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Tag: sacrifice

Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

For the past few weeks we’ve been following the career of King Saul – the first King of Israel. And it’s really been a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are times when Saul does a fantastic job as king. As you read through 1 Samuel, often Saul is presented as the hero of Israel – rescuing the nation from all it’s enemies!

For example, at the end of the chapter we read last week, we find a bit of a summary of Saul’s military success. If you look at 1 Samuel 14, verse 47, it reads like this:

47 Now when Saul had secured his grasp on Israel’s throne, he fought against his enemies in every direction—against Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines. And wherever he turned, he was victorious. 48 He performed great deeds and conquered the Amalekites, saving Israel from all those who had plundered them.

Then we get a brief summary of Saul’s family tree – which I won’t read right now – and then verse 52 continues…

52 The Israelites fought constantly with the Philistines throughout Saul’s lifetime. So whenever Saul observed a young man who was brave and strong, he drafted him into his army.

1 Samuel 14:47-48, 52

So as you can see, from a military point of view, Saul was a very successful King. It says he saved Israel from all who had plundered them. Where ever he turned, he was victorious! In the eyes of the people of Israel, Saul was exactly the kind of King that they wanted.

However, in the eyes of God, King Saul had not been quite so successful. Two weeks ago, we saw how Saul disobeyed the command of the Lord by offering up a burnt offering to God – instead of waiting for the prophet Samuel – who was the only one God had authorized to make such an offering. Saul over-stepped the bounds of his God-given authority as King, and took the role of priest for himself. And as we’re going to see today, this wasn’t just an isolated incident of sin –  It wasn’t a one-time foolish choice in a moment of weakness – this was evidence of a heart that would increasingly become prideful and arrogant.

Although Saul had very humble beginnings, it seems that his position of power and his military success caused him to grow in his esteem of himself and decrease in his esteem of God and his commands.

And so today, as we turn to 1 Samuel chapter 15, we’re going to see this pattern continue – with Saul concluding that his ways and his decisions are just a little bit wiser than God’s ways and God’s decisions. But I should warn you… As we go through this story and see how foolish and arrogant Saul has become, we need to be careful, because we might just see ourselves doing the exact same thing…

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Ritual or Relationship

Over these past months, we have been reading through the book of 1 Samuel and last week we finally completed the transition from the era of the judges to the era of the kings. For many years after conquering the Promised Land, Israel had been led by judges – men and women whom God raised up at just the right time to rescue Israel from its enemies. But in recent days, the people of Israel had asked God for a king to lead them. They wanted to be like all the nations around them and have their king lead them into battle. Of course, this was really a rejection of God as their King, but God graciously decided to honour their request and to give them the king that they so desired.

And so God instructed Samuel, the final judge of Israel, to anoint Saul as Israel’s King. And last week we saw how Samuel then passed the baton of leadership to King Saul – firmly establishing Saul as Israel’s new leader. 

However, in his final address to the nation, Samuel solemnly warned Saul and all the people, that their obedience to God would determine their future fate. We read his words in 1 Samuel 12:24….

24 But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. 25 But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.” 1 Samuel 12:34-25

Samuel makes it very clear that the success of Israel and its new King would depend solely on their decision obey the Lord or not.

And as we turn to chapter 13 today, that’s exactly the decision that will be put to the test. Will Saul and the people of Israel fear the Lord and faithfully serve Him? Or will they continue to sin – choosing instead to follow their own way? Let’s find out!

1 Samuel chapter 13 begins like this:

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The Sacrifice

There is a song that we sometimes sing in at our kids clubs called “Father Abraham”. If you’ve been a camp kid or if you grew up in the church, chances are good that you’ve heard it before. But if not, it goes like this: “Father Abraham had many sons – many sons had Father Abraham. And I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.”

And then there are some ridiculous actions that go along with that have nothing to do with song – but the kids love it – and believe it or not, the theology of the song is actually pretty accurate.

According to Paul in Romans 4:16…

“For Abraham is the father of all who believe.” Romans 4:16

Of course, Abraham is not likely your biological ancestor unless you happen to be Jewish, but Paul says Abraham is our father in a spiritual sense. If we have put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ – then Abraham is our Father. We are one of his many sons and daughters – because he is the father of all who believe.

And if you’ve been tracking along with us for these past couple months, I think it’s probably becoming clear why Paul would say that Abraham is the father of all who believe. We’ve spent the last several weeks looking at the life of Abraham – learn from Him as He learned to walk with God.

Today, we are wrapping up that series, but it has been incredible to see the amount of faith Abraham had in God. It’s no wonder we call him the Father of our faith. We read a bit of a summary of Abraham’s life last week from Romans 4:18 – which really emphasized Abraham’s faith in God. It said:

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Contrasting a “Me-Centered” Society

If you’ve ever read through the Gospel of Matthew, you’ve probably noticed that Jesus talks a lot about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. I believe it’s about 55 times in Matthew – 126 times throughout all four Gospels – that Jesus talks about this kingdom. He tells all kinds of parables and gives all kinds of illustrations to help us understand what the Kingdom of God is like. And of course, Jesus isn’t talking about a kingdom with physical borders and castles and armies and things like that. The kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom. In fact, when Jesus was on trial before the Roman governor, Pilate, Pilate asks him, “Are you a king?” And Jesus says in John 18:36…

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36

Jesus was saying his kingdom was very different from the kingdom of Rome or any other kingdom that we might be familiar with. You see, unlike most kingdoms, the Kingdom of God is not centered around some physical location like a city or a castle or a country. The Kingdom of God is centered around God. And God of course is not limited by location – he’s omni-present. He’s present everywhere all the time. So God’s kingdom is not defined by a physical location, but it’s defined by the people who carry out the will of their king.

Two weeks ago we looked at the Lord’s prayer and there’s a key part of that prayer – one that you’re probably familiar with – which goes like this: 

“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 KJV

We talked about how, when we pray that, we are inviting God’s will as King to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as his will is being carried out in heaven. 

And so when Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven – he’s talking about the people who submit to and carry out the will of God in their lives.

And it makes sense that we should pray that prayer – “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – We should be eager to carry out God’s will because we know that God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect. We read that from Romans 12:2 three weeks ago:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Our will is often flawed. I can’t speak for you, but I know that my will is often selfish and sometimes I make decisions that hurt others or even myself. We are not perfect people and we do not make perfect decisions.

But God is perfect. And his will is perfect. It’s good and it’s pleasing. We don’t always understand it. We don’t always see the good immediately. But if God really is how the Bible describes Him – loving, just, faithful, and all those other things – then we can trust that his will is good and pleasing and perfect.

And I’ve certainly seen that to be true in my life. I’ve had a lot of regrets doing things my way, but I’ve never regretted doing things God’s way.

But that’s sure not to say that it’s been easy. Doing things God’s way often means doing things the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. We’ve talked about how the Kingdom of God is very different from the Kingdom of this world. In fact, that’s probably why Jesus talked about it so often. If we are going to live in the kingdom of God, then we need to be prepared to live very differently – different from how we used to live – different from how the world around us lives.

And so that’s what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks as we’ve been going through this message series – which we’ve titled “Kingdom Living”.

What is God’s will for us in how we should live? If Jesus is our King and His will is good and pleasing and perfect, it would seem to me that we would want his will to be done on earth and in our lives and in our community – just as it is in heaven. And if so, then what is that good and pleasing and perfect will for us? How does He want us to live? What does Kingdom Living look like?

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The Substitute

For the past two weeks we’ve been theming our messages around the phrase – “No Pain – No Gain” as we try to understand why Easter matters. I think most of us get it, that Easter is not just about bunnies and chocolate eggs and such, but rather it’s a remembrance and a celebration that Jesus Christ died and rose again to life. That part is pretty well understood I think – especially if you’ve had any connection with church for any length of time.

But what might not be so universally understood is why that matters. Why is it important to you and I,  that some 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus died and came back to life again? What difference does it make in your life today?

That’s what we’ve been trying to wrap out heads around in this series – No Pain, No Gain – Why Easter Matters.

And I think we’re starting to get an idea of the gain side of the equation. In our first message, we identified that one thing that everyone of us wants – but very few of us find. And that is complete and lasting satisfaction.

We can certainly be satisfied for a few moments here and there. There is an element of satisfaction in many pursuits in life – from accomplishing great things, or having fun and exciting experiences, enjoying great food and great friends – these all give us a sense of satisfaction. But nothing is lasting. The satisfaction we do get quickly fades away and we’re forced to chase after something else – something more.

It’s like no matter how wonderful the meal is – we find we’re always hungry the next day. But what if we could find true, lasting satisfaction? Satisfaction that didn’t fade away. What if we could live in a state of being fully, completely satisfied in life?

Well, we discovered last week, that that’s exactly how God intended us to live. When God created Adam & Eve – he created them to live fully satisfied lives. He provided for their every need – both their physical needs as well as their spiritual and emotional needs. And for a time, Adam & Eve enjoyed the most satisfying life you can imagine.

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The Substitute

Listen to this Sermon!Last week we began a new Easter sermon series entitled “No Pain – No Gain: Why Easter Matters”. And we started off illustrating the principle of no pain – no gain as we talked about how our muscles grow. We had Morgan up here straining his muscles as we talked about how it takes the pain of tearing the muscle fibers in our bodies order for our bodies to repair the damage and make the even muscles stronger than they were before.

In fact I was reading last week that when you are born, you already have all the muscles that you will ever have. The big bulging biceps you have now are a result of that little baby’s muscle being damaged and repaired, damaged and repaired, time and time again. Without the pain of damaging those muscles, you would have no gain in strength. You’d still be as weak as you were when you were a baby. No pain – no gain.

But our purpose wasn’t to talk about body-building. There is a spiritual truth that we wanted to discover. The gain that we are after is not muscles, but rather that inner satisfaction in life that seems so elusive for so many of us.

We talked about how Solomon tried to find satisfaction in all kinds of ways. He looked for satisfaction in wealth, power, hard work, women, pleasure – but it found it all to be meaningless. Nothing gave him true satisfaction.

And we discovered that the reason for this is that God has created each of us with a deep inner longing to be connected with our Creator. Every person on earth has this inner feeling that something is missing in their life. And all of us try to find that missing thing just like Solomon did. But, like the Rolling Stones lament, we can’t get no satisfaction. Because true satisfaction is only found when we are connected with our Creator – when we have a genuine relationship with Him. That’s when we find satisfaction.

Unfortunately, this one thing that is worth gaining is effectively keep from us by sin. We talked about how Adam & Eve – though they were once fully satisfied in their connection with each other and with God – they sinned. And the immediate consequences of their sin was separation. Separation from God and and from each other. Because that’s the nature of sin. It separates. It creates distance between. It severs our relationships.

And because all of us have sin in our life – we are all missing the one thing that we were created for – we’re missing that connection, that relationship, with our Creator. We’re missing the one thing that can bring us true satisfaction.

So what do we do? Is there any way to gain that connection, that relationship, that satisfaction that we so desperately long for? There is, and that’s what we’re going to look at today.

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