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Summary: Many people get the first thing first...accepting Christ. Many miss putting the second thing second, giving themselves to the local church.

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July 13, 2003

First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then by God’s will, they gave themselves to us as well.

2 Corinthians 8:5 (GN)

On the day of dedication of "Solomon’s Temple," the king erected a brazen platform in the outer court. All the people gathered, as the king ascended the platform, in full view of the altar. The altar would be the site of many offerings, many sacrifices. However, before the first sacrifice, the first exchange of money for doves or lambs, the king offered himself on the brazen platform. "...and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven." 2 Chronicles 6:13b.

This is much like the Macedonian Christians whom, Paul said, "first gave their own selves to the Lord" (2 Corinthians 8:5). When we give, pray, lead, witness, conduct business, change a diaper, do homework, drive to the mall, there is a calling to "do all as unto the Lord" (Colossians 3:23).

We may want to do much "for" the Lord; however we must be surrendered "to" the Lord’s will for those subsequent deeds to be acceptable.

When it comes to giving, put yourself in the offering plate first!

When it comes to business, determine He will be the Senior Partner.

When it comes to anything -- remember Solomon’s Temple -- it was immersed in consecrating prayer and surrender to the Lord’s will before a single sacrifice was placed upon the altar!

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 25:1 (NLT)

Placing yourself in the offering plate is done at church…and to the church. By that I mean that you offer yourself to God as His child, His servant; you offer yourself to the church as a fellow servant!

One of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention is only half the age of our church. To join Saddleback Community Church as a member there is a member-in-the-plate mentality. They have four requirements:

A personal profession of Christ as Lord and Savior;

Baptism by immersion as a public symbol of one’s faith;

Completion of the membership class; and

A signed commitment to abide by Saddleback’s membership covenant.

You might ask, is that going a little too far? My personal answer would be that it is…and it isn’t. It’s going too far if you just want to have a social club, or a membership that likes the things that we do, and enjoys the services. You don’t need to go that far if you really don’t anticipate hardship, persecution and testing. On the other hand, if you are going to live in this sin-sick world it is going to take some toughness, some spiritual maturity. When it comes to the people standing next to me in the church to which I belong, I want to know these are people who are ready to live and die by that to which we have agreed. I want covenant people standing toe to toe with me.

The Saddleback Membership Covenant (1)

When a person applies to Saddleback to become a member, they stand before the congregation with the following covenant, signed…and all of these parts of the covenant come right from the Bible. Saddleback does worship and ministry in some different and some traditional ways. One thing you can never say about them is that they’re not Biblical. They expect their members to be involved in the ministry of the kingdom of God.

Having received Christ as my Lord and Savior and been baptized, and being in agreement with Saddleback’s statements, strategy, and structure, I now feel led by the Holy Spirit to unite with the Saddleback church family. In doing so, I commit myself to God and to the other members to do the following:

1. I WILL PROTECT THE UNITY OF MY CHURCH

...By acting in love toward other members

"So let us concentrate on the things which make for harmony, and on the growth of our fellowship together." Rom. 15:19 (Ph)

"Have a sincere love for your fellow believers,

love one another earnestly with all your hearts."

1 Peter 1:22 (TEV)

In the animated movie Ice Age, when saber-tooth tigers attack a tribe of nomads, a mother and her baby attempt to outrun the man-eating beasts but are cornered at a raging waterfall. With no other option available, the mother jumps, securely cradling her baby. She is mortally injured in the fall but survives long enough to deposit her newborn on the riverbank. The little boy is discovered by a wooly mammoth named Manfred, a sloth name Sid and a saber-tooth tiger named Diego. These three unlikely companions unite on a common mission to return the baby to his father. As the trio treks through a mountainous terrain of ice and snow carrying the baby, at one point the mammoth, sloth, and tiger realize they’re on an erupting volcano. The heat of the lava melts the glacier bridges atop the ice fields, separating Diego from the others. Isolated on a quickly melting island of ice, Diego jumps to reach the others, but falls short. Dangling from the edge of the ice field, his grip falters, and he falls. Manfred, unwilling to let Diego perish, leaps into a chasm after him and tosses the tiger upwards to safety. Diego, realizing the danger involved in the rescue, is moved by Manfred’s compassion, courage, and sacrifice. "Why did you do that?" he asks. "You could have died trying to save me." Humbly, the mammoth responds, "That’s what you do when you’re part of a herd. You look after each other." Amazed at the convergence of circumstances that has brought these three together, Sid muses aloud, "I don’t know about you guys, but we are one strange herd." (2)

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