Acceptable Sacrifice

March 10, 2019

We are now in the season of Lent, a time when we intently look into our hearts to purge them of anything unacceptable to God, and to make sacrifices that are acceptable to Him.     

But what is a sacrifice acceptable to God?  I just taught the children Hebrews 13:16 which says, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  If our children remember that throughout their childhood and into their adult lives, they will do well.

As adults, we need to dig a bit deeper still.  Ever since the fall of man, God has called for sacrifice, but some have been acceptable and some have not.  Let’s look first at Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, “Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering - fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”  You may be wondering why God accepted Abel’s sacrifice, and not Cain’s.  In Hebrews 11:4 we read, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous”. “In Jude’s epistle, verse 11, we read, ‘They have taken the way of Cain,’ referring to lawless men. This may mean that they, like Cain, disobediently devised their own ways of worship; they did not come by faith.  Cain’s offering, while acceptable in his own eyes, was not acceptable to the Lord.  Most likely, Cain’s offering was unacceptable because it was bloodless (see Leviticus 17:11); he was perverting God’s prescribed form of worship. Rather than repent at God’s rebuke, Cain became angry, and later, in the field, he killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8).

Why did Cain kill Abel?  It was premeditated murder, caused by anger, jealousy, and pride. John wrote, ‘Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous’ (1 John 3:12).”*

And yet even Abel’s sacrifice, as well as all of the blood sacrifices made by the priests for the people throughout the Old Testament, were but a foreshadowing of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  Hebrews 10 explains this, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming - not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased’. Then I said, ‘Here I am - it is written about me in the scroll - I have come to do your will, my God.’  First he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them’ - though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” 

So if burnt offerings and sin offerings have been replaced by faith in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ to take away our sins, what is an acceptable sacrifice for Christians today?  Romans 12:1 sums it up perfectly: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship.” 

How do we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God?  By living according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh.  By setting aside the deeds of unrighteousness for which Christ died to free us.  By setting our thoughts on what is pleasing to God and will bring Him glory, and not on earthly pleasures and what will bring us glory.  By putting the needs of others ahead of our own needs and desires.  By letting loose of pride, anger, stubbornness, insistence of our own way, selfishness, bitterness, jealousy and hatred.  By exhibiting genuine sorrow and repentance for our sins, knowing that each and every one of them drove the nails into Christ a little bit deeper.  Or as Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit.”  For only in brokenness can the true fruit of repentance grow and mature, a life holy and pleasing to God.  Amen.



"Lift Your Head Weary Sinner"  (Crowder)

"Come As You Are"  (Crowder)