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Sabbath School Today Lesson No 3 – “Sacrifices”

 

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“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

Notice that our memory text does not say that we are to sacrifice ourselves–we cannot do that, but we are crucified with Christ. He alone is the Sacrifice for the whole world. It does say that we are to “present our bodies.” The word “present” means placing the offering beside the altar facing God in the Most Holy Place and leaving it at the disposal of God. This is not an act of doing, but it is an evidence of faith.

Throughout Romans chapters 1-8, the “mercies of God” by which we are beseeched “to present our bodies” are all the deeds of God. Here we are shown the doctrines of justification, sanctification, faith, and the removal of sin from man through the one-time Sacrifice for the world.

There is only one Sacrifice, and that is the One which God has provided–Jesus Christ. God does not require a sacrifice from men, but makes One for him. The idea that man can make a sacrifice that will atone for any sin is the very essence of heathenism. It comes from the assumption that man is capable of saving himself; for if man could make a sacrifice that would atone for his sin, he would be his own savior; and if man were capable of saving himself he would be a god himself, owing no allegiance to any other.

It is evident that a sacrifice offered by a sinner that is not “acceptable to God” is only mockery. It is an insult to God, since it is an assumption that the sinner is independent of God, and able to save himself. Only the sacrifices of righteousness can be acceptable. “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:5). “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; … The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart–these, O God, You will not despise. … You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness” (Psalm 5l:16-19).

Amos 5:21-24 shows that sacrifices without righteousness were an abomination to God, while righteousness was always acceptable, even if there were no sacrifice. Addressing us today, God says, “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

The Jews would not accept nor learn that the sacrificial system was to point them to the crucified Savior that wanted to live in them–thus making them righteous. They somehow derived self-gratification and merit in continuing their useless sacrifices.

A living sacrifice begins with a death to self. We cannot die to self, but we can accept the death to self already given to us in the gospel. There has only been one Sacrifice.

Presenting our bodies a living sacrifice is complete surrender: “For I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me” (Gal. 2:20). This verse teaches us that we no longer live, but that it is Christ who lives in us by faith. Therefore it is His faith within; His life within; His righteousness within. “A knowledge of this mystery furnishes a key to every other. It opens to the soul the treasures of the universe, the possibilities of infinite development.” [1] Being crucified with Christ is a sacrifice of righteousness.

Ours is a living sacrifice–our own body yielded to Christ as His own rightful body. But what does it mean that we are to offer our bodies a living sacrifice? (Read Hebrews 10:5-10 and note that it was to establish God’s will in man, verse 9.) It means that He who has accepted us in the Beloved, and who provides the one perfect sacrifice, invests us with the life of that Sacrifice when we accept Him. … Slain from “the foundation of the world,” He yet lived; always a sacrifice, “He ever lives.” Continually giving, it pleases the Father that in Him all fullness shall dwell–always on the altar, yet never consumed; His life-stream flows constantly, yet is never diminished.

Now when we know that our body was prepared for Christ, in which He should do the Father’s will, and offer an acceptable sacrifice, and give ourselves to Him, so that we can say, “I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me,” it is evident that we are offering to God the sacrifice which He Himself provided; and this being so, all the life of that incorruptible sacrifice is ours.

The fact that His Spirit exhorts us to offer our bodies a living sacrifice, proves that He has provided us the life wherewith to do it. The exhortation is itself the promise of life.

“Christ came in the flesh eighteen hundred years ago, just for the purpose of demonstrating the possibility. That which He did once, He is able to do again. He who denies the possibility of His coming in the flesh of men now, thereby denies the possibility of His having ever come in the flesh.” [2]

“The Spirit of God has been present in power among His people, but it could not be bestowed upon them, because they did not open their hearts to receive it. … The Lord designed that the messages of warning and instruction given through the Spirit to His people should go everywhere. But the influence that grew out of the resistance of light and truth at Minneapolis tended to make of no effect the light God had given to His people through the Testimonies.” [3]

In confessing our sins, we are freed from sin; and continual confession means continual freedom. It is not continual sinning and continual cleansing, but continual confession and continual cleansing. As a living sacrifice, we are filled with the righteousness of Christ, and it is only by His righteousness that the cleansing of the sanctuary is accomplished. Our bodies are the temple of God and when sin stops in these bodies (because of “Christ in us, the hope of glory”) it also is stopped from entering the sanctuary above (1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 6:19, 20).

“Today you are to give yourself to God, that you may be emptied of self, emptied of envy, jealousy, evil-surmising, strife, everything that shall be dishonoring to God. Today you are to have your vessel purified that it may be ready for the heavenly dew, ready for the showers of the latter rain; for the latter rain will come, and the blessing of God will fill every soul that is purified from every defilement. It is our work today to yield our souls to Christ, that we may be fitted for the time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord–fitted for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” [4]

Christ did not die like one who takes a holiday break from all the stresses of persecution and rejection to get away from it all. He made the choice to give up all future claims to the Godhead and a relationship with His Father. The cross was the most complete and utter demonstration of agape that had ever been revealed to mankind.

If we can begin to understand our own opposition and resistance to Christ as a denomination, then our history is only one heartbeat away from Calvary. Once we see our true involvement in the crucifixion of Christ, we are prepared to recognize our involvement in the sin of rejecting the latter rain and the loud cry message of 1888. No longer can we smugly brush it off, saying, “It’s no concern of mine, I wasn’t even born then,” any more than we can brush off our involvement with the cross. As surely as the shadow of Calvary hangs over the Jews as a nation, so surely does the shadow of 1888 hang over us as a church. “Just like the Jews.”

In appreciation for the world’s ONLY Sacrifice, present your bodies today as a living sacrifice–for the mercies of God call for only this response from His people.

Endnotes:

[1] Ellen G. White, My Life Today, p. 301.
[2] E. J. Waggoner, “A Present Salvation,” The Present Truth, May 18, 1893, pp. 145, 146.
[3] Ellen G. White, 1893 General Conference Daily Bulletin, vol. 5, no. 19.
[4] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 959; Review and Herald, March 22, 1892.