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Sacrifice


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#1 Mark

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 09:50 PM

The first chapter of our first reading today was all about the peace offering, a sacrifice that was made for the atonement of sin. For our exhortation this afternoon we’re going to take the theme of sacrifice: we’re going to look at the Passover sacrifice, the sacrifices we have to make in our life, and the sacrifice that has been made for us by the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is sacrifice? I’ll just give you a few seconds to answer that in your own minds. The reason I asked that question is because sacrifice means different things to different people.
When I first thought about sacrifice I thought about an animal being killed and offered on an altar. However, a sacrifice can be something which we value that we give up for someone else, whether it be our time, or money or even our life. The apostle Paul confirms this when he writes of the money that the Philippian church sent to him as being "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God." (Philippians 4:18).
I’d like to suggest that we could define a sacrifice with three axioms, three must have aspects, three requirements for it to truly be a sacrifice:
1. A sacrifice must be freely given
2. A sacrifice must be completely given
3. A sacrifice must be given at cost.

#2 Mark

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 09:50 PM

Consider the first point. A sacrifice must be freely given. If something if given begrudgingly or unwillingly is it still a true sacrifice? Whilst it is still a sacrifice – for example, to go without food in order that someone else might have it – if we do it in an unwilling way and despise them for it, we must surely agree that this isn’t the way it should be done. Instead it should be a wholehearted willing sacrifice. We read in the 54th Psalm “I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good.” (Psalms 54:6) In Exodus we read of the Israelites freely bring gifts in order to build the tabernacle – Exodus 35:29 reads “The children of Israel brought a willing offering [or sacrifice] unto the LORD, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the LORD had commanded to be made by the hand of Moses.” We know that Christ gave himself as a willing sacrifice for us. Come with me to Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” The word used here for offering – prosphora – means properly that which is “offered to God” in any way. However, it is used almost exclusively in the Scriptures to denote an offering without blood - a thank-offering, or a freewill offering. Christ willing gave himself for us, he wasn’t forced to do it, he didn’t have to do it, he did it for us. So that’s my first requirement for a true sacrifice – it must be freely given.

#3 Mark

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 09:50 PM

My second requirement for a true sacrifice is that it must be completely given. We can’t go half way with a sacrifice, we can’t just give a little bit of the time required, or just a little bit of the money needed – that way it isn’t really a sacrifice at all. Come with me to Mark 12:41-44. “And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” The woman here made a true sacrifice – she gave all she had to the Lord. On the other hand the rich people gave generously, but didn’t really make a sacrifice. They probably wouldn’t have missed what they put into the pot, they were giving out of their wealth. We know this is what Christ has done for us. He gave himself completely for us, not just in his death, but in his whole life. We read in Hebrews 7 that Jesus “needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” Christ gave himself completely, for us, even though we are sinners. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” For something to be a true sacrifice it must be completely given.

#4 Mark

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 09:51 PM

So we’ve got that a true sacrifice must be freely given, and it must be given completely – not holding something back. My third requirement for a true sacrifice is that it must be given at a cost. We’re not sacrificing something if it doesn’t have value to us, if it doesn’t mean something to us or isn’t needed by us. If our time is not in short supply then we’re not making a sacrifice by giving up time to help someone else, or if money nothing to us we’re not making a sacrifice by making a generous contribution to someone – we could use the same example as we did before with the woman and the two mites. There is nothing worth more to a person, nothing more valuable than there own life, and yet Jesus gave it up for us. As Paul writes in his first letter to Timothy Jesus “gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” that we might have “redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” That second quote is from the letter to the Colossians.

To briefly recap, there are three necessities for true sacrifice. It must be freely given, completely given, and given at a cost. What then, are the sacrifices required in our lives today? Although we are called to make sacrifices in our lives, we must remember the warning that God gave to his people through the prophet Micah. “Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:6-8) Making sacrifices, just for the sake of making sacrifices, is not going to please God. We can’t notch up a tally of good points by giving things up in order to help others. Instead we’re asked to “do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly” before God, exactly what Paul commands us to do in Romans 12. Turn over to that chapter if you will. Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The word here for transformed is the word metamopho, as in metamorphosis, the transformation a caterpillar goes through when it turns into a butterfly. Paul is emphasising quite how much we need to change – we not asked to change just a little bit, but change ourselves so our way of life is as different as the ugly caterpillar to the beautiful butterfly. This word is only used three other times in the Bible. Two of these are the word used for transfiguration, when Christ’s “raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them”, an enormous change in his appearance, like that of a caterpillar and butterfly. The other time it is used is in 2 Corinthians 3:18 “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed [or as the RV puts it, being changed] into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Through Christ our characters are being moulded and changed that we might be presented acceptable to the Lord. So, one of the sacrifices we are called to make involves us changing our character from what is easy and natural, to become more like Christ.

Edited by Mark, 03 March 2007 - 09:54 PM.
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#5 Mark

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 09:51 PM

Going back to our three axioms, this change is done at a cost to us – it’s difficult to take the Christ-like route. Jesus said “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). It’s far easier to take the broad way, the way that leads to destruction, we must face the cost in our lives of aiming for the narrow way. The change has to be done freely – we can’t be forced to change, we can’t change reluctantly – as Jesus said “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62). Finally, the change has to be made completely, it must be a metamorphosis, a enormous change, visible from the outside.

How then do we make this sacrifice, this change to our lives? Turn over to Colossians 3:12-14. Paul tells us here that we should “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity [or love], which is the bond of perfectness.” This isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, so in verse 16-17 Paul gives us some practical advice. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” The same advice as the Psalmist gives us in Psalm 119:9 “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” This now is more of an exhortation to myself than anyone else – the only way we will truly be changes is if we regularly read God’s word. How else can we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, or how else can we “take heed thereto according to thy word”? It’s only by regularly reading and rereading the Bible that we will be able to do what the writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to. Hebrews 13:15 - “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”
Turn with me now to Genesis chapter 3. We’re going to have a quick look at the first sacrifice in the Bible before we move on to look at the Passover sacrifice which we know points forwards to the sacrifice of our Lord. Genesis 3. This is the first occasion that we can read about sacrifice in the Bible. This occasion sets the precedence for all of the other instances of sacrifice we have recorded for us. In Genesis 3 we read about fall of man, how Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus condemning themselves to death. However, this wasn’t the first thing that they worried about. Verse 7, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Adam and Eve realised that they were naked, and in order to cover up their nakedness they tried to make themselves a covering. However, the covering that they made for themselves wasn’t effective. It required God’s intervention to make an effective covering. Verse 21: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” The spilling of blood in an animal’s death was required to cover up the results of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, in effect the first animal sacrifice.

Edited by Mark, 03 March 2007 - 09:52 PM.
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#6 Mark

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 09:52 PM

Let’s look then, as I said the Passover sacrifice. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that the death of the Lord Jesus Christ was a fulfilment of the Passover sacrifice: "…Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”. We’re going to spend the rest of our time thinking about the Passover sacrifice and how it looked forwards to the ultimate sacrifice which Jesus made for us. Come with me to Exodus 12:3-5. “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:” We know that Christ was described as a lamb – John the Baptist said “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”.
The lamb had to be without blemish, and we know that Christ was without blemish. When Pilate was trying him he said “I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4); Isaiah wrote “he had done no violence, neither was any deceit found in his mouth”, and Peter goes even further and makes it crystal clear that Jesus was the Passover lamb when he wrote “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” (1 Peter 1:19) making it clear to us that the Christ fulfils the role of the Passover lamb.

Verse 5 again “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year:” How does this apply to Christ? We know that Christ wasn’t a year old when he gave up his life. I suggest that the lamb would have been in the prime of his life, as Christ would have been in his early thirties. The lamb had to be taken out of the sheep. Christ was a Jew – he was taken out from among the people and gave his life for all.

Verse 7 “And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.” If you skip down to verse 22 we given a little more information about this. “And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.” The blood was to painted on the door posts using a bunch of hyssop. Immediately this makes us think of the crucifixion doesn’t it: “Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.” (John 19:29)

Verse 46 “In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.” We know that this was fulfilled in the crucifixion also. In John 19 we read “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:” (John 19:31-33) Jesus had given himself completely as a freewill offering for us, so that we can have hope through his death and resurrection.

#7 Mark

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Posted 03 March 2007 - 09:52 PM

Although we think of the Lord’s death as being the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice he made was more than that. Jesus had to go through the whole of his life knowing that he was going to die in this way. It seems to me that the hardest part for Jesus wasn’t the actual crucifixion and trial, we know from Hebrews 12 that it was “for the joy that was set before him [that Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” I think that it’s possible that the hardest time for Jesus was when he was in the garden of Gethsemane. Come with me to Mark 14:32-36. “And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” This is the hardest point of Jesus’s life; at this moment he would know that unless he had the strength to get through the next few hours that the past three and half years would have been wasted, so much rested on the last few hours of his life. Once the angel had strengthened him and he’d spent more time praying we don’t see any sign of weakness at all from the Lord, he had his eyes fixed firmly on the joy set before him. This is what we have to do – we have to face many trials in our lives, we have to make many sacrifices in order to be a true disciple of Christ – we must keep our eyes fixed on the kingdom, “seek ye first the kingdom of God”.

So as we break bread this afternoon let us think upon the sacrifice of our Lord, how he freely gave himself, he completely gave himself, at the cost of his own life. Let us also think about the sacrifices we need to make in our lives in order to be true disciples of Christ.




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