Sacrifice – The Act of Worship

Series: Liturgy
Date: 28th March 2016

Preached by Saju Joseph

Good Morning & Welcome Everybody.

As posted on Facebook we are doing a series on Liturgy.

The dictionary definition of Liturgy means ‘a fixed set of ceremonies, words etc that are used during public worship in a religion’. In our context it simply means what we do on a Sunday gathering and that’s what we’re going to look at. The question we will answer is ‘Why do we do what we do when we gather?’

Growing up in a Christian family, I have often asked these questions to my parents and church leaders and have received answers that formed my opinions about Church.

In these series what we will do is basically answer these questions from the scriptures, we will conclude with what the Bible teaches us and therefore build our foundational beliefs around it.

We have divided the topics into four weeks and this is how it looks like.

Wk 1 – Sacrifice, as in the act of worship.
Wk 2 – Giving, Singing and Confession.
Wk 3 – Scripture and Preaching.
Wk 4 – Communion and Baptism.

Today, we will be looking at ‘Sacrifice’ as in the act of worship and the bible text that we will look at is Romans 12.

The book of Romans is a letter written by Paul to the church in Rome and in the NIV version the chapter starts with the word “Therefore”.

Imagine we pick up any letter and stumble upon a paragraph that starts with the word “Therefore”. We comprehend that whatever the writer is about to say henceforth has some connection with what he has already said and it won’t make any sense to read through it without reading through the previous chapters and understand what the writer is trying to say.

When you read through chapter 1 -11 you will see Paul talks a lot about doctrine and the verses are full of heavy theology. He talks about Righteousness, Gods judgment, Justification, Slavery to sin & Righteousness, Future Glory, God’s everlasting love, the message of salvation.

It’s heavy with theology and doctrine. And therefore when we see Paul using the word ‘Therefore’ as he begins a new paragraph, we see him moving from doctrine to practice, from theology to ethics, from foundation to application.

It’s like me teaching my children how stuffs work. For e.g. I can teach my children what an Iron box is, and how it works, how the metal gets heated when attached to an electric board, and how the hot metal when pressed on our clothes removes the creases etc. And then I conclude with a “therefore” saying how they need to be careful while they are around a hot Iron and how they need to use it carefully and stuff. Paul is doing a similar thing here where he shares the doctrine and now moves to the application part of it.

Secondly we see that Paul makes an appeal to the believers in Rome, a serious, urgent and a heartfelt request. We see him doing it quite often and uses the word ‘I urge you’, Í beg you’. I believe he is making an appeal because it seems that the people know a lot of things about God but are struggling to keep up with it in action and are failing to apply it in their Christian walk.

Paul goes on and makes an appeal to the people that they offer themselves a living Sacrifice to God. Sacrifice is the act of worship where we offer ourselves to God holy and acceptable not in our minds, but in posture, in our lifestyle, in our conduct, in our behavior towards one another.

But sadly even in our generation we have people struggling with these issues where they know a lot about God, they know the bible text in and out, they have a strong theological understanding of the scriptures but completely fail to apply them in their Christian walk, fail to offer their lives as a living Sacrifice and worship him with all their heart, mind and soul.

Whenever Gods people gather together something powerful should happen but sadly that’s not what we experience. Sometimes we fail to experience joy and fulfillment when we are with our fellow believers. Maybe one of the reasons for this kind of bitter experiences is also because we have been failing to live in the light of the Gospel, our heads are full of knowledge, theology & doctrine but our actions say something else.

Here Paul is making an appeal for men to fully understand that we need to live out the life God intended us to live, not just in our minds but in our actions, in our commitment to one another.

Let’s read the verse again (verse 1,2). The next word that we see Paul uses is ‘by His mercy’. What he means ‘by His mercy’ is to see things in the light of what God has done for us, he is not saying ‘by the knowledge you now acquired ’ or ‘by the theology you just learnt’, his words are ‘by the Mercies of God’.

Look at our lives. How did we reach here today? Isn’t it because of God’s mercies? Are we here because of our righteousness or our choice? It is purely because of God’s redemptive work in our lives.

Remember the Cross chart we looked at while going through lesson one of the Gospel Centric Life. When we are saved we grow in the awareness of God’s Holiness and also grow in the awareness of our sinfulness. We learnt that the only way we can bridge that gap is when we daily appreciate Gods redemptive work on the cross by sending his Son to die for our sins. It is His mercies that saved us from our sinfulness and placed us in His holiness.

This is our identity. Our identity comes from God. Our identity is that we are children of God who are being saved by God every single day of our lives and that’s what we keep reminding ourselves.

It’s our identity that should lead us to activity. The world’s got it upside down. The people of the world says your activity decides your identity. But in Jesus it’s our identity of who we are that leads us to activity.

It is the mercy of God that leads us into Holiness and it is God’s mercy that drives us to worship.

Sacrifice is an Old testament language. Sacrifice in the Old testament is the offering of bull, dove etc. When the people came into Gods presence with these sacrifices God accepted them as a substitute from their Sin, but even when they offered sacrifice they knew that it’s not actually these sacrifice which will completely redeem them from God’s wrath. In Hebrews 10 verse 4, the writer says it’s impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. So even though they offered sacrifice, what God wanted was their heart.

We see later that Jesus Christ Himself becomes a sacrifice for us, He dies for us as a remission for our sins, He brought an end to the old testament sacrifice.

Now, when Paul is talking about sacrifice he’s not talking about the old testament sacrifice, he’s talking about something else. So, lets look at that.

Paul says, ‘offer your bodies as a living sacrifice’. The first word he uses is ‘bodies’. What Paul is trying to say is that our body matters. Even though we’re living, we’re in the flesh but it’s not just the flesh, skin and the blood but also our minds because in later verse he also mentions “be transformed by the renewal of your mind”

When I was growing up I always thought of offering myself means giving myself to serving ministry, doing things for God. Doing things on my own strength and capabilities because God needs me, he needs my intelligence.

But when read 1 Peter 2:5 it says
Offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

What we learn is that even the offering of ourselves should be done through Jesus Christ.

In this text Paul is appealing to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice through Christ Jesus not just in the looks of it but also in our motives & behaviors.

We see in the preceding verses he goes on to give practical ways of offering ourselves to the body of Christ, most of it is self explanatory but to see in the context in which Paul is presenting them to us is more important.

This is what Sacrifice means, this is what worship means. We gather every Sunday to worship God in submission and reverence as one body, not thinking more highly about ourselves, to have think with sober judgment, to serve, to teach, to exhort, to contribute to each other’s need, to lead with zeal, to show mercy, to show genuine love, to abhor evil, to live in harmony, to feed our enemies and not to overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Let’s look to God in prayer.

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