Intentional Sacrifice (Sermon)
Updated: Jun 24
Today we are wrapping up our series, “Sacrifice.” In it we have covered chapters 12 and 13 of the book of Romans, a letter sent by Paul to the believers living in Rome. Granted, the idea of “sacrifice” sounds unappealing at first glance, maybe even on second glance. The words that we tend to associate with sacrifice are “pain,” “agony,” and “loss.” Hurt and loss tend to dominate our thinking when it comes to sacrifice. But is that the right perspective? What if we viewed sacrifice from the vantage point of potential gain?
Following a brainstem stroke in 2012, I had eye rehabilitation two times a day, every day for what seemed like forever! It was grueling and uncomfortable. There was loss. I had to give up something in order to do the eye exercises. That is true for all of us. We cannot do everything. If we want to add something, we must subtract something. To do or invest in x, we must give up y. But that’s personal sacrifice with personal benefit. Biblical sacrifice is different. We have said, to “sacrifice” means to give up something that is valuable in order to help someone else. That just doesn’t sound right. It would be like me doing eye rehab to help your vision! Why would I do that?!! I put in the effort and you get the benefit! Nope… Either way, regardless of who benefits, sacrifice must be intentional. You never accidentally sacrifice.
Let me show you not only the why you should be intentionally sacrificial, but how you should be intentionally sacrificial. If you have your Bible or electronic device, take it and meet me in Romans 13. Let’s consider the first of three characteristics of how the person who is intentionally sacrificial lives.
The Intentionally Sacrificial Person Lives Selflessly, NOT selfishly. (8-10).
Romans 13:8—Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Christ followers are obligated not just to society but to God to pay all debts in full.[i] Paul is not forbidding borrowing, but he is saying do not continuing borrowing and leaving your debts unpaid.[ii] His point is that any debt incurred should be repaid.[iii] Bad credit is a bad testimony or witness to the world.
Psalm 37:21 (ESV)—The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives;
From the idea of debt, Paul uses it metaphorically to describe an obligation that we must continually owe—love. You can never come to the conclusion that you have done all the loving that you need to do. No, it is permanent obligation. Love is a debt that is impossible to pay off.[iv]
When love guides our relationships, we give of ourselves so thoroughly that we are virtually in debt to each other. As love governs our interactions, our obligation to care and sacrifice for each other continues as we virtually say: “I owe you my very life.”[v] Paul certainly has love for other believers in view here, but this includes non-believers as well.[vi] We are to demonstrate love towards all we come in contact with and Paul ties this to fulfilling the law…
John Stott writes: “Love needs law for its direction, while law needs love for its inspiration.”[vii] New Testament scholar Thomas Schreiner adds: “All the various commands of the law are simply expressions of love. Love is the heart and soul of the commands…”[viii] If this is true, then our obedience of God’s commands is not only evidence of our faith gone public, but evidence of our love for God and others. To obey is to love—love in action.
Romans 13:9—For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul lists the commandments that deal with personal and property rights. He is slowing how to specifically put love into action in specific situations.[ix] Summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”—Paul is not telling us to love ourselves more. The assumption is that we already love ourselves. Now love others the same way! We are to extend the same effort in caring for others as we do for ourselves.[x] Easy to be friends with the friendly and it is easy to love the lovely. Paul says we are to love different people, everybody. Even those who: don’t look like you, don’t vote like you, don’t think like you
Our society bases love on externals (wealth, dress, looks, education, etc). Christ followers are to love unconditionally. Genuine love always recognizes its obligation. It is alert and aware of the needs of others.
Perhaps you have heard it said: “I have to do what’s best for me!”—GENUNINE LOVE RECOGNIZES OBLIGATIONS TO OTHERS. Understanding being in a position to affect for good or ill, helping one in need that is how the sacrificial person lives!
Romans 13:10—Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Love resists inflicting harm on others.[xi] Agape is selfless love, not selfish. Love is doing good to and for others[xii]…even when it is inconvenient and costly. Opportunity to influence, to have an impact, comes with selflessness and it fulfills the law. But why? Why should we strive to live selflessly?
Romans 5:8 (ESV)—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus came and gave His life for us while we were not doing anything to make His being a selfless sacrifice for us compelling. Yet, He did it anyway. He did what we needed even though we had no desire for or understanding of what He was doing. Jesus was selfless and gave His life so you could have life. The intentionally sacrificial person is selfless, not selfish. The second characteristics of the intentionally sacrificial person…
The Intentionally Sacrificial Person Lives Purposely, NOT Indifferently (11-12)
Romans 13:11—Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
Paul gets urgent. Wake Up! Paul is not talking about physical sleep, but spiritual. We will be held accountable for our walk and our spiritual condition. Living for God requires us to be spiritually vigilant.[xiii] Sleep— “A state of inactivity with a loss of consciousness and a decrease in responsiveness to events taking place.” Paul is alerting us to opportunity to get prepared. Get moving, time is short. Make most of every opportunity! Don’t be a dullard. Look for opportunities to grow, serve, and make a difference.
Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV)—Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Time is short and our window of opportunity is brief. There is no time for apathy or indifference. Procrastination is one of the biggest enemies of the Christian life. We cannot afford to among those who always says: “One of these days…” Do it now! The clock is ticking and every second counts! There is no time for spiritual laziness![xiv] Why? For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed—Paul has the future in mind when Jesus will rid the world of evil at the end of history.[xv]
Romans 13:12—The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
The challenge is to gear up and get prepared. Paul gives analogy of an army and is calling for a wartime attitude of sacrifice and focus.[xvi] Tragedy—many followers of Jesus do not even know they are in a war. We often are oblivious to the seriousness of the situation. We must be alert and take action!
“ACTION THIS DAY”
'What's in a saying'? in his management of the WWII, above all Winston Churchill made things happen. He scribbled memoranda and dispatched these with amazing frequency to his commanders in the field and stamped his red ‘Action this Day’ labels on documents, urging a speedy resolution. He demanded commitment and action alike from his colleagues and staff – just as he did from himself – and his constant prodding resulted in hundreds of different ideas and initiatives being pursued at any one time.
Churchill famously employed the ‘Action This Day’ red stickers in response to a missive from four of his overworked code-breakers (including Alan Turing) in October 1941. When the under-resourced code-breakers at Bletchley Park asked for more help, Churchill wrote ‘Action this day! Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done’. Throughout his life, Churchill made things happen. He was relentlessly driven and focused; a workaholic, determined to fulfill his own destiny and to protect his country – and he did all he could to ensure all those round him followed him and made things happen too.[xvii]
Paul calls us to “action this day” as well. We are to “cast off” and “put on.” We are to cast off the works of darkness—sins that would characterize the present evil age. We are to put on the armor of light—replace bad habits with good.
Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV)—Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
The sacrificial person lives on purpose. They strategically “take off” and “put on” the necessary hindrances or desired goals. Why do we live on purpose? Because that is the example that Jesus set for us.
Luke 4:42-43 (ESV)—And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
John 18:37 (ESV)—Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Jesus bore our burdens, we should bear the burdens of others.
Galatians 6:2 (ESV)—Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Jesus sacrificed purposely for our benefit. We should live purposefully and be alert for opportunities to sacrifice for the benefit of others. The intentionally sacrificial person lives selflessly and purposefully. They are not selfish or indifferent.
The Intentionally Sacrificial Person Lives Properly, NOT Recklessly (13-14)
Romans 13:13—Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.
Paul now teaches that the Christ follower is to behave decently or literally “be of good appearance.”[xviii] Paul gives a short list that describes the works of darkness mentioned in verse 12. He gives three pairs and all six stems from self-will.[xix] We are to live sacrificially and live properly, not like this. In orgies and drunkenness—wild parties and binge drinking. Paul is not saying you cannot have fun, but not to abuse strong drink. In sexual immorality and sensuality—these sins usually flow from the abuse of drink. Drunkenness rarely leads to wise decisions, the fulfillment of life dreams, much less, living properly. In quarreling and jealousy—from the party life, Paul moves to social sins that tear apart the community.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, speaking of followers of Jesus writes: “His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off.”[xx] Paul has not only addressed physical sins, but also sins of the heart. At the end of the day, be nice!
Romans 13:14—But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Live a life of discipline, intentionally following Jesus. Becoming like Jesus in action and attitude and thought. Make no provision—Do not plan for sin; give it no welcome; offer it no opportunity.[xxi] Totally reject your old way and the way that is anti-Christ. Before we can push back the darkness in our family, friends, and community we must push back the darkness in our own lives! Becoming like Jesus is a process and it will take time. The process starts with right thinking, then moves to right doing, and finally we get to right feeling. Unfortunately, we tend to start with our feelings!
The idea of sacrifice is not fun and putting it into practice is not easy. But when we do, the intentionally sacrificial person models Christ and leaves others better than they found them.
Early in 2016 I was introduced to a guy named Chad and a discipleship process called “Go Disciple.” My first reaction was that it was unnecessary. Maybe it is good for some, but I don’t need something else to do. I was reintroduced to Luke 9:23.
Luke 9:23 (ESV)—And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
I saw that following Jesus was not as simple as just saying, “I follow!” It included denying self and dying to self-every day! That’s a challenge when you want control and you want your will and your way to win the day! I learned from Jesus’ example that it all comes down to a hinge point of sacrifice. How will you respond at this moment? The call is for absolute surrender!
Luke 22:42 (ESV)—saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Jesus had a will. I have a will. But can you say, “nevertheless?” In a moment that required sacrifice, Jesus said, “nevertheless.” His act of sacrifice saves, reconciles, restores, renews, justifies, and redeems. Understanding His sacrifice, should motivates us to give, go, proclaim, worship, serve, submit, surrender, and sacrifice. We will naturally want to resist. Can we trust and say “nevertheless?” Again Bonhoeffer challenges believers: “Faith can no longer mean sitting still and waiting—they must rise and follow him.”[xxii]
You must, TAKE ACTION THIS DAY!
This manuscript is for a sermon originally preached on 7/28/19 at Connect Church.
[i]Grant Osborne, Romans (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 416. [ii]Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans in PNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 467. [iii]Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans 2nd ed. in BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018), 671. [iv]Morris, 467-468. [v]Osborne, 416. [vi]Schreiner, 672. [vii]John Stott, Romans in BST (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 350. [viii]Schreiner, 673. [ix]Ibid., 674. [x]Osborne, 418. [xi]Frank Thielman, Romans in ZECNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018), 614. [xii]Osborne, 418. [xiii]Ibid., 419. [xiv]Ibid., 420. [xv]Ibid., 420. [xvi]Ibid., 421. [xvii]Extract from www.winstonchurchill.org https://winstonchurchill.org/the-life-of-churchill/life/man-of-action/action-this-day-27/ accessed 7/25/2019. [xviii]Osborne, 421-422. [xix]Morris, 473. [xx]Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 113. [xxi]Morris, 474. [xxii]Bonhoeffer, 62-63.