On the 4th of July weekend we celebrate the birth of our country. This is a country founded on religious freedom. God has blessed our nation over these two centuries, but our freedom and our liberty did not come without sacrifice. This nation has been built by those who were willing to take a stand for what they believed in. Even from the beginning in 1776, 56 men were willing to sacrifice everything to sign their name to the Declaration of Independence. Because of their signature five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war. The history of America is a history of wars and moral conflicts. Time and time again men and women have been willing to take a stand to ensure that the American dream would continue.
Last week the Pentagon identified the body of the Vietnam era soldier in the Tomb of the Unknowns. He was Michael Joseph Blassie. His A-37 fighter plane went down in Vietnam 26 years ago. Because of new DNA testing procedures the government was able to properly identify the body and informed Blassie's family that the bones in the Tomb of the Unknowns were Blaissies. Americans have been willing to sacrifice to guard our freedoms and to take a stand throughout the history of our country. As we celebrate our freedom and liberty this 4th of July, let us also celebrate those who were willing to give their lives so that we may be a free people
In 1943 the SS Dorchester was being used to transport troops. There were 903 soldiers and 4 chaplains. A German U-boat torpedo hit the ship and it began to sank. One by one each of the 4 chaplains gave up their life jacket to save anothers life. As the ship was dipping into the sea, the soldiers on the life boats could see the chaplains linking their arms together as they prayed their final prayer..
From womans suffrage to the Civil Rights movement to speaking out against immorality and to current issues, Americans have been willing to let their voices be heard to stand up for whats right. They have been willing to sacrifice their time, their talents, and their finances to promote freedom, justice, and morality in this country. But I believe the greatness of our country was reflected in the great religious revivals of the past. From the Great Awakening in the 1700s to the Restoration Movement in the 1800s to the great revivals of the 1900s people have committed their lives to Christ and followed Biblical teachings. God has blessed this nation because we have upheld godly principles. But we are in real danger of losing our moral compass. It is time for Christians to once again share the good news of the gospel message with our communities. We need a spiritual renewal in our nation.
As Christians we look to the example of Christ. In order to set us free from the penalty of sin he was willing to be our Sacrificial Lamb. Although he was the Son of God, he was willing to endure the humiliating death on the cross. As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-8, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross."
Christ was willing to die for us so that we might be saved. He is our example. What are we willing to sacrifice for him?
Throughout history there have been those who have had to give their life for the cause of Christ. They were willing to die rather than deny their Savior. Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John was martyred in the Second Century A.D. This was during a great time of Christian persecution. As he was brought forward before the proconsul, he was told to deny Christ in order to spare his own life. This is what he replied, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?" Because of these bold words, Polycarp was burned to death.
Christians have been tortured and martyred throughout history. Even today Christians in other countries are being persecuted and killed. What are we willing to do for the cause of Christ?
Eric Fellman tells of meeting an older Chinese couple in Hong Kong. He was preparing to travel to mainland China. He wrote, "I knew I would be pressed to carry Bibles and literature on my trip. But I was hesitant and tried to mask my fear with rationalizations about legalities and other concerns." Fellman learned the couple, although in their 60s were newlyweds. They had been engaged to be married in 1949, but the husband had been arrested and imprisoned for 30 years. Fellman continued, "For the next 30 years, the bride-to-be was allowed only one visit per year. Each time, following their brief minutes together, the man would be called to the warden's
office. You may go home with your bride, he said, if you will renounce Christianity. Year after year, this man replied with just one word; No. I was stunned. How had he been able to
stand the strain for so long, being denied his family, his marriage, and even his health? When I asked, he seemed astonished at my question. He replied, With all that Jesus has done for me, how could I betray Him? The next day, I requested that my suitcase be crammed with Bibles and training literature for Chinese Christians. I determined not to lie about the materials, yet lost not one minute of sleep worrying about the consequences. And as God had planned, my suitcases were never inspected."
People all over the world are making sacrifices for Christ. We are a lazy and spoiled nation. We find it difficult to make it out to church on Sunday. Are we willing to sacrifice something for Christ?
I would like to examine what Paul had to say in Romans 12:1-3. Perhaps it will help us consider on this 4th of July about what God wants us to be doing this year for our country.
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Paul was appealing to the Romans, and God is appealing to us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. We are not our own; we belong to Christ. Our mind, our desires, our will all should be turned over to God to use for his glory. But we are a very selfish generation. We want to do things our own way and only when we feel like it.
Barnes writes, "It implies that the action was a free and voluntary offering. Religion is free; and the act of devoting ourselves to God is one of the most free that we ever perform. ...Paul evidently meant here the same as to say, present yourselves, your entire person, to the service of God."
Have you turned over your time to God? Dare I say that there are some who are still struggling with making time for prayer and Bible reading in their lives? Are you willing to sacrifice a little time each day to spend in prayer to the one who has done so much for you? Present your bodies a living sacrifice. Are you willing to spend some time each week reading from Gods word? Present your bodies a living sacrifice.
We all say we want to see spiritual renewal in our family, in our church, and in our city. But do we really mean that? Spiritual renewal must begin in our own life. If we cannot find the time to serve God and make him first in our life, how can we expect our family, or our church, or our city to be willing to do it. The work must begin with us.
What is it that you have not given to God? Is it your time? Are you too busy to do what you know God wants you to do? Is it your desires? Are you unwilling to let go of those desires in your life that are causing you so much pain and frustration? Is it your commitment? Are you unwilling to make a true commitment to Christ? This verse tells us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God. How holy are we? How acceptable to God are we? Let us strive to be obedient to his word.
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
This verse identifies our main problem. We want to conform to this world too much. We dont want to be considered an odd ball. We want to be able to have our fun, too. Pleasures of this world are only fleeting. Spiritual joy is for all eternity.
Paul tells us the secret to spiritual victory be transformed by the renewal of our mind. We must allow God to renew us in our mind. We cant think the same old way we always have. We must allow Gods Spirit to transform our thoughts to change our priorities to Gods priorities. It is only then that we will begin to understand the will of God. It is only then that we will understand what is good and acceptable and perfect. We must allow God to have our thoughts. Let him renew your mind.
For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him.
We are not to think too highly of ourselves. We are not so important that we shouldnt be spending time praying, meditating, and learning from God. Our own agenda is not as important as Gods agenda. He has a plan for our lives. Allow him to use you. Notice Paul says we should act according to the measure of faith that God has assigned each of us. He has given you faith to be an effective worker for him. Dont neglect this gift. Use it for his glory.
If we are really willing to sacrifice ourselves for God, we will see spiritual renewal in our own life, in the life of our family, in our church, and in our nation. But renewal must begin with us. Anything that is worthwhile costs something. Do you want to see another great revival in America. It will cost something. Present your bodies a living sacrifice to God.
Do you want to see a healing take place across this great land of ours. Then let us lead the way by putting God first. 2 Chronicles 7:14 tell us, "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
Let us be the ones to lead the way through prayer, through Bible study, through spiritual renewal. May God ignite us with his love so that the spark will spread throughout Merced until it becomes a great fire of revival. Let us present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice.
This 4th of July message © 1998 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version © 1971, A. J. Holman Company
Story of the S. S. Dorchester from Today in the Word, April, 1992
The Martyrdom of Polycarp, chapter IX, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, pg. 41, Hendrickson Publishers
Fellman: Moody Monthly, January 1986 pg. 33
Barnes Notes on the New Testament pg. 639, Kregel Publications