< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Making Great Sacrifices Part 3

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Making Great Sacrifices Part 3

Continuing on from a lesson I taught from Chip Ingram's book Good to Great in God's Eyes: 10 Practices Great Christians Have in Common

My daytimer is full of verses and quotes I want with me all the time. And years ago I wrote down Romans 12:9 -13 and 15 – 18 and titled them “How to Live”
If we could read these at the start of every day I think it would change us for the better.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

These verses are kind of a capsule for what Christians need to be doing daily.

God wants all of us. Not just our Sunday mornings, not just our tithes, but every minute of our day, every word out of our mouth, every action we take. Everything about us should show the world who we honor and who we belong to.

When you make a commitment like this, it’s pretty easy to decide what to do in a situation. Will this please God – or not? Is it something Jesus would do? Does it help you grow God’s kingdom? If someone saw you do it, would they question your walk with God?

Chip said “Good Christians make the sacrifice required to demonstrate that Jesus is, in fact, the object of their worship. But, great Christians go above and beyond everything that’s required to express their overflowing love and commitment to Christ. They trust God to take what He already owns; their life, and do something lasting and wonderfully fulfilling with it.”

Romans 12:1-2

This is a very practical section. The section starts with “therefore” and therefore in the Bible, always points back to something that was taught earlier. Here it teaches that because of the way God has saved sinners thru the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, because of the way God has set them on the path of godly living by joining them with Christ and because of what God is doing – calling new people from both Jew and Gentiles, Christians should live differently from the way they lived before they were saved and from those around them They are now a part of Christ’s church. Paul begins his statement with the need for Christians to develop a Christian way of thinking and that’s that our bodies need to be offered as living sacrifices: holy and pleasing to God. Sacrificing your life for someone is the ultimate proof of true love. And Paul tells us we’re to do that for God.

But, we’re to be living sacrifices. This was novel in Paul’s day when all sacrifices involved animals dying. But, Paul says we are to offer our lives to God so that, as a result, we no longer live for ourselves, but for him. We’re to be instruments He can use for doing His will.

And the place to start is our minds. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

The mind is powerful. What you fill your mind with determines how you act. If you fill your mind with the Bible and Christian books and godly conversation you will become increasingly useful to God.

Paul also says that our sacrifices need to be holy. All sacrifices in the Bible were to be holy: the lambs weren’t to have a spot or a blemish. Anything less then perfect was an insult to God. That was the problem with Cain’s offering way back in Genesis.

Paul says our sacrifices should be pleasing to God.

We offer ourselves as sacrifices because of His mercy, because He’s been so good to us in so many ways and also because of what He continues to do. Salvation is not a thing of the past. God continues to work in those whom He has brought to faith in Jesus Christ. When God starts something, He will bring it to completion. We also offer ourselves because service is God’s will for us and He is worthy of our best effort. The things we do for God will go in to eternity.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:35 that Heaven and earth will pass away. But, in 1 John 2:17 it says, “the one who does the will of God lives forever.” And that includes his works because in Rev. 14:13 it says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…they will rest from their labor and their deeds will follow them.”

What we end up doing in Heaven has a lot to do with what we’ve done on earth. Romans 12:2, “Do not let the age in which you live force you into its scheme of thinking and behavior and customs of the world.”

One commentator, JB Phillips said about this verse, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold.” We’re not only to act differently than the worldly people, we’re to think differently. People: worldly, secular people, don’t think about eternal consequences when they do something. The future to them is: retirement or maybe their grandchildren’s world – maybe they’re trying to leave “their world a better place” for future generations – that kind of thing. But, they don’t think of their lives as already a part of eternity where our earthly life is just a dot long. When you see that, you begin to understand that some of the trials and problems you go through, if you react to them the right way, which is not becoming bitter, but staying focused on God – you come out a little bit more like Christ. A little bit more humble, a little bit more compassionate, a little bit more grateful when it’s over!

God’s will is we all end up like Christ by the time we stand in front of Him – whatever it takes!

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