shifting into neutral and seeking entertainment. This is most certainly what we try to do here for our Heavenly Father each service.
It is not so elsewhere, I am sad to say…
There are churches not far from here who invite people to come and have breakfast while worshipping with them! They invite people to come and play games while worshipping with them! They invite people to come and watch movie clips while worshipping the Almighty!
Whatever happened to reverence? Whatever happened to sacrificing ourselves for one hour in order to let God know we appreciate Him and commit ourselves afresh to His holy ways!
He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
He never gives up on us. So let us do our part. Let us not forget to be sacrifices on His altar!
This is the Word of the Lord... and may it stand. World without end! Amen.