Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sermon 3-25-07--The Willingness of the Sacrifice--Lent Service

This message was given at the Macomb Assembly of God during the Lenten Community Services. I thank everyone at Macomb Assembly for the opportunity to come in and share with them as well as those from UBC who supported me there.

The Willingness of the Sacrifice

We all know the phrase—“God loves a cheerful giver.” It has to do with the heart, it has to do with the willingness of the giver to give.

When there is no love, giving leads to bitterness. Example:

A Tampa chiropractor had paid alimony to his former wife for a long time. In 1994 he came to his final alimony payment of $182. He didn’t just want to send his money; he wanted to send a message. So in large scale he drew a check on the back of a pinstripe shirt. On the memo line of his shirt-check, he wrote, “Here it is—the shirt off my back!” The bank cashed it.

Givers can be divided into three types:

the flint-- to get anything out of it, you must hammer it, and even then you only get chips and sparks

the sponge-- to get anything out of a sponge you must squeeze it and squeeze it hard, because the more you squeeze a sponge, the more you get

the honeycomb--. They are the ones who just overflows with their own sweetness and eagerness.

The Bible contrasts the offerings of a poor widow to those who had an abundance. The amount that the widow gave wasn’t as important as the heart behind her giving.

In taking a collection for the churches in Jerusalem, Paul wrote to the Corinthians--2 Cor. 8:12—“ For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”

Have you ever wondered what type of Giver is Jesus? Is He someone you have to hang-up by His ankles to shake the coins out of His pockets?

Is Jesus someone who’s arm you have to twist? Or does He willingly give His all? Does He hold anything back from you and me?

Of course not. When the soldiers were gambling for the shirt off His back—He was saying—“Father forgive them”. He had every justification to blame, to resent what they had done while He was innocent. And that is one of the beautiful pictures of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us.

It wouldn’t have been hard for Jesus to turn aside—to do anything else—all He had to do was leave Jerusalem. One sin would have mad Him unfit to be the Messiah, one moment of wanting to put His will above the Father’s will, and it would have been over.

An important step to the Resurrection is the Willingness of the Sacrifice.

The Willingness of the Sacrifice can be seen in…

Jesus’ Baptism

In Matthew 3:13—Jesus came to John the Baptist in order to be baptized, not for sins, but to fulfill all righteousness and to identify to John and the world who He really was. Some time after baptizing Jesus, John sees Jesus again in John 1:29 and declares—“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Jesus was and is the Lamb of God—the Perfect sacrifice and Passover lamb that covers our sins, and turns away God’s judgment. His Baptism was a Pledge of Commitment, a demonstration of His willingness to fulfill the Father’s plan—to give His life as a ransom for many.

Jesus was fully aware of where the Father’s will would take Him, He knew what was coming. The plan for our salvation was set in eternity—the date of the Crucifixion was circled on God’s calendar. He knew where He was going and what would happen and yet He was still willing to go to the Cross.

Our Sacrifice didn’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the Cross. He was not forced; He was willing and embraced His cross.

John 10:14, 15, 17-18—“14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep.
17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”

Jesus is the One with the authority to lay down His life and no one takes it from Him. The High Priest did not have authority over Jesus, Pilate did not have authority over Jesus except what was given to them from above. Giving His life is a demonstration of His love.

His life was not given for show,

Or a dose of guilt

or out of an overdeveloped Duty

or out of Demand—we could never make God do anything, and at the same time I don’t think we were we particularly asking.

The gift of Jesus is willing and based on His love for you and me. It was all His idea from the beginning

John 15:13—“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

The Sacrificial Lamb was willing to give His life for those He loved and cared for. And Jesus loves and cares for some strange people—myself included. But that also includes people that you or I might not think twice of, people we may think are too far beyond God’s ability to reach or forgive.

Romans 5:7-8—“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus knew His destination and He went anyway so that we could live. And every step of the way was full of temptation. Every step was an opportunity

After Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness, Satan “left him until the next opportunity came” --NLT. Every step was a part of the next opportunity. In fact, according to Hebrews 4:15—Jesus “is able to sympathize with our weaknesses [b/c He] was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.” Jesus was tempted to leave the purpose of God, He was tempted to take shortcuts, try and be the Messiah without the suffering and not be our Willing Sacrifice—yet He resisted those options and remained committed to the Pledge He had made to the Father. He faithfully gave His life for us in the most gruesome way possible.

In fact, something about that suffering was necessary. By suffering as we often suffer, Jesus was made an even better Savior. Hebrews 2:10 tells us that “it was fitting that God… should make the author of [our] salvation perfect through suffering.”

It was because of His temptation, because of His suffering on the Cross, that He was exactly the sacrifice we needed.

His willingness to endure through all of that made Him the “Author of our Faith” or the “Captain” or “Pioneer” or “Trailblazer” of our faith, the Living Bible calls Him the “Perfect Leader”.

No other point in His life shows this willingness better than the Garden of Gethsemane. While he went over to pray, the disciples were sleeping. It was just Him and God (This was probably another one of those opportune times), and so He asks, like any one of us would ask, “If there is any other way, a way that won’t involve my suffering and death, I’m willing to do it. But don’t change Your plan on My account—they need salvation too much.”

This was a battle for Jesus—to be obedient unto death or to find some other way. It was such a battle that Luke tells us Jesus received strengthening from an angel, but even with that, knowing what was coming, He was so anguished that He sweat drops of blood.

His willingness to endure the suffering demonstrated just “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” —His willingness to endure this pain, to endure this humiliation on our behalf, to take the punishment for sin that we deserved, showed His love.

1 John 4:9-10—“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Do you realize that He was willing to endure such pain and suffering all for the hope that you will spend eternity with Him? He did it for you, He did it for me. No one had to twist His arm, no one had to bribe Him.

Our Sacrifice willingly crawled onto the altar and into the fire to atone for our sins. He made the choice to save your and my life.

He was willing to die for you. Are you willing to live for Him?

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