Summary: What does it mean to be a sacrifice? How will that affect the way we live?
The nature of Holiness
If there is one concept in the bible that seems to be foreign to us in 2016, almost to the point of incomprehensible is the concept of sacrifice.
Not the concept of making sacrifices for something or someone, we all do that on a fairly regular basis. As parents we make sacrifices for our children, we give up things that we could have for ourselves in order to provide them for our kids. Whether that be in the form of material sacrifice, what you give up so they can have . . . whatever, or in the form of giving up our time for our children. You might make sacrifices for your career, or for your education there are those here today who are pursuing a degree or upgrading and in order to do that they are making sacrifices, both financially and personally.
We all make sacrifices, a priority for Angela and I is our annual winter vacation south and so we sacrifice things like birthday gifts and Christmas gifts so we can make that trip each year.
So we all know what it is to make sacrifices after all we make them on a daily basis in our lives. The concept that seems foreign to us is the concept of offering something to a deity as a sacrifice. From movies and novels, we’ve heard of human sacrifices, virgins being thrown into volcanoes or people being buried alive to appease their gods, but that was then and this is now.
In the Old Testament we read about animals and birds being sacrificed in the temple as a form of worship, and we can’t even get our head around it, it seems so wrong. And part of that is we are looking at it from a 2016 perspective and of course it’s wrong today, but 3000 years ago . . . maybe not so much.
But it’s because we can’t understand the concept of sacrifices being made to God in such an extreme way that we have a hard time with the concept of offering ourselves as a sacrifice. In our world a sacrifice is something that we voluntarily give but more importantly today a sacrifice is something we can take back, if we decide that we don’t want to keep making that sacrifice anymore.
But in the biblical sense the incense was burnt, the animal was killed, the blood was shed and the sacrifice was made and it was done and it was irretrievable there were no give mes or do-overs or take backs or mulligans.
But that’s exactly what Paul was calling the early Christ followers to become when he wrote Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. And just in case they didn’t get what he was saying he adds: Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.
Through the month of May we’ve been looking at Holiness. It all began we we looked into Peter’s first letter where he wrote to be Holy because God is Holy. That was the call to Holiness, and we discovered there that Holiness was the complete acceptance and obedience to the will of God in our lives. In week two week peeked into Isaiah 35 and what it meant to walk the Highway of Holiness, the way of Holiness. And last week we took some time in Romans 6 where Paul tells us that we need to crucify our sinful natures, the price of Holiness.
And today we are going to spend some time looking at the “Nature of Holiness”.
And so the first thing we need to look at is: The What What was it that Paul was asking these folks to do? Well the short answer was to become a sacrifice.
But what does that mean or more importantly because the letter wasn’t written to us originally what did it mean to the people it was being written to 2000 years ago? When this letter was read aloud to the Christians in the city of Rome, what came to their minds when they heard this phrase? Historically we are told that there were a plethora of Roman gods and each one required specific sacrifices. Add to that the fact that each year Roman Citizens had to make a sacrifice to Caesar and declare their loyalty by stating Caesar is lord and I’m sure those reading this letter knew exactly what Paul was trying to convey.
And so it is interesting that Paul doesn’t tell those who worshipped in Rome what to do, he doesn’t command them to make themselves living sacrifices instead he writes “I plead with you”, interesting. But Paul knew that unless it was done willing it wasn’t a sacrifice, that when you are forced to give a gift it’s not really a gift.