Doug Batchelor - The Beauty of Sacrifice
Message today, we're going to be talking about really a very important central, core Bible theme dealing with the beauty of sacrifice. Sacrifice, and typically when we think about sacrifice, we recoil a little bit at the idea because it makes us think of some form of horrific self-denial. And it is true that sacrifice can mean the greatest form of self-denial at all, laying down your life. I remember hearing a story from World War II where 1st Lieutenant John Robert Fox was there stationed in Italy during the heat of the battle, and his job was an advanced position where he was looking with binoculars and he was giving instructions and coordinates to the artillery operators to bring in the bombs and artillery on various positions. And he'd call on the radio, "Enemy's in this position. Rain down artillery and bombs here. And oh, the enemy, they're over here."
And then somehow up this valley, he suddenly noticed that he had missed this larger German Nazi force that was coming right in upon him. But he could have dropped everything and run for his life and been okay, but he knew that they would surprise his own men and that there was going to be a great loss of life. So he called in the coordinates and he said, "You need to drop everything you've got on this position." And on the other end of the radio, they said, "Well, that's where you are." He said, "You better do it and you better do it fast." And they rained in the artillery and it took his life.
When the American forces finally came to the position there, it was in the town of Soma Colonia, Italy, they saw that there was Lieutenant Fox surrounded by about a hundred dead German soldiers. And they took a medal and they placed it on his chest because he had truly realized that other people's lives will be lost if I don't call in the fire on my position.
And really this is what Jesus did is He called in all the wrath of the devil on His position so that we could be saved. Now, that's the purest form of sacrifice, when we think of someone laying down their life. And Jesus said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no man than this, that someone would lay down his life for another."
Sacrifice. Sacrifice is really a beautiful thing, and it might be good to look at a definition as we go on with this. Sacrifice is, by definition, and this is not a total definition, forfeiture or giving up of something highly valued for the sake of someone or something considered to have greater value or claim. It's giving up something or sacrificing, forfeiting something that you value to obtain something you think is of great worth. And we must be very valuable to the Lord that He would sacrifice His life to save us.
Now, sacrifice for the Christian is not optional. There's a misconception that is somehow filtered its way through a lot of Christian churches that because Jesus sacrificed His life, He did that so we don't need to sacrifice; that we're off the hook somehow. That's not the teaching of the Bible. He sacrificed as an example for us. Let me give you a few verses that explain that. Mark 8:34. Of course, we had one in our scripture reading. "Whoever therefore desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Whoever wants to come after Jesus, you've got to self-deny and follow him. "For whoever desires to save his life will actually lose it, but whoever loses his life or sacrifices his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"
If you refuse to make the important sacrifices because you think you're gaining something, you're actually losing everything. Someone said, "That which you sacrifice for God is never lost. It multiplies." You do not lose anything you sacrifice for God. "Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul." Matthew 13:44, you know this parable, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which when a man finds it he hides it; and for joy over it" notice the word "joy." True sacrifice is beautiful. It's a blessing. "For joy over it he goes and he sells all that he has any buys the field."
I just want to give you the picture. In Bible times, they didn't have banks. They didn't have a Savings and Loan with a big safe in the middle of it. A lot of people, if you had money you were saving, they would actually dig a hole and bury it. And they'd pace it off, and figure where they buried it, and have some landmarks, and maybe tell a few trusted family members in case something happened to them.
You've probably heard in England, these guys were out there with a metal detector going. One man had a metal detector and he just was combing over the
different fields because he knew that the Romans had once occupied Great Britain and they'd hidden their gold in the fields. And sure enough, his detector went
off and it registered something that looked like a solid metal, like gold. And they dug down and they found this, I think it's called the Hoxne Hoard. Millions
of dollars of gold and stuff that someone just buried out in the field.
So it wasn't uncommon in Bible times, you'd be leasing someone's field and you'd be farming. And you're going along with your donkey pulling the plow, and all of a sudden the plow hits something and it unturns this rock. And you look under the rock and there's a box, and you look in the box and there's treasure. But you're an honest man, it's not your field, meaning it's not your treasure, so you cover it back up and you go to the owner and you say, "I'd like to buy that field." Says, "What would you want with that old field?" He said, "I just, you know, it just has become very precious to me. And what's it going to cost?"
Well, he gives him the price. He says, "Wow, in order to do that, I'm going to have to liquidate everything." And you go home and you tell your wife, says, "We're selling everything." What for? "For Homer's field." Homer's field? There's nothing out there. Sorry you ever rented that field. What do you want to buy that field for? "Trust me." You want to sell everything we've got for that field? Must have been some interesting conversations. It's worth more than they know, and they sell everything. They have a garage sale. They sell everything they've got, and they put the last penny on the table, and they buy Homer's field. I just made up the name Homer just because you needed that. Was it worth it? Oh yeah, he knows there's much more in the field.
But Jesus said in order to get that treasure, you got to sell everything. You got to be sold out for the gospel. And then He goes on a similar parable and He says, "Or it's like a merchant seeking precious pearls, who, when he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and he sells," how much? All that he has, and he buys the field. Luke 14:27, Jesus said, "Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." You pick up your cross because there's going to be a sacrifice, and if it's your cross, it's probably your sacrifice. Take your cross. You're crucified with Christ.
Again, He says in Luke 14, He says it three times in Luke. I'm just reading you two. Luke 14:33, "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple." That means when you come to Christ, it takes everything. He wants the complete surrender. And so many, I'm sure that the reason there's a lot of miserable Christians out there is because there's a lot of people who want to go to heaven and they appreciate what Jesus did, but they're not ready to make a complete sacrifice. So they have enough religion to know about the dos and the don'ts, but they don't have the joy of really believing their sins are forgiven because they've made a partial sacrifice. And until you come to the point of really putting it all on the line for the Lord and saying, "All that I have and all that I am are yours," you don't experience the freedom. That's the joy of making that sacrifice.
Someone wrote that, "Since the Son of God has died for me, the least I can do is the same for him." If Jesus is God and God died for me, then no sacrifice, really, what sacrifice is too much to make for God who made everything, who died for you? It might mean sacrificing what looks like a high earthly position. A lot of people have decided to put the Lord first. The Bible talks about Moses, who seemed to have the promise of being in the line of Pharaoh. Hebrews 11:24, "By faith." And when you make a sacrifice it's often done by faith. "By faith Moses, when he became of age, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin." People thought, "Moses, you're missing your chance in the palace." More people know about Moses now when...here's this guy, goes out in the desert, and he thought, "No one will ever hear from me again. I'm just following around these sheep. No one's ever going to know about me." The whole world knows about him because he chose to forsake the pleasures of sin for a season.
And the Bible's full of heroes like that, for you and I to think about. Of course, one of the great sacrifice stories is Abraham. What would be harder, give yourself or to give your child? What's a more difficult sacrifice? Abraham, these are the sacrifice heroes in the Bible, took his son up the mountain. He had faith, offered his son. Jephthah offered his daughter rather than to violate a vow to God. Hannah offered to sacrifice her son. She prayed for a child for years. Finally, God gives her child. She said, "I'm giving it to God."
Now, that's a sacrifice. He didn't die. I mean...and Jephthah, by the way, did not burn his daughter. Some people misunderstand that. He also gave his daughter to the temple. She would never marry and have children after that. Elisha, wealthy son of these farmers, they got 12 teams of oxen. And he kisses his mother and father goodbye, decides to follow Elijah, and become the apprentice of a poor prophet. I mean, really, you know, Elisha you know, he lives by a creek, and he's fed by birds, and lives in the attic of a widow. It wasn't a very promising future to be the apprentice for a poor prophet. Lives in a cave out in the wilderness. Elisha said, "I'll leave everything and follow you." And you know, that's why when Elijah was about to go to heaven, he said, "Anything I can do for you?" He said, "Yeah, I want a double portion of your inheritance," which was the Holy Spirit. And the firstborn was supposed to get a double portion of the inheritance, but he had faith and he made that sacrifice.
Nehemiah leaves the Persian palace to go and try and build these ruins in the promised land. The apostles, it tells us about Peter, James, John, Andrew, and Matthew. The others probably made similar sacrifices. Luke 5:11, "So when they brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed him." So what does it cost? Most Christians don't really understand what it means to make that kind of sacrifice.
You know, Jesus tells a story. Actually it's not a story, it's a true event, but He drew attention to this widow. Mark 12:41, "Many who were rich put in much." They'd blow the trumpet and everyone gathered, "So and so's making this donation." And they'd go, "Oh!" and then they'd all applaud and go "ooh" and "ahh." They dropped the coins in one by one, big gold coins, big thunk on the bottom of the box. "Then one poor widow," she was waiting until the fanfare drifted away, and she quietly, by herself, hoping nobody would notice, "she threw in two mites, which make a quadrans."
Now a mite, just so you know, you got gold coins, and you got silver coins, and then you had bronze coins. They weren't even copper. It was cheaper than copper. It's bronze, and it was a little bitty bronze coin. And one Bible commentator I read said we have nothing in our currency to explain it because it was about a third of a penny. So she throws in two thirds of one penny, but then Jesus said it was everything she had. You might be able to buy a piece of a piece of bread with that. Oh, maybe more. I don't know what bread cost back then but it wasn't much. And Jesus called His disciples to himself. He said, "Assuredly, I say to you this poor widow," He nodded towards this widow that just went through the line, "has put in more than all of those", and they can tell by the way she's dressed she's poor. She may not only be a widow, she may be a widow with orphaned children. And it says, "She put in more than all those who've given to the treasury; for they put in of their abundance, but from her poverty she put in her whole livelihood." In other words, she gave everything.
Isn't it interesting? I've observed, it seems like poor people, it's more easy for them to give everything. Perhaps they figure, "Well, I'm so close to nothing anyway, what difference will it make if you give your last $2." It sometimes is interesting how those who have the least give the most. They may not give the most in numeric value, but they give the most in percentage. And Jesus was calling attention to her and says, "Yeah, you know, on the scale you might not think it's much, but she's giving 100%."
And so when the Lord looks at what we give, is it the amount or is it the percentage of the heart God's interested in? Everyone's going to give differently based on the resources that we have, but if we all gave so we all felt it. A lot of people give, and you'll drive home in the same car, and you'll live under the same roof, and everything will be the same. A sacrifice means you give so you actually experience some difference. There's a vacuum. That's a sacrifice. Everything else is an offering or a donation. Sacrifice is different. The widow gave 100%.
You know, I've thought about it before. It's going to be interesting for her in the judgment. Jesus, you know, He points to her. She was hoping that she could discreetly give her two cents and then slip out of the temple. And He says, "See that widow?" And she goes, "Oh no, no, I'm so embarrassed. I had nothing to give, just", He said, "She gave more than anybody." Now, in the resurrection when things take on their real value, all of the Jews who went through the temple that day and blew the trumpet, made their donations and tried to get a lot of attention. They gave to be seen of men and Jesus says that's all the reward they're going to get. All of their names have drifted off into obscurity. Nobody knows who they are.
But when you get to heaven, the two cents that that widow gave by her example has inspired more giving. I'm guessing billions and billions of dollars have come into the cause of God because Jesus drew attention to her two cents. Wasn't even two cents, two thirds of one cent. Won't that be something? It's like I'm telling the story today. Hopefully it inspires you. It's been inspiring people for 2000 years all over the world in virtually every church. Think about how her gift multiplied and she probably went up to the offering box that day and thought, "I know this won't make any difference." What a difference it made! You figure the whole world has been changed by that little bitty gift that she gave. So if you're thinking, "Well, you know, I'd like to give, but my little bit, it won't make a big difference," you have no idea what God can do with your little gift. Because she gave her all, it's made a big difference.
Sacrifice, as I mentioned, will cost you something. King David, there was this plague going through Israel and David knew he needed to make an offering to God to intercede for his people to stay the plague. And he went to this man that owned this big threshing floor, named Ornan. And big threshing floor on top of Mount Mariah was right where Abraham offered Isaac. And the King said, "Look, I'd like to buy this threshing floor, big flat area, make an offering to God." And this man had a big heart, he said, "You're the King. I give it to you." And King said, "No." He said, No, I want to give it to you. And David said, "No, I am not going to sacrifice to the Lord something that doesn't cost me. I will not sacrifice." He said, "Surely I will pay you the price. Nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God of that which cost me nothing." That is not a sacrifice. If it costs you nothing, there's no sacrifice.
A lot of us want free Christianity. We want a discount. We want to get a good deal. We want to get it on sale. You're not going to find Christianity discounted. Now, having said all that, it's making us nervous, some of you. Biblical sacrifice is joyful. Hebrews 12, verse 1 and 2, it says, "And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him", nobody made a bigger sacrifice than Jesus, but was it a sad sacrifice? Why did Jesus do it? He was looking at the joy beyond the sacrifice that would come.
What is a sacrifice? Well, you forfeit something for something worth more. Jesus was looking at you being redeemed and He thought, "That's worth more. It's worth My suffering." "For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame, and He has sat down now at the right hand of the throne of God."
David Livingstone, when he spent the years in Africa, and he endured all kinds of hardship, and he had malaria, and hunger, and exposure, and threatened, he was attacked by lions, and natives, and all kinds of problems, and listen to what living Livingstone said, "People talk of the sacrifice that I've made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can it be called a sacrifice, which is simply paying back a small part of the great debt owing to our God which we could never repay? Is it a sacrifice which brings its own blessed rewards and healthy activity, the consciousness of doing good, the peace of mind of bright hope of glorious destiny in the future? Away with such a word in such a view with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice! Say rather it is a privilege. I've never made a sacrifice. We ought not talk of sacrifice when we remember the great sacrifice that he made who left His Father's throne on high to give himself for us."
He had a good attitude. He actually wanted to go to China, but China closed. He ended up going to Africa. He just wanted to go serve the Lord. I just thought I'd throw this in, it's interesting. An English mission society wrote to Livingstone one time when he was in Africa, and he's now in the center of Africa in just a very difficult part. They said, "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we'd like to send some men to join you." Livingstone wrote them back, he said, "If they will only come if there's a good road, don't send them." He did make a sacrifice.
Christians are often accused of being morbid when they talk of the joy of sacrificing. I think it is one of the deepest truths of the Christian religion, far from being the source of sadness. Sacrifice is the greatest joy and the source of illumination, perhaps the greatest of all joys. Sometimes we give God a lame sacrifice. Ephesians 5:1-2, "Therefore be imitators of God, dear children. And walk in love, as Christ is also loved us and given Himself for us." We want to give him the best sacrifice. Malachi says in chapter 1, verse 8, "And when you offer to the Lord the blind as a sacrifice". You know, you're supposed to give the best of your sheep. And sometimes, well, it's time to offer a sacrifice. I've gotten the old mangy sheep I can give. There's a blind one. Oh, I may as well sacrifice. He's already blind. That one, he's kinda gimpy. He's got one bad leg. He got run over by a truck. I'll sacrifice that one. And he says that they bring these to the Lord, and he said, "Boy, if you are going to give a donation to your governor, you don't bring a lame sheep." You wouldn't offer it to your governor. You wouldn't offer it to a king.
Do you offer the leftovers to the Lord or your best? Oswald Chambers said, "Our notion of sacrifice is though it's the ringing out of us something we don't want to give up, full of pain, and agony, and distress. The Bible idea of sacrifice is that I give as a love gift the very best thing I have."
So why am I dwelling on this about sacrifice? Why am I talking about this? Because when I read these stories in the Bible and I think about sacrifice, I say, "Lord, it'd be so easy to give 100% if I loved 100%." So if we're struggling to sacrifice and give the way God wants us to give of our lives, of our time, of our means, of our service, whatever it is, if sacrifice is a struggle, is it that we just got to try harder? Is that we've got to love more? The more you love, the easier it is. Is it hard for a mother to care for her baby that keeps them up all night? Well, maybe sometimes, but they do it. Why?
The more you love, the easier it is. And that's also true in the Christian economy. "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." This is what sacrifice means, and this is a beautiful thing. Christianity, it's not like sacrificing a baseball game where you're giving up a run trying to get another base. It's talking about where the rubber meets the road. It's not talking about a donation, it's talking about a heart. We give our hearts to him. And when the Lord has our hearts, He has everything else. He'll have your service. He'll have your time.
But what will move us to make that kind of sacrifice, to give all? It's got to be we love Him because He first loved us. When you see Jesus dying on that cross where you belong because He loved you, it should touch our heart and say, "Lord, I'm willing to give my life for You because You're God, so You...oh, and because You created me, and You're my Savior, oh, and because You bought me back, and I am willing to sacrifice for You my life." Is that your desire?