"Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men and let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving."
If you don't mind writing in your Bible, would you underscore those phrases right there: "The sacrifices of thanksgiving" and "Declare His works with rejoicing"?
It has been said that talk is cheap. We thank the Lord and we say Lord, we're so thankful, we're so grateful for all that you've done for us. Well, do you know what we need to do? We need to turn Thanksgiving into Thanks-living. That is, to offer to God the sacrifices of thanksgiving.
Now, if we're thankful it really ought to show in our lives, and by the way, I don't believe that there's any other sin quite like the sin of ingratitude. Shakespeare said, "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child." Those of you who have loved and labored and invested much in the health and lives of your children know how grieved you are when your children do not seem to appreciate or to be thankful for the sacrifices that parents have made. Mothers who have gone down in the valley of the shadow of death to bring these precious children into this world and dads who have labored long and hard, what a sacrifice.
And I think Shakespeare was right. The poet Milton, the blind poet, he said that a person with an ungrateful spirit only has one vice, he said because all of the rest of his vices are virtues compared to ingratitude. Every other sin is a virtue compared to the sin of ingratitude.
How terrible not to be grateful to God, and yet in America all around we can find those who are grumbly hateful rather than humbly grateful. Well, how can we translate our Thanksgiving today into Thanks-living? Well, we're to offer to God what the bible calls the "sacrifices of thanksgiving."
Now, over in First Peter chapter two, don't turn to it, but First Peter chapter two tells of those of us who are saved are priests. You're looking at a Baptist priest. Have you ever seen a Baptist priest before? I'm a Baptist priest, and you're a priest. Now, I don't walk into my collar, I back into my collar, but I'm still a Baptist priest, and you are a priest. All of those of us who are saved are priests of God, and every priest ought to be able to offer sacrifices to the Lord. Peter tells us that because we're priests, we're to offer up spiritual sacrifices.
I've gone through God's word and I've found five spiritual sacrifices, sacrifices that you can offer all this week and the rest of your life as unto the Lord. I'm going to call them today the sacrifices of Thanksgiving and I want you to make a little checklist, maybe put it in your Bible, and see, "Am I continually offering to the Lord these five spiritual sacrifices that we're going to call today the sacrifices of Thanksgiving?" because I want say again that talk is cheap.
You can say, "Oh we're thankful and eat a big meal and watch football." Now, folks, it ought to go a little further than that. You ought to have more in your Thanksgiving than stuffing yourself and then becoming a couch potato. You need to do something else besides that in order to show how thankful to God you are.
We're going to do a little Bible searching. Let's turn first of all to Romans chapter twelve, and I want to talk to you about presenting yourself as a sacrifice. Romans chapter twelve, there is what I'm going to call the sacrifice of your very person, of yourself.
Look if you will in verses 1 and 2: "I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice wholly, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service, and be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Now, notice in verse one he talks about a living sacrifice. All the way through, we're going to be talking about that word sacrifice, okay? Now, the very first sacrifice that we're going to offer is what we call a living sacrifice, which is your body. Now, why should I do that? Well, notice what the apostle Paul says, "I beseech you therefore brethren." It's almost as if he's on his knees in front of you and who was speaking when Paul spoke? God was speaking. Now, often we talk about our prayer to God, this is God's prayer to man. Have you ever thought about God praying to you? That's what He's doing, he's saying, "I beseech you, I plead with you."
Now, if the Lord Jesus were to come and get in front of you and fold His hands and look up in your face and say I beg you do this, would you do it? Would you do it? If the Lord were to get on His knees in front of you and pray to you and ask you to do something? That's what He's doing right here, the Lord is beseeching you.
Here's the reason for it: "By the mercies of God," on the basis of what God has done for you. Why should I give my body to Him? Because He gave His body for me. He uffered, bled and died upon that cross and when we drove those nails into His hands his quivering heart was saying "I love you, I love you." Those nails were my sins and my hard heart was the hammer that drove those nails into the palms of Jesus, and yet He suffered and bled and died for our sins.
All of Romans, chapter 1 right on up to chapter 12, tells us about the mercies of God, and then the apostle Paul says, "I beseech you therefore brethren because of the mercies of God, because of God's goodness that you present your bodies to him." You see, drops of grief can never repay the debt of love I look, I owe, here Lord, I give myself away, 'tis all that I can do.
Now, that's the reason for it, and what is the requirement of it? How must I give myself of him? Well, let me suggest three ways as this Thanksgiving season you want to present a living sacrifice to the Lord.
Well, the very first thing I want to say is that you must do it voluntarily. Nobody can make you do it. You see the words "ye present." Do you see the word "present"? That's the word for a man joining an army voluntarily. Now, there are two ways to get in the army. You can go down and present yourself or they can draft you, huh? Now, He's talking here about a voluntary, a volunteer.
There's nobody can make you do this. You must do it willingly. So, that's the first thing. You must willingly say here Lord, of my own free will I present myself. Have you done that? Have you just laid yourself upon the altar?
Now, secondly not only must you do it willingly, but you must do it completely, now that you present your body as a living sacrifice, wholly. Now, that word "wholly" is akin to our word "whole," which means complete, that you give yourself completely. Have you done this? Completely?
You see, look, a sacrifice doesn't have any more plans of it's own, a sacrifice will be slain. We're to die to the old way. My wife, my children, my home, my car, my vacation, my future, my bank account, my ambitions, they all belong to the Lord. Have you done that? Have you just said, "Here Lord, I give myself away, 'tis all that I can do, I do it completely, I do it voluntarily," and, dear friend, not only was it voluntary, not only was it complete, but let me tell you something else about a sacrifice.
Now, there was the Old Testament animal sacrifice. The New Testament sacrifice is compared to that.
The Old Testament animal sacrifice, after it was slain it was bound to the altar. The Bible says to bind the sacrifice to the altar. Do you know why it was bound to the altar? Because it would tend to slide off.
Have you ever picked up a piece of freshly killed meat? It's slippery, it's slippery, and so there were two flesh hooks and those flesh hooks would bind that sacrifice to the altar. Have you ever made a commitment to the Lord and then tend to slide off the altar? Have you? I have many times. I mean, I've told the Lord, I have bowed and declared and said, "Lord, that's the last time I'll ever do that," or I've said, "Lord, from now on I'm going to do this everyday. God, you can count on me," and I just kind of slide off the altar. Do you ever slide off the altar? You see, look, we need to be bound to the altar if we're going to have a living sacrifice.
The priest had two flesh hooks. Let me mention two flesh hooks that will keep you bound to the altar. Number one is devotion, your love for Jesus, and number two is discipline. Those are the two flesh hooks that will keep you on the altar, devotion and discipline, devotion and discipline. One is not a substitute for the other, but together they'll keep you bound to that altar so that you will stay locked in place, a living sacrifice, by devotion and discipline, staying there giving yourself to the Lord. Offer yourself this Thanksgiving to the LORD and say, "Lord, before I give you anything else I give you myself completely."
You know, a lot of us don't want to be bound to the altar. I'll guarantee you we don't. That's the reason some men don't get married. They don't want to get bound down to marriage, huh? Sure, they want to stay free, they want to be loose. That's the reason why some folks won't join a church.
Did you know we have folks here this morning when they ought to come and join this church? Do you know why they won't join the church? They love to drop in and visit but they don't want the responsibility of church membership.
That's the reason why some people won't teach a class. Some of you have the gift of teaching but you say, "You know pastor, we've a cottage over thus and such a place, we don't want to get bound down." You know, that's the reason why some folks won't make a pledge to the building program.
They say, "Well now kook, I just don't believe in making commitment. Hahaha, they're married, they've got a mortgage on the house, a mortgage on the car, they don't believe in making commitments. What they mean is they believe in making commitments to everybody else except for Jesus.
They just don't want to make a commitment to the most important thing. You know, I'll give as the spirit moves but I just don't want to be bound down, huh? Hey, I think it's pretty good to be bound down. I think it's pretty good to get devotion and discipline and say I am giving myself and I am making a commitment.
Alright now, let me mention another kind of a sacrifice. Remember we're talking about the sacrifices of thanksgiving. First of all, your person. Now, right behind that should come the sacrifice of your praise.
Turn with me to Hebrews chapter 13, Hebrews chapter 13 and look if you will in verse 15. "By him therefore" and the him refers to Jesus, "By him therefore let us offer up the sacrifice of praise." Underscore it, "the sacrifice of praise." Have you ever thought of your praise as being a sacrifice?
The sacrifice of praise to God continually. That is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks unto His name. This is a wonderful, wonderful sacrifice.
Folks, when you offer the sacrifice of praise, I'm going to tell you something that may amaze you. God had rather have your praise than your money. Your praise is of more value to God than whatever you put in the offering plate this morning, that is, if it is genuine praise.
I found a verse that proves that. Psalm 69, verses 30 and 31, don't turn to it, let me read it to you. "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 a bullock that have thorns and hooves."
Do you know how much an ox was worth in this day? That would be like your going and saying, "I'm going to give my car. I 'm going to give my Cadillac. I'm going to give my Oldsmobile." An ox was extremely valuable. A man who had an ox was a wealthy man, but God says here that your praise, your psalm of thanksgiving will please the Lord more than your material gifts.
Now, I want to tell you that praise is no substitute for your material gifts, and we're going to see that later on, but I'm saying this morning, if you could only understand how important your praise is and your praise ought to be a way of life.
Look at our verse again, verse 15. "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God." What's that next word? Continually, continually. Listen to me. You do not come to church to praise the Lord. You're to bring your praise with you to church. You don't commence your praise here. You continue your praise here. You are to praise the Lord continually, and the reason that some of us do such a poor job of praising God when we come to church to praise him corporately is we have been praising him privately.
Psalm 34, verse one. "I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth." And we're to come to the Lord's house today and just worship the Lord, and we're to worship Him, not grudgingly. Nobody ought to have to beg us to sing. Brother Whitmire, it ought to break your heart that you should have to stand before a congregation of people who are suppose to be saved and know Jesus and plead with them to worship, beg them to sing. No wonder the songwriter said, "Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God," That you should have to be coerced to sing. The Bible says in Psalm 119:108 "Accept, I beseech thee, the free will offerings of my mouth." The free will offerings of my mouth. God help us to offer to him the sacrifice of praise.
Now, there's a third sacrifice I want to mention. First of all, remember we give our bodies as a living sacrifice, that's our person. Secondly there's the offering to God, the sacrifice of praise, that's just the fruit of our lips, continually. It means more, ladies and gentleman, than your giving your wealth. It is to give your worship to our great God.
Now, here's the third thing and very closely akin to our praise but not exactly the same is our prayer, our prayer. That's the third sacrifice of Thanksgiving, and that is our prayer--our person, our praise and now our prayer.
Let me give you the verse, are you ready for it? Psalm 141:2. Listen to it, listen to it, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense." Now, if you again don't mind marking your bible, underscore the word incense, "and the lifting of my hands as the evening sacrifice." There's our word sacrifice again. In all of these scriptures we have the word sacrifice. Psalm 141:2. "The lifting of my hands as the evening sacrifice."
Now, your prayer is to be like two things. Number one, it is to be like incense, and number two, it is to be like the evening sacrifice. Now, what does this mean? What is incense? Incense is perfume that, in order for that perfume to be released, it has to be put on the fire. It is burned, and as it is burned, the aroma is perfume that just goes up in smoke.
Now, your prayer ─ the Bible tells us in Revelation chapter five that the prayers, that incense is the prayer of the saints. Incense in the Old Testament that ascends, that sweet smelling smoke that goes up is like our prayer that goes up to God.
The Old Testament Jews worshipped in the tabernacle, and if you were to walk in the front door of the tabernacle, you would come into the tabernacle. And as you approach the tabernacle there in that outer court is a great altar made of brass that was called the brazen altar. There was a fire in that altar, and that fire was kindled from heaven.
Now, it's very important that you understand this. Aaron, the high priest and others, they didn't strike a match and light that fire. Of course, they had no matches, but they couldn't light it with fire from any other fire or lightening or anything else. That fire had to be kindled from heaven. It was holy fire from that brass altar.
Now, you come in, it was on that altar that the animals were burned and consumed that pictured Jesus dying for our sins, that fire from heaven pictures the wrath of God, the holy wrath of God against sin. Then you walk into that tabernacle and in that tabernacle on one side would be a beautiful candelabra. On the other side would be a table with bread on it, called show bread that the priest would eat. And the altar pictures Christ, our sacrifice, the show bread pictures Christ our sustenance that we feed on Him, and then over here the candelabra pictures Christ our sight. Christ our sacrifice, Christ our sustenance, Christ our sight, and then we come to another altar which was a golden altar.
Now, this golden altar is right in front of a curtain and behind that curtain is the Holy of holies. The golden altar was the altar of incense. As the priest would come in morning and evening to trim the lamps, he would first go and he would offer incense upon that golden altar.
But now, let me tell you, that the fire in the golden altar was kindled by fire from the brazen altar. It's very important you understand this, that the priest always had to make certain that the fire that was in this altar was the fire that was in that altar, and the fire in that altar was fire from heaven. Now, he would come in with this incense, which was especially concocted for God alone and he would burn it. Now, of course if there were no fire in the altar, no incense would rise to God. If there was strange fire in the altar, now what the bible calls strange fire was fire that God did not ignite. If there was strange fire there would be swift judgment for offering to God something with strange fire, that is, fire that God did not ignite it. You say, pastor, what is all of that about?
Our aim is to get on in to the Holy of holies. Now, remember the Holy of holies is where God is. That's where the Shekinah glory of God is, right in that Holy of holies, and in that Holy of holies is where we have communion with God. It is in that Holy of holies where the, the glory of God, the Shekinah glory of God was.
Now, if this brazen altar is Christ our sacrifice, and this candlestick is Christ our sight, and this show bread is Christ our sustenance, and this is prayer is Christ our supplication, that prayer that ascends to God, that just makes way so we go into the Holy of holies with Christ our satisfaction. Do you understand?
Where we know the Lord, where we meet the Lord, where we are satisfied and the deepest longings of our heart are met, but friend, you cannot come into the holiest of holies unless you come to the altar of incense which is prayer. But wait a minute, you cannot come to the altar of incense unless you come to the brazen altar.
Don't try to alter prayer that is not prayer based on the blood of Jesus Christ. OK, we enter into the holiness by the blood of Jesus Christ, and don't try to offer any prayer that does not have in it the fire of God's sacrifice and God's holiness, and then when I come to him I can burn incense to him if that incense is based upon the blood of Jesus Christ. But the bible says if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. Friend, you have no basis to come to God, except by the blood, and when you come by the blood and then you come to that golden altar and you begin to pray like sweet perfume, that prayer goes to God, and that my dear friend, the Bible calls a sacrifice.
You are a priest. You are a priest. Did you offer any incense this morning? Morning and evening the priest would go into the tabernacle to trim the lamps. Have you been in there yet? I mean, you say that you love God. You say that you belong to Him. You say that you are a priest. Have you offered the sacrifice of prayer? That's a sacrifice, not just coming to God to get things done. Oh, friend, listen to our verse again. What a beautiful verse it is. Psalm 141:2, "Let thy prayer be set before thee as incense and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice."
Isn't that beautiful? Ha, the lifting of my hands is the evening sacrifice. Oh, God, just as that Old Testament priest would go in there the evening to trim the lambs, oh God, I want to go in. I want to enter into that Holy of holies, and God, I want to just lift my hands, spread my hands to you as, dear Lord, the evening sacrifice. Incense with strange fire was judged, incense with no fire is useless, that fire pictures what Jesus did for us on the cross.
All right, now, let me mention the fourth sacrifice. The first one, what was it? Our bodies, that's our person, the second, our praise, the fruit of our lips. The third, our prayer, the fourth of these spiritual sacrifices is our possessions.
Now, don't think because something is spiritual that it is has to be immaterial. We are to give our possession. Now, you're in Hebrews chapter thirteen and we read verse fifteen that speaks of the sacrifice of praise. Now, Hebrews chapter thirteen, turn back to it, yes, we've already left it, turn back to it. Hebrews chapter thirteen and verse sixteen, let's look at it. "But to do good and communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." There again he uses the word sacrifice. Now, remember we're to offer the sacrifices of Thanksgiving, OK?
Now, look at it again. "With such sacrifices God is well pleased." What does the word communicate mean anyway? Does it mean to write letters to someone? Does it mean to call someone on the telephone? Well, the old King James says to communicate, so I looked it up last night in four different translations, four other translations than the King James.
One translation gives this word communicate to distribute, the other gives it to share. Another gives it to be generous, the other gives it to be liberal. So to distribute, the share, to be generous, to have a liberal spirit, that's what it means to communicate, not just to talk to people.
It means to take our material possessions, the things that God has given us, and when we come to church or when we give by whatever means or whatever mode, when we give, it is to be a spiritual sacrifice. The apostle Paul received a missionary gift from the church at Philippi, and he wrote back and said in Philippians chapter four, verse eight, "The gifts that were sent from you were a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God."
And so, today you want to show your thanksgiving, show it in your giving. Does your giving really show what you think of God? It really does whether you think it or not. You know, there are some folks who come to church on Sunday and they give God a tip. They give God the crumbs. They give God the leftovers.
Do you know what a lot of folks do? I mean, they literally do this. They have their budget, they get the budget out and they say alright, we've got so much for the house payment. We've got to pay that. So much for the utilities, we have to pay that. So much for the car payment, we've got to pay that. So much for Sears, we've got to pay that. That much for so and so, let's throw Goldsmiths in, everybody can have a chance. And Dillard's, I'll quit right here, and we've got to pay that. And so we've got all these things we have to pay. Then there's, you know, tuition and these things, and they say now what's left? What's left?
Do we have anything to give God? What's left? Hey folks, do you know what you ought to do? Before you write a check to anybody or anything else, you ought to make a gift to Jesus first. Do you know what the Bible says? "Honor the Lord with the first fruits of thy increase." First fruits, not what's left. Don't give God the crumbs. Don't give God the leftovers.
Don't see if there's anything left for God. That's the problem, listen friend. God doesn't want a place in your life. Everybody says give God a place in your life. He doesn't want it.
Well, you say yes, you're right; give Him a promise in your life. He doesn't want a promise. He demands pre-imminence, pre-imminence. You're to honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits of all thine increase.
I was reading in Malachi, chapter one, verse eight, and this is what the Lord said to the people of his day, "You offer the blind for sacrifice, and if you offer the blind for a sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and the sick, is it not evil? Offer it not unto thy governor. Would he be pleased with thee or accept thy person, saith the Lord of hosts." Do you know what they were doing? They were saying well, we've got make an offering to the Lord. We've got an old blind calf over here. Let's give that blind calf, and we've got a sick goat. That goat is not going to live anyway. Let's bring it down to the priest, and let the priest kill it. Malachi said you're offering blind animals and crippled animals to God. Why don't you take it over here and give it to the governor and see if the governor will accept it.
You know there are people ─ we give to God things we wouldn't give to one another for Christmas presents or birthday presents. Try God.
Now, folks listen, we don't just give to the church because the church needs it. We don't give to a cause. It's a sacrifice to God. Friend, if there were not a need in this world, and if we just took the money that was given on Sunday and burned it up, I mean, just put in a furnace and burned it up; it'd still be a blessing just to come and give it. Do you believe that? I do.
That's what they did with the Old Testament sacrifices, they burned them up. They burned them up. They weren't giving to a need, they were giving to God. It was put on an altar and it was consumed. It didn't serve any utilitarian purpose. We just gave it because we wanted to give it to a great God as a sacrifice of His goodness to us. We need to get out of this thing saying, "Well, I don't know whether I agree with that." Me either, I don't think I'm going to give to this cause. Friend, we're giving to God. We're giving to God. It's a sacrifice to our great God, and "every man that giveth as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity." That is, you're not giving to a cause. You're not giving because somebody has made you do it, not giving grudgingly, or of necessity, "for God loveth a cheerful giver."
One last thing and I'll be finished. Not only is there the sacrifice of our possessions, one last of these five thanksgiving sacrifices, the sacrifices of thanksgiving, there is finally the sacrifice of a broken and a contrite spirit, which I want to call the sacrifice of purity.
Would you turn to Psalm 51 here for just a moment, and by the way, all of these sacrifices are based on, first of all, of what He has done for us and we just turn around and we'll do back for Him because of what He has done for us. We first love Him because He loved us. We give to Him because He first gave unto us and of Thine own have we given unto Thee.
Now, look if you will in Psalm 51:17. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." That's the last of these five sacrifices I want to suggest this thanksgiving. Do you have that sacrifice of a broken and a contrite spirit? Why do I call it the sacrifice of purity? Because David had sinned and what was it that broke David's heart? His sin against God. You see, God was so good, notice in Psalm fifty one, verse one. "Have mercy upon me, Oh God, according to thy loving kindness, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions." Do you know what it was that led David to a broken spirit? Do you know what it was?
It was not David's badness, it was God's goodness, God's goodness. The Bible tells us over in the book of Romans that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance, not the badness of man. God is so good.
How can we sin against such love? How can you this Thanksgiving sin against one who suffered, bled and died for you? If you say you love Him, then get rid of the sin that breaks His heart, get rid of it, a broken and a contrite spirit.
Oh friend, I said that our sins were the nails that nailed Him to that tree and our hard hearts, the hammers that drove those nails, are broken in a contrite spirit thou wilt not despise. We sin in our churches ─ some Sunday mornings acting like we've done God a favor when we get here, haughty, unbent, unbroken. Oh how we ought to bow down before our great God and just say, "Oh God, in brokenness and humility, I offer, dear God, tears of repentance, and Lord, purity of life before you, and my sacrifice of Thanksgiving. Lord, you're going to see in my life dear God, there will be no unconfessed, unrepented of sin in my life."
Don't you believe, listen to me, don't you believe if the Bible says we're to offer to God the sacrifices of Thanksgiving that ought to improve our person, it ought to include our prayer, it ought to include praise, it ought to include our possessions, and it ought to include a pure life? Just say Lord, this is what I'm going to render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me.
Visit Crosswalk's Thanksgiving Facebook page at www.facebook.com/iamthankful.