Andy's Latest Book
How to Memorize Scripture for Life: From One Verse to Entire Books

The Faith of Abel: Offering a Better Sacrifice (Hebrews Sermon 47 of 74)

The Faith of Abel: Offering a Better Sacrifice (Hebrews Sermon 47 of 74)

November 13, 2011 | Andy Davis
Hebrews 11:4
Abiding in Christ, Works of the Flesh, Good Works

The Principle of Sacrifice

Well, this morning we have a chance to look at a hero of the faith, this man Abel. And as I was thinking about this topic today and what's flowing from Abel's example, there's one word in particular that has floated to the top, and that's that word, the word sacrifice. So I've been meditating much on the topic of sacrifice in the Christian life and I was thinking about just those great moments in the Bible, those moments where you could say, "I would love to have been there when that happened." And there's so many visually dramatic moments. What would have it been like to be there when the walls of Jericho fell? Just an awesome display of God's power, or to be there when Jesus stilled the storm? Said, "Peace be still," and everything got quiet. Or when Lazarus was raised from the dead? Awesome, dramatic moments. Second coming of Christ, you know, to see the armies of Heaven and all of the glory.

And then there are other moments in redemptive history that are not so dramatic, but still very, very significant. And I have in mind one simple moment in Jesus' life and ministry, it's recorded for us in Luke 21. And it's the moment in which Jesus is watching all of these rich people put all of this money into this offering, and here's this widow and in her hand are these two little copper coins, and she just quietly goes up, drops them in, and walks away. That's just an incredibly significant moment for me in redemptive history. I can't go beyond what the text says. I will not say that's the greatest gift that has ever been offered, but Jesus told us it was more than any of the other people put in that day. And it is immortalized for us. And he explained it saying that she put in everything she had to live on, but they gave out of their abundance. The issue was sacrifice.

The issue was sacrifice, and that's what's in front of us, as we look at Abel. We're looking at the topic of sacrifice and I've been thinking about it a lot, and it's really quite a powerful thing. Because here in the Book of Hebrews, we have the clear explication that animal sacrifice is finished, it's over forever. We've learned things about animal sacrifice, we've learned lessons from the animal sacrificial system. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. We've also learned that the blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin, that animal sacrifice was established by God as a temporary means to point to the cross of Jesus Christ. And the finished work of Christ on the cross is sufficient for our sins. But once Christ has died on the cross, that once-for-all sacrifice, animal sacrifice is done forever, it's obsolete, it's gone, and will be forever. God will never again accept animals as a form of worship. It's done. So all of the Book of Hebrews gives us the end of the animal sacrificial system, but here in Hebrews 11:4, we have the beginning of the animal sacrificial system, where it all started. And this man Abel who gave a sacrifice by faith.

Now, I've said before that the lessons of the animal sacrificial system, as they point to the cross, for me are three. That the animal sacrificial system teaches that all sin deserves a death penalty, that the death penalty can be paid by a substitute, but the substitute cannot be an animal. But that's not all that the animal sacrificial system has to teach us as Christians, not by a long shot. The fact of the matter is, those are the lessons as they lead in what theologians call soteriology or the doctrine of salvation, how sinners can be saved, yes. But having been justified, what kind of lives shall we live? The sacrificial system still has more to teach us. And we are to be living lives of sacrifice to Almighty God, that by faith, we will offer every moment of the day a sacrifice well pleasing to God, and Abel's our example in that. And so, that's what's in front of us today.

I. Basic Principle of Relationship with God (vs. 6)

Now last week, we saw, in Hebrews 11:6, basic principle of a relationship with God that we are to come to God and to please God and to be rewarded by him. And then Hebrews 11:6 tells us how to do that. It uses a double negative, frankly, "Without faith, it's impossible to please God." Without faith, it's impossible to come to God. Without faith, we cannot be rewarded by God. Anything that's not done from faith will not be rewarded by God. We saw that last week. We apply that to Abel, Enoch, and Noah in a big picture sense. We're going back now to look in more detail at Abel. But the reason to the author interrupts this account of pre-flood saints, these godly men who lived before the flood, is to give us the principle by which he has the right to bring them in and give them as examples of faith.

Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, their accounts are written briefly in the Book of Genesis, but faith is not mentioned in connection with any of those three. You don't see anything, any mention of faith connected with Abel or with Enoch or Noah. And so the author has to tell us why does he have the right to bring them forward as examples of faith. And he is saying that there's an abiding principle here, in general, for all human beings, at every era of human history, "without faith it is impossible to please God. And so therefore, if Abel pleased God, he did it by faith. If Enoch pleased God and was commended, he did it by faith. If Noah built an ark to please God, he did it by faith. It's a principle. So we established that principal last time, but now we go back and we look in more detail, specifically at Abel.

II. Abel: Faith’s Worship (vs. 4)

And in verse 4, we have the beginning of patterns of human worship, the beginning of human worship offered up to God. Look at verse 4, "By faith, Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith, he was commended as a righteous man when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith, he still speaks even though he is dead."

So we have the beginning of the history of faith. Now, I think it's possible that in Genesis 3, after the fall, there's some elements of faith, for example, Adam saying that Eve would be the mother of all living, etcetera. Or Eve's statement, "With the help of God, I've brought forth a man." But here we have, I think, is clearly the beginning of human reaching out to God, what we call human religion or human sacrifice with the story of Cain and Abel. So it's the beginning of religion, it's the beginning of animal sacrifice, clearly, it's the beginning of the history of faith.

Now, the account in Genesis 4 reads like this, "Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time, Cain brought forth some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord, but Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of the flock." So this is the beginning of humans reaching up to God, of patterns of worship, of offerings up to God, Cain and Abel. Now, we may ask, How is it that Abel knew to bring forth an animal, how did he know to bring forth fat portions from some of the firstborn of the flock? And I think this had to be as a result of a direct command of Almighty God. I don't think that Abel would have done this, I don't think he would have thought to do it. We know at the end of Chapter 3, in Genesis, that God killed some animals and covered them up with animal skins to cover their nakedness. But then this should be established as a pattern of human worship that took over from that point on. Immediately, in Genesis 4, we have animal sacrifice. In Noah, we clearly have patterns of sacrifice, animal sacrifice. And then Abraham did it and eventually established in the Law of Moses. There is no doubt about it, but it happens right away.

And Abel would, I think, not have known to do this. It's not intuitively obvious that this is something we should do. It's clear from the law of Moses that God wanted it done, he commanded the Israelites to do it, but I think he also commanded Cain and Abel to do it as well. And so, there's indications right in the text when the Lord saw that Cain was very disappointed that he had not accepted his vegetable offering or his fruit offering, he was very angry and very distressed, and the Lord challenges him, he says, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it." So clearly, he's saying, "you didn't do what was right. You did something wrong by bringing this fruit offering. You sinned." And so, reading between the lines, you just have to believe that God plainly told Cain and Abel what to do. He wanted animal sacrifice.

We also know, just from the analogy of faith, from Romans 10:17, faith comes from hearing the word. And so as God speaks the word, then faith springs up. And so if it is true that Abel offered by faith, the sacrifice, then it had to be some word to hang his faith on. And so God spoke words to them. He commanded them what to do. And so, as Abel was bringing the fat portions from some of the firstborn of the flock, he must have been thinking about this. "This is new. I mean, what was it like? I'm offering a dead animal, a bloody animal to God and reasoning some things out." he knew the story of his parents, of Adam and Eve and their eviction from the garden of Eden. We don't know how much longer or later this is, how many years, we have no sense of it, but it's just in the course of time this offering is brought.

Things Abel Must Have Understood by Faith About the Animal Sacrifice

But there are just some things that Abel must have reasoned out by faith, he must have understood by faith. He knew, for example, that God is holy and cannot tolerate sin.

I mean, he must have had that lesson already established before him, maybe the earth was already withering and dying before his very eyes, the curse already taking effect. That God was righteous in driving man out of the Garden of Eden and bringing this curse on the human race. That he, Abel, was himself a guilty sinner, that he deserved the death penalty, he deserved to die. He must have known this by faith. And that God was merciful and willing to accept a sacrifice, a substitute, in his place, that this is what the significance of the sacrificial system was. These are things he must have reasoned out by faith. And perhaps he had the early glimmerings of a possibility of looking ahead to Christ, of seeing Christ in the animal sacrifice.

Now next week, when we talk about Enoch, we're going to see that God, in some amazing way, gave Enoch a preview of the second coming of Christ. The Lord is coming with thousands of angels to whip up on all the ungodly people. We'll talk about that next week, but if Enoch, seventh from Adam, knew that Jesus was going to come again, then it shouldn't shock us to know that Abel could reason out that Jesus was going to come the first time. And that these animal sacrifices were in some shadowy sort of way portending a future in Christ. We know from this very chapter, in Hebrews 11:26, that it was by faith in Christ that Moses turned his back on the wealth and the pleasures of Egypt, by faith in Christ. And so I believe that he was looking to Christ as he offered up these animals. He was in some shadowy way understanding Christ as he offered this sacrifice.

And now we come to the key principle of all of this. And that is that by faith, Abel was recognized as a righteous man, and as a result of that, his offering was pleasing to God. There is a very clear order here. Faith transforms the heart, it transforms the very relationship of the sinner with Almighty God so that that sinner is made right in the sight of God, and then his or her offerings can be accepted by such a Holy God. And so we have, in Genesis 4, it says, "The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering." So there's a sense of a two-part here, it's on the man and his work, and the individual comes first. And the overriding principle of scripture here, again and again, there is no way for sinners like you and me to be made right in the sight of a Holy God other than then by faith. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Every sinner that has ever lived that is justified is justified only by faith in Jesus Christ.

Abel was justified by faith in Christ. He believed God's Word, he trusted in him and the Christ who was to come later, and he was justified. And so God looked, not just with favor, but with grace. He looked at Abel by grace and he saw him in Christ, by grace. And then as a result, his offering was acceptable. But on Cain, he did not look with grace. And on his offering, he did not look with grace. And so we have a clear comparison here between these two. Abel was commended as righteous. God commended him as a righteous man. And we know, from Romans 3, "There is no one righteous, not even one. No one who understands, there's no one who seeks God... There's no one who does what is good, not even one." And so that would include Abel. And so, Abel was justified by faith in Christ, even at that early stage, but Cain was not.

The Comparison with Cain

And so we have this clear comparison with Cain. And the verse we're looking at draws out that comparison, verse 4, "By faith, Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did," or as the King James Version gives us, "a more excellent sacrifice," a more excellent. And so, the two directly compared. So this is what the account says, "In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord, but Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel in his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor." I believe, in Cain, we have the first religious hypocrite. We have an ungodly man who is carrying on the outward appearance of religion but is heart is far from God. He is a religious innovator. He is starting his own religion, his own faith, his own cult.

I don't think this is unkind to say this, God didn't command this first-fruits offering, it wasn't something he told them to do. He wanted them to bring animals and Cain wouldn't do it. In my opinion, I think it was because of their occupations that Abel was a tender of the flocks and Cain worked out in the gardens and he didn't want to go cap in hand to his brother and say, "Hey brother, could you give me a lamb or sheep so I can worship God?" It's a possibility, I don't really know, but in any case, we have to imagine there's some kind of pride. Cain was a religious innovator, he was coming up with his own religion, he was coming up with his own way to approach God. "This is how I'm going to come in. God better be happy with it. He better be pleased with what I bring." The ultimate end of this self-style pattern of worship in the Old Testament was what the Israelites did in sacrificing their own children to Baal.

And God says very clearly, through Jeremiah, "Something I did not command, nor did it enter into my mind." Why did you do it then? This isn't what I told you to do." So that's the end of it. And you may think I'm being a little harsh to go from a first-fruit offering all the way to sacrificing children to Baal, but it's all the same thing. It's what some have called will worship for that initiating from your own heart, "I will do this, this is the religion I will have. This is the God I will serve, this is how it's going to be." And thus Cain and Abel's stand is two representative men. With Cain, we have the outer pattern of religion in a self-styled worship seeped with pride, with murderous rage toward his brother who is doing what's right and pleases God. Talk more about that in a moment. That's what we have with Cain, religious nominalism, looking good on the outside, but inside, full of corruption. And then we have, with Abel, a justified sinner, a man made right by his faith, offering to God the sacrifices God has commanded him to offer, following the Word of God.

And so Abel's offering was done in obedience to God's revealed will, an obedience to the Word of God, but Cain's was not. Abel's offering was made by faith in an invisible God. Cain's was not. Abel's offering was made from a transformed heart, in justified position with God, in a willing mind and willing love for God. Cain's was not. Abel offered to God the best that he had. He offered fat portions from some of the firstlings of the lambs. It says it's the best stuff he has, the most precious and the most valuable thing he had to offer.

As I've been doing Scripture memorization in the Book of Malachi, and going over Malachi again and again, and I've shared some insights from Malachi, but probably the central lesson for me of this minor prophet Malachi, he's dealing with a corrupted era of the priesthood, the Levites, who had lost their way, who were not doing I think anything by faith. And who had found the entire animal sacrificial system at that point a terrible burden to them. And they were trying to cheat God. And so, Malachi brings these condemnations against them. He said, "'It is you O priest who have shown contempt for my name.' But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?' 'You place defiled food on my altar.' But you ask, 'How have we defiled you?' 'By saying that the Lord's Table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor, would he be pleased with you, would he accept you?' Says the Lord Almighty… 'O, that one of you would shut the temple doors so that you would stop lighting useless fires on my altar. I am not pleased with you,' says the Lord Almighty. 'And I will accept no offering from your hands.'"

Do you just see how Hebrews 11:6 clicks in there? I am not pleased with you, because the offering you're making is not made by faith. You're bringing me blind, crippled, and diseased animals, thinking you can cheat me. He says, "I will accept no offering from your hands." "My name will be great among the nations. From the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place, incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name. Because my name will be great among the nations." That brings us into at First Baptist Durham. This is us in every place from the rising to the setting of the sun pure offerings will be brought. I'll get to that later, at the end of the sermon. God still wants sacrifice, pure sacrifices offered to him. But he says to these priests you profane it, by saying of the Lord's table, it is defiled and of its food is contemptible, and you say "What a burden," and you sniff at it contemptuously. I think that's the spirit of Cain. I don't think that they were genuinely offering to God any sacrifice. I don't think they were doing anything by faith, it was a burden to have to do it, it was boring, it was crushing them. They wish they could throw it off to stop doing these religious things, but they kind of had to do it, they were trapped into it, but they thought that they could get by, maybe they could just bring the blind and diseased animals and just throw those toward God.

Oh, I can't tell you how convicting that whole thing is for me. I don't want to live like that brothers and sisters. I don't want to live like that, I don't want to throw God my blind and crippled the diseased animals. I want to give them the fat portions from the first of my flock every day and I know the time for animal sacrifice is over, but the time for sacrifice is not over. I want to give him my best. And Abel gave by faith, gave from a heart of love, he gave his best to God. And so, I want to worship him, I want to honor him, I want to glorify God, that is the spirit of faith, because I believe he exists, and I believe that he rewards those who earnestly seek him and so I want to give a life of sacrifice to God.

The Commendation of Abel’s Faith

And so, we see the commendation of Abel's faith again by faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain through which he was commended as righteous. God commending him by accepting his gifts. And so, by means of these offerings came his commendation. That was how he put his faith on display and through that he was commended as a righteous man. He was not justified by works, but the works showed his justified heart. Do you see?

The works flowed from a right heart that God had made right by faith and out of that came this offering, this sacrifice. And so, God accepted his offering. And you know what's interesting in the account in Genesis? Both Abel and Cain knew that God had accepted Abel's offering, but had not accepted Cain's offering. How did they know? God is invisible, he was speaking only by faith, he was speaking perhaps in some amazing ways back then, but he still wasn't always there. That's how Adam and Eve sinned, and then they heard God coming and then they were afraid. You see, God's still invisible, you still need to love him and serve him by faith and so he wasn't there. And a moment later when in the account when Cain kills his brother Abel, he's not thinking God's immediately here watching everything I'm doing. But how was it that both Abel and Cain knew that God had commended and had accepted Abel's offering and not Cain's? Well, I don't know, that's my final answer, but I have a more kind of interesting speculation, alright? I don't know how they knew but they both knew, clearly they both knew.

AW Pink things that God sent fire out of the presence of God and consumed Abel's offering, burned up. But there's Cain's untouched. And this is something actually God doesn't just do once or twice, he does it actually multiple times in the Old Testament. For example, in Leviticus 9:24, "Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown." So maybe fire came down from heaven on Abel's offerings, and there's Cain's vegetables and fruit untouched. Happened with Elijah, with the prophets of Vail on Mount Carmel, fire came down and burned up the sacrifice there. It happened with Gideon when the Angel of the Lord, and fire came out from the rock and burned up the sacrifice. It actually is a regular pattern, it happens a lot, and so perhaps it happened back then. Alright, enough speculation. It is fun, but we shouldn't do too much of it, Amen. But in some way God testified, "I accept you and I accept your work," and he knew it and he was in some way commended as a righteous man.

How Abel Continues to Speak Even Though He Is Dead

And the Verse finishes in Verse 4, "By faith, he still speaks even though he is dead." So he's still commending to us the life of faith, he's still talking to us. How does he do that? Well, I think there are two ways that by faith he still speaks, even though he's dead. We know very well how Abel died. Verse 8 of Genesis 4, "Cain said to his brother Abel, 'Let's go out to the field' and while they're in the field, Cain attacked his brother and Abel killed him." So we know the account, we know what happened, we know the significance of it spiritually in 1 John 3:12 of what it showed about Cain. It said, "Do not be like Cain who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him, because his own actions were evil and his brother's were righteous." So that's what we know about Abel's death. But Hebrews 11:4 tells us something beyond Abel's death, after his death. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. Well, there's two ways I think that I understand that. First is, he speaks to us from the Scripture, because Moses wrote down the account of Abel's life. Whenever we by faith read the living in an active Word of God that's sharper than any double edged sword, whenever we read an Old Testament story like this one, we are spoken to by it, Abel's talking to us and telling us, "Live by faith, sacrifice by faith, love by faith," Abel's telling us this.

I think that's a valid way to interpret this. I think it is a very good way and it's one of the two ways I do interpret. The other is that Abel's just still alive. He just doesn't have a body. He's alive, he's in heaven. He's up there in that heavenly Mount Zion. He's one of those disembodied spirits that we'll talk about in the next Chapter, Hebrews 12. "The spirits of righteous men made perfect." he is absent from the body, but he is present with the Lord. And so, Jesus said very plainly, "Do not fear those who kill the body and after that they can do nothing to you." So Cain couldn't kill Abel's soul. He also said concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven't you read what God says to you in the account of the burning bush. "'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,' he is not the God of the dead but of the living." So can we add Abel's name to that? I am the God of Abel and the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. He is Abel's God right now, and he is still speaking, he is communicating with other disembodied spirits up there. I sure hope he's not communicating directly to any of you. If that's happening, come and talk to me, that's weird. But the fact of the matter is, they are able to speak.

And so, I'm thinking about John 11:22 where Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even though he dies." So by faith and whoever lives and believes me will never die. By faith Abel is still alive. By faith he's still speaking. We have in the Book of Revelation Chapter 6, The Martyrs, that are martyred during that terrible time are up there and they are waiting for their vengeance, and they're crying out to God, saying, "How long until we are avenged?" And they're told to wait a little longer until the full number of martyrs comes in. They're able to talk, though they don't have bodies yet. And so, by faith Abel still speaks.

Now next week, we're going to talk about Enoch and Noah. We're going to talk about walking by faith. We're going to talk about what Noah did. But Abel teaches us more than anything to live a life of sacrifice.

III. Application

And I want to finish this sermon by looking at applications for us on this question of sacrifice. The fundamental application of the question of sacrifice is this. Nothing you do will be acceptable to God if you're not justified by faith. Yeah, let me speak very plainly, if you have never come to faith in Jesus Christ, if you have never trusted in him as your Lord and Savior, nothing that you do will be pleasing to God until you do, you have to do that first. You have to trust in Jesus.

And the gospel is very simple, it's not complicated, that God seeing that we could not save ourselves sent his own son in a human body. He was born of the Virgin Mary, he lived a sinless life. He walked on the earth, he did great mighty signs and wonders to show that he was not only human, but also God in the flesh. And he came to do all of those miracles and to give us an example, and to teach us many things, but primarily he came to die in our place as our substitute. And if you will only trust in him, if you just look to him by faith, all of your sins will instantly be forgiven. You'll be cleansed of all of your sins, your guilty conscience will be gone and you'll be instantly in a perfectly right relationship with God and you will continue in that for the rest of eternity. It's justification, you'll be made right. And after that then you can offer to God a lifetime of sacrifices. And now dear brothers and sisters, that's what I want to talk to you about, a lifetime of sacrifices.

Christmas is coming up. You've got your Christmas shopping done? Yeah, I'm a procrastinator on Christmas, I wait too long. I was talking to Ashley, our secretary, she's got all of her Christmas work done. I'm just nauseated by that, I'm in awe. I don't know how that can be. I'm waiting for those Christmas Eve sales. No, I'm not, that's terrible. But at any rate, I just wait, I wait too long. Actually though, I've done better this year than ever before. I actually have two gifts bought, so I'm... Yeah, you're like, "Boy pastor you're pathetic." Anyway, but Christmas is coming. Imagine Christmas morning and imagine a wife pulls that big gift out from under the tree and she looks at the tag, and it says on the tag "To my loving wife." She is excited. The wrapping paper is rich, it's nice looking and the gift is heavy, and she's excited. And husband just kind of lean in, smiling and he opens... She opens it up, rips the paper off, opens up and it's incredibly costly valuable gift. Something she could never have imagined that he would give. And just... She's moved to tears and she said, "Well, where did you buy it?" he said, "I didn't." "I'm sorry, I beg your pardon." "I didn't buy it." "Well, where'd you get it?" I actually found it on the curb, some guy left it and I just... I looked, I saw a tag, I thought it might be good for you. I actually didn't even know what it was, but now I'm excited. It looks like a good gift. So Merry Christmas."

How is she feeling at that moment? Is she feeling loved, is she feeling affirmed? Friends, that is not a sacrifice, it cost that man nothing. He didn't do anything, he didn't think about her, he didn't pay anything, all he did was pick it up and bring it home. Or imagine if he gave the exact same gift, he did pay for it, but he was angry at how much it cost. And he's just glum and frustrated at home. What's the matter with you? I don't know, just... What's the matter? Alright, fine, you dragged it out of me. I just can't believe I spent that much on your gift.  Really? Well, gee, I really want it now. I tell you, it is impossible to love another without cheerful sacrifice. If you don't give it cheerfully, it's not a gift. And if it's not sacrificial, if it costs you nothing, it's not a gift. Do you love God? Are you willing to sacrifice for him? Are you willing to give cheerfully? Thank you for Dave reading 2 Corinthians 9. God loves a cheerful giver, brother. I didn't tell you to read that. Praise God, the providence of God. God loves a cheerful giver, not just a giver. And so, we are called on here to give cheerfully, and to give sacrifice. Now, I think that the sacrificial system has something to teach us for the rest of our lives.

I was reading recently about the Scottish missionary David Livingston, who was primarily an explorer, but a solid Christian, a committed man, a missionary, but just more than anything, felt his calling to explore in the name of Christ, and to take the Gospel as far as he could using indigenous people to share and to reach out. An amazing man, really an amazing story. Mauled by a lion at one point, many tropical fevers, long months away from his wife and his children, tremendous pain and suffering and he was speaking at a missionary society, about his life, and they asked him about the question of sacrifice. And he said very famously this way. He said, "For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blessed reward, and helpful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? A way with the word and such a view, and a way with such a thought. It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege, anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with the forgoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink, but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory, which shall be revealed, in and for us, I never made a sacrifice."

Well, I was pondering those words, "I never made a sacrifice." And I'm thinking, "you know, I just... This is the way I work. I have kind of a mathematical exegetical brain, so I'm exegeting the statement, "I never made a sacrifice." And I worry that it may be literally true of many Christians or at least I didn't usually make a sacrifice. David Livingston did make sacrifices at one level. But I worry about a kind of a pattern of Christianity in which there's a lot going in, but there's just not much coming back out. I worry about it in reference to myself and dear brothers and sisters. I worry about it in reference to you. And I know it's easy when we first think about sacrifice, you think about money. I think this church is incredibly generous, financially. I never worry about money here. I'm grateful for the pattern of financial giving. It's more time and ourselves that I'm wondering about now. Are we like the rich people putting in a little extra from off the top of our lives? Or are we like the widow putting in everything that we have to live on? And these words, I don't mean them to hurt you or myself. I just want to be healed up into a higher level of healthy sacrifice for Jesus here in this church.

I think it's holding us back, friends. I think this issue of sacrifice is holding us back. And I just... I want to... Those of you that are making sacrifices, like David Livingston, and even gotten to that point of healthy joy in it, and you're able to understand what this brother meant when he said, "I never made a sacrifice." When I compare to what Jesus did on the cross for me, and when I compare to what is waiting for me in Heaven, I can't even think about the language of sacrifice, not like that. May your tribe increase. May your joy be great may you do more and more for Jesus until he finally takes you home, Amen. But if that isn't actually you that doesn't actually characterize the way you're living, if it's really the case that you're not ever pinched for Jesus, there's nothing actually squeezing on you in terms of the way you're living your life, I would just commend you to look at this word sacrifice again. It must be part of the healthy Christian life. We're not done with the animal sacrificial system, not from learning. We're done with animals, but we're not done with sacrifice.

And so, what I've done in your bulletin is list out all the places I could think of in the New Testament that use sacrificial language for Christians. We're not done with sacrifice, we're supposed to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, start there. Every day just say, God my body is yours to command. I'm giving you my day, I'm giving you my energy and my muscles, I'm giving you myself today. 1 Peter 2 says that we are a holy priesthood offering acceptable sacrifice, and offering living sacrifices up to God. The image there I think is one of a lost world, and we are declaring the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. This is witnessing. We are to be witnesses, we are to offer up a sacrifice of witness to a lost world. And it needs to cost you something to be a witness in this world. Cost you some reputation, cost you some convenience, cost you a Saturday morning outreach, cost you a Sunday afternoon, spent getting to know your neighbors or something like that. There have to be some sacrifices or we're not actually going to be reaching out like we should in this area. And so, the sacrificial language is there.

What about our daily lives? Ephesians 5:2 says, we should live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God, we should be offering our love horizontally to our spouses, our children, our brothers and sisters and then the church reaching out, we are to live a life of love. Every moment a fragrant offering and sacrifice of love, sacrificial language. 2 Timothy 4:6, Paul says, "I'm already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure." Willing to die even that your death may be a sacrifice poured out for God, how you die, and then take that and then how you live like a dying person, taking up your cross everyday and just dying daily. Paul says that in one place, I die daily. Every day I die. And so, being poured out, let your life be a poured out drink offering to God. Philippians 4:18, he talks about the money that the Philippian Christian sent. He says, "I've received your gift." "They are a fragrant offering and acceptable sacrifice pleasing to God." It's money, so give your money by faith and it's an offering pleasing to God, that's a sacrifice.

And then there's just simply praise, later in the same book, Hebrews 13:15, it talks about corporate worship, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise the fruit of lips that confess his name." Sacrifice your praise, away with your cold heart, don't come in here with a cold heart on Sunday mornings. Stir yourself up, say awake my soul and sing, put your body into it, sing it, especially if it's not your favorite song. That's the time to do it. Especially if it's not your favorite song, sing it, God will know what you're doing and you'll sing to the praise of God. I've talked recently to a few of you about again, my hatred of fish of seafood. And guys, listen, it's just a defect. I would have it changed if I could, but I know I'm different from Jesus, he likes it, I don't. There's a big problem. But I tell you this, if I were ever to go to our brother and sister's house, and they didn't know me, and they served me fish, I have only one job. And that's to eat it in such a way that they will not know what I truly feel about the fish itself. But looking beyond it to the love in making it for me, that I can eat it by faith to the glory of God and my reward will be far greater than anyone else's that was sitting at that table at that moment. Far greater. Because it wasn't my favorite dinner and I ate it in love, and by faith I got it down, somehow.

And so when the song isn't your favorite or whatever, still will you offer to God a sacrifice and praise the fruit of lips that confess his name? To sacrifice, if it costs you something. To see to the brothers and sisters that are cooking for you, and just know they mean to please, they aim to please. And so, if they serve you fish, eat it and thank him for it, and praise him for it. And then Hebrews 13:16, in general, we are to do good and to share with other people for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. It's just any good work, it's a sacrifice. We are to be living lives woven through a sacrifice. Please, take this concept back to God and say, "Lord, am I like Abel, am I offering to you a sacrifice that pleases you, or am I coasting? Am I just like those rich people in Luke 21, just giving out of the abundance? Or am I like the widow giving everything I have to live on?" Close with me in prayer.

Other Sermons in This Series