Living sacrifice, a
Brothers and sisters, we come together again today for our
Memorial Service, to remember the death of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. One of the
commandments which we are given in conjunction with this is to "examine
ourselves". In 1Co 11:
"Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that
This naturally has very little appeal for us; we are afraid of
what we might find in ourselves if we look too closely. But it can be very
beneficial if we do look closely, and if we make an effort to correct the flaws
which we find. For "If we would judge ourselves, we shall not be
Rom 12:1 is an often-quoted statement concerning our duties as
brethren of Christ: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which
is your reasonable service."
When we think of sacrifices, we normally think of the slaying
of animals under the Law of Moses -- something which has long since ceased.
Therefore, we may (wrongly, of course) remove the idea of sacrifices far from
our own times and circumstances -- and feel prone to ignore the topic. But we
must not forget what Jesus called "the weightier matters of the law", which are
still with us today. Among these matters is the lesson of the Mosaic sacrifice:
It was in most cases first of all representative of the sacrifice of Christ, but
secondly it stood for the services rendered by the offerer -- his state of mind
and devotion to his God, or his "living sacrifice".
Peter speaks of this same type of sacrifice in 1Pe 2:5: "Ye
also, as lively (living) stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy
priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus
And David, as well, expresses a similar thought in Psa
69:30,31: "I will praise the Name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with
thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that
hath horns and hoofs."
If the past sacrifices of the Jews can represent our present
duties and services for the sake of the Truth, we should study them closely to
see if we may gain other lessons from them which may apply to our "sacrifices"
One of the foremost characteristics of any animal sacrifice
under the Mosaic Law was that it be "without blemish" -- faultless, perfect, and
of the best and strongest and most valuable of the herd or flock. The lesson
here is so obvious that it scarcely needs to be mentioned. We are our own
offerings. Are we "without spot or blemish" in God's eyes? Of course, we
recognize that we are all very much short of perfect, that we all have sinned
and come short of the glory of the Lord. But this does not mean that we cannot
try to come up to this ideal. And our imperfections will be overlooked if
we ask forgiveness for them and if we work diligently to correct them. Also, we
always have before us the spectacle of Christ and his spotless, life, for
example and for encouragement.
A half-hearted effort
The Jews in the time of Malachi were condemned by God. The
reason is given in Mal 1:7,8:
"Ye offer polluted bread upon My altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted
Thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible. And if ye offer the
blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it
not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or
accept thy person? saith the Lord of
When we give a half-hearted effort to some service of the
Truth, or no service at all -- are we not simply offering the blind, and the
lame, and the sick to the Lord? Common sense dictates that, if we are working
for a tough and exacting boss, we will give him the best possible work -- or
else we should find an employer who will be more lenient toward us. If this is
true in the natural sense, it is much more true in the spiritual sense: If we
are not willing to give God the best effort we are capable of, we might as well
renounce the truth altogether and make the best of the present life, for that is
all we will have.
We shall examine briefly a few services, or sacrifices, which
we should render to God -- which we must render to Him.
One of the best and simplest services we can give to the
service of God is to speak of the truth to our friends and neighbors. We should
certainly never be ashamed of our beliefs, and we should never make lame excuses
to ourselves for failing to mention some point of the Truth at a good time.
Perhaps we will not be listened to. Perhaps we may even be ridiculed. But in
view of what happened to Christ and the disciples -- who died for what
they taught -- we would be getting off light, in comparison, even if we suffered
loss of friendship or persecution. We must always be a "peculiar people, zealous
of good works".
In 1Pe 3:15, "Be ready always to give an answer to every man
that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and
In Jude 1:3, "Earnestly contend for the faith which was once
delivered unto the saints."
The best way to make someone we know understand and appreciate
the Truth is to live the Truth ourselves. Peter speaks of this especially
concerning wives and their unbelieving husbands, but it may apply as well to
"Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that if any obey not
the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (or, entire
way of life) of the wives."
Paul has the same thing in mind when he speaks in Rom 12:20
"Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in
so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his
That is, the person will recognize his wrong. He may be
regretful for opposing the Truth, as Paul was, and he may decide to change his
ways -- which is the desired result. Or he may remain unrepentant, and perhaps
be punished -- but at least we have fulfilled our duty to him and to
Inside the Ecclesia
If giving witness to the Truth to outsiders is important, then
our service to the Truth inside the ecclesia is even more important.
There are many positions to fill, and many services to perform. We must remember
that "God loveth a cheerful giver." Any service we do -- such as
speaking, presiding, acting as treasurer or secretary, playing the piano, or
singing -any of these services is important. They should be done graciously,
enthusiastically, even eagerly.
There are many ways in which we might try to avoid serving in
some capacity. We may try to fool others, and we may do it successfully. We
might oven fool ourselves into actually believing that we have a very good
excuse. "Let us examine ourselves" in this matter:
Maybe we feel that we are too busy, or that we are being
saddled with too big a burden of the duties. And we try to put work off on
others in this way. Are we being honest in this? How much time do we spend on
useless activities? Are we "always abounding in the work of the Lord"?
One of the most common means that we use to avoid tasks is one
in which we often fool even ourselves. This is by false humility -- believing
that we lack the necessary ability, or that someone could do it better. But
everyone has some special ability or capacity. Usually we just do not look close
enough to find it. If we hid behind such a pretense to avoid work for the Truth,
can we honestly say that we are presenting ourselves as "living
Finally, we should mention also that there are many services
which the sisters can perform -- even if they cannot take a part in speaking,
presiding, and so forth. And there are many things which they can do far better
than the brethren. Being a woman is no excuse either not to "abound in the work
of the Lord".
The presiding brother
One of the biggest burdens in the ecclesial meetings --
whether the Memorial Service or the other classes -- is upon the presiding
Brother. There are two rules to follow especially:
"Let all things be done unto edifying" (1Co 14:26); and
Only when the presiding brother follows these rules will the
meeting have any spiritual benefit. In a Bible class, he must keep worthless
discussions from taking up valuable time. And he should turn the attention of
the class to the most profitable aspects of the lessons. And in the breaking of
bread especially, he should follow a set pattern and not let himself or others
be distracted by unimportant details. He should conduct the service with dignity
and solemnity. But he should not be showy, or else he will detract from the
message of the speaker and the meaning of the service. Finally, any Bible
readings or announcements should be done with interest and
"Let all things be done decently and in order" (1Co
One of the worst faults of which we can be guilty is to be
absent from meeting without a good excuse. (Also, other meetings are just as
important in this respect as the Memorial meeting.)
The ecclesia as a group may possibly withdraw from a
brother who is habitually absent from the Table of the Lord. But if this is not
warning enough, we should consider that Christ will certainly withdraw
from those who thought so little of Him and of his death -- that they could not
remember these things even once a week.
One of the many ways in which we can offer sacrifice to God is
to demonstrate our "delight in the law of the Lord", to study His word at all
times and especially be prepared for the Bible classes. Why is study of the
Bible so important? There are many reasons. It is the means whereby we may
cleanse our ways and draw nearer to our Heavenly Father:
"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed according to Thy
word. With my whole heart have I sought Thee: O let me not wander from Thy
commandments" (Psa 119:9,10).
It is not enough either to simply read a little of the Bible
every day or so, like we might glance through a newspaper. If we are not
careful, our daily readings may come to be only a chore, to be done quickly and
forgotten. We must study God's word carefully, and work at it. Solomon
said in Pro 25:2: "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; but the honour of
kings is to search out a matter."
Jesus told his followers, "Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken
unto you" (John 15:3).
Our hope is that we may become "kings and priests with
Christ", and reign on the earth. It is therefore our duty to search out the
matters contained in the Scriptures. Many important lessons are contained in the
writings of the Bible. These writings are unique among all the writings of the
world, not only because they are God's word, but because of their remarkable
unity and the great depth of their subjects. They are unique also in that they
require no special intellectual or educational training to understand. They
merely require constant effort, and a willing heart. Many valuable thoughts lie
just below the surface, and they require only some attention to
Jesus spoke to his fellow Israelites through many parables. He
did this, he said, because it was not given unto them to understand such things.
At first glance, such a statement might seem cruel -- until we remember that the
people's understanding was darkened only because they wanted it that
Christ's disciples, just like the others, did not at first
understand the significance of many of his statements. But they had a deep,
continuing interest in his words, and they asked questions and received
explanations. As Peter asked Christ, "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words
of eternal life." The disciples, although they were far from perfect in their
knowledge, did not turn away from Christ, as the others did, at the first sign
We too, like so many before us, may turn away from the Bible.
We may become discouraged quickly at what seem to be difficulties in the word of
God. Let us not forget that we can pray to God to give us understanding and
support in such matters as Bible study:
"Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be
opened unto you..." (Mat 7:7).
We should always prepare for a Bible class by reading the
lesson beforehand. And not only reading it, but studying it. Try to resolve the
difficulties in your mind. Decide upon good questions to ask or good points to
bring up and discuss. If we cannot think of anything to say upon a chapter or
even a verse of the Bible, then we are just not trying hard enough. And it will
be our own fault if we learn nothing from the lesson.
"Give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments" (Psa
Some of the things mentioned here can apply to the sisters.
Although they may not be allowed, to speak in the class itself, they should
certainly study beforehand to be in a better frame of mind to appreciate what
the brothers might say upon the lesson.
Finally, our Bible classes should be only the beginning. Most
of the profit of a class is determined afterward, in whether we remember and
apply what we have heard. It is often good to follow up in more detail what has
been said in the class. The things that we remember best are Chose things which
we have learned well, and have thought about a lot, and have become thoroughly
convinced of -- for ourselves!
So we have tried briefly to examine ourselves and to learn how
we may become "living sacrifices, holy and acceptable unto God". While we sit in
our meeting, let us remember what Christ tells us:
"Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of
them" (Mat 18:20).
We have no greater incentive than to know that we are actually
in the presence of Christ, and that he can see everything we do, and even know
And let us remember, as we leave our meetings, that Christ is
still with us -- and that he is observing whatever we might be doing, and
"These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who
walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks: I know thy works"