When we use the word “sacrifice” in the context of loving other people, I think our minds often generate thoughts of giving up the bigger stuff of life – sacrificing a week of vacation, giving up an amount of money that makes the budget tight, or exhausting yourself physically to lend a hand. Scripture speaks of Jesus’ death on the cross as a sacrifice, so I think our minds more naturally think big. Certainly, because Jesus’ sacrifice provides our example for life, living for him should include these bigger sacrifices. In fact, because Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23), our lives should include these sacrifices and even greater ones… even death if it comes to that.
But I believe Jesus’ call is to make sacrifices for him that are both big and small. A sacrifice doesn’t always mean giving up a pound of flesh for the good of another. Actually, much of the time it will look like simply inconveniencing yourself for someone else – making a little extra food for dinner and taking it to the single mom across the street, agreeing to fill in teaching Sunday school for the family going out of town, or even just parking at the back of the parking at church so others don’t have to walk as far. In following after Christ as his disciples, sacrifice does mean we should be ready to die for Christ, but it also means opening a door for someone… and every other sacrifice in between.
Pastor R.W. Glenn brings gospel balance to our parenting with two little words: calling and comfort. Check it out and be blessed!
A couple of nights ago my wife and I took a date night to go see Lincoln. I was impressed by several things in the movie – the acting is superb, the historicity of the sets and wardrobe are precise, the music carries a subtle beauty, and I am now more appreciative of the blood, sweat, and tears that went in to passing the thirteenth amendment.
But the thing I think I was most impressed by is the way Steven Spielberg portrayed Abraham Lincoln. Growing up in this country, the perception I have had of Lincoln has been one that is larger than life. In many ways we have put Lincoln on a pedestal to honor him for all he accomplished, forgetting that he, like the rest of us, was a sinful man in need of Jesus.
Now Spielberg certainly doesn’t paint him in a bad light, but neither does he shy away from scenes where Lincoln is shown yelling at his wife, engaging in shady political dealings, and exhibiting a lack of compassion toward his son. We see much to admire in the man, but we are also made to see that he is, in fact, a man.
I am thankful for this because I know my tendency to esteem men as more than men. In showing some of the shortcomings of this legendary figure, Spielberg has helped me keep my thoughts about man small and my thoughts about God big, so that I can say to God, along with David, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
As you’re beginning to think about buying Christmas gifts for your family and friends, consider these 5 reasons from my friend Justin Childers for why you should give books.
- Good books tend to be gifts that last a long time. People don’t throw away good books. They pass them on to their children, grandchildren, and church libraries. Sweaters, ties, and fruitcakes are relatively short-lived.
- Good books are used by God to change people’s lives. I have never heard of someone’s life being changed by an ornament, an atomic clock, or a gift card to the GAP.
- Think of the cumulative effect of giving books for presents. If you give a certain person a book every year for 50 years, you help them build a library.
- Good books communicate care for a person. In giving someone a book you like, you are communicating something of how that book has helped you.
- Good books tend to open conversations about spiritual things easily.
-Always write a personal note in the front cover. That way, the person can look back decades later and remember your care for them. If you are unsure whether they have a particular book, write in pencil.
-Plan to tell the person why you chose that book for them. Encourage them to read it and let you know what they think.
Many of the Christians I know came to faith in Jesus not through one faithful believer telling them the gospel, but through a collection of faithful believers telling them the gospel. Alongside a faithful parent may stand grandparents, friends, Sunday school teachers, a pastor, acquaintances, and even that strange lab partner in high school chemistry with all his Christian paraphernalia.
I too am a product of God working through a collection of people carrying out the Great Commission, many of whom served in the church I grew up in. These people were used to impress upon me different aspects of God’s character and work at different times and in different ways.
One such person was a man we’ll call Mr. K who was substituting for our regular fifth grade Sunday school teacher. Mr. K and his family had been a part of our church as far back as I could remember and I genuinely liked him. On the Sunday Mr. K filled in for our teacher he asked a question, “Why are we here?” He wanted us to tell him the reason why we came to church each week. Being the little punk that I was, I whispered an answer to my friend sitting next to me, “We’re just killing time.” I won’t ever forget the fire in Mr. K’s eyes. Almost immediately, he kicked me out of class and told me to go sit with my parents in “big church”.
Even though I wasn’t a believer, I learned something about God’s holiness that day. Mr. K’s response to my flippant irreverence showed me that God is One who will be honored. But that’s not all Mr. K taught me that day. After class he came and found me with my parents and gave me a big hug and explained to me why he did what he did. That day God also used Mr. K to show me something about the kindness of his grace.
My point is not, necessarily, that you should start kicking kids out of your Sunday school classes, but rather that you should thank God for each person in the collection of people he used to draw you to himself. And then, to willingly put yourself in the service of God for others as you pray that he would use you in their collection.
The phrase “preach the gospel to yourself”’ has been thrown around a lot in Evangelical Christianity over the last few years. Books by Jerry Bridges and C.J. Mahaney introduced us to the concept and others have built on it. We use this phrase because too often Christians have left the gospel at the entrance to the household of God. We have believed the lie that the gospel gets us in the door of Christianity but isn’t needed after that. So, in calling each other to preach the gospel to ourselves, we are saying that the gospel is something we should live in light of each day. In the gospel we find the power and the proper motivation to live our lives to please God.
The problem, however, is that we haven’t rehearsed the gospel to ourselves very much and so our preaching is limited and a bit weak . We need to have the gospel ready for preaching in our time of need. Fortunately, there are resources to help us with this.
Many of you will have heard of A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent… a book to help us become more familiar with the gospel. The book is broken up into three sections, one of which is a prose version of the content of the gospel. That prose version is now available by itself in booklet form from Focus Publishing. You can find it here (be sure to scroll down a bit). Why not take a month or two and carry that booklet around with you until you have memorized the content of the good news of Jesus Christ? Then, why not buy some more copies and give them away so others can do the same?
The Bible constantly connects the commands we are to obey with the gospel of Jesus Christ because we are called to obey out of faith in what God has already done for us in Christ. Becoming more familiar with the gospel will allow you to preach it to yourself freely so that your outward obedience will more often come from a heart brimming with love, thanksgiving, and eager anticipation of a future bought by the blood of Christ.
In chapter 2 of Embracing Obscurity, the author (anonymous) uses the metaphor of a book to help us understand our proud hearts. Our cover art (outward appearance) is something many of us don’t have as much control over as we’d like, so, in order to draw attention, we need to come up with a title that can’t be ignored or what the author calls “a flashy subtitle”.
What’s your subtitle? It’s the thing you want to define you; the thing you bring up in conversation when meeting people for the first time that leaves them with an idea of who you are.
The author gives some examples to help us reflect – There’s Chase, whose subtitle is Successful Soon-to-be Executive, Megan: Everyone’s Best Friend, Lillian: Super Mom, Matt: Aspiring Football Pro, and Jenny: Women’s Bible Teacher.
Your subtitle is what you want to leave ringing in people’s ears, and it comes from your sinful heart that seeks to usurp the throne in your heart that belongs only to God. The author admits, “The depth of my own pride is seemingly infinite.” Like cancer, though it may seem to go away, we find when it rears its ugly head, our pride was only in remission.
What do we do, then, to choke out pride. The author gives us two prescriptions:
- “We have to admit that we can’t do it in our own strength…we have to submit ourselves to the One who humbled Himself to the point of death to rescue us from our self-righteousness and sin.”
- “We have to follow His example by heeding God’s instructions. The earthly antidote to pride, just like ever other sin, is found in Scripture.” Here are some specific texts the author gives for addressing the sin of pride:
- Proverbs 8:13 – Fear the Lord
- Proverbs 11:2 – Embrace wisdom
- Proverbs 16:1-3 – Commit our actions to the Lord
- Proverbs 16:18-19 – Live humbly and do right
- Habakkuk 2:4 – Don’t trust ourselves; live by faithfulness to God
- Luke 9:48 – Associate withe the lowly for Christ’s sake. Strive to be the least.
- Luke 14:10-11 – Humble ourselves by settling for less than we “deserve”.
- Luke 22:26-27 – Serve others
- James 4:6 – Receive God’s grace to stand against evil desires.
- James 4:13-17 – Don’t boast about our plans, but submit them to the Lord.