Contribution or Sacrifice?

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Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. ”  (Romans  12:1, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Not all contributions (time, talent, treasure) are a sacrifice, although many who contribute might like to think so.  On the other hand, most who make sacrifices, usually are not thinking about what they are giving up, but rather to whom or for what they are sacrificing.

In view of God’s mercy – Mercy is not getting the punishment that is deserved.  Considering what punishment is being avoided, is it worth a contribution to the Kingdom or a sacrifice for the Kingdom?

Living sacrifices – God, through His Son, made one sacrifice for all of our sins, past present and future.  Why should we not want to live out our days sacrificially living for Him?

Spiritual Act of Worship – It’s not that we are trying to pay Him back.  We could never come close.  It is a way of saying thanks, that goes beyond mere gratitude.  It is reverence and adoration.  But more than a state of mind.  It is a call to action.

My Advice –  A couple verses prior to the one cited above (that’s what the therefore is there for), Paul writes “who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”  (Romans  11:35, NIV 1984).  We are not looking for rewards, although there will be some.  But God doesn’t want us to pay Him back either.  He wants us to pay it forward.  “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  (Matthew 25:40, NIV 1984).

The Life I Live…

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“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, NIV 1984).

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20, NIV 1984).

My Musings – A couple well-known verses, with interesting paralells:

  • Deny Yourself – “I no longer live.
  • Come After Me – “Christ lives in me.
  • Take Up Your Cross – “I have been crucified with Christ.
  • Follow Me – “I live by faith in the Son of God.

My Advice – Christ gave up so much (denied Himself) to pursue (come after) us.  This took Him to the cross (crucified), so that we might live (by faith).  The cross we are asked to bear pales in comparison to the one He bore.  Let’s deny ourselves, our path, and follow Him.  Though it might lead through the “valley of the shadow of death,” it ends up in “green pastures.

 

Born (Again) Free

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It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1, NIV 1974).

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.  (Galatians 5:13, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Those who are in Christ (saved by grace not merit) have been freed from the “yoke of slavery” to measure up to the law.  Nevertheless, this does not give us carte blanche to “indulge the sinful nature.”  Rather, as we grow in Christ, we choose (exercise of freedom) to live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord instead of pleasing the flesh.  It is a mark of maturity not a sign of slavery.

My Advice – Stand firm in the faith, freed from the law but choosing to be obedient nonetheless.

 

Die Well to Live Well

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At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”  (Mark 15:33–39, NIV 1984).

My Musings – We do not know much about this Roman soldier.  He was a centurion, which means he had a command.  He was, at least ultimately, accountable to Pilate, who was accountable to the Emperor in Rome.  Publicly proclaiming that “surely this man was the Son of God,” could have possibly put his position, perhaps even his life, at risk as he should have had “no god but Caesar.” Certainly no rivaling allegiance.  Because of his position he was likely well-disciplined and not given to unguarded displays of sentimentality.   So what was it that made such an impression on this soldier?

He obviously had witnessed (actually oversaw) the nailing of Jesus to the cross.  He stood at the feet of a condemned man hanging between two criminals convicted of capital offenses.  He could hear the insults of the Jewish religious leaders being hurled at a man that they should have welcomed as Messiah, but that they refused to worship as their God.  Perhaps he was present at the trial, and saw the crowds turn against Jesus, refusing to follow Him as their King.  Preferring instead to have another capital criminal released instead of Jesus.  Was he also present at the scourging?  This man being flogged bled like a mere mortal.  Cried out in agony like beaten animal.  Displayed no intrinsic power to resist his torturers that one might expect of a powerful god.

But something profound happened on that hill that softened this hardened career warrior.  And not just him.  Remember, initially both of the criminals crucified with Jesus also hurled insults at Him (Mark 15:32).  Before the end, however, one of those hardened criminals saw in Jesus what the Roman centurion saw (Luke 23:40).  Jesus died (“when the centurion…saw how he died”) liked He lived.  Displaying unmistakable divinity through His unblemished humanity.  His living well (sinless and without defect), would have gone for naught if He had not died well (submissive to His Father’s will).  Yes indeed, “surely this man was the Son of God!

My Advice – Hardened criminal and hardened soldiers are able to recognize and respond to Christ.  Perhaps, for whatever reason, your heart has become hardened.  It is possible for it to become so hardened that it is no longer capable of responding to Christ.  Do not let that happen to you.  “For [our Heavenly] Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and [Christ] will raise him up at the last day.”  (John 6:40, NIV 1984). You will need to die to self (die well) and receive new life (live well) in Christ.  My “Born Again Experience” musings will show you how.

Yes I Will, No I Won’t

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As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:57–62, NIV 1984).

“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ “ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”  (Matthew 21:28–31, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Truthfully, I think I have been all three over the years – having other priorities, breaking commitments, and giving in.  How much better if our priorities are His priorities, our commitment (faithfulness) to Him is unbreakable, and that our devotion to Him was out of love and wanting to please Him rather than reluctantly, out of compulsion or guilt.

What if:

On His final trip to Jerusalem (putting “His hand to the plow“), Jesus turned back?

When facing (“I will Sir“) the cross “He did not go?”

Refused (“I will not“) the way of the cross, “but later he changed his mind and went?”  Would His initial disobedience have disqualified Him as a sacrifice without blemish?

My Advice – Because of God’s grace and mercy, we can be forgiven when we look back to our former way of life, when we initially say no, and when we break faith when we said I will.  But there is a fourth alternative: “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

By Whose Great Strength?

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No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.”  (Psalm 33:16–18, NIV 1984).

My Musings – No great kingdoms of the past have survived to this day retaining their former splendor, power and influence.  My country has “In God We Trust” on its coin and currency.  Having come into its own as the current great “kingdom” after World War II, unrivaled in military power and economic strength, its seems that our trust is more on these things than it is in God.  As the text above so clearly states, it is vain to place our hope in these things.  He raised us up, and He can bring us down.

My Advice – This applies on a personal level too.  Make sure your hope and trust is in the Lord God Almighty.  Anything else is illusory.  “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6, NIV 1984).

Why Not Rather Be Wronged?

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Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.”  (2 Timothy 4:11, NIV 1984).

My Musings – What makes this passage so significant is what transpired in Acts 15.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.  (Acts 15:36-40, NIV 1984).

The Mark in 2 Timothy and “John, also called Mark,” in Acts 15, are generally considered by Bible scholars to be the same person.  While the disagreement surrounding Mark appears to have been quite contentious (“sharp“), and resulted in them parting company, they were eventually reconciled.  So much so that Paul wound up considering Mark to be “helpful to me in my ministry.

There will be times, when well-meaning Christians will see things differently.  It is sad when it results in broken relationships.  To amicably work through the dispute with your brother or sister in Christ is better by far.  If not, reconciliation is sweet.

My Advice – We have been called to a higher standard than those without Christ.  When you have a dispute with another believer, do you best to work it out.  Unfortunately, there will be times that being at peace with one another will not depend on you (Romans 12:18).  In such cases, “why not rather be wronged?” (1 Corinthians 6:7, NIV 1984).  Let the Holy Spirit do His work, leaving the door open for reconciliation at a later time, rather than escalating the dispute or insisting upon being right.  “Blessed are the peacemakers.