"We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat." Hebrews13,10
"Indeed, even if my blood has to be poured as a libation over your sacrifice and the offering of your faith, then I shall be glad and join in your rejoicing...: NJB Phillipans2,17
"As for me, my life is already being poured out as a libation, and the time has come for me to depart." 2Timothy4,6
"I was given grace to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the gentiles, dedicated to offer them the gospel of God, so that gentiles might become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." NJB Romans15,16
"For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." Acts20,27 ESV
How Can We Minimize Sacrifice If We Were Saved By One?
Our message today is "We Pour Ourselves Out in Gospel Service." Pouring ourselves out in the New Testament, as Thayer's Lexicon notes, describes sacrificing one's life, unto blood and death, for the gospel.
We don't put limits on what God might ask us to do.
I come from a church background that lifted up the whole idea of sacrifice and martyrdom. Any martyrdom still has to be the Lord's will, the witness given by God for our lives. We don't choose our martyrdom, just as a sacrifcial servant would not choose only his or her own preaching topics. Martyrdoms and preaching topics come from God's will, or they are bound to clang and lead us astray.
And yes this idea of sacrifice can and has been misused to take advantage of good and sacrificially faithful people- in churches, by non Christains too, in marriages and at work, by wolves in sheep's clothing as a control mechanism. We have all seen this. But having said that, many churches have sort of removed the Spiritual reality of sacrifice in our biblically based Christian faith, on the basis that Jesus was the last physical sacrifice, so now it's no big deal.
And "sacrifice" for some sounds too Catholic, but the bible is God's word for all His people. And there are Christians of all stripes who ignore vast passages and the literal meaning of scriptures just because they sound too much like the other folks' doctrine. But who were more sacrificial than the Protestant reformers, who stood up and died for printing the bible in langauges that people actually knew, and thereby getting the word into the hands of God's people? So they can read and understand it for themselves.
This avoidance of preaching sacrifice is a notable error that contradicts scripture and the past, present and future examples of great Christians throughout the ages.
There's No Such Thing As A Half-Way Sacrifice
God's word teaches Spiritual sacrifice such as "it is better to give than recieve." (Acts20,35) And we 'lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." (1John3,16) Sacrifice rightly focuses us on the fact that our religion is not about me, me, me but about Him, Him, Him, who sacrificed for us.
Taking out the biblical reality of faithful Spiritual sacrifice leads to many people holding back in our service to Jesus, rather than wholly pouring ourselves out. if any. "Let the pastor do it- it's not my job."
The most common sacrifice in the tent and then the Temple was the daily male lamb, or ram, offering, the "olat tamid," one in the morning and one in the evening according to Exodus29,40ff. The word makes clear the whole lamb is offered, holcausted, burnt up in smoke, to the Lord.
"Offer the second ram between dusk and dark, and the same grain offering and drink offering as at dawn, for a soothing odour; it is a food-offering to the Lord, 42 a regular whole-offering generation after generation for all time." NJB, the Message Bible also adds "whole" too.
Likewise, at the end of the sacrifice, the whole amount of the wine, a quarter hin, about 16 ounces, was poured out onto the burning lamb at the end of the sacrifice.
Not half for God, half for us, all of it!
So likewise Paul is saying metaphorically, prior to the Roman Emperor Nero spilling Paul's blood, that in spreading the gospel he has wholly poured himself out. He isn't holding back half his life blood in his service. He's pouring himself all out, the whole way.
For a pleasing odour unto the Lord.
We have a way of doing things in the Christian church that shouts "we only go half way." That screams, "let's not get carried away?" That shouts "what would people think if we became a 24,7 365 day a year Christian." That screams "well at least we keep the prophets silent."
You see the thing about biblical faith sacrifice is that it always relates to the whole and total life of the offeror, and and the total death of the offeree. The word says "unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat." John12,24. Jesus all the way fell to the ground, and all the way died.
Like the 1931 song, first performed by Belle Baker on radio and first recorded by the Nebraska born siren Ruth Etting (Wikipedia). Every famous singer of the 20th century in the USA has sung or recorded this song: "All of me." You know the lyric. (Authored by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons)
The word doesn't say that half way dead or half way alive is the way of faith, sacrifice and service. Sacrifice is all or nothing. Unless we are willing to die to ourselves, pick up our cross, and die to ourselves on it, we all always going to be known as half way Christians.
A half way sacrifice is no sacrifice at all.
Just another half dead-half alive grain of wheat.
I was out doing the street and sign ministry and got to testifying to man at a light recently "I said you're going to church to praise the Lord. And I'm here doing the same. Why do we do either? Because we're alive!" Christ in us, the hope of glory, praise Jesus.
As in fully alive, after dying to ourselves.
Are you fully alive or a half way dead still?
We'll give our money, but not our love. Half way.
We'll give our brain, faith has to be rational, but not our hearts and souls. Half way.
We'll give our precious time to God, but not our precious kids. They have to play sports on Sunday. They need to learn from the world, just to make it. Half way.
The best thing they can learn from the world is how to be a half way Christian.
We give our politics to God, but not our love.
Half way sacrificers- half way followers of Jesus.
Yes it's true that Jesus is the last physical sacrifice. But the reality of "Qorban," (Hb.) bringing something close to God, offering something important to God, so that God comes close, lives on.
It still Spiritually works. Spiritual sacrifices work- they bring us close to God. I have learned the painful and slow way, that holding back in my Spiritually sacrificial service is not really service at all. It gets no results. It changes no hearts, gives no witness, bears no fruit.
It doesn't do what real sacrifces do, call down the very presence of God.
I have a friend, an intercessor, for people, the kind of gal who will go over hill and dale to pray for anybody who asks. She and her husband ran "the prayer group," you know the kind, the kind sent to the barely lit basement or the capilla, or anywhere far away from the regular church folks, who wouldn't want toget "infected" with Holy Ghost baptism or something like that.
She has sacrificed for folks, all her life. And you go into her house and there's the presence of God. Spiritual sacrifices, such as praying with and over folks, done with actual faith, brings the presence of God. She's a whole way, sacrificing unto miracles type of Christian. Some lukewarm folks might think she's going to blow a Spiritual head gasket, but she doesn't. She just rests up, as needed, and comes back praying again.
Her example is that of the Apostle Paul and Jesus, the biblical standard of sacrifice. This is go-the-whole-way, don't-look-back, don't-keep-counting- the-costs-again-and-again type of faith.
As the sacrificial language of James 4,8 puts it "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded."
We can't be double-minded while we're pouring out our lives in sacrificial service: "Whoever would save his life shall lose it , and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, and the gospel's, shall save it." ERV Mark 8,35 Jesus uttered this verse for our eternal edification and our message today.
Some people are so ready with "Jesus" "Jesus" on their lips, great!
But He makes sure that we know to sacrifice for the gospel too!
Not just saying "Lord Lord" but laying our whole lives down, dying to oursleves, that the gospel is preached, and defended, and known.
We Are Free Will Offerings
We freely give our life away. We lose it as a free will offering, a free will sacrifice, not because we are still in sin, but because we are in service of the Lord. Psalm54,6 is the biblical typology of freely sacrificing to God, by choice, not because we have sin on our spirits. Our Jewish brothers and sisters had to sacrifice when they had sin on their spirits and souls, but they also did so freely, just because they loved God. We have been redeemed, taken out the state of sin, so all our Spiritually sacrifices are freely made:
"I will sacrifice a free will offering to you. I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good."
The New Testament bible is filled with sacrificial terms. Revelation refers to "altars" seven times. 1Peter2,5 and 9 says that we are all a new and royal priesthood "offering spiritual sacrifices, made acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Having been washed in the blood, having been all sanctified by Holy Ghost baptism, we now realize that even though Calvary was the last acceptable physical sacrifice, it was not the end of the biblical concept and example of sacrifice.
The word tells us we offer Spiritual sacrifices. I like to capitalize the S, that is by faith according to the word and the confidence of faith and under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, sacrifices such as praise and worship, such as living by faith and every word from the mouth of God, these are a Spiritual sacrifice. Celebrating with faith the biblically based Spiritual memorial that is the Lord's supper is another Spiritual sacrifice. Offering our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Romans12,1, rather than to the world, the devil and the flesh) is another.
Honoring a spouse as one's own flesh in marriage (Ephesians5,29) is a Spiritual sacrifice. No man hates his own flesh but honors it. Marriage without Spiritual sacrifices of husband and wife for each other and for the family is not going to be a marriage for long.
Submitting to each other? Submitting to a husband? Submitting to the marriage? Submitting to kids who need guidance?
"He don't deserve her" -true indeed.
"She doesn't deserve him," also true.
This all sounds pretty Spiritually sacrificial to me, but what do I know?
If we are Christians and don't want to Spiritually sacrifice in marriage, we best not get married. Not even the best pre-nuptual agreement lawyer in the world is ever going to take sacrifice out of a marriage.
And we're never going to be able to take sacrrifice out of our faith. In fact, the Apostle Paul, he describes his entire gospel to the gentiles in terms of a priestly sacrifice.
And he wasn't even a priest!
"Indeed even if my life has to be poured out as a libation over your sacrifice, and the offering of your faith, then I shall be glad to join you in your rejoicing." Phillipians2,17
"I was given the grace to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the gentiles, dedicated to offer them the gospel of God, so that the gentiles might [also] become an acceptable offerring, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." JB Romans15,6
At the end of his life he said,"As for me, my life is already being poured out as a libation, and the time has come for me to depart." 2Timothy4,6.
The New Testament Bible does not in any way minimize the concept of sacrifice. In fact, it tells us we follow a risen and glorified man-God who before his death was God in human flesh. We know He willingly gave himself in sacrifice and we know even now He still bears the marks of his immolations, his piercings (Revelation5,6).
So, only we human beings would ever minimize the idea of sacrifice in the bible. Jesus and the word want us to forever remember it!
We preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified, our savior, as well as glorified, our Lord.
Our New Sacrificial Altar Is Jesus
In fact, the book of Hebrews, which was primarily written to a certain number of Jerusalem Temple priests who were nostalgic for their roles in the physical sacrifices back in thet cushy Temple. Their important roles took place in the center of Jewish political power and prestige. They were well fed and housed by the largesse of the sacrificial system. The specific purpose of Hebrews was to teach these exiled temple priests, and by extension all of us, that the new Spiritually sacrificial system of Christianity is way better that the physical sacrifices of the Hebrew temple.
We could rightly say the rhetorical and sacrifcial apex of Hebrews is 13,10, among many, when the author says something amazing and shocking and sacrificial about our new life: "We have our own altar from which those who serve in the tent [Jersualem temple priests] have no right to eat."
Our own altar- we don't even have a physical temple- and yet we we have the altar of the risen Jesus and that's the place we get fed. In other words, our life of sacrificial service to Jesus means we get Spiritually fed off His new altar.
The author here hints that he knows how well fed the Temple priests were in that old physically sacrificial system where only they had the grace of priestly ordination, where only they had the power and holiness to come closest to God, and only they got the choicest parts and the leftovers.
Hebrews13,10 underscores the sacrificial nature of our whole faith life, of coming to the risen Jesus, who is now our only altar, and laying down our lives before Him. We go to him to Him and through Him, the last physical sacrifice, with our Spiritual sacrifices, and by doing so we get Spiritually fed.
There's a real problem with taking the concept of sacrifice out of our faith, of drawing near to God, who will draw near to us. When we take this out we end up with a "give me this" and "give me that" type of faith, or a "I paid for this blessing" religion. We end up with a God who serves us rather than a people of God that serves Him.
This non sacrificially based religion is celebrated at our own peril.
A faith system without sacrifice unto a living God becomes too easy, too pleasy and too cheesy- too centered on man, man, too 666.
The risen Jesus is our only altar now, and our only temple now, our only "place" of Spiritual sacrifice now. This is the radical Christian teaching of Hebrews13,10.
He is also the "place" in heaven where we go in faith to find God, the "place" and the person we go to and through whom we make our Spiritual sacrifices. Revelation6,9 speaks of the martyred souls under the altar in heaven pleading for the just vindication of their blood. Revelation 8,3 speaks of a gold-plated incense altar before the throne of God in heaven where an angel stood putting incense on the fire. Incense as you know represents the prayers of the saints, in heaven and on earth, united one and all, praise Jesus.
At Revelation 11,1 an angel is told to measure the Temple and the altar and them that worship therein, ie measure the true church. These "measures" are the numbers of the saved, those under the altar, under the blood, under the saving jurisdiction of our altar Jesus, Praise Jesus and His Holy Name.
The risen Jesus is the altar of Hebrews13,10. So, it's no wonder there are altars, which are usually physical things, in heaven, His altars, for our one high priest Jesus.
And as we read through the Hebrew Scriptures, aka the Old Testament, we note that the patriarchs, and all the male witnesses of the faith, erected altars, not just in the temple precincts, and then made important sacrifices to God on them. Noah built an altar to God after the flood miraculously subsided, Genesis8,20. Abram built an altar as soon as he got the promise from God of the land of Israel, Genesis12,7. Jacob built an altar in Bethel, the house of God, because God appeared to Him there as he was fleeing his brother, Genesis35,7. Moses built an altar and called it Jehovah Nisi (Jehovah is my banner, my flag, my victory, my country), after Israel defeated the Amalakites, Exodus17,15.
Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal after he took the Cannaanite city of Ai, Joshua 8,30. Gideon built an latar after he defeated the Midianites, Judges6,24. Samuel, priest, prophet and all around faith cop walking his supervisory beat builds an altar in his home town of Ramah after God smote the Philistines, 1Samuel7,17.
Saul and David also built altars too.
An altar is firstly a sign of thanksgiving, and then a point of contact with God. It confidently says "we take faith jurisdiction in this place, we claim it for our God, because our God was here and will stay here." The first stone one lays in a earthly church is Jesus, the cornerstone, the first and only altar is the risen Jesus.
Whenever God showed up and did a miracle the first thing those guys did was make an altar and offer an animal. The animals life ended but by God's favor our humans lives continued. That's the first message of every sacrifice- you let us keep living Lord. I just learned from the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary that building altars is based on the fact that God had come down in a theophany, some sort of blessed miraculous manifestion. So the idea was to keep God's miraculous presence, his glory there by building an altar, and by the proscribed offerings. Us drawing close to Him by faithful sacrifice, and then Him drawing close to us.
Even now our Spiritual sacrifices always begin with an altar Jesus, as we have seen and heard of His miraculous resurrection and His miraculous sending of His Spirit at Pentecost, first fruits of Calvary.
The Sacrificial Example of The Apostle Paul
So now that we know some about sacrifice, we go to Paul's example of it on the altar of Jesus, by faith, his unending, unyielding whole hearted gospel service per 2Timothy4,6.
I'm going to read two excerpts from Alexander Maclaren from his study of this chapter 4 of 2Timothy, under the heading "A Prisoner's Dying Thoughts."(www.biblehub/commentaries/maclaren/2_Timothy/4.htm)
In 2Timothy Paul is trying to pass on the mantle of Apostleship and valid teaching to a sort of wimpy Timothy, who is himself facing the same "raging lions" of Ephesus that Paul faced (1Corinthians15,32). Not to mention that Ephesus is the test case for the Apostolic rooting of the church into the second generation of apostles in this crucial regional church hub in Asia Minor. "Raging lions" such as the "Nicolaitans" in Ephesus, those who dominate the laity with hierarchy and political power, Revelation2,6 and 15. Such as the 1000 year old false cult of Artemis, that likely had women Christians excluding men (1Timothy2,8 http://www.zionpentecostmission.com/discernment-or-silence.html) not to mention prior elder scandals and vacancies.
All this context is just to say that the true and whole Christian church could have failed in Asia Minor, and perhaps elsewhere, if the whole gospel wasn't rooted deeply enough (Acts20,27) after the first generation Apostles died. Paul knew this and gave his life in sacrifice that the anchor of the gospel would hold.
Many churches have failed over the ages, and go right on doing so today. The gates of hell can prevail over any church that leaves its sense of Spiritual sacrifice, that leaves the altar of Jesus.
Br. Maclaren was a Scottish born English Baptist who lived from 1826 to 1910. And yes I agree there's no excuse for every preacher not teaching what the Lord says in one's own words, but there are times when justice allows that a man's preaching speaks best for itself:
'Paul's long day's work is nearly done. He is a prisoner in Rome [perhaps his second Roman imprisonment], all but forsaken by his friends, in hourly expectation of another summons before Nero. To appear before him was, he says, like putting his head into 'the mouth of the lion.' His horizon was darkened by sad anticipations of decaying faith and growing corruptions in the Church. What a road he had travelled since that day when, on the road to Damascus [Acts9], he saw the living Christ, and heard the words of his mouth."
"It had been but a failure of a life, if judged by ordinary standards. He had suffered the loss of all things, had thrown away position and prospects, had exposed himself to sorrows and toils, had been all his days a poor man and solitary, had been hunted, despised, laughed at by Jew and Gentile, worried and badgered even by so-called brethren, loved the less, the more he loved."
As Gene Scott used to say Am I boring you?
"And now the end is near. A prison-and the headsman sword are the world's wages to its best teacher. When Nero is on the throne, the only place for Paul is a dungeon opening onto the scaffold. Better to be the martyr than the Caesar."
"Then [in the thick of conflict] one main hope which animated all his toils and nerved him for the sacrifice of life itself was 'that I might finish my course with joy.' Now in the quiet of his dungeon, that hope is fulfilled, and triumphant thoughts, like shining angels, keep him company in his solitude. Then he struggled and wrestled, touched by the haunting fear lest after that he had preached to others he himself should be rejected. Now the dread has passed, and a meek hope stands by his side." (MacLaren's Expositions 2 Timothy http://biblehub.com/commentaries/2_timothy/4-6.htm)
Paul's whole life in the gospel was a sacrifice on the altar of the risen Jesus, this altar who blinded him by the light of his truth and holiness. All his days of service Paul poured himself out like a libation, the whole way, the way the Lord showed on Calvary, without counting the cost, without concern for his popularity, without concern for his very life.
He went from the most learned Pharisee and defender of the law, and killer of Christians to a life of complete sacrifice to Jesus. From the most revered and promising student of the law, well positioned in the leading religious power group of his day, to being the most courageous and most effective yet humble servant of Jesus.
This man who in the end of his life only longed that the true unabridged, full length gospel that he offered to both Jew and gentile would not dissapear or be snuffed out, praise Jesus.
How could we forget about the importance of sacrifice to our living faith when Jesus and His apostles gave their very all on our behalf?
Phillipians2,17 Says Paul Joyfully Pours Himself Out Over The Sacrifice Of Their Faith
At Phillipians2,17 and Romans15,16 and 2Timothy4,6 which we have already read, the apostle Paul presents his teaching and Apostolic rooting of the gospel as the ministry of a temple priest. Of course he isn't a Temple priest- there are no physical sacrifices or temple for Christians- yet he boldly describes his ministry in sacrificial terms.
His offering to God in Phillipians2 is the faith of the community which he has built up. He had planted an altar in pagan Phillipi, the altar of the risen Jesus, and by his repeated gospel visits and those of his emissaries their faith was built up, and put on that same altar, until one day at his death their joint sacrifice would be presented to God.
In Romans15 his offering on the altar of Jesus is the gentiles who by his preaching of the gospel have been made fit to be brought close to God, ready to be "sacrificed," to God.
In 2Timothy4 his offerring is, finally, his very life, poured out on behalf of the many who heard the gospel from him.
A French Huguenot (Huguenots being the first class of 16th century French Protestants that fought for hundreds of years for religious freedom), Jean Daille back in the late16th century notes at Phillipians2,17 that the Christian preacher, like Paul, pierces or immoltaes his offering with the "sword of the gospel."
I like this preaching, that which kills our "old man" is that which saves us, praise Jesus. The "sword of the gospel."
Br. Daille continues this sword: it "makes them die to the world and the flesh draining out of their hearts vain affections and lusts." (Jean Daille, An Exposition Of saint Paul To The Philippians," H.G. Bohn, 1843, pp.86-87.)
That is some really rich preaching right there.
Paul used this "sword of the gospel," this sacrificial priestly tool, his whole life. And it was a two-edged sword that led to his own life being poured out.
Faith In The Risen Jesus Is The Altar We Plant
Remember we read that long list of Hebrew saints that erected altars and made a sacrifices after every miraculous manifestation (theophany) of God coming down and appearing, and saving them in some way?
Every one of us Christians has had miraculous manifestations of God's mercy in our lives, Him coming down to us, or our relatives, in our churches at home wherever. And the experience of our salvation too, our coming to Jesus moment, laying aside our mendacity and stubborness, was the result of a theophany, of Jesus having mercy and coming down, for our miracle, so the blind might see and deaf hear just like the Apostle Paul.
And after this experience, each of us, has a right, as priests, to plant the altar of the risen Jesus in our lives, in our homes, in our families, in our churches. We plant it deep, in faith, deep in the rich soil of the whole gospel. And then we stand firm at this altar, and put ourselves there to die to the world and to ourselves, then we pour out our life blood in service on behalf of Jesus and the gospel.
Ready to meet him when He comes, or ready to meet him in heaven.
Oh thank you Jesus for your last physical sacrifice on Calvary, and for the sacrificial testimony of your saints now and then, and your living word that says a lot about sacrifice, even now, in such a time like this.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...