September 12, 2014

Following Christ Sacrificially

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[intro]If you’ve been to Riverview more than once or twice, you’ve probably heard our mission statement: to make sacrificial followers of Christ who grow, serve, and go.

You may have also already figured out the grow part (through the weekly message and Life Groups), the serve part (by volunteering in a ministry), and the go part (by helping out in Lansing and going to Mexico). But have you thought about the sacrificial portion of this?[/intro]

Selfish Faith vs. Sacrificial Faith

See, it’s easy to be selfish with our faith. It’s easy to show up at church on Sunday (or Saturday night) and absorb the message like a sponge without the additional time commitment of personal study or Life Groups. It’s easy to volunteer time for the sake of impressing someone (and let’s face it; a few hours on a Saturday night or Sunday morning once a month isn’t that big a commitment). It’s even easy to travel to Mexico with the selfish motivation of getting a stamp on your passport.

God can, has, and will continue to use our own selfish motivations for His glory. Check out the story of Samson in Judges 13-16, for example. But God wants more for us than that. God wants to mold us into the image of His son, and Jesus was the embodiment of sacrifice, leaving Paradise with the Father for 33 hard, lonely years on Earth, climaxing in one of the most painful deaths possible. His pain was our gain in the end; by dying, he paid the penalty for our sins, allowing us to be reconciled to God and adopted as sons and daughters.

None of us will ever be asked to sacrifice that much; we never could even if we wanted to. But when we understand Christ’s sacrifice, we can make our own sacrifices, not to somehow “earn” our salvation (we can’t), but as expressions of our love for Jesus, and to point our non-believing friends to Him.

A (Human) Picture of Sacrifice

So what should this sacrifice look like? It will look different for everyone, but each Christ-follower is given opportunities to sacrifice our talents, our time, and our treasures.

The Bible gives us a really cool picture of this in the second half of Exodus. Three months after leaving Egypt, God has Moses climb Mount Sinai (Chapter 19), where He gives Moses the 10 Commandments and a bunch of laws to support them. Moses goes back to explain them to the Israelites, then returns to the top of Mount Sinai with Joshua in tow (chapter 24), where God spends the next 40 days and nights giving detailed instructions about the creation of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. There’s a brief interval with the creation of the golden calf, then starting in Chapter 35 there’s a detailed description of the Israelites creating everything God just described.

For most of us, the main benefit of this passage is its sleep-inducing properties. So what does this have to do with sacrifice?

1. Giving Our Talents

As part of God’s long-winded explanation, in Chapter 31 he calls out two guys by name as the master craftsmen. Bezalel, God says, has been filled “with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs…” (31:3-4a, NASB).  He also put skill in the heart of Oholiab (31:6). Later in the book, they get called out by name in the creative process. Obviously, God gave them the skill; He even tells Moses so Himself. So what makes their work sacrificial?

This is where the Golden Calf comes into play. Right after God talks about a massive art and building project, the people of Israel ask Aaron to start an art project of their own. And Aaron, the co-mouthpiece with Moses in Egypt and the father of the priestly line, complies.

We don’t know if Bezalel and Oholiab participated in Operation Golden Calf. We do know that if God gave them the talent to create Himself a worthy Tabernacle, then they certainly had the skills to create a beautiful cow statue.

Here’s the point: God gives many of us the skills and talents to work on specific projects. It’s up to us to decide if we’re going to use these skills for God or for ourselves. Sometimes it may even mean setting aside our personal projects so we can work on more lasting ones.

2. Giving Our Time

Bezalel and Oholiab were the main constructors of the Tabernacle, but they weren’t the only ones. As God tells Moses in Exodus 31:6, “in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill”—and then God spends the next five verses re-listing a number of holy objects that He wanted the skilled workers to create, ranging from a massive, ornate tent to anointing oil and incense.

Bezalel and Oholiab needed a team of skilled volunteers to work on this massive, time-consuming project. These volunteers took the time they could have been spending with their families or tending to their livestock to help build the Tabernacle. These men (and women) wove and embroidered and smelted and carved…and a project that could have taken years was completed within 6 or 7 months and was dedicated on the first day of the second year (Exodus 40:1).

As an interesting sidebar, between God calling out Bezalel and Oholiab at the beginning of Chapter 31 and the creation of the Golden Calf in Chapter 32, God reiterates the importance of taking a Sabbath – an interesting conclusion to a lengthy command about the construction of God’s holy place, its tools, and the priestly garments. Even in the midst of a major construction project assigned by God himself, it was (and is!) still important to rest and remember the God for whom we sacrifice our time.

3. Giving Our Treasures

Of course, this massive construction project required funding. The amount of gold and other fine materials required was astounding. So Moses did what churches still do: he asked for a special offering. In Exodus 35:5, Moses says, “Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution.” And they came. In verses 21-29, it describes men and women bringing jewelry, fine linens, spices and oil for incense, acacia wood…pretty much every material imaginable.

There are a few incredible things going on here. First, remember that this construction project began about six months after the Israelites left Egypt. Many of these materials, if not all, came from the Egyptians, who basically paid Israel to leave after the plagues (Exodus 12:35-36). This was Israel’s wealth, righteously taken after 400 years of slavery and most likely poverty.

Second, this was the second special offering taken within a matter of weeks. The first came when the people asked Aaron to build them a golden calf. In Exodus 32:2, he told them to hand over their gold earrings so he could melt them down. Just imagine for a moment how many earrings were required to make a cow out of solid gold! Their wealth literally became their idol. So the people of Israel had already given up a good portion of their wealth for a very sinful art project.

The most incredible thing, though, is this: in spite of the fact that the Israelites were only very recently rich, and in spite of the fact that many of them had just squandered their money on a golden cash cow, they still gave–and they gave to the point that Moses actually had to tell them to stop because they were giving too much (36:6-7).

How will you sacrifice?

Regardless of whether you sacrifice in talents, time, or treasures, how will you serve? If you’re a talented musician, maybe you can help lead worship. If you’re a talented programmer, maybe you can help with Riv’s website, or a local non-profit’s site. Whatever your talent, let us know. If we know of a place you can use it, we’ll get you plugged in.

Don’t feel like you have a special talent? You probably have a little extra time to serve in some capacity. It may be as simple as donating two hours of your time on a Saturday night or four hours on a Sunday to help out in our Welcome Team.

Even if you don’t have the time to serve, or your specific talents aren’t required, everyone still has the opportunity to give sacrificially. Maybe it means cutting into your fun money to start tithing regularly. Maybe it means postponing that 72” TV purchase and donating those savings to a disaster relief fund.

However you choose to sacrifice, do it for the glory of God.

Image source: The Information Place

Got questions, comments, or suggestions for the Riverview Blog? We’d love to hear them! Just e-mail us at [email protected].

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