- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2007

The following are excerpts of a sermon given recently at Gateway Bible Church by pastor Jay Nickless:

Everyday people in our society are called upon to make major sacrifices in their lives. Teachers and educators sacrifice monetary rewards to pursue their passion of making a difference in the lives of their students. Single parents work multiple jobs to give their children a fighting chance for a better future. And God forbid that we ever forget the men and women of our military, who have answered the call to sacrifice themselves for our freedom. In John 15:13, Jesus stated that, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” In fact, as followers of Jesus Christ, we have been called to do just that: to lay down our lives for God as well as each other.

The apostle Paul echoed this call to sacrificial living in the 12th chapter of his letter to the Romans when he stated: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

In this brief passage, Paul shows us three specific ways that we are to answer God’s call to sacrificial living.

The first way to answer the call to sacrificial living is to remember the example of Christ. In the first 11 chapters of his letter to the Romans, Paul goes to great lengths to describe to his readers how God has shown us mercy through his Son, Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us in this letter that all of us are guilty of sin (Romans 3:23), and none of us has the ability to eliminate it from our lives. But because of His great love and mercy for us, God did not leave us to our sinful state.

In Romans 5:8, Paul tells us: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, God demonstrated His mercy by sending His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. What a tremendous example of sacrificial living. Jesus paid a debt he did not owe because we owed a debt that we could not pay. How should we respond to that kind of mercy?

This leads us to the second way to answer the call to sacrificial living, which is to practice the process of surrender. Paul tells us that in view of all that He has done for us, we should daily offer our lives to Him as “living sacrifices.” It’s the process of praying daily to God, “not my will, but Your will be done.” I call this “practicing the process of surrender.”

In contrast to the slain ritual sacrifices of the old covenant, we are to be “living sacrifices”; that is, people who have been given new life in Christ and who allow the love and life of Christ to live in and through us. The irony is that it is only through this process of surrender that we discover our true identity. In Matthew 16:25, Jesus stated it this way: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”

Christian missionary and martyr Jim Elliot once wrote, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” We can answer the call to sacrificial living by remembering Christ’s example and by practicing the process of surrender.

The third way to answer the call to sacrificial living is to value the privilege of service. I recently received a letter from one of our troops in Iraq who wrote to me to tell me about his commanding officer whom he knew to be a member of our congregation. He noted that were it not for his commanding officer, he would not be alive today. But what struck me the most was how he closed the letter. He said, “I want you to know that I count it a privilege and an honor to serve with a man like Jorge Bocanegra.”

Paul tells us that offering our lives to God as a living sacrifice is a “spiritual act of worship.” In other words, it’s an honor and a privilege to serve the very One who laid down His life for us.

God’s call to follow His Son is a call to sacrificial living. Have you answered the call? You can start today by realizing that Christ laid down His life for you and by offering your life to Christ in return. According to the apostle Paul, this is one of the most supreme acts of worship you could ever give to God.

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