The Necessary Sacrifice
Unite to Build
The Necessary Sacrifice
Exodus 36:3-7
 
Last week we began a new series designed to ready us for some upcoming building and renovation projects here at the church.  But as I told you then, the primary goal is always more than merely the physical side of things. 
 
In everything we do, there is a spiritual element that is often overlooked.  We do it in things as simple as praying for people.  So often we are so concerned about the physical ailment that we forget God is at work through the physical problem to teach spiritual lessons and make us aware of His presence and power in a new way.
 
That’s what the Apostle Paul said when he talked about his physical problem.  It was through it that he learned God’s grace was sufficient for the need. That is my goal as we move through this process.  The physical buildings and parking lots and renovations are very insignificant when compared to our spiritual condition. 
 
And if we build wonderful buildings and provide lots of space but lose our testimony as the people of God or damage the Spirit of the church we have accomplished nothing of spiritual value.  So our challenge as a church is to prepare ourselves spiritually for this project that involves providing for the physical needs we are experiencing. 
 
 
With that in mind, our theme is “Unite to Build” and our theme verse is Ephesians 4:3.  We are to be “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
 
”We began last week with a call for “A Unified Spirit”.  Paul encouraged the Philippians to “fulfill (his) joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
 
And we discovered the primary thought there is attitude.  Those four phrases are actually four different ways to say the same thing and that is “be together in the way you think, in the things you love, in your ambitions, in your focus and in your desire to bring glory to God. 
 
But it doesn’t end there.  Once you get together in where you’re heading and know why  you’re trying to get there, it calls for some resources. 
 
Luke 14:28-30 
 
So now we are not only talking about “A Unified Spirit”, now we are talking about “The Necessary Sacrifice”.  It’s one thing to have the right attitude and motivation, but beyond that there is a call to commitment and dedication.  That is what hooks us up for the long haul and allows us to see it through and do whatever it takes to get the job done. 
 
Some of you have heard of Tony Campolo.  He is a Baptist preacher, author and educator from Pennsylvania.  On one occasion he was invited to speak at a woman’s conference.
 
Before the president of the conference introduced him as their guest speaker, she read a very moving letter from a missionary who was calling out for help in response to a great need on the mission field that required a sum of $4,000.00.
 
The president of the conference then turned to Tony and asked him if he would pray that God would provide the resources to meet this need! Campolo, who is a very outspoken man, said, “No! I won’t pray for the need to be met. I believe that God has already provided the resources, and all we have to do is give. Then, he challenged each woman in the room to follow his lead, and put every bit of cash they had with them on the table.
 
To make a long story, short: the result was that more than the $4,000.00 needed was collected that day, and the lesson learned was this: God always supplies where there is need; and, He supplies through those to whom He has given to hold in trust. The key to the need being met is simply that the people must be willing to make the necessary sacrifice. 
 
Now here is my conviction:  “Where God guides He provides!” I’m kind of like the old preacher who was leading his church to some project and he said, “I have good news!  We have more than enough money to take care of the project God has laid before us.  The bad news is it’s still in your pockets!”
 
It’s always been kind of interesting to me how many people have an idea about what “the church” ought to be doing.  Everyone likes to comment on such things.  Yet many speak of “the church” as if it does not include them. 
It’s always those down at “the church” that are doing this or that.  But I will remind you that you are the church.  If you hold membership here to talk about “the church” is to talk about yourself. 
 
It’s also odd to me that so many like to comment or even complain about the decisions of the church, yet they never contribute in any way to the ministries of work of the church. 
 
I heard about an old boy who came into the church office of his church one day complaining to the pastor about there being 3 brand new brooms in the janitor’s closet.  He couldn’t understand why we wasted so much money on senseless purchases like that. 
 
The preacher said, “I don’t know why.  Maybe there was sale, but it’s really not that big of a deal.”  “Well it’s a big deal to me!” the man said as he slammed the door. 
 
Later the preacher was having lunch with the church treasurer and he said, “I just don’t understand why he would be so upset about three new brooms.  The treasurer said, “I can.  How would you like to find all the money you’ve given in a year tied up in one broom closet?”
 
It is tragic that many people never understand how churches operate.  We’re like that woman from the last election that believed Obama was going to keep her mortgage paid and gas in her car.  When asked, she didn’t know where the money came from, but he was going to take care of her. 
 
But God has designed a way for churches to operate, not only in financial matters but in personnel needs as well. 
 
Where God guides, He provides, but He provides through His people. 
 
Now, in Exodus chapter 36 is a testament of that truth. It all centers on the building of the tabernacle as a place of worship of God in the wilderness.
 
In fact, as far as I can tell, this is the first building project in the Bible.  The tabernacle was the most important place in the life of the Israelites.  Eventually, Solomon would lead them to build a permanent temple in the city of Jerusalem.
 
But at the beginning of the 40 years of wilderness wanderings, the place of sacrifice and worship was a portable tent structure.  It was always placed in the center of the camp.  That was by design.  It was a symbol of God’s presence in the center of the lives of the people of Israel.
 
The entire tabernacle was completed in seven months, which would seem as though it were a long time for the making of a tent. However, the ornate-ness of all that was involved in the frame structure, as well as the dressings and furnishings was unbelievable to the point that it almost staggers the imagination; and the construction cost was phenomenal. 
 
But as we will see, it didn’t require a thirty year mortgage and a lot of begging and borrowing for the project to be completed because God’s people gave from a unified spirit.
Now at the beginning of Exodus 34 we find Moses making a new set of stone tablets.  The first ones got broken some way, and he travels to the top of Mt. Sinai, and there God appears and instructs Moses to write what He tells him. 
 
Moses comes down off the mountain and his face is shining from being with the Lord and the very first thing he does is call the children of Israel together and tell them what the Lord said. 
 
A part of that instruction includes the construction of the tabernacle and it includes amazing detail  the Lord met with Moses on the top of Mt. Sinai, and there he received instruction on the building of the tabernacle. 
 
Notice Exodus 35:4-9, 20-22, 29
 
I take special not of how many times in this one short chapter we read the words “of a willing heart,” or the words “those whose spirit was stirred.”
 
Now as I understand this series of events, God did not demand that anyone individual give any definite thing as an offering unto Him. Rather, the offering was to be given of one’s own free will. No guilt and certainly no blame was laid upon anyone for what they did, or did not give.
 
In fact, verses 20 and 21 seem to indicate that after the people had departed from the presence of Moses, only some returned to give an offering and they were the ones whose hearts were stirred to do so.  That means there were some who were unwilling to make the necessary sacrifice.
 
Their attitude was not that of a unified spirit.  Their attitude was: “Let others do the giving. They can afford it, and I can’t.” Or, they may have had the attitude: “We don’t need a tabernacle anyway.  After all, we never did it that way before.  All Moses is interested in is money and building buildings. 
 
Besides that, he’s going way overboard.  Have you seent he plans for that thing?  all that ornate stuff is just too expensive and it’s a waste of money.  And besides that, I don’t like the colors he’s picked out for the curtains.  If you ask me there should have been a woman or two on the committee. 
 
Now in fairness, some may not have returned with a  gift because they sincerely did not have it. Who knows why they didn’t return with a gift? But, for sure, those who did had their hearts stirred by the Lord, they were in a unified spirit with their brethren and they made the necessary sacrifice.
 
Now I want us to think about something in regard to that.  Why is it that some have their hearts stirred and get on board with the Lord’s plans and some don’t?  Why is it that some are willing to give whatever it takes in time and talent and money and some never turn a hand or a pocketbook to help? 
 
I think there are two primary things that make the difference.  And the way we view these two things determines all our responses to the Lord. 
 
The first thing is how we view
 
 
 
 
1. The Worthiness of God
 
We live in a day and age where most men give very little consideration as to the Person of God. It really
doesn’t matter to them whether or not He is “deleted” from our Pledge of Allegiance; or whether or not any remembrance of Him is removed from the daily business of this nation.
 
They want Him to be around on days like September 11 when terrorists attack our country.  They like to know there are churches and God-fearing people  who are praying and providing assistance and feeding the hungry and cleaning up the blood and all that. 
 
They even like to ask “Where was God when we need Him?” but, when things are going well, He is never even given a second thought.
 
You probably heard this week that the Democrats are fighting over what to do with God.  The reference to “God-given potential” was removed and that didn’t sit well with some.  So after 3 voice votes, they decided to put God back in.  That means they were against God before they were for God.  So now Godo is back in the platform and by the way, beginning in October, I will have both party’s platforms available for you to read as we begin a new series on how a Christian should vote.
 
But I personally I think it was the right thing for them to do to remove God.  After all, I’m pretty sure He doesn’t want to be included in the same platform that supports gay marriage and killing babies in the womb for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy.  
I don’t think He wants to be affiliated with a president who voted twice not to defend the life of a baby even after it is born. 
 
So I thought it was just as well that He was removed.  But the truth of the matter is their decision reflects the thought of much of our nation.  We have forgotten that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, and that He still reigns as its Sovereign Master and Ruler.
 
Mankind, as a whole, whether we will acknowledge it, or not, is “under God!” And by virtue of the fact that He is Almighty God, He is worthy of His creation’s adoration, worship, and praise! He is especially deserving of the homage of those who are called by His name.
 
Now Israel, especially at this time in their history, should have been very conscious of the Sovereignty of God. They had witnessed the greatest demonstrations of His power in their deliverance from Egypt as they trekked across the dry bed of the Red Sea. 
 
They had seen firsthand His destruction of the armies of Egypt as God released the water.  He was guiding them to the Land of Promise by His visible presence seen as a pillar of fire by night, and as a cloud by day. They had witnessed the thundering and lightning upon Mt. Sinai, and heard the voice of God speak clearly.
 
And now they are standing face to face with a man whose face is glowing because he has been in the presence of Almighty God. 
 
They knew that they were His people, and that He was their God! And anything that they might give unto Him He was worthy of receiving.  In fact, He deserved everything they had! 
 
I want you to notice something interesting in this account. 
 
Look at 35:20-29
 
The people brought their free will offering. Some brought gold, some brought silver. Those who had neither silver or gold brought bronze. Those who had no precious metals gave linen, or skins, or colors with which to dye the fabrics. And those who had none of these gave their time and their talent for the work of the Lord.
 
If you were to continue reading the rest of the chapter and verse 1 of chapter 36 you find some had specific skills that God used for different projects. 
 
Listen:  it doesn’t matter what you have to give in the way of its earthly value. What matters is that we give our best because God deserves it. He is worthy of such adoration!
 
Years later, God spoke to the nation through the pProphet Malachi. Israel had forgotten God! They had become calloused in their worship. They had developed an attitude of giving to God only that which they did not want to keep for themselves.
 
They had gotten in the habit of bringing sick calves and diseased and blemished sacrifices that were unacceptable and In Malachi 1:8 God asks the question concerning their attitude of heart.
 “If you were to bring these gifts to the government officials over you would they be pleased?  Would they accept your offerings?  Then why should I?
 
I think what God was pointing out is that we are often willing to honor mere men more than we are willing to honor God. We give our best to other men, or withhold it for ourselves, and offer to God the left over scraps of our lives.
 
In Malachi 1:14 God went on to say, “But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, and takes a vow, but sacrifices unto the Lord what is blemished - for I am a great King says the Lord of hosts, and My name is to be feared among the nations.”
 
I don’t know what God will have you give, but whatever we give, we ought to give it because it reveals what we believe about the worthiness of God.
 
Secondly, those who make the necessary sacrifice because of how they view
 
2.  Their Thankfulness to God
 
Now remember, when all this happens Israel was just two years into their 40 year journey in the wilderness.  However, in that span of time God had had provided daily manna for them to eat. He had provided water from a flint rock that they might drink. He had given to them the assurance of His presence on a daily basis as He guided them on their way. He had not allowed their clothes to wear out, or their shoes to get old on their feet. Israel could truly say that everything they had, God had given to them.
In our world today, there are a lot of people who like to brag about what they’ve got and all they‘ve done.  President Obama is right about one thing:  “What you’ve got or done, you haven’t done by yourself.”
Contrary to what he believes it was not the government that caused it to happen.
 
But contrary to what the Republicans would have us to believe, we didn’t do it by ourselves either. 
 
Anything we have or have done is nothing less than the gift of God.   
 
And it certainly wasn’t true for the Israelites.  We can fast-forward 38 years to when the Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land.  Moses will soon die and Joshua will take over.  And as Moses is reviewing where they’ve been and anticipating what is about to happen he says: 
 
Deuteronomy 8:7-18
 
All that we have God has given to us. All that we are, God has enabled us to be. Apart from Him we are nothing, and apart from Him we can do nothing. And when we make the necessary sacrifice, we ought to keep in mind, it’s really no sacrifice at all.  We really can’t sacrifice when He deserves everything we have and all we have He gave us to begin with. 
 
Let me point out one final thing before we finish. 
 
Exodus 36:3-7
 
 
 
It’s almost like a fairy tale isn’t it?  We can hardly imagine something like that happening.  That’s a sad commentary isn’t it?  The truth of the matter is very few will ever experience what we read there in those verses. 
 
It is rather unfortunate that almost without exception, God’s churches struggle to pay the bills, to find people to serve, to build the buildings they need, to provide the ministries God is opening when God has blessed us with so much. 
 
What made the difference? They had a unified spirit that led them to make the necessary sacrifice. Their hearts had been stirred and they were willing.
 
Maybe that’s what we really need today: a good old fashioned stirring of the heart by the Spirit of God that would cause us to see God as being worthy, and to make us recognize that God has been more than faithful to us.
 
I guess when you boil it all down this message is not nearly as much about us giving our money as it is about us giving ourselves. 
 
It is about recognizing who God is, and what He has done, and honoring Him with every facet of your life. Will you do that this morning? Will you be willing to make a commitment unto Him in which you simply say, “God, I honor you today with all that I have, and all that I am?”
 
Let’s pray

 

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