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Jack Graham - All on the Altar

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    Jack Graham - All on the Altar
TOPICS: Essential Gospel, Sacrifices

And the title of this message is "All on the Altar". I considered it later and should have entitled it this: "Is Your All on the Altar"? Because I want to make this personal like Paul made it personal. Coming off the great doctrinal section of Romans 1-8, and then a great section regarding the future and plans and providences of God for Israel. Now Paul turns the corner and he begins talking not doctrinally so much but devotionally, practically and personally how we live the Christian life because we believe what we believe about Christ and we've learned a lot and there's so much more to learn in the book of Romans and I hope you will continue to study it. The riches in Romans. But what happens in verse 1 of chapter 12 of Romans is an appeal, it is an invitation by the great apostle who says: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers", in view of all these mercies because of what we’ve said, because of what God has done in your life, "by the mercies of God", to do what? "to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship".

Is your all on the altar? That's the question that we're asking today. Is what Paul was saying so long ago as the apostle, the great apostle, and yet he's a pastor here. He pastoral in his approach. He's not demanding or bulling his way in here. He's saying, "I urge you". The old King James word was "I beseech you". It's almost as though he's down on his knees. He's saying I'm pleading with you as your pastor, I'm pleading with you. And there's passion here. There's emotion here because of the mercies of God, I plead with you, I urge you to give your life over, to offer yourself unconditionally, wholly and completely as a living sacrifice to God. So many of the things, the great things that have happened in my life have happened at an altar.

Now when I refer to an altar in our church really that's this place of decision and through the years, even when I was a little boy, I gave my life to follow Jesus at an altar, a place of decision. I went forward. They called it in those days the altar call. And when the minister would speak and the evangelist would invite us to Christ, we would come. So as a 6-year-old boy, I can remember it like it was yesterday, honest truth. I walked down literally in Conway, Arkansas, a sawdust trail. There was sawdust. We were in the tent and you could have gone barefooted. Not everyone runs barefooted in Arkansas but some of us did. But I walked down a sawdust trail and I gave my life to Jesus Christ.

Later on when I was a teenager, a sophomore in high school, I went forward in my church in the response to the invitation to put my all on the altar and at an altar, a place of decision, I gave my life publicly to preach the Gospel. And it altered, it changed everything for the rest of my days. A few years later I stood at a marriage altar in Mineral Wells, Texas with my bride Deb and we said our “I do’s”. She said yes; I said yes, and we were married. We made a commitment at an altar. It was a place of devotion and decision. If we’re going to change the world, it won’t happen with casual, conventional, cultural, convenient Christianity. It will happen with a consecrated Christianity. Consecrated Christians who are wholly and holy offered to the Lord. Too many Christians have a hokey-pokey religion. You remember the song "The Hokey Pokey"? Who remembers the hokey pokey? I mean, when I was growing up in a Baptist church it's the only dance you could do with the honky hokey pokey.

Now we're singing songs about, you know, dancing and that's fine. But I guarantee you when you dance before the Lord when you get to heaven, it won't be the hokey pokey. But what is the hokey-pokey? I don't even know if I can remember it all. You put your, and you shake it all about. Do the hokey pokey. Okay, good, I got it. But for too many Christians their commitment to Jesus Christ is like that hokey pokey thing. Put it in, put it out, turn around, turn about. But God has called us, not a hokey-pokey, but a holy, H-O-L-Y and W-H-O-L-L-Y, wholly devotion and consecration to the Lord. Whoever said that you could have a half-hearted, half-in, half-out, fringe, come when you fill like to church, live for Jesus when you want to, when it's conveni... Who said that? Who made that a possibility? Not God! Not Jesus, who said in the Gospel of Matthew, He said, "If anyone's going to follow after me", do what? "take up the cross", die to self, "take up the cross and follow Me".

Ours is the faith of the cross and the resurrection. Not only do we believe in the cross and boast in the cross alone, but we carry the cross as an act of sacrifice and surrender to the Lord. And that's what this sermon, this message, this text is about. It's about getting your all on the altar. And to become a living sacrifice for Christ. So what does that mean? What does that look like? To be this kind of a sacrifice. C. T. Studd, what a good name! He was a stud athlete in England way over a century ago. He was a cricket player. And he once said, and there's a photo of C. T. Studd. He said, "Only one life, will soon be past, and only what's done for Christ will last".

So C. T. Studd left a professional career. He was a professional player and he walked away and heard a full-time ministry call to go and be a missionary. When people said to him, “Why would you do this? Why would leave your life behind here in Britain and go to distant places?” Here’s what he said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice for Him could ever be too great!” The appeal the apostle is making here in this passage is just that. He said, "In view of the mercies of God, because of what Christ". Now if I could name this Book, I would call it, I would say many things about this Book, but one thing for sure I would say about the Bible, this is the mercy Book. It drips with the blood of God and His mercy. Mercy drops. And it's all about God's mercy. And that's what, for those of you who have been with us in the book of Romans, that's what we've been seeing in the great sections of the core of Christianity.

How "the wages of sin was death; that the gift of God was eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". That "God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us". That the love of God is so great that "neither height nor depth or devils or angels, nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus". Just look at it again and again and again. You can't get too much of the riches of God in Romans, but it's all about His mercy. More and more mercy. That's what Paul, when it comes time to wrap it all up and turn the corner and talk about now living this live, he's saying, because of the mercies of God. "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me then no sacrifice that I make for Him is too much".

A young president John F. Kennedy, stood before the nation in his inaugural address in January of '61, and he made the well-known statement, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country". And that is the same appeal of the Bible. What if you began saying, "Ask not what God could do for you but what you can do for God". That's the term. What God has done for you is amazing, isn't it? It's incredible! His mercies, more and more mercies. They're new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness. But now that God has given us every blessing, life becomes less and less about bless-me, bless-me, but now, Lord, send me, send me, use me for Your glory when we bring our lives on the altar.

In the Old Testament there were two kinds of sacrifices. One sacrifice was called the propitiatory sacrifice. That was the sacrifice for forgiveness that Jewish people would make. And then other sacrifices, all with animals or grain of some kind, these were dedicatory sacrifices, giving thanks to God for His provision, for His forgiveness and His salvation. So the propitiation, that sacrifice, get this, was made by Christ who died to save us from our sins. So that's His sacrifice. Our sacrifice is the dedication of our lives, where we bring not dead animals or grain, but we bring our lives and we put ourselves on the altar. So what is this sacrifice?

Years ago, I heard it defined in three ways that I’m going to share with you today. First, it is a living sacrifice. Secondly, it is a lasting sacrifice. And thirdly, it is a loving sacrifice and it is a lasting sacrifice as well. So, number one, it is a living sacrifice. Living in the sense that it is you on the altar. Christ died and now you live. And we are alive on the altar because of the sacrifice of Jesus. We are living sacrifices. Now the problem of a living sacrifice is... dead animals sacrifices don't go anywhere; living sacrifices can crawl off the altar. And some of you, some of us from time to time have crawled off the altar. We no longer there on the altar of God.

Now some of you may be thinking, okay, this is good for the missionary; it's good for the monk; it's good for the monastic; it's good for the preachers, for the clergy; it's good for those kids who say okay we're going to go to the full time ministry. That's good for them but that's not me. I'm more parttime in my faith. I'm more not all in, I'm just partly in when it's convenient. This is for the extra-Christianity, extra-Christian faith. This is for the superhero kind of Christian, all on the altar. No, it's for all of us! I like the way it is translated or paraphrased in The Message. Listen to this: Romans 12:1: "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, your eating, your going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing that you can do for him".

That's it! This living sacrifice means not some ultra-kind of experience but it is your everyday walk with God; it is your walking around faith; it is your living faith; This isn't just for the super spiritual types. I'm trying to say this is for all of us because of what Christ has done for us, it lives. It's not only a living commitment, it's a sacrifice, but it is a lasting sacrifice. There's one sense, the language of the New Testament here when Paul gives it, he says, "I appeal to you, brother, that you present your body as a living sacrifice". That's kind of a one and done kind of word there. That you do it as a definite act of dedication and devotion to God.

So in one sense, that's why I mention some of the decisions that I made along the way in my life, whether it was salvation or ministry call, or marriage. And other times in my life there have been definite times when I said, "Okay, Lord, I am making this day a dedication to you and giving my life to you". As I said earlier, one of the problems we’ve got of being a living sacrifice, is we crawl off the altar. And it can happen; it’s happened to me. And so what needs to happen when that happens, I need to crawl back up on that altar and not quit! You know, one of the problems we've got, and I want to challenge you today, young men and women, in particular, one of the challenges we have today is we see teenagers, high school students graduate, leave, go to college, maybe military, maybe labor-force, but you leave home and you leave your faith behind.

We've seen it. We've seen drifting, and then diminishing, and even deconstruction of faith. People come back and say, "You know, I don't even have a faith". Because they quit. A living sacrifice never quits. He just keeps getting back on the altar when you fall, when you fail. When you choose the wrong way, when you choose to get off, there comes a times you get back on the altar. Get yourself back up there. I want to challenge you, when you leave your home, when you leave your family, your parents or wherever you're living, don't leave home without Jesus being the Lord of your life and that you're on the altar with Him. It's lasting, don't quit. Everybody wants to quit today, if it gets hard, if it gets uncomfortable, if I fail, I just quit. No, this sacrifice is a living sacrifice. It's a lasting sacrifice. You're on the altar and you keep yourself there.

You say "how am I doing that"? This is the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Just like Moses when he was in the desert. He was wasted. He thought his life was over. And yet God called him out of a burning bush. And he saw the bush aflame and he thought if I could just get the fire in my bones again. If I could just get the fire back, maybe God could use me again. You know sacrifice burns, doesn't it? So you get the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit to burn in you, to reignite you, if you will, and to keep burning and shining for Jesus. It's a living sacrifice. It's a lasting sacrifice. It becomes a daily decision.

And one final thing, it's a logical sacrifice. Now stay with me. It's a logical sacrifice because what he says here, "in view of the mercies of God, offer yourselves, your body as a living sacrifice unto God, holy and acceptable which is your spiritual worship". And some translations give that "your reasonable service". The word is the word, we get our word logic from the word that is translated here, spiritual worship or reasonable worship. Some versions give it as true worship, others as proper and true worship. The NLT-New Living says "truly it is a way to worship Him". But it's the word logic. In other words, it's saying it's logical, it's reasonable to do this. It's a living, lasting, logical sacrifice: the giving of your bodies to God.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, verses 19 and 20: “What, do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? That you are not your own; that you are bought with a price. (the precious blood of Jesus) Therefore, glorify God with your body which belongs to Christ.” So when he says present your bodies to Christ here in Romans 12, in means all of you, including your body. I mean, we live in our bodies. And what I do to make sure that my all is on the altar, I pray regularly a prayer that I’m going to suggest to you today, closing this message. It’s something that I pray often at the outset of my day. I just pray from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. I start with my mind: “Lord, I give You my mind. Now I love You with all my heart, my mind, my soul and strength. Lord, may I think true thoughts and praiseworthy thoughts. Guard my thoughts, O God, and remove and transform the way that I think. And may my thoughts be honorable and pleasing to You, O God. Help me that my thoughts would be filled with faith and love for You.”

And then from my mind, I move to my eyes: “Lord, I give you my eyes, what I see, because the eyes are the light of the soul, Jesus said. Help me look beyond today and my circumstances, and to see the eternal, to take the long look and have an eternal perspective. Lord, protect my eyes from seeing things that are ungodly or immoral, or impure. And Lord, may I see through the eyes of Christ, people around me who need You. May I see the hurting and the helpless and the hopeless and love them. God, I give You back everything. Lord, may I have the eyes of Christ?” And then I move from my eyes to my ears: “Lord, may I hear Your word, may I awaken to hear Your word spoken in the wonders of creation and especially in the wonders of Your Word. And in the whispers of Your Spirit. Lord, help me hear every detail. Let me so listen that I will obey You and live for You. Lord, You said, ‘He that has ears, let him hear.’ Lord, let me hear what You want me to do. And especially, Lord, that I would hear Your call.”

God is calling some of you today. Not, maybe, to preach, but to do something else in the center of His will. Are you hearing the call of God? And is your answer always “Yes, Lord.”? Because the moment you say no, Lord, He’s no longer Lord of your life. You can say yes; you can say no, but you can only say yes, Lord. You can’t say no, Lord. So, “Lord, let me say yes to You and what you call.” And then Lord, I then pray for my mouth; I need that because I’ve got a big one: "Lord, may the words of my mouth, I give to You. The meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. Lord, may my tongue glorify Your name. The words that I say, the words that I speak. Help me to us words that equip and encourage others around me. Lord, use my mouth to proclaim Your name, to share Jesus, to tell people about Jesus".

“Lord, I give You my mind. Lord, I give You my eyes. Lord I give You my ears. Lord, I give You my mouth. And I give You heart, Lord, because that’s Your throne. Take Your rightful place of preeminence in my life on the throne of my heart. I get self out of the way, Lord, that You may reign and rule and live in Lordship in my life. My heart, Lord. Guide my heart for I know the Scripture says ‘out of the heart flow all these issues of life.’ So Lord, I give You my heart. And then I pray, Lord, I give You my hands: Lord, here are my hands. May You use them to work for You, to serve You in the ways that You have assigned them. And Lord, may my hands be open to You and giving to others. Lord, let me not live with hands clinched, holding on to what I have, but Lord, that I would open my hands and serve You with gladness and joy. Lord, let me lift my hands in praise and adoration to You. Lord, I give You my hands.”

And then: “Lord I give You my feet. Lord, let them move at the impulse of Your love. At the direction of Your Spirit. May they go where You want me to go. Lord, I say Your will wherever, whenever, whatever, however. Lord, I give You my feet. Send me and use me.” That’s living with your life on the altar. So I close with asking you is your life on the altar? Is it a living, lasting, logical, reasonable offering of your life to the Lord?
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