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The Meaning of Sacrifice

Proverbs  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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An introduction to the idea of sacrifice

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Sacrifice in the Bible

Proverbs 15:8–9 ESV
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but he loves him who pursues righteousness.
Proverbs 21:27 ESV
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
Proverbs 21:3 ESV
To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
Have you ever wondered what in the world sacrifice is all about?
This week, I want to get behind the idea of sacrifice a bit and root out some key features. We will look at sacrifice in the Bible, sacrifice in your life, and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus.

Sacrifice was instituted at the initial rupture of relationship between humanity and God ()

Genesis 3:20–21 ESV
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
I want you to recognize this teaching here, the moment mankind said, “I want to live my life, define my own moral system, and decide meaning on my own terms,” mankind’s life crumbled into shame, guilt, hiding, and fear.
Too often the idea of mankind realizing its nakedness upon the first sin is termed in a sexual fashion. I don’t think that’s the case. I think that the major idea is vulnerability and judgment.
This is very apparent to all of us who have had nightmares about speaking in public and realizing that we are naked. it is a horrible realization. There is instantly an urge to hide and protect...
This is what God provides for humanity. He gives them a covering for their shame and vulnerability. But in order for this to happen, a death must first occur. This is the first real sacrifice. This is the first time one thing was required to die so that humanity was not required to pay the full brunt of its sin.

Sacrifice runs throughout the narrative of the Old Testament

The first murder in the Bible happens because Cain’s sacrifice was rejected while Abel’s was accepted. The writer of Hebrews points out that Abel’s was accepted because he offered it with faith.
Moving on in the Bible, we see Noah, immediately after exiting the ark when the flood subsided, he offers a sacrifice to the Lord
Then, in the books of Exo., and Lev., we see a full blown sacrificial system, structured with proper animal, places to offer, methods of sprinkling the blood… One question we might ask is “why?”
Sacrifices are a way back to fellowship with a holy God.
The problem inherent within the sacrificial system, is that man is incapable of maintaining relationship with God because of his/her own sin. Thus, continual sacrifices have to be made in order to clear the conscience.
“By instituting the sacrifices and associated rituals outlined in Leviticus, the Lord places at the disposal of the Israelites a way of restoring and maintaining a harmonious relationship with their God.” - T. Desmond Alexander
As mankind grew more complex, the manner by which they sin, rupture their relationship to God, and require restoration, typified in the sacrificial system of the Jewish Bible grew more complex.
These sacrifices, though were more than they seemed.

The sacrifices of the Old Testament were symbolical and typical. An outward observance without any real inward meaning is only a ceremony. But a rite which has a present spiritual meaning is a symbol; and if, besides, it also points to a future reality, conveying at the same time, by anticipation, the blessing that is yet to appear, it is a type.

Sacrifice then, fixes the sin problem of mankind, and points forward to an ultimate reality in which fallen humanity can life in harmony with God.

Sacrifice in your life

But you have never offered sacrifices though... Right?

Sacrifice in your life

Maybe you have never killed an animal in obiessence to a deity, but I’m telling you that the principle by which “sacrifice” operates, is one you live your life by, and without it you would be lost in the chaos of the world.

What are you sacrificing?

The reality behind “sacrifice” is that you are exchanging something meaningful and beneficial to you right now (that is why the quality of the animal, grain… was so important in the Bible) for something better in the future.
All of you college students are, right now sacrificing the vast potential of your youth for a narrow framework in which you will quite possibly spend the rest of your lives.
All of you with a career, you are sacrificing 8+ hours of your time, for the ability to put food on the table, house over your head, some semblance of order to the world
All of you with kids, you are sacrificing time, health, wealth, sanity… in order to make the future a better place for humanity, to progress the species a step or two further.
Life is sacrifice, there is no getting around that fact. It’s a cold hard reality of life. Sacrifice is a bargain with the future. Sacrifice is exchanging the concrete present reality for a potential future.

Here is the problem with our sacrifices,

just like those priests from the Bible, our sacrifices, can never, no matter how earnest and honest, take away the barrier wall between us and God.
We sacrifice concrete reality, here and now; time money, health… for a desired, hypothetical reality in the future. But at best we get a fleeting glimpse at true meaning, true fulfillment.
We sacrifice our honor when we admit to wrong doing, but we never feel fully pure. We sacrifice reputation to do the right thing, but we second guess that choice later on.
We sacrifice our time and money… and we are never truly satisfied, we never feel truly whole. There is something missing, something that can attach our sense of longing for meaning and purpose to an ultimate reality, an ultimate purpose.

The nakedness problem remains.

On top of that, we all feel a sense of nakedness, shame, guilt. We all know that we all have missed the mark morally. We have all made the decision to rebel against what we absolutely know to be right.
We all know that none of here in this room is innocent. If I really look inside myself, I find the most evil person I know. And if you cannot say the same about yourself you don’t really know yourself.
On top of that we have all tried to make our own coverings for our own sin. But we often manage to make it worse. It’s not uncommon that I’ll know I’m supposed to apologize to Roxanne for something, I know I’m clearly wrong. But when the time comes to own my fault, I blame her for something and just restart the cycle of argument over again.
To make matters worse, I am incapable of covering my own treason towards the Holy God. There is a barrier that sin erects between ourselves and God. “God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.”
We all feel this, we know we are out of alignment with “the good” but nothing we do, no sacrifice, no matter how big

The sacrifice of Jesus

Look at
Ephesians 2:8–10 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ()
When you enter into a saved relationship with Christ, you are given true meaning, purpose and direction. Not based on your ability or worthiness, not based on your character or good looks. You are given a true meaning and purpose based on the purpose and love of God. When you become a Christian your life direction is radically altered, you are living for the creator, your decisions have eternal weight.
One of the biggest problems facing our culture right now is that of nihilism, the belief that nothing matters, the belief that everything is just going to decay and there is no real reason to do anything.
Here’s the kicker, if there is no God who gives existence a true meaning, nihilism is true. There is no ultimate purpose. All your love, all your good deeds, all your desires… are in the end, utterly meaningless. This is true and acknowledged by atheistic philosophers all over the world
Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance. Jean Paul Sartre
“Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.” ― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
So, here is a question I would like for you to ask yourself as you go about your week. Can you defend your existence and your meaning? Can you do so logically and in a way that grants dignity to yourself and to those around you?
This is one of the most significant things Jesus provides. He provides a way through the absurd life we find ourselves in. He gives us eternal meaning. But there is the kicker to Christianity, on nihilism, nothing matters, if Christianity is true, everything matters; that’s the definition of a meaningful life.

The sacrifice covers your shame and guilt and unites you with the creator.

Ephesians 2:1–7 ESV
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. ()
I don’t know anybody who claims to be perfect, I don’t know anybody who says that their relationship with the creator is as good as it could or even should be. I don’t know anybody who feels guiltless for their misconduct.
Everybody I know has a deep need to know that they are loved, understood and taken care of by God. Whether they admit it or not, we all have this deep longing to be whole, to not be held back by our sin, but set free from its power over our hearts and minds.
This is the power or the cross. Jesus took your guilt, shame, sinfulness upon Himself, he took the death that you deserve and is presenting you with the life He lived as a gift.
Salvation for Paul is not a ticket into heaven for your soul, but the entrance into fellowship with God and his people. As such, Paul is assuring the Gentiles that you are part of that salvation plan, you are now a citizen of God’s kingdom, you are part of God’s new temple. - Lynn H. Cohick, Ephesians,
Lynn H. Cohick, Ephesians, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010), 63.
Salvation for Paul is not a ticket into heaven for your soul, but the entrance into fellowship with God and his people. As such, Paul is assuring the Gentiles that you are part of that salvation plan, you are now a citizen of God’s kingdom, you are part of God’s new temple.
Lynn H. Cohick, Ephesians,
Lynn H. Cohick, Ephesians, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010), 63.

Jesus’ sacrifice fills your gap of meaning and purpose

Look at
Ephesians 2:8–10 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ()
When you enter into a saved relationship with Christ, you are given true meaning, purpose and direction. Not based on your ability or worthiness, not based on your character or good looks. You are given a true meaning and purpose based on the purpose and love of God. When you become a Christian your life direction is radically altered, you are living for the creator, your decisions have eternal weight.
One of the biggest problems facing our culture right now is that of nihilism, the belief that nothing matters, the belief that everything is just going to decay and there is no real reason to do anything.
Here’s the kicker, if there is no God who gives existence a true meaning, nihilism is true. There is no ultimate purpose. All your love, all your good deeds, all your desires… are in the end, utterly meaningless. This is true and acknowledged by atheistic philosophers all over the world
Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance. Jean Paul Sartre
“Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.” ― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
So, here is a question I would like for you to ask yourself as you go about your week. Can you defend your existence and your meaning? Can you do so logically and in a way that grants dignity to yourself and to those around you?
This is one of the most significant things Jesus provides. He provides a way through the absurd life we find ourselves in. He gives us eternal meaning. But there is the kicker to Christianity, on nihilism, nothing matters, if Christianity is true, everything matters; that’s the definition of a meaningful life.
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