Remembering the Greatest Sacrifice
(A Memorial Day sermon)
FBC, 5-24-09 (AM)
As Christian citizens, we celebrate Memorial Day today for a couple of reasons:
1) Romans 13:7 commands us to give honor to whom honor is due.
2) This day also helps us in thanking God for the freedoms we enjoy as a result of the extreme sacrifice made by so many of America's sons and daughters for the sake of freedom.
-James 1:17 tells us that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning.” So as we remember the sacrifice of others, it is appropriate to thank God who strengthened those who made that sacrifice possible.
In his 1828 magnus opus, American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster defined “sacrifice” = to destroy, surrender or suffer to be lost for the sake of obtaining something (of greater good?). He illustrates this definition in a sentence, “We should never sacrifice health to pleasure, nor integrity to fame.”
The concept of sacrifice evokes different responses from people (negatively: messy, threatening, unnecessary). Generally speaking, the reality of sacrifice is something of which this generation of Americans is sadly ignorant. One unmistakeable proof is the breakdown of the family unit taking place at an alarming rate. Sacrifice is necessary for any marriage to be successful. Eph 5:25 Husbands are to love their wives AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH.
We do well as a free citizenry to remember the sacrifice of fallen soldiers. Can I say with utmost respect to the soldier who has given his life for freedom’s cause, that there is an even more egregious omission than being ignorant or unappreciative of such sacrifices? And that is being ignorant or unappreciative of the ultimate sacrifice offered for mankind, a sacrifice that procures the highest freedom man can know...spiritual freedom.
PROP: Tomorrow I trust the appreciation for the sacrifice of our armed servicemen and women will be renewed. This morning I want to seek to increase our appreciation for the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf.
The first 8 chapters of Romans are steeped with theological ideas; important as this section lays the foundation for the practical instruction of the later section.
In the 5th chapter of Romans we discover a theological discussion of Christ’s sacrifice as opposed to a descriptive or prophetic discussion. I think of the prophecy given by Isaiah in the 53rd chapter, recorded 700 yrs before Christ was born. Or, the gruesome accounts of the crucifixion recorded in the Gospels.
READ: Romans 5:6-10
I. The Depth of God’s Sacrifice (v. 6)
Inherent in the concept of sacrifice is the question, “How far will I go?” “To what degree will I sacrifice?”
*We sometimes think of sacrifice in terms of finances. In this area, the answer to that question must be tempered by prudence and balance. E.g. The husband who decides to drain his family’s savings to increase the coffers of a television preacher or the March of Dimes (or any other cause) would be deemed foolish. I Tim. 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.”
*When an individual enlists in the military, especially during times of war, he or she must be cognizant that the answer they may have to give to the question, “How far should I go?” is “all the way,” i.e. to the death.
I sincerely doubt there exists an adequate illustration in our natural world that communicates the depths to which Christ went in giving His life for mankind. It is b/c we are deceived and blinded by our own collective tendency to overstate our value that we fail to grasp the absolute depths Christ experienced.
In Ephesians 4:9-10, we find a reference to the geographical realm or locality in connection with Christ’s coming to planet earth. Paul contrasts Christ’s high estate in glory with the time he spent here on the earth, and even lower, His burial into the earth.
The spiritual or moral depths to which Christ plummeted cannot be measured by any earthly instrument. Nevertheless, we get a glimpse of the depths of Christ’s sacrifice when we consider the description of those for whom He died.
Observe 4 descriptions employed by the Apostle Paul, descriptions which are increasingly unflattering and morally condemning to help us recognize our spiritual bondage.
*This description stands in stark contrast to the description of man popularized by secular psychologists. This school of thought believes that humanity is intrinsically good and is only soiled by the environment; or, each person is a tabula rosa (blank slate) receiving input and forming their character. I am glad that God loves us enough to give us an accurate diagnosis of our spiritual condition; for only then can we recognize and appropriate the genuine solution.
A.“Yet without strength” (v. 6) = helpless, powerless
The idea expressed here is that we were incapable of generating any righteousness for ourselves. We are powerless to perform all the commandments of God all the time. Unlike our physical experience where we are strong in the prime of our youth and then weaken with age, we are immediately weak in a spiritual sense. Spiritually speaking, we are like the infant who is utterly incapable of feeding, dressing or protecting himself. illus. Our hearts were all touched by the story of 4 month old sisters, Abigail & Isabelle Carlsen, the conjoined twins from North Dakota. They were separated May 12,2006. One report:
A thirty-member medical team performed the surgery over the course of seven hours. The multi-faceted surgery involved many steps, including: Separation of the intertwined livers, separating their diaphragms, joined pancreases and part of their intestines, re-positioning their hearts, removing their gall bladders and building a biliary structure as a bile duct for Abbigail.
Happy Spring everyone! We are all so glad the weather has been nice. Abby and Belle really enjoy the outdoors they love playing at the park and riding bike or just going for walks. The girls are growing like weeds they are petite and finally an almost 25 pounds and almost 36 inches. I have a feeling this summer they will grow a lot. They enjoy preschool three days a week they get to ride the bus on the days they go to daycare this is such a treat for them. Abby and Belle just started Gymnastics which they love. They both have so much fun and look forward to it weekly. -April 14, http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/abbybelle/journal
Abbigail and Isabelle were powerless to change their condition. Not even their parents could effect any change in their condition. Only intervention by a world-class medical staff could effect change in the girls' condition. Because we are spiritually anemic and helpless, you and I need intervention from an Expert. This intervention is the essence of God's sacrifice.
B.“Ungodly” (v. 6)
-a strong pejorative used elsewhere in Paul's writing (cf. 1:18; 4:5). Everything that God is is the antithesis of ungodly; and everything that “ungodly” represents is the opposite of the nature of God. The psalmist of Psalm 14:1-3 explains how everyone neglects God or rebels against God. This is ungodliness.
C.“Sinners” (v. 8)
The third term used to describe those for whom Christ died is “sinners” (?wicked?; cf. 3:23), neither righteous nor good. Paul here was contrasting the worth of the life laid down, Jesus Christ's, and the unworthiness of those who benefit from His sacrifice. Whereas people may look at one another as meriting love because they are righteous or good, God views them as sinners. Nevertheless God loves them. His provision of His own Son as our Savior demonstrated the depth of His love (John 3:16).
No matter how great the mountain of sins, the love of Christ surpasses it. There is no sin or number of sins that the death of Christ cannot cover.
D. The fourth and most indicting term used to describe those for whom Christ died is “enemies.” People are not only helpless to save themselves (v. 6), neglectful of God (v. 6), and wicked (v. 8), but they also set themselves against God and His purposes. Even though many unsaved people profess to love God, God who knows their hearts sees opposition to Himself in them. Their antagonism toward Him is the proof of it.
II.Deliverance Provided through God’s Sacrifice
Sacrifice implies the improvement of, or benefit for another. 4,223 soldiers have given their lives thus far in Iraq in the War on Terror.
A. Deliverance from future condemnation (v. 9)
“saved from wrath” I Thess 1:8-9
B. Present salvation (v. 10)
Reconcile = know God, no longer an enemy, now a friend.
III. Response to God’s Sacrifice
Indifference best describes the response of many Americans to the sacrifice made to secure personal freedom.
The audience who first read these inspired thoughts had already been moved by the powerful truths contained in Paul's message. They responded to the good news of Christ's love in death and believed on Christ. As a result, the shackles of spiritual bondage were broken and they became free in Him.