The Lord’s Message:  Deny Self, Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus:  Sacrifice

The Lord’s Message:  Deny Self, Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus:  Sacrifice
Date:  April 2, 2023
Where:  Tilghman UMC
Scripture Reference:  Romans 12:1-3

            We are completing our Lenten Sermon Series on Deny Self, Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus.  The spiritual discipline that we are learning about today is sacrifice. 

            Let us pray.

            What thoughts come to your minds when you hear the word sacrifice?  Difficult, painful and very unpleasant.  Certainly, this is reflective of what Jesus has done for each one of us on the cross.  Crucifixion was definitely difficult, painful and very unpleasant. 

            Let us open our Bibles to Romans 12:1 and see what the Apostle Paul has to say about sacrifice.  Paul says that we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, because this is our spiritual act of worship.  Have you ever considered sacrifice as an act of worship?  What are acts of worship to you?  Prayer, fellowship, reading the Bible, singing hymns, listening to God’s message.  Never sacrifice as an act of worship.   

            What is Paul trying to tell us?  Paul’s idea of sacrifice is to not be hung on a cross.  It is, though, to surrender our will to God.  Jesus had to surrender His earthly will to God.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed in Luke 22:39-44.  Jesus is fully human and fully God.  The God side of Jesus knew that He had to go to the cross to redeem humanity.  The human side of Jesus did not want to have anything to do with the cross.  The human side knew the pain and suffering it was going to have to endure.  I believe that is why He was in anguish.  His human side had to surrender to the God side, or sacrifice, in order for God’s plan of redemption to be fulfilled. 

            The same is true with each one of us.  We are made up of both spirit (God side) and flesh (human side).  Our flesh is always fighting against the spirit.  Paul describes this battle in Romans 7:15-20.   Do you agree with Paul?  Is there a battle going on inside of each one of us?  Yes.  How many times have I said something that I should not have said or done something that I knew I should not have done?  Instead of saying or doing what I should have said or done, I did not say or do it.  What a wretched mess we are in!  What can we do? 

The answer is found in sacrifice.  We offer our living bodies to God.  It starts with our mind.  Paul says in Romans 12:2.  This world wants to tell you that you are Number One.  You can do anything that you want and you will not have to suffer the consequences for it.  That is what the snake told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:4-5.  There are no penalties for eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is what the snake convinced Adam and Eve.  We lived in a world that thinks that there are not consequences for their actions. 

So, what are we to do?  As Christians, as followers of God, we are to submit or sacrifice our will to God’s will.  We are not to conform to this world and the ways of this world.  We are to be set apart.  Which means we are to be “Holy.”  Holy does not mean that we are pure and perfect.  Holy does not mean that we are righteous and never sin or make a mistake.  Holy means that we focus our hearts and minds on what is pleasing to God.  If we do that, then we are “able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 10:5, of taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.  Is what you are thinking is what Jesus wants you to say or do?  Our disobedience to God and His will begins with our mind. 

Starting off is difficult, but after doing this time and time again it becomes a way of life.  So, when the woman across the street calls you up and reads you the riot act for the people that are mowing your grass for waking her up at 8 in the morning.  She goes on to tell you that there is a city ordinance that no lawn cutting should begin until 9am.  You kindly tell her that I think that you may be in error.  The city ordinance reads that no lawn cutting should begin until 8am.  She goes on to rip you apart.  You gently tell her to call the city office and see if you are in error and if so, you will have a talk with the lawn service.  She hollers at you that she will do that and slams the phone in your ear.  At which you say a prayer for her.  You think to yourself that it was not long ago that you would have given her a piece of your mind.  Thank God you have sacrificed your will for God’s will.  To tell you the rest of the story,  about a half hour later, she calls you back with a different attitude and tells you that you are right.  But she does not like it.  You gently tell her that you will talk to the lawn service and have them start in the backyard, before they cut the grass in the front.  She is pleased with this arrangement. 

Our actions, our attitudes, and our minds should all be conformed to the will of God.  If we do that, then we humble our will to God’s will.  This humility gives us a better understanding of God’s grace and love.  As Paul says in Romans 12:3, this causes us to not think too highly of ourselves, but to face the sober judgement of whether we are living for God.

I will tell you that I fail everyday and I may have failed in my relations with you.   I ask you to forgive me, because I will forgive you also. 

Today, we observe and celebrate the Triumphal entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem.  This entry would change the city of Jerusalem and all of us forever.  The march on Palm Sunday would lead to the crucifixion on Good Friday and the empty tomb on Easter.  In the process, we gain a greater understanding of the discipline of sacrifice.  So that we may deny self, take up our cross and follow Jesus. 

April 5, 2023 10:57 am