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BEING A LIVING AND HOLY SACRIFICE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
2 September 1990
Preparation Verse: (Romans 12:1-2)
I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Today we are gathering together in an act of worship. We are also gathering to celebrate Holy Communion with each other, and with the Lord, in remembrance of all that He has done.
The Lord Jesus made Himself a living and holy sacrifice for each of us,
individually. He took upon Himself our sins and died because of them; not
because He Himself was sinful, for He was without sin, but because He loves us
and desires us to have a way of escape from the wrath to come.
Each of us is called upon to be just such a living sacrifice, not unto a physical death as that of the Lord, but unto a spiritual death of repentance and a true desire to be conformed into the life of Jesus Christ, with the perfect will of God.
This is not just something we are to do once in our lives, or when we celebrate the Lord's Supper, or even every Sunday when we gather to worship. It is something we are to do every day and perhaps several times a day.
It is just as we are told in our preparation Bible verse for this morning. Let's read it again (Romans 12:1-2):
1. I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
2. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Isn’t this what the Lord admonished Joshua the high priest about, as we discussed last week?
Joshua was not being transformed by the renewing of his mind; conversely, he was being soiled by the ways of the world.
Joshua was basically alone, among his friends, for a spiritual renewing. His mind was all cluttered up with the ways of the world. And it wasn't until he sought the Lord directly that Satan was rebuked, his sins were taken away, and he could once again be of use to the Lord.
In the Greek Orthodox tradition, a person could not come forth for communion
unless they had abstained from eating and animal flesh, for the killing and
eating of animals were considered to be conforming to the ways of the world, and
not in the perfect will of God.
We cannot worship God unless we have a renewing of our minds, and we cannot have such a transformation unless we desire to leave the worldly and ungodly ways behind.
That does not mean that we cannot approach the Lord; on the contrary, it means that we must approach Him with a repentant heart for that renewal.
The voice we have to listen to is the Lord's, not our fellow human being's voice; for sometimes our friends and advisers do not really speak for God, but for Satan.
Do you remember that we were told that Satan was at the right hand of Joshua to accuse him?
And do you remember that we said that this was similar to what happened with Peter and the Lord?
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 16:21-23 and listen to this conversation:
21. From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.
22. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You."
23. But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."
In the 500 or so years from the time of Joshua, the high priest, to this time
of Jesus and Peter, the priesthood had again become contaminated; for it would
be the religious leaders who would condemn Him, their Messiah, their hope of
Peter knew that Jesus was his Savior, but he couldn't see past His physical presence. He didn't want to lose Him. He didn't want to face the world again without Him.
Isn't that the way we all feel about someone we truly love?
Peter's mind was not set upon the desires of God, but only upon his pending personal loss.
Peter was listening to the voice of Satan. He was trying to appeal to the personal sympathies of Jesus, so that He would feel sorry for Peter and not leave him.
And Jesus must have felt that pang of sympathy also, for He says that what Peter was saying was a stumbling block to Him.
Jesus, in the flesh, didn't want to suffer that long agony upon the cross, and he didn't want to leave His friends who depended upon Him; but He also knew that He must fulfill His destiny.
Thus Jesus rebuked the words of Satan, spoken through Peter, for they were of the flesh and not of the desires of God. We ourselves should remember this when our friends and others give us advice that is counter to the word of God.
Then Jesus explains the responsibility of true believers, and what it means for us to be a living and holy sacrifice:
24. Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
25. "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.
26. "For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
We get our priorities backwards sometimes, don't we?
We are taught by our own society to believe that the most important thing is to be successful and to be accepted by our fellow human beings.
We are taught by example that it is important for us to be important
ourselves, and we measure this success by the amount of money we have, or by the
number of people who know our name.
Jesus says that these things only lead to death, if they are our primary goals.
The world says that the situation governs the way we behave, but Jesus says there is only one way to live:
We are to die to ourselves.
We are to nail our sins to the cross with Jesus.
We must recognize our personal sins as sins, and also those of our society. We are not to try to justify them.
Maybe we don't like to admit our sins in public, and that’s okay; but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that they are all right, or try to justify them or ourselves.
We are to feel the burden of Jesus' cross as if it were our own.
We are to walk with Him wherever He goes, and to live our lives as He lives His.
As we said last week, we are to live and behave and speak every moment of every day as if Jesus were actually in our presence.
We only fool ourselves when we think He doesn't know what we are doing.
So, when it comes to our salvation, all of the worldly possessions mean nothing.
Be thankful for the good things the Lord gives you to satisfy the desires of your heart, and rejoice in Him for them, giving Him the glory before others.
Don't be so attached to the ways of this world that you would covet them over that which the Lord gives you, as did Lot's wife, and become a pillar of salt as she did when she looked back to Sodom.
We have only one life to give, and only one soul. There is nothing that is exchangeable for it. We don't get a second life to try it again.
Therefore, we have to make a very personal decision. We must decide whether to live for Jesus Christ as a holy sacrifice, in a manner that is acceptable to Him, or whether to go after the callings of Satan and the world, and die and lose everything, even our soul.
Jesus goes on and confirms this:
27. "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.
28. "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
Are we individually, personally, ready for the Lord to return?
Are we ready right now, right this very minute, right this very second?
We need to be living and holy sacrifices, acceptable to God, right now.
We may not have until next year, or even until next week, or a few days, or even until tomorrow.
We must have our house in order every day.
And once we have learned to do this, we will find a surprising thing: It is much easier to keep our life in order, once it is put in order, just like our homes.
The choice of being a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, is a personal decision for each of us to make.