“May I?” or “Must I?”

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Genesis 4:1-12

I.         Romans 15:4

            A.        As we read through our Bibles, it doesn’t take long notice how differently the Old Law is presented in comparison to the New Law.

                        1.         The Old Law contains many regulations that spell out, some times in detail, what a person could and could not do.

                                    a.         No cooking on the Sabbath - Exodus 16:23 (even specified the type of cooking)

                                    b.         No work on the Sabbath - Exodus 20:10 (even lists all that are included)

                                    c.         No exception due to need - Exodus 34:21

                                    d.         Even detailing how much is work - Exodus 35:3

                        2.         In every service, the exact amount to offer was prescribed.

                                    a.         The grain offering - Leviticus 6:20-24. How much, when it was offered, how it was to be offered.

                                    b.         They were required to give a tenth of all they produced - Deuteronomy 14:22

                        3.         In fact, so many things are prescribed in detail in the Old Law that Jewish Rabbis made a list of the things God did not specify the amount.

                                    a.         The corners of the fields were not to harvested, but left for the poor, yet God did not specify how big the corners were to be.

                                    b.         A first fruit offering was to be made to God, but the quantity was not given

                                    c.         There were voluntary offerings, known as peace offerings or burnt offerings, but the amount was not specified.

                                    d.         They were to give to the poor, but the amount was not specified.

                                    e.         They were to study God’s word, but the time in studying was not specified.

            B.        There are two ways to respond to things with no exact measurement, a person could give or do just enough to get by or if he was a devote Jew he would try to give or do as much as possible.

                        1.         The former saw God’s lack of exact specification as an excuse to do as little as possible

                        2.         The later saw it as an opportunity to show his love for God by doing as much as possible.

            C.        It is illustrated in the offerings of Cain and Abel - Genesis 4:3-5

                        1.          We are not told what God asked in way of offerings, but we are told what they offered.

                        2.         The Hebrew for Cain’s offering indicates that Cain casually gave some of his crops.

                        3.         The Hebrew text tells us that Abel gave the best cuts of his young lambs.

                        4.         The difference reflects the attitudes of the giver - Hebrews 11:4

II.        The New Testament is different from the Old in this regard: very few things are prescribed in detail. Almost all of the New Testament law are things with no exact measure.

            A.        For example, we are no longer told to give a tenth of our produce. Instead, we told to give as we have been prospered - I Corinthians 16:2

            B.        We have the same choice the Jews had under the Old Law.

                        1.         We can use the unspecified things as an excuse to do as little as possible or we can use it as an opportunity to do as much as we can.

                        2.         In many ways it reflects our spiritual maturity.

            C.        When parents raise children, we start out specifying our expectations in detail.

                        1.         It does take long for a parent to learn that young children are very literally minded.

                        2.         They take you exactly at your word, even when you really didn’t mean what you said in quite that way.

                        3.         But to get a child to grow up, we cannot continue to do all his decision making. We start letting him make choices.

                        4.         At first we control the choices, but as he matures and shows good, common sense we expand the options.

                        5.         The ability to make a choice with no direct guidance is key to his maturity.

            D.        The laws of God are much the same way.

                        1.         The Old Testament law contained “spiritual training wheels,” if you would allow me to say such a thing.

                        2.         The people were not used to following a law, so everything was specified in detailed.

                        3.         Now that God has made a full revelation of His will to us, He expects us to be respond with spiritual maturity.

                                    a.         The mature have been given God’s wisdom - I Corinthians 2:6-8

                                    b.         Be mature in our thinking - I Corinthians 14:20

                                    c.         The teaching is to present us as mature adults - Colossians 1:28

            E.        We should no longer need to ask, “How much is enough?”

                        1.         We should not need God to specify the exact measure for all our service, whether that service be in the realm of giving, prayer, study, attendance, or anything else.

                        2.         When we fear the consequences of disobedience, and we don’t want to do something, we end up focusing on what is the minimum I can get by with and still be right.

                                    a.         Isn’t that what your children do when you told them to clean their rooms?

                                    b.         Pushing everything under the bed and into the closet – isn’t that clean?

                        3.         We must not lower ourselves to an attitude that wants an exact measure, so we will know just how much is necessary to get by

III.       Must I sacrifice?

            A.        Present our bodies as living sacrifices - Romans 12:1

                        1.         If you think about it, the verse is strangely worded.

                        2.         The Old Law had continual sacrifices, but Jesus is our one and only sacrifice for sin - Hebrews 10:10

                        3.         Jesus died for our sins, so what additional sacrifice could be offered?

            B.        If we look at the Old Testament, we find there were two categories of offerings.

                        1.         The first category was those sacrifices which were offered because of sin.

                                    a.         It includes the sin-offering, the trespass offering, and the yearly atonement sacrifice.

                        2.         The second category was those sacrifices offered in thanksgiving to God

                                    a.         Often they were made after the sin offerings to give thanks to God for his mercy and blessings.

                                    b.         They included the thank offering, the peace offering, and the free-will offering.

            C.        Jesus’ offering was of the first type.

                        1.         He is the one who offered his own body as a permanent offering for our sins.

                        2.         His blood was shed for the propitiation for our sins - Romans 3:24-26

                        3.         Jesus offered himself because we could never obtain reconciliation with God on our own.

                                    a.         We are too stained by sin to be an acceptable atonement offering.

                                    b.         So God gave the pure life of his own Son on our behalf.

            D.        But we still owe God offerings of the second type; ones offered in thankfulness for the great mercy of God

                        1.         No sacrifice on our part could obtain the salvation Jesus bought for us with his own blood.

                        2.         But our thanks must be to God for his willingness to give up his Son.

                        3.         The very least we can do is give of ourselves, worthless as it may be, in thankfulness to our Savior.

            E.        Thank offerings in the Old Testament were also known as burnt offerings

                        1.         The entire offering was consumed on the altar for those things that were burnt

                        2.         So we too should offer ourselves totally to God – consumed in His service.

                                    a.         Any holding back on our part speaks of an attitude of ingratitude towards the offering of God for us.

                                    b.         We would be like Cain, who only gave what was convenient.

            F.        Paul instructs us to present our bodies as living sacrifices

                        1.         We died to sin, but are made alive to Christ - Romans 6:11

                        2.         Hence, we present our bodies as instruments of righteousness - Romans 6:12-13

                        3.         Recall that the offerings to God were living animals. Dead animals would profane the altar of God.

                        4.         Spiritually dead Christians would profane the church.

IV.      What kind of offering are you making to God in your service to Him?

            A.        Are we grudgingly looking for the minimum we can get by with?

            B.        Or are we looking to freely give out of our love for God?

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