Remembering God Through A Surrendered Life
Topic: Dedication Passage: Genesis 8:13–8:22
Remembering God through a Surrendered Life
Turn with me to Genesis chapter 8.
A couple of months ago I was befriended on Face book by a guy I went to Bible college with back in the 80’s. We didn’t know each other well then but I looked forward to catching up a little. There hasn’t been a lot of catching up, but I have learned one thing. He has a lot of time to play fb games. Since we became friends I have received at least 31 requests to take part in one game or another.
• 3x he has sent me a smile.
• He sent me several requests to join super poke pets and a kiwi koala bear
• He is constantly hitting me with virtual snowballs and inviting me to fight back
• He has sent me a street light and a pear tree (no partridge) in lil Farm life.
• He sent me a Warm Doggie Hug and challenged me to send one back to him
My request box is full of requests and every time I get a new smile or warm doggie hug from him I am tempted to think, “this guy needs to get a life”. It seems like such an obvious waste of time and life. But you know what, when all is said and done, I can spend my life on things that from an eternal perspective aren’t any better way to invest my life and I’ll bet you can too. There are more subtle ways that we can waste our lives and miss what God has intended for our lives to be.
When we come to Christ in faith God invites us to “get a life”, but the life God invites us to is a life that is surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ –increasingly yielded to God’s will. I believe the Lord wants to remind us – and convict us – of the importance of surrendering our lives to Christ every day.
Title: Remembering God through a Surrendered Life
Chapter 8 opens with God remembering Noah and ends with Noah remembering God. The very first thing that Noah does when he steps off the ark is to build an altar to God and he offers a sacrifice as an expression of worship and thanksgiving to God. As they get off the ark they don’t even have shelter from the elements, yet before Noah attends to any of the important things he needs to do, he builds an altar to the Lord and pulls his family together and together they worship the Lord.
Noah remembers God. That alone is convicting – how easy it is to forget God with the excuse that I’m too busy to take time to pray or spend time with God. And this is no quick prayer shot up to give God His token time. The Bible says that Noah took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and sacrificed them to God – took time. Made a bloody mess. But this was the appropriate way to worship God in that time and Noah brought an acceptable sacrifice to God.
We don’t sacrifice animals to the Lord anymore and we’re not meant to, but as we look at this altar where animals are being slaughtered and offered to God there are two very relevant applications to our lives today.
I. The burnt offering represents an atoning sacrifice for sin
Noah saw firsthand God’s wrath against man’s sin and lived to tell the story. God’s wrath isn’t God throwing a tantrum and throwing things in heaven. Wrath means “settled opposition” to our sin. God is opposed to our sin – and He always will be. This is good news because it means that God is good – there are scandals in heaven. No shocking headlines. God cannot be bribed or corrupted or compromised. It is bad news for sinners like us because it means God must judge sin righteously. That’s what the flood was – devastating.
Through his faith Noah was a righteous man but he was also a sinner. So the first thing he does in this new world is offer a sacrifice for sin – because of sin something must die. As these animals are slaughtered, Noah’s family is reminded of the brutal consequences of their sin. But as God looks at this freshly cleansed world and smells the fragrant aroma of the sacrifice it pleases Him and appeases His wrath. Verse 21 takes us into the very heart and mind of God.
The Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease. (vs 21-22)
What we see here is the very same reason that moved God to destroy the earth (that man’s heart was bent toward only evil continually) now becomes the reason that God promises never again to destroy the earth through a flood. “I will never again curse the ground …for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth…” God recognizes that man will always be bent towards evil, and yet God’s heart is moved to mercy – promises that man won’t need to live in constant fear that God is going to end the world by another cataclysmic flood – as long as the earth remains the seasons will remain.
We’ll talk more about God’s merciful covenant when we continue on in chapter 9, but we have here a foreshadow of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross as the perfect Lamb of God to atone for, or pay for, man’s sin so that through Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s righteous justice could be satisfied as Christ perfectly paid for our sin and God could righteously show mercy to sinful man.
If you aren’t a Christian, that is the way to become a Christian – to believe in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross as being sufficient to pay for your sins and turn aside God’s wrath for your sin so that you never need to face His wrath but instead can enjoy God’s forgiveness and mercy for all eternity.
II. The burnt offering represents Noah's desire to surrender his life to God
The other important aspect of the offering being burnt on the altar was that it represented the worshipper’s desire to be totally devoted or surrendered to God. The burnt offering was completely consumed on the altar. Given to God – nothing of it gets off the altar. Noah was atoning for his and his family’s sin, but he was also saying, “God, in this new world, I want to dedicate my life wholly to you.”
In the NT we don’t put dead animals on the altar of consecration, we put our lives on the altar.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV)
We don’t surrender our lives to pay God for our salvation, we surrender our lives to God because Jesus has paid the price and we belong to Him. It is how we worship God. Because God in His mercy has saved you, live a life surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. A life laid on the altar of God, surrendered to God, devoted to the purposes of God. That’s a truth I think the church as a whole needs to recover. It’s truth I need a fresh grip on. Good chance you do too.
Someone has said the average Christian is like an old iron bed – firm on both ends but sagging in the middle. We know we were saved, and we know we are going to heaven, but in between we’re sagging. Sagging in our devotion to God and purpose in life. And the two go together – we can’t experience a glorious sense of purpose in life unless we are fully surrendered to God!
Jesus told his disciples that if anyone would follow him they needed to pick up their cross, deny themselves, and follow him. Sounds cold and harsh and miserable. If you are not a Christian you might be thinking, “I knew it! Following Jesus means living a miserable life giving up everything that I enjoy.” But when Jesus ascended, those same disciples were set on fire with the Holy Spirit and they found that what this means is dying to the empty, small delights of the world like warm doggie hugs and living for the eternal purposes of God – and their lives exploded with the kind of joy and meaning and purpose that we dream of our lives having. Three thoughts about surrender:
a. Feelings of meaninglessness and boredom may not be the problem – they might be a gift from God to reveal the real problem
• Do you ever feel like there is something missing in your life? Do you ever struggle with boredom?
• Maybe even sometimes have a nagging question about what the meaning of your life is?
• Do you ever wonder what difference your life will make after you’re gone?
• Do you ever feel like something is missing from your experience of the Christian faith?
There could be many different things going on, but I’m going to suggest one very real possibility. I heard a story about a guy who went to see a psychiatrist because he had been suffering from an inferiority complex for many years. The doctor ran a battery of tests on the guy and two weeks later called him with the results. He told him that after running all kinds of tests, he had good news for the man. Turns out it wasn’t a complex at all, he really was inferior.
The answer to those questions I asked may not be complex at all. Might be very simple. It could be that we’re trying to find meaning while living for empty things. Not surrendered to Jesus, might be surrendered to a pursuit of money or pleasure or comfort or selfish lifestyle or you fill in the blank.
b. Surrender to Jesus is a heart thing, not a location or vocation thing
This Friday my brother in law and his family travel to India to pick up a burden for the people of India they have put on the shelf for a long time. I believe for them it represents their current surrender to the Lord’s will for their lives – but surrendering to the Lord’s will doesn’t need to mean traveling to far away countries for all of us. It means serving Jesus right where you are. It’s a heart thing –not a location thing.
It’s not a vocation thing either. Matt and I have the privilege of pastoring this church, but it would be wrong to say we are the ones who are “called to the ministry”. No, we are all called to the ministry – Matt and I are called to pastor a bunch of ministers. That would actually be more accurate.
See there is a harmful view of ministry that looks at ministry as a position – and people can fall into the trap of valuing “ministry” but forgetting to value people. Ministry is all about people – it’s connecting people to Jesus. It’s feeding people with the word of God. It’s telling people about the good news of Jesus. And the greatest difference any of us can make in this world is influencing people toward Jesus Christ.
• We have a bunch of new moms in the church (and, happily we just added another to that number!) and moms, your life is filled with dirty diapers and midnight feedings and spitting up. It probably feels at times like your purpose in life is simply getting that burp up. That little boy or girl is a big part of the ministry God has given you. Not that you put everything else on hold til they leave for college, but you recognize how precious it is to minister to that little eternal soul you cradle in your arms.
That’s true wherever God has placed you. There is ministry there if there are people there. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, family – you name it. The thing is having a heart to share the gospel with those people and that will overflow from us when our hearts are surrendered to Jesus. Not just the big moments – most ministry takes place in the small, seemingly insignificant moments. Ordinary lives, ordinary days, ordinary events, used for eternally extraordinary purposes. And the key to unlock this life of service and ministry, I’m convinced, is surrender to Jesus Christ and His Lordship. Every day – increasingly yielded to His will and His purposes.
c. Surrender to Jesus is for all ages
You’re never too young to lay it all on the altar for God and say I want to serve Jesus with my life. Know what? Never too old either – God can use you at any age if your life is placed in His hands.
ILL: There are certain moments in my Christian journey that are fixed in my memory and one of those moments came when I was 16 years old. I was new in the Christian faith and very excited about Jesus, and I was riding my bike along one of the streets in Westhampton Beach, Long Island – to this day I remember the very spot where this happened – and I was filled with this desire to surrender my life to Jesus and His purposes and I prayed a prayer of surrender and offered my life to the Lord to use in any way He chose. If anyone was watching me ride down the road there wouldn’t have been anything unusual or special looking from the outside, but it was such a special moment to me that I clearly remember it now 34 years later.
What was filling my heart wasn’t obligation or resignation, it was a sense of love and devotion to Christ and excitement about what He might do with my life. I haven’t lived that prayer nearly as faithfully as I wish I had, but none of my regrets are over where I did surrender my life to the Lord’s service. The regrets are where I haven’t. And this morning my heart wants that prayer to characterize my life right now.
We serve a great Savior. He is also Lord of lords and King of heaven. We can't accept Jesus as Savior and not as Lord. He doesn't leave us that option. To believe in Christ as Savior is also to yield our lives to His Lordship. We do that imperfectly. But it should be our goal to yield our lives increasingly to His Lordship throughout our lives. What might the Lord do with your life if you laid it at the altar? How might the Lord use you if you left here with a fresh sense of surrender to the perfect purposes of Jesus? Are you ready to find out? Let’s pray.