Friday, 1 April 2016

Thinking about sacrifice.

Christians today like to play it safe. We want to put ourselves in situations where we are safe 'even if there is no God.' But if we truly desire to please God, we cannot live that way. We have to do things that cost us during our life on earth but will be more than worth it in eternity.
~Francis Chan, Crazy Love p114
Hebrews 11 is a fantastic chapter of encouragement, giving us a great testament to what God has done throughout history through people who had faith in Him. Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and many many more.  Accounts of their faith, about what was promised to them and what God did through them are there so that now we can, as it says in Heb 12:1-2;
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We have a greater centre to our faith than what any of these 'heroes of our faith' had, because Jesus is the 'founder and perfecter' of our faith. In Jesus we are given the full revelation of God.  In Jesus is the fulfilment of the promises to made to those heroes of faith.  The promise of Abraham's decsendents is fully realised when grace is offered to all the world because of Jesus; Noah's promise for salvation is fully seen in Jesus dying for all sin; God told Moses that He would be Israel's God and they His people, making them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation - this is fully fulfilled when Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within His people.  We have a greater motivation, encouragement, challenge and intimacy because of Jesus. And surrounded by that cloud of witnesses, we should cast off all those things that hinder and surge on in good works for God as we were created to do.

Yet I feel Francis Chan's quote at the beginning of this post rings true about the greater number of believers in this day and age.  Hebrews 11 is a great chapter of encouragement for us as we see what God has done, however it should also be noted that all of these heroes of our faith gave up much for the faith they are now famous for.  Caleb was murdered because he brought a more acceptable offering; Noah built an ark - a giant work of many years of hard labour - at a time when an ark looked like the last thing anyone would need; Abraham packed up his family and left to a completely foreign land; Moses was hiding from the law, with a wife and a simple life, but went back into the land where he was wanted for murder to be a spokesperson for God... and on and on.

I think many Christians today want to be connected to Jesus. They understand that He is the only one who can save them from the consequences of their sins, and they certainly don't want to have to deal for the consequences for their sin.  Some get to a point where they are really convinced of the price of their sin, and the cost it was to God to send Jesus, and the cost of the cross, and are truly sorry for their sin - that it would cause that much pain.  But I fear the Christians Francis Chan are talking about don't go as far as realising Jesus is our Lord, that means He's the King.  He said this himself...
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matt 28:18)
Philippians also defines the status of Jesus now that He has risen...
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Even if you look at human kings, they demanded that their subjects give up much for them, and their rule.  The king made decrees and people obeyed.  The king went to war and his people just got up and went with him. If the king wanted a feast the people brought him their animals and crops, because at the end of it all the king owned those animals and crops anyway.

So do we as Christians think of Jesus in that way? What He says we do, where He sends we go, what He requires we give.  The big question is are we willing to sacrifice our lives for our faith?  That's not going to the extreme of dying for our faith, but simply sacrificing things we want, for the sake of what Jesus calls us to.

This is where most get caught up I think, this is where a lot of people these days say, "I'm happy to hear about Jesus, to sing the songs, to feel the love, to understand the guilt of my sin and the grace I've been shown... but!!! But I am going to live my life my way... you can't expect me to sacrifice my happiness, my wealth, my want for relationships, my sense of comfort."

The simple fact is yes I do expect you to do that, because Jesus expects you to do that and He is the King.  Jesus is the King who did that for us in such a way we can never fully conceive, and never pay back - so praise Him He's given it as a free gift.  But to accept His free gift and not be willing to sacrifice is not living in a way that is worthy of that sacrifice He made for us.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1-3;
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
I love that! 'Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called...'!!!!! That means sacrifice... that means honouring your King by letting Him command.  It is not about earning your freedom or salvation, we've already been called into that, but because of that salvation we now have something of such great worth we need to be willing to sacrifice for it.

It just makes sense to me, and I get so frustrated when it doesn't for others. Human selfishness (though I recognise I fall into it too) is the single most frustrating thing in my ministry. It is the single biggest road block in people living a life for Jesus. It is the single biggest challenge to people finding true happiness - even though they think keeping things for themselves will make them happy.

In this day and age I think the biggest call I make as a pastor is for people to sacrifice their lives for Jesus... even when talking to Christians.  It is something I constantly preach to myself, I understand I need constant reminding of it too - but if we were all reminding ourselves of it more often I feel the Church would experience extraordinary growth!

Maybe today ask yourself what you are keeping for yourself, what are you refusing to sacrifice... because I tell you that will be the thing stopping you from serving and loving God more!

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