One of the most powerful illustrations of Christian living is found in Isaac's willingness to let his father, Abraham, sacrifice him in obedience to God. From his example we learn the difficult truth that Christianity is all about stepping up to the altar.
What Makes You Tick?
A few years ago, a magazine carried a true story of something that happened in a football game between the great rivals Alabama and Auburn. And it happened in the days when Bear Bryant was still living and drove his football program toward legendary accomplishments.
Alabama was ahead by five points, leading Auburn with 2 minutes to go. The first-string quarterback was injured on a play and Bryant had to use his second-string quarterback. The pressure was unbelievable and the crowd was going wild. They were on the Auburn’s 20 yard line and it was first down for Alabama. Bear Bryant yelled into the helmet of the second-string quarterback, “Whatever you do, do not pass the ball. Run the ball all four plays. And then, if we have to hold them, our defense will get us through . . . listen to me boy, whatever you do, do not throw the ball.” The quarterback ran in full of zeal and determination. First down, they were stopped at the line. Second down, held again. Third down, they gained a yard. Fourth down cam. The crowd was hysterical. The hand-off to the running back was somehow muffled and the quarterback wound up with the ball. Running around in the backfield, he looked in the end zone and spotted his split end wide open. He passed the ball. What he failed to see was the fastest man on the field, the safety for Auburn, read his eyes and saw the pass coming. He ran in front of the receiver, intercepted the ball, and started racing down the field. The quarterback was the only one with the field advantage to catch him. He wasn’t that fast, but he raced down the field, with the time clock expiring. He caught up to the player, tackled him and Alabama won the game. The opposing coach, Coach Dye said to Bear Bryant, “I’ve read the scouting reports, and that second-string quarterback was slow. How in the world did he catch up to the fastest man on the field?” Bear Bryant replied, “It’s simple. Your player was running for a touchdown. My player was running for his life.”
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart (Word Publishing, 1998) p. 400
That’s a pretty powerful motivator isn’t it?!
You ever been motivated by that kind of fear?
I can remember as a 9 or 10 year getting into an argument with a older boy in the neighborhood – quite a bit bigger than me. I don’t know what possessed me, but I balled up my little fist and I punched him – his black eye would last 2 weeks. The only problem was, after I punched him, he was still alive – he began to chase me – I knew if he caught me, I wouldn’t be alive for long. I can remember clearing the back yard fence without ever touching it, while he had to stop and climb over it. And I lived to tell the story and become your pastor.
You ever been motivated by fear?
How about the motivation of revenge?
You can learn that one early on too.
I thought it was funny when I read this week a story out of Bits and Pieces the story about Jeremy’s mother who ran into the bedroom when she heard her 6 year old crying out in pain. She found Jeremy’s 2-year-old sister pulling his hair. Mom gently released each finger of the little girl’s grip and said to Jeremy, “Honey, she doesn’t understand what she’s doing, she doesn’t know it hurts . . . don’t be upset with her, she doesn’t know how much that hurts.” Mom wasn’t barely out of the room and down the hallway when the little girl screamed out. Rushing back in, she said, “What happened?” Jeremy explained, “She knows now.”
Retold by Michael Hodgin in 1001 Humorous Illustrations (Zondervan, 1994), p. 306
Most of us grew up with the common motivation to eat what was on our plates because . . . why? . . . because it’s good for us, right?
Eat those peas . . . they’re good for you.
Or, “eat that squash . . . there are hungry children in the world out there.” I’d be happy to box it up and mail it to them.
You grow older and incentives and motivations change.
Napoleon once quipped that his soldiers were motivated to risk their lives for trinkets – referring to medals that gained them status and recognition among their peers.
The world is moved by any number of motivations: fame or power or pleasure or money or popularity or security or status or comfort.
That’s the kind of stuff that fuels the engine of the world system.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the tragedy facing the world is not that it fails, but that it succeeds at getting something that really doesn’t matter.
It really doesn’t matter!
Jesus Christ asked, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
What separates a Christian from the world, isn’t the fact that a Christian never achieves fame, or fortune or power or comfort.
I’m reading the biography of S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chic-fil-A Corporation, who, by all accounts of his story, is a committed Christian. And who also happens to be incredibly wealthy.
I’ve helped make him that way!
The Apostle Paul said he knew how to experience abundance as well as poverty (Philippians 4:12)
Spirituality is not synonymous with either wealth or poverty. Anyone who teaches either view is a false teacher.
The difference between the believer and the rest of the world is not external possessions, but internal motivation!
What makes you tick?!
In Rediscovering Holiness, J. I. Packer wrote, “The secular world never understands Christian motivation. Faced with the question of what makes Christians tick, unbeliever maintain that Christianity is practiced out of self-serving purposes or the need for a crutch of support, or for social identity. No doubt all these motivations can be found among the membership of churches. But the driving force in authentic Christian living is, and ever must be, not the hope of gain, but the heart of gratitude.”
James M. Boice, Romans: Volume 4 (Baker, 1995), p. 1509
That’s exactly the point of the Apostle Paul. In the first 11 chapters of Romans, he has defined Christianity and now he will describe Christianity.
And immediately, Paul reveals the motivation of Christian conduct.
Romans 1:1. I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, present your bodies a living sacrifice. . .
Let me amplify and paraphrase this phrase in order to emphasize the tenses and nuances of Paul’s vocabulary) Paul writes, I beg of you and plead with you, brethren, in view of . . . on account of . . . because you have become the recipients of . . . the great mercies of God, make a bold, ongoing, daily and decisive gift of yourselves to God.
By the way, in case you missed it, before God asks us to do anything for Him, He asks us to give ourselves to Him.
And remember, Paul is writing to the brethren.
He’s challenging the believer to a life of surrender.
Daily decide to behave what you believe.
Don’t just declare your Christianity, demonstrate it.
There are four words that I’ve pondered as I’ve meditated on this text and studied it this past week.
Four words that categorically describe Paul’s request:
Availability – that’s in the verb “present” . . . present . . . to God, a living sacrifice.
Expendability – Paul isn’t asking us to just make a verbal presentation, Paul writes, Present your bodies to God, a living sacrifice.
Why be so specific?
Because the Holy Spirit knows that everyone of us have the same problem . . . we struggle with giving our bodies to God.
Now remember from our last discussion, the term bodies is an exhaustive term that encompasses everything about us.
Our emotions are inside our bodies . . . we struggle to give God control of our emotions.
Our plans are inside our minds . . . we struggle to yield our plans to God.
Our wills are inside our spirits . . . we struggle to surrender our will to God.
God says, “give me everything about you.” And we say, “Lord I’ll give you something from me.”
It’s easier to give God some things, than it is to give ourselves to God.
It’s easier to volunteer a few hours a week to charitable work, than it is to give Him control of your calendar.
Here comes the offering plate . . . we’ll give Him some money; maybe that will take care of it.
The average Christian has somehow bought into the misconception that it’s possible to buy your way out of the great commission.
In Romans 12:1, God is not calling an institution – He is calling an individual to a life passion of surrender to God.
Paul uses the word “living sacrifice” which conjured up for the Roman believer, Jew or Gentile, the practice of the Old Testament system of sacrifice.
In the Old Covenant, the temple system was one of blood and death. Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and on special occasions, the altars of the temple ran with blood from the sacrifices of beasts and birds. The temple was one vast slaughter-house.
The Pulpit Commentary, (Funk & Wagnalls Company, 18--), p. 375
When the priest went off duty his robes would be splattered with blood. It would be on his face, in his beard, on his hands and arms and feet. His sandals would be oiled and red with blood.
No animal experienced a half-hearted sacrifice. They didn’t get from the priest an assurance, “Listen, don’t worry about it, when this is over, I’ll take your ears and put them back in the pasture. I’ll keep your four legs off the altar and prop them up by the fence where you used to graze.
The expendability of the sacrifice was entire.
Now Paul uses that kind of language to speak of the New Testament believer.
Only in this analogy, you no longer bring a sacrifice to God, you become the sacrifice to God.
A living sacrifice – your eyes, ears, hands, feet and every other body part and function; mind, emotions and will, which feels, dreams, rejoices, suffers, plans.
Are we available? Then, are we truly expendable?
Our singles Pastor, Brad Harbaugh wrote in his recent letter to the singles an interesting, somewhat humorous truth this past week. He wrote, “Most Christians only want to serve God in an advisory capacity.”
The Lord has yet to create an advisory board and invite any of us to sit there.
Who knows the mind of God and how has become His counselor? (Romans 11:34)
Availability . . . Expendability . . . next word; Acceptability.
What kind of sacrifice is God wanting of us? Paul describes it with the words – living and holy . . . that kind of sacrifice is acceptable to God.
A living sacrifice – has to do with the totality of life.
A holy sacrifice – has to do with the purity of life.
This is the acceptable sacrifice to God, Paul writes in verse 1.
Would a bride on the way to the altar care about her hair? Would she walk through a mud-puddle . . . would she care about the cleanliness of her dress?
Will we bring a blemished lamb to the altar? Will we present to God rotten fruit and maggot infested flour.
What does God care?
Will we, the Bride of Christ, walk through life toward the marriage supper of the Lamb, sloshing through the mud-puddles of sin? Will we care?
The motivation for holy living is gratitude. Look who our Bridegroom is! Look who He is!
Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne;
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own;
Awake my soul and sing of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
That isn’t a song that begins up there, that is a song which begins down here.
Crown Him the Lord of love; behold His hands and side,
Rich would yet visible above in beauty glorified,
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou hast died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.
Can we be anything other than grateful?
And to think we are both the bride and the wedding present – offering up out of passionate gratitude everything we have and everything we are to our Kinsman Redeemer.
Now, Paul summarizes his analogy of sacrifice by making one more statement, and giving me one more key word.
Availability . . . expendability . . . acceptability and now,
It is the word, advisability.
Paul writes in verse one, “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which happens to be your spiritual service of worship.”
The NIV translates it, “this is your spiritual act of worship.”
The King James renders it, which I prefer, “which is your reasonable service.”
Total sacrifice is most advisable!
In the Greek language you only have two words for this expression: logiken latreian (logikhn latreian)
The first word – logikhn – give us our transliterated word, “logical.” “Sensible” “reasonable”
To put it in crass terms, Paul is saying, “Use your heads.”
The most rational thing a believer can do, in light of what God has done for them; because of what God is doing for them; in view of what God is going to do for them; in light of His glory and splendor and grace and mercy and love and everything else you’ve learned about God in the first 11 chapters of this Book – use your heads!
The wisest thing I can advise you to do, Paul writes, is become a living, holy sacrifice to God.
You can do nothing smarter, more intelligent, wiser, any more intellectually brilliant, than this – “Here am I Lord – take me!”
Anything other than that for the believer is sheer idiocy.
Half-way commitment is totally irrational. We know God. We know what’s coming . . . we know where our future is ultimately bound.
So what makes you tick?
What are you passionate about?
I was standing one day in the line at Cracker Barrel. It’s worth it. Behind me was a man in his late 50’s early 60’s. We were waiting to put our names in. He volunteered to me how frustrating it was to have missed the supersonic rise of Cracker Barrel stock prices. He said, “Do you know that if I had bought stock in Cracker Barrel when they went public, I’d be a very rich man today.” Then he rattled off the stock prices when Cracker Barrel began and what it was today, just a few years later. He was obviously disturbed. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Man, why does he come, if all it does it disturb him so much?” When I come to Cracker Barrel, I’ve got just a few things in mind. The chicken tenderloin sandwich on a toasted sour dough bread – a big baked potato with butter and sour cream – and of course, hot blackberry cobbler with melting ice-cream on top. When I think of Cracker Barrel, I think of unbridled sin. When that man thinks of Cracker Barrel, he can only think of lost opportunity – a fortune he could have made . . . if he’d only known the future.
Paul says, “Let me give you some advice . . . availability, expendability and acceptability to God is all the fortune you need.”
John Macarthur’s grandfather was a pastor, if I remember correctly, and he had written in his Bible this poem that go sort of passed down from generation to generation. I wrote it down and have kept it myself for several years now.
The poem speaks of the believer who stands at the Bema seat of Christ, the place of reward for a life of surrender. It goes like this:
When I stand at the judgment seat of Christ
And He shows me His plan for me,
The plan of my life as it might have been
And I see how I blocked Him here and checked Him there
And would not yield my will;
Will there be grief in my Savior’s eyes –
Grief though He loves me still?
He would have me rich, but I stand here poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
While memory runs like a hunted thing
Down a path I can’t retrace.
Then my desolate heart will well nigh break
With tears I cannot shed;
I will cover my face with my empty hands;
I will bow my uncrowned head.
How do you live a rewardable life?
Paul give his advice.
He wrote in Romans 12:1, “this is your reasonable, logical service of worship.”
The first word means logical; the second word refers to a life of devotion and acts of worship.
And what are they?
Paul wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do all to the glory of God.”
In other words, real worship is the offering of everyday life to God.
There is not division between sacred and secular. It is all, every part and in every detail, your offering to God.
I read where a pastor was listening to two of his church members talk about buying a house. One asked the other, who built that house? When he answered with the name of the builder, the man said to his friend, “Oh, then you don’t have to worry about the quality of that construction . . . that builder is a Christian, and he builds his Christianity into every house he builds.”
A. W. Tozer put it this way, “The work done by a worshipper of God will have eternity all over it.”
No matter what it is . . . it is all an act of worship, born out of a heart of gratitude.
That’s what makes us tick.
I urge you therefore, brethren, I plead with you, brethren, in view of . . . because you have become the recipients of . . . the great mercies of God, make a bold, ongoing, daily and decisive gift of yourselves to God.