Well, we’re learning some things about great Christians. And we said great Christians have some things in common. I mean, people that are great in God’s eyes, they think great thoughts. They read great books. They pray great prayers. They dream great dreams. In our last session, we learned that they take great risks. And this is a little delicate because the title of this one sometimes scares people.
Great Christians make great sacrifices. But don’t let that word, sort of, oh, boy. You know, your human nature just says the word sacrifice and yuck go together. But I want to help change that by the grace of God. Let’s look at what sacrifice is. Definition, it’s the act of giving up, destroying or permitting injury to or foregoing something valued for the sake of something having more pressing claim. That’s Webster’s. I like that. It’s giving up. It’s being willing to be injured. It’s doing whatever it takes but it’s for the sake of something that is more important, that has a higher claim.
I was in China. And we were doing ministry both in Hong Kong and in Communist China. And one of our world teachers came out of Communist China and met us in Hong Kong. We did some training. And we went out to dinner. And as we were talking, he began to share what was going on in his life and where he was at. Months before, he was out – he’s a house church pastor of an underground church and he’s an evangelist. And he was out traveling. And often, he does that. And then his wife and children would be left at home.
The church moves often because in some provinces, they don’t give you too much trouble but in other provinces they give you lots of trouble. And that’s one of his. So while he was gone, the police came. And they came into this home. And his wife convinced them that she was the pastor, not her husband, which is not at all uncommon, especially in China. And that actually, the church had moved all around and the people had dispersed. And she was the only one left and she was the pastor. And they try and make a point of punishing the leaders to really discourage people walking with God.
And so they took her down to the police station and they beat her to a pulp. And I remember just sitting around that table and looking into this Chinese man’s eyes as he was recounting the story. And somehow I was visualizing what it would be like if that happened to my wife and what would be going on in my heart. And so I asked him how did he deal with this? In my mind, I’m thinking your frustration, your anger, your wanting to have vengeance. And I’ll never forget, he looked at me and he said, “Well my wife was beaten badly.”
As we talked about it later, he said to me, isn’t it amazing that Jesus would give us the privilege to suffer for his sake and in some measure make that kind of sacrifice to say, thank you, for all of his suffering for us? And I’m thinking to myself, (I didn’t say it), that is not exactly what came to my mind. (Laughter) You know? I’m thinking, could I control my anger of trying to go down and bust a police officer right in the mouth, and taking my own vengeance or trust God? And I just thought, he’s looking at life through a different lens, isn’t he? He didn’t see the suffering as necessarily even negative. But he saw it as something that if you’re going to walk with God in that country, to sacrifice and to suffer was a way of expressing his love.
When we witness great sacrifice among the human species it triggers – this is just an observation – it triggers a powerful magnetic, awe inspiring response deep within our souls. I mean, that story is a true story. But when you see sacrifice, when you observe it in Christian contexts or non-Christian context – I mean, when you see great sacrifice, even in a movie or when you read a book, or even when they’re doing those little clips for the Olympics and you hear the story of this little girl that’s been up at three in the morning and practiced her whole life for this one moment on a balance beam. I mean, I have to confess, I mean, I start tearing up over that stuff.
There’s something about sacrifice. There’s something about the Rosa Parks and the Mother Teresa’s and Martin Luther King’s and the stories of Gandhi walking through the street. You know, every time when you see sacrifice played out, there’s something about how God made us that, you know, I may not want to be the person who’s involved in the sacrifice but every time I see it, it’s like there’s this wonderful thing that touches me deep in my soul. I thought of the Corey Ten Boom, Lincoln, even back to Joan of Arc and those in Foxes book of Martyrs. Think about the story of Mandela. You see people that for 25 years were in a prison, and them coming out absolutely says to people, we will not retaliate. No retribution. We will forgive. But we’ll get the truth on the table before we forgive. Amazing, amazing sacrifice. And I observed that we admire people who make great sacrifices. We enshrine them. You know, there are statues. You can go all around the world. And here’s the person who gave his life for this and here’s the person who did this.
Or in the church, when you make a great sacrifice, sometimes you get in stained glass. Right? And they put you up on the wall. We honor them. We reward them. We emulate them. And here’s the question I have for you and me as we think about making great sacrifices. Why? Why? I mean, even when unbelievers make great sacrifices. Why? What is this mystical union and soul connection we unconsciously make when we witness a great sacrifice for a noble cause or a personal relationship?
I think the answer is that sacrifice is the clearest and greatest evidence of the extent of one’s love and devotion toward a person, a cause or a thing. I think the reason it resonates in your soul – I mean, are you ready for this? This is almost embarrassing. I was watching the Animal Planet channel the other night. And this mother didn’t have any food for her little lion cubs. You know? And she’s a small lioness. And she finally kills something and then her cubs are over here and she drags the prey. And she can’t do it. So she goes and gets her little cubs. And on the way, about 8 or 10 hyenas surround her. And I mean, I’m getting scared watching TV. And here’s this one lioness. And I mean, she’s got an opportunity to run, but she’s unwilling. And you just see, built into the animal kingdom, she takes 6 or 7 or 8 or 10 hyenas in order to save those cubs.
There was something about that picture that as I watched it, I thought, God, what have you built into the life of all creation that makes my heart so resonate. See, she will give her life for those cubs because she’s devoted to them. Because, you know, take this right. She loves them. She’s for them. And, you know, and then I got thinking. You know what? This is really clear. What did Jesus say? John 15, “Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friend.” What I want you to you see is that sacrifice, the measure of our sacrifice represents what matters the most.
What we are willing to sacrifice for is what we’re most devoted to, what we love the most, what we care about the most. And so if you ever want to know what you really worship, all you have to do is take you and draw an arrow. And then what’s in the box toward the arrow. What do you give your time to? What do you give your energy to? Where are your dreams? Where are you willing to sacrifice? What are you willing to do? And in that box, for many of you, would be your children, wouldn’t it? And in that box, for many of you, would be your job. And in that box might be for many of you, a guitar or a painting.
You know, many people have sacrificed amazing amounts of time and energy to be a great musician or a great artist or a great athlete. But whatever you would put in that box is the object of your worship. Great Christians make great sacrifices. Now, you need to kind of do a little pause ‘cause I need to do a reserch project with you before we go on. Alright? Are you ready for this? I don’t do this very often. And I’m going to have to go through it very quickly. And some of you are thinking, you go through everything very quickly. But what I need to do is a bible study with you where I walk through the concept of sacrifice and the concept of worship. Because they’re so intertwined.
But if you just sort of get a top level, oh, yeah, sacrifice, worship. I think they’re connected. No, no, no. You miss it completely until you understand from all the way in the beginning of the Old Testament and the sacrificial system. Leviticus, it’s a book about worship. And what’s the whole book about? Sacrifices. And so I want to take you on a little journey. And you’re going to have to really put on your thinking cap and track with me. And I want to go through an overview study, Old and New Testament, about the relationship between sacrifice and worship. This is sort of the required course of worship and sacrifice.
Good Christians do what’s required and make the sacrifice required to demonstrate that Jesus is, in fact, the object of their worship. Great Christians, what we’re going to find is, go above and beyond everything that’s required to express an overflowing love and commitment to their relationship with Christ. So, are you ready to roll? If you have a pen, you might want to pull it out because I am going to guess that you’re going to want to make a couple notes and I’m going to go pretty fast.
Understanding biblical sacrifice and worship. Lessons from Leviticus, is in the first 10 chapters. I’ll cover 10 chapters here in about two minutes. And you’ll say, that’s the best journey I’ve had through Leviticus. In Leviticus, there are five offerings prescribed for worship in the Old Testament. Two are compulsory offerings. In other words, they’re required. You have to do them. One is called the sin offering for atonement, and you’d bring a bull or a goat. And it’s to cover your sin. The other is a guilt offering. When you would lie or if you would steal or if you would do something wrong, then you would bring an animal to cover for your guilt. And so these were required. You had to bring, at certain times, an atonement offering and a guilt offering.
But there were three non-compulsory or voluntary offerings. The burnt offering was one to express your devotion. It was voluntary. The grain offering was for God’s provision. You know, the fruits and the crops came in. And you would bring in the first portion of it. And you would wave the grain before the Lord in thanksgiving. And then the peace offering had to do with anytime you had – are you ready of this – you’re an Old Testament saint. And you had just the overwhelming feeling of how good God is to you.
You just say, you know what honey, what do think? Why don’t we go to the temple today? Why don’t we give a peace offering? And the way it worked, is that you would bring this peace offering. And you would offer it to the Lord. The priest would get to keep part of it. Oftentimes, you would have to eat it right there. And it would be like a little party, a festival. And you would eat it there, before the Lord, giving thanks for what He’s done. And the only observation I want you to get is this--access to God demands a sacrifice. Okay?
In other words, to come into God’s presence, you need to be atoned for or covered. That’s a sacrifice. And then fellowship with God grows through sacrifice. Voluntary offerings were from the heart. Compulsory offerings were required.
Second, is a lesson from the life of Abraham. I wish we could open Genesis 22 and read through it but we don’t have time. But many of you know the story. Abraham has been waiting for a son for a long time. God finally gives him a son when Sarah is 90. The boy now reaches about probably 12, maybe 13 years old. And God is going to test Abraham. And he says, Abraham, I want you to take your son, your only son, whom you love. And this is what I want you to do. Go to this mountain that I’ll show you. And Abraham does what great Christians do. You always obey early because later in the day, you don’t have the courage or the motivation. And the text says he got up very, very early. Set off with is son and his servant. And the boy along the ways says, you know, Papa where’s the offering? He says, the Lord will provide.
And you know the story. He goes up. He ties his son. He builds an altar. The knife is up and this isn’t like a little rubber knife. What we know is Abraham believed from Hebrews 11, that after the knife would be plunged into his son, the Lord would resurrect him. But the agony of doing the act! And the reason he believed that was, this is what God told me to do. But God promised the blessing was going to come through this boy. You talk about a test!
And so what you have here is, the requirement is to give his son. The response is obedience. And then as the knife – I mean, he fully, willfully made the decision. And just as the knife was starting to come down, an angel of the Lord said, Stop, Abraham. Stop. Now I know. Now I know you fear God. Now I understand where your priorities are. Now are you starting to get this? Sacrifice. What did he ask him to sacrifice? The most precious thing that he had. Why? To find out – actually God knew – but he wanted to test Abraham so Abraham could learn and be confirmed of what matters most. What do you worship the most? Me or this boy? And for us, it’s me or this wife, or this husband? Me or these children? Me or this job? Me or success? Me or money? Me or fame? Do you get it?
In way of summary, we learn from Abraham, God periodically tests the singularity of our devotion through sacrifice. And before you start feeling like, wow, this is really heavy, let me tell you why. It is out of his goodness and his mercy and his grace that he does that. And you’re thinking now, wait a minute. Are you trying to spin this, Chip? This does not sound like a merciful, good, kind thing for Him to say to this guy, give me your son, your only son. Good things and good people, left unchecked, over time will drift from a great gift from God to becoming an idol in your heart.
When something that is good becomes an idol in your heart, it will destroy your relationship with that thing and it will destroy your relationship with God. And so out of his great mercy and kindness, there are times when he’ll tap you on the shoulder and he’ll say, I want you to give me this job. This job that you love. I want you to set apart this. How you’re thinking about this child or your mate. I want you to take this money, this security that you think is – and He’ll, out of His mercy and His grace, test you. So that it does not become an idol in your heart and begin to break down the relationship that you have with him. He will not allow the thing that was meant for good, as a gift, to become a God. Because then it’ll destroy you and destroy it.
I think we often resist this because we don’t understand the difference between sacrifice and worship. I alluded to it in our teaching on taking great risks. This was my challenge of coming to Walk Thru the Bible. You know, I kind of hit that time, as men do, sort of in your mid 40’s. And you kind of spend your whole life trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do with your life. And then you finally lock into, this is what I’m supposed to do. And then it takes you about 10 years to figure out how to do it. And then in about another 10 years by God’s grace, He gives you a window of opportunity and a great team of people.
Well here’s this amazing church and all these buildings got built. And it seemed like an accident that this radio ministry just popped up out of nowhere. And I did this 10 year run with six or eight pastors that we became great friends and buddies. And we hang out together. And pretty soon we looked up and we’ve got a staff of 70 or 80 people and 30 pastors and thousands of people. And man, this is great. And you live on the coast. And your kids like to surf. And someone has a little cabin up in the mountains so when you want to get away and pray you can and life is wonderful, God!
No, no, no, no. You don’t understand. My wife really likes it here. My kids, they have gone off but they’re all going to move back here. We’re going to sing Kumbaya at Thanksgiving. All of my daughter’s in-law, they’re from here. Lord, you don’t understand. This is – and I think there are times when God will do what feels harsh and painful to protect you from yourself because He loves you.
And it changed the relationship. I’ll tell you what. The first year, I’d like to say everything went wonderful. My wife had two oral surgeries, neither of them worked. Her mother died after being in intensive care for over 90 days during the journey. The first year and a half in Atlanta was as bad as I can remember of any season in our married life. Not that we had a problem, but when you come home and someone’s either in pain, hurt, depressed, unhappy or in the middle of the night waking up, well some of you guys have been there. You wake up in the middle of the night and you hear someone sobbing. And they have their pillow over their head so they don’t wake you up. This is not fun. And yet it was required to wean my wife’s heart, to wean my heart. And for us to make sure that the good things that He gives don’t turn into bad things and idols.
The third thing we learn is lessons from the life of teaching. Please open your Bibles to Luke, Chapter 14. When Jesus speaks on this one, you need to get this very directly. Not kind of just hearing me describe it. We know from Leviticus that there were compulsory and non-compulsory sacrifices. We know from Abraham that there are times when he will test you. And the way he will test you is he will ask you to make a sacrifice about the thing that’s most precious to you. And now, what I want you to see from this passage. Jesus is going to speak on the relationship between worship and sacrifice. And what I want you to see is that what he’s going to talk about is normal.
We tend to think, what you’re about to read. You think, unconsciously, that this is for like pastors, missionaries, Billy Graham’s, Mother Teresa’s. We think they are some elite group of superstars. And this kind of sacrifice is probably for them. What God wanted you to know is that this is for every believer of every age. These are required courses. This is 101, 202. This is freshman, sophomore stuff. Luke, Chapter 14, beginning at Verse 25 says, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus. And turning to them He said,” Notice this isn’t private. This isn’t with the disciples. This isn’t for the elite. This isn’t for full time workers. These were large crowds. Here is the call. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, his wife and his children, this brothers and his sister, yes, even his own life he can not be my disciple.” If you have a pen, underline he can not be my disciple.
There are some things in scripture that are hard to understand. This isn’t one of them. It may be hard to do but he can not be my disciple. And he’s talking about priority. Obviously, there’s a picture here. We don’t actually hate. But in comparison to our love for Him, every other relationship is so secondary. It is as though we hate them. And then he says, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me, can not be my disciple.” In other words, if you didn’t get it the first time, carry your own cross. Now in our day, we think with crosses and chains around people’s neck. He could have said, anyone who isn’t willing to go to the electric chair or to have lethal injection. It was just a common way to die.
What he’s saying is, if you can’t die to your agenda, if you can’t put to death your agenda in order to take on my agenda, you can’t be my disciple. And a disciple is what? A follower, a learner. It means the teacher cuts the path and the disciple or the learner or the follower, he follows the path. Now you know what? I bet there was a large crowd. I think the crowd dwindled after this one. So that’s the call. And it’s for every believer. What’s he really saying here? To worship me demands absolute sacrifice. I must have supreme position above every relationship and every issue in your life. And you know, you think, well boy, that’ sounds pretty narrow.
Who do you think you are? God. Do you get it? And then notice, He says, I’m not looking for emotional knee-jerk response. I’m not looking for people that are going to wail and cry and say, oh, yeah. You know, you’re the greatest teacher in the world. And you fed 5,000 yesterday. And I want to be a Jesus groupie. He kind of stops them. And he says, you better count the cost. So he says, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower? Will he not sit down first and estimate the cost and see if he has enough money to complete it?
For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him saying, this fellow began to build and wasn’t able. Or suppose a king is about to go to war with another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether his is able with 10,000 men to oppose one coming against him with 20,000? If he’s not able, he’ll go and take a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will make terms of peace, in the same way.” What’s the point? In the same way, I’ve got to count the cost. I’ve got to evaluate.
He comes before stuff. He comes before my dreams. He comes before every other relationship. These are the demands of following him. He says, don’t do it tritely. He says, weigh it out. And then notice, at the very end, “In the same way, any one of you who does not give up everything he has, cannot be my disciple.” Salt is good but if it loses its saltiness, its distinctiveness, how can it be made salty again? It’s neither good for soil (they used to use small amounts of salt for fertilizer) nor for the manure pile. It’s thrown out. He, who has ears to hear, let him hear.
From Jesus we learn, He demands absolute supremacy in our hearts as a condition for being his follower. And what I realized over time, my wife that I really love, little by little was becoming the idol. You know, I want to please her. I don’t want conflict. I don’t want tension. And usually, we weren’t in conflict. But God tested the most important relationship.