读经： 诗89:30-37 罗11:33-12:21 代上6:1-81
Looking back at my life, I now realise how many sacrifices my parents made for my sister and me. I wish I had appreciated that more at the time. My parents came from a generation that was very familiar with the idea of sacrifice. Many of their contemporaries had sacrificed their lives for their fellow human beings and for their country. The whole idea of making sacrifices, great or small, seems more alien to our generation.
‘Sacrifice’ is a word used many times in the Bible. The vast majority of references are in the Old Testament. These passages, prefigure Jesus’ sacrificial death for us on the cross. In the New Testament, almost all the references are about Jesus’ sacrifice. The book of Hebrews describes the death of Jesus as the one perfect sacrifice fulfilling all the Old Testament preparation and prediction (see especially Hebrews 10). We do not need to make sacrifices for our sins. His sacrifice was perfect and complete. Yet the New Testament, as we will see, tells us that there are sacrifices you can make which please God.
1. Thank God for the sacrifice of Jesus
Psalm 89:30-37God loves you. God loved David. He said, ‘I will not take my love from him’ (v.33). God is also holy: ‘I have sworn by my holiness’ (v.35).
God, in his love, made a covenant with David and his people. It was a covenant of grace, but it required a response of obedience to the law. But what would happen if they did not keep the law? If that happened – ‘If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands’ (vv.30–31) – a penalty would be required (v.32).
The New Testament tells us that God came in the person of his son Jesus Christ to take that penalty by offering himself as the sacrifice for sin. Through that sacrifice God’s love and holiness were both fully expressed and satisfied, and you need make no further sacrifice for sin.
Thank you, Lord, so much for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for me. Thank you for your love and holiness. Thank you that no further sacrifice is required for my sins.
2. Make sacrifices that please God
Romans 11:33-12:21Fire falls on sacrifice and to have continual fire in your life it requires continual sacrifice. In this passage we see four sacrifices that you can make in response to Jesus’ sacrifice for you:
- Sacrifice of our lips
The writer of Hebrews says, ‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name… for with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Hebrews 13:15–16).
Much of the first eleven chapters of Romans are about the sacrifice of Jesus for us. Paul, having set out all that God has done for us, responds with a sacrifice of praise(Romans 11:33–36).
- Sacrifice of our lives
Paul writes, ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy [because of all that Jesus has done for us through the sacrifice of himself on the cross], to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship’ (12:1, AMP).
God wants you to offer all of yourself and all of your lives – your time, ambitions, possessions, ears, mouths and sexuality – as well as your mind, emotions and attitudes. Paul’s description of a living sacrifice also reminds us that you have to go on offering your life as a sacrifice to God, offering the whole of your life for the whole of your life.
As Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message, ‘Take your every day, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering’ (v.1, MSG).
In Old Testament times, ‘living sacrifice’ would be a contradiction in terms. The whole point of the sacrifice was that it was killed. Jago Wynne writes, ‘Our act of worship is no longer to bring a sacrifice, but to be one ourselves. We remain living. It is all of us that is being offered. Worship is about what I say with my tongue. It’s about what I watch… what I think… where I go with my feet.’
- The sacrifice of our ‘loot’
In Romans 12, Paul encourages the sacrifice of generosity in contributing to the needs of others (v.8). We are to ‘share with God’s people who are in need’ (v.13). This is another sacrifice the writer of Hebrews says pleases God is ‘to share with others’ (Hebrews 13:16).
We are even to give generously to our enemies: ‘Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness’ (Romans 12:20, MSG).
- Sacrifice of our love
In this passage Paul gives many examples of the sacrifice of loving service (vv.9–21).
The writer of Hebrews says, ‘do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased’ (Hebrews 13:16).
‘Doing good’ means giving up things that are not good. ‘Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould’ (Romans 12:2, J.B. Phillips). Although God only asks us to give up the bad stuff in our lives, it can feel costly to do so because that stuff is superficially attractive. Repentance is a very positive word, but at the time it may seem sacrificial.
Sacrificial love involves allowing God to transform us by a complete change. Our love must be sincere (v.9). The Greek word for ‘sincere’ means ‘without hypocrisy’ or literally ‘without play acting’ or ‘without a mask’.
Often relationships in the world are quite superficial. We all put up fronts or masks to protect ourselves. When we see governments doing this, we call it ‘spin’. When we do it ourselves, we call it ‘image’; we are projecting something. In effect we’re saying, ‘I don’t really like what I am inside, so I will pretend I am somebody different.’ I certainly did this in a major way before I was a Christian (and it carries on to some extent afterwards – though it shouldn’t).
If other people are doing the same then there are two ‘fronts’ or ‘masks’ meeting. The sad result is that the two real people never meet. This is the opposite of ‘sincere love’. Sincere love means taking off your mask and daring to reveal who you are. When you know that God loves you as you are, you are set free to take off your mask. This means that there is a completely new depth and authenticity in your relationships.
Paul urges Christians to live in harmony with one another and to be generous (v.13), hospitable (v.13), forgiving (v.14), empathetic (v.15) and to live at peace with everyone (v.18). It is a glorious picture of the Christian family into which God calls us, beckoning us into an atmosphere of love, joy, patience, faithfulness, generosity, hospitality, blessing, rejoicing, harmony, humility and peace; where good is not overcome by evil, but evil is overcome by good.
Lord, today I offer you my body as a living sacrifice. I am available to you. I give everything I have to you again – my life, time, money, ambitions, plans, hopes and desires. Show me your good, pleasing and perfect will (v.2).
3. Understand the sacrifices in the Old Testament
1 Chronicles 6:1-81In the Old Testament the priests were the mediators between God and the people. ‘Aaron and his sons offered the sacrifices on the Altar… They made atonement for Israel’ (v.49, MSG).
Priesthood was hereditary. The priests were descendants of Levi. The chronicler lists the ‘sons of Levi’ (vv.1,16,46). We see that all those who served in the tabernacle (later to become the temple) were regarded as being ‘of Levitical descent’ (vv.1–30).
The chronicler stresses the importance of the temple. The temple was a place of worship where God’s spirit dwelt. David put some of the Levites in charge of the music in the house of the Lord – ‘These are the persons David appointed to lead the singing in the house of God… They were the ministers of music in the place of worship’ (vv.31–32, MSG).
Other Levites were required to present sacrifices on the altar – ‘making atonement’ (v.49). As we saw earlier, a simplified definition of atonement is ‘at-one-ment’. In other words, God providing a means through which people can be at one with him.
This was the pattern throughout the Old Testament. The need for sacrifice and the making of atonement prefigured the final, complete and sufficient sacrifice of Jesus. Such passages remind us of how amazing it is that sacrifices are no longer necessary because of the one true and perfect sacrifice of Jesus.
Thank you, Lord, that all that is required of us today is a response to your sacrifice; to offer you the sacrifices of praise, of our bodies, of doing good and sharing with others. Thank you that with such sacrifices you are pleased. I pray that you would pour out your fire on our sacrifices.
‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’
Doing good is the most powerful way to stop evil spreading.