April 28, 2011

CHRISTIANITY -- A BURDEN AND A SACRIFICE?

Text: Matthew 16:24,25

Some people consider Christianity a burden, a series of unpleasant sacrifices such as continually going to ch. and having to give money. Or, unpleasant necessities like reading the Bible and praying. Or a weight such as giving up pleasures of the world. To some people, these are a heavy sacrifice and burden. Christians who have those feelings do as little as is absolutely necessary. They attend church little as possible, give only minimumally,and do little studying, praying, or working.

Andrew Jackson once decided to become a church member. He approached the Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville. The pastor asked him a number of questions such as, “Do you forgive your enemies?” Jackson, a military man and political leader had enemies. “Is that absolutely necessary?” he asked the pastor. “Yes it is”. After a pause Jackson replied, “Then, I forgive them.” If it was absolutely necessary, he would forgive them.

That feeling among some that they will do only what is absolutely necessary leads me to these thoughts. There are many others who do not become Christians because they consider Christianity a burden, it's sacrifices too heavy. To them, it takes too much time and money. It interrupts normal life and impinges upon their freedom.

The early Christians did not feel that Christianity was a sacrifice or burden. They gave up much more than modern Christians give up to wear the name of Christ, yet they did not find Christianity a burden. Let's see Christianity in its true perspective.

Our beginning point is Romans 3:10,23 - "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." A similar Scripture is I John 1:8,10 - "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." Since Adam and Eve rebelled against God and opened the flood-gates to sin, our world has been engulfed by it and all men are sinners. We were lost and in need of redemption.

Ephesians 2:12-13 brings our lost condition to a greater reality. "That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Underline the phrase “having no hope and without God in the world.” That was our condition before Christ came and gave us the way of escape so that we might be saved. See also Romans 5:5,8-9,11.

We were separated from God, lost and without hope. Then Christ came and reconciled us to the Father. I Peter 1:18-23: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."

Christ paid our penalty and brought us from the bondage of sin. Until He paid the price, we were without hope and destined to eternity in hell.
Colossians 1:13-14, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." We were in darkness.God transported us into the kingdom of light. In speaking to the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20:28, Paul used the expression, “the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood”. Hebrews 10:24,25 says: “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
I Corinthians 6:19-20 states: "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

We’ve been purchased by the blood of Christ. We belong, not to ourselves to do as we wish, but to the Lord to do as he wishes. That is not burdensome since He has sacrificed so much for us. It is only right and proper. Just as a man who has been saved from drowning feels a life-long gratitude to the one who saved him, we should have feelings of gratitude to our Lord who saved us for eternity.

II Corinthinas 5:17-19 says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." Christians are new creatures. We have a new eternal destiny, set of goals, values, and a new view of life. Years ago, one of Auto makers introduced its new models with the slogan, “An old name has a new car.” That’s exactly what happens when one becomes a Christian. Friends still call him by old name and a picture reveals the same appearance as before. But, inside, he is a new creature. Colossians 1:27, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

One of clearest examples of what it means to be completely made new is Gal. 2:20 - "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

In view of the fact that we’re new creatures, it is logical that we would live a different type of life. Colossians 3:1-3, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
Romans 6:16-18: "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." Romans 6:2 asks, “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Romans 8:9,14, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” I John 1:6-7, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” True Christians are a different kind of people, living on a higher level, because they are bought with the blood of Christ and are changed.

Matthew 16:24-25: "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." Matthew 10:37 - “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Imagine a young man spending thousands hours training to be a champion athlete. See him later wearing the Olympic coat as a representative of the USA at Olympics. See him perform flawlessly and watch him stand on top of podium and receive gold medal - he is the world’s champion. Did he have to sacrifice a great deal in order to get there? His answer, “In a sense, I did. I worked long hrs in training. I passed by a lot of rich food that others ate. But none of those were really sacrifices. This training has been a great blessing - it has enabled me to achieve something of real
importance. As I look back, my training was no sacrifice but a great blessing.”

Christians are running in a far greater Olympics. We really give up nothing of importance. Christianity is pure blessing. When we realize the whole situation - our sin, redemption, & newness of life - Christianity is not a burden or a sacrifice. It is a joy.

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