1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. 3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; (Ephesians 5:1–3, NKJV)
There are repeated warnings in the Scriptures of falling into sexual sins. Here, being imitators of God and walking in sacrificial love are the preventative measures we take to avoid the moral defilement of “fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness.” Ironically, the world often calls fornication, “love,” as millions upon millions commit this sin in the name of “love.” Sexual uncleanness occurs outside of God-approved marriage, and is the fruit of covetousness (Heb. 13:4; cf. Exo. 20:17). These sins are “not even to be named” among Christians. R. C. H. Lenski correctly explains this to mean that “such vices are to be so far removed from us that even an intimation or a suspicion of their presence among us should not occur” (The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians, p. 596). Christians are not immune to sexual temptations; but, we must resist them and reject them whenever they come (1 Pet. 5:8-9). “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). Then, we can be “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45–46, NKJV)
The supreme value of the kingdom of heaven is set before us in this familiar parable. We can see this merchant searching for beautiful pearls that would bring him a handsome profit in the marketplace. But when he found one pearl – only one – that was the most precious and valuable, he knew it was more valuable than anything else he possessed. And so, he sold everything he had and bought it. The lesson is simple, yet profound. The kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything else you and I could ever acquire. Like the merchant, we must recognize its value, and then we must sacrifice everything else in order to possess it. Jesus explained how we possess the kingdom: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Full surrender. Complete sacrifice. Faithful obedience. See the surpassing value of the kingdom, and honor the King with all your being, every day. The pearl of great price is worth it all.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44, NKJV)
Entering the kingdom of heaven is likened to a man finding a buried treasure, who, with great joy and at great sacrifice, acquired the field and its treasure. The parables of Jesus hide the kingdom from the minds of those who are unwilling to receive His teaching (Matt. 13:11-15). But, like this hidden treasure, the kingdom is found by those whose hearts are made aware of its value and its availability. These will joyfully pay all – make every sacrifice necessary – to obtain the blessings of the kingdom of heaven. The rich young ruler reminds us of one who thought he wanted the kingdom blessings, but he was unwilling to make the sacrifice Jesus demanded (Matt. 19:20-22). The sacrifice one must make to enter the kingdom of heaven is worth it. Treasures in heaven will always be of far greater value than treasures on earth (Matt. 6:19-21). Does your heart see the kingdom of heaven as a great treasure that you must possess, whatever the cost?
17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, 18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. (John 19:17–18, NKJV)
“December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy—.” So began the address by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the United States Congress after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in which 2,403 Americans were killed, and another 1,178 wounded. Seventy-five years later, we still shudder at that unmerciful disruption of lives and peace. An even greater day of evil was the day the sinless Son of God was murdered – crucified like a criminal. Yet, God turned that day of darkness into the magnificent day of triumph over sin (Isa. 53:10-12; Rom. 5:6-11). Victory over Japanese aggression came at a great cost of American blood and treasure. Victory over sin’s aggression against humanity came at an even greater cost, the blood of the Son of God. As we honor the price paid to defend freedom, may we also and especially remember to honor the One who paid the price that frees us from sin’s oppression and death (Matt. 20:28).
22 … “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” 23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” (Luke 9:22–24, NKJV)
Being a Christian is not a pain-free zone. Jesus Christ, whose name we wear, suffered enormously to secure our redemption. He suffered injustice, ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and physical torture unto death, despised as a criminal and rejected by men. Yet still, some Christians find it a burden to deny themselves the simplest comfort in order to serve Christ. Let us be clear: We cannot follow Jesus without taking up our cross daily. That means sacrifice. Self-denial. Total faith and complete obedience. To try to follow Jesus without complete self-denial will cause you to lose your life. Only when you lose yourself for His sake, will your life be saved.
By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4, NKJV)
God is not obliged to accept anything and everything people offer to Him in worship. If He is, then God is to be charged with wrongdoing toward Cain. Yet, “by faith” Abel offered “a more excellent sacrifice than Cain”. The Scripture says the Lord “did not respect Cain and his offering” (Gen. 4:5). It is apparent Cain did not bring his offering to God “by faith”. Since faith comes by hearing the word of God, it is evident that Abel followed God’s word concerning the sacrifice; Cain did not (Rom. 10:17). True worshipers are careful to bring before God the worship He approves (Jno. 4:23-24). It is not up to us to decide what is good to give God. We must listen to His word and humbly come before Him with the worship and service He deems acceptable.
11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God… (Hebrews 10:11–12, NKJV)
In contrast to the repeated offerings of animal sacrifices by Levitical priests, the great High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, offered one sacrifice for sins forever. With “His own blood” He entered heaven (“the Most Holy Place”), and by it, obtained eternal redemption for sinners (Heb. 9:12, 14-15, 26-28; 10:10). The gospel, “the word of the cross”, presents the sacrifice of Jesus to the whole world and calls us to salvation by His blood (1 Cor. 1:18; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:20). Thank God today for His great love, His marvelous wisdom and His rich mercy. All are on full display when we survey the wondrous cross of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.