The Benefits of Self-Sacrifice
Text: Colossians 1:9-14 & 1 John 3.16-24
Remembrance Day, 2018
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
During the Second World War, Rev. George Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Father John Washington, and Rev. Clark Poling were chaplains stationed aboard troop transport ship The Dorchester. The ship was struck by an enemy torpedo off the coast of Newfoundland. Panic set in among the men on board, as many of them were trapped below deck. The four chaplains quickly rallied together and began to calm the men and organize an orderly evacuation of the ship. The supply of life jackets ran out. So, the chaplains took off their own life jackets and gave them to others. They helped as many men as they could into lifeboats, and then linked arms and, saying prayers and singing hymns, went down with the ship. The chaplains were last seen praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could but they did not have a chance without their life jackets. These four chaplains sacrificed themselves, so that others could live.
I. We should lay down our lives for one another
Today is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. All across Canada people will be taking time to think about the self-sacrifice of those who fought for this country. Self-Sacrifice involves giving something up with no thought of yourself. Many brave men and women have sacrificed their lives for the freedoms we enjoy in Canada. The idea of self-sacrifice can be hard for us to put into action in our daily lives because we much prefer self-indulgence, self-promotion, self-interest, or self-gratification. However, a big part Christianity is the self-sacrificial commitment to the good of the other.
Life in Christian community is not just a social club of people who share friendly words and similar interests. Paul in our Epistle says that we are “to lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work.” (v. 10) What kind of lives are worthy? The Apostle John in his First letter tells us just what kind of lives we are to lead, “We know love by this, that [Christ] laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” Our life together as Christians is built on a self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice should be ordinary for us, not extraordinary. Sometimes self-sacrifice can mean physical death. That’s the penetrating question you must ask yourself. Are you willing to die for another member of this congregation? Even those you dislike? Normally, we do not have to die for one another. But the principle is the same. Self-sacrifice can mean any number of ways in which you lay aside your claim to own your life.
We are called to share our lives with each other in concrete and particular ways. Do you put others first? Are you actively seeking for the good of others? Have you got time for other? We need to look for ways we can help with the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters! Make time to visit or call our shut-ins. Make a dish for a family you know is struggling. When there is a visible need to be met that would require some sacrifice from you, do you consider the needs of your brothers above your own? Christianity is not a religion for the lazy. Love is far more about doing than about talking. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave up his very life for you, and so you should be ready and willing to give of yourself for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Doing good works in self-sacrificial love for your neighbour does not earn you brownie points from God. If you go to the grocery store, and get some grapes, and then bring that bag of grapes out to your back yard and staple the grapes on the dead-vine, you don’t have a living, fruit-producing vine. The fruit will rot because there is no source of life. Good works done in self-sacrificial love for your neighbour are done because of the self-sacrificial love of Jesus. Just like branches receive life from the vine and as a result bear fruit, so too we receive spiritual life this union with Christ, and the result is that we love our brothers and sisters. God dwells in you in a mysterious way, and also dwells in your fellow Christian. That means when you are loving and serving your brothers and sisters in this congregation, you are loving and serving Christ in them.
II. Redeemed by Christ’s Self-Sacrifice
As we think this day about the victory allied forces won in the Great War 100 years ago, and all the brave men who sacrificed their lives for King and country, we should remember a far greater war. There are two kingdoms engaged in bitter warfare. One the one hand, you have the kingdom of the Devil. On the other hand, you have the Kingdom of God. There are no other kingdoms, nor any neutral territories. All who are outside the Kingdom of God are under the dominion of Satan. When we were created by God, we received all kinds of good things from him. The Devil came, and led us into rebellion, disobedience, sin, death, and all evil. (LC II,28). So, this war isn’t over land or power, it’s over souls!
Paul wrote in our Epistle, “God has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (v. 13) God put his money where his mouth is. Without any thought about himself, Jesus Christ laid down his life for you. He was committed to your good instead of preserving his own life. Upon the Cross of Calvary Christ defeated the powers of darkness which had enslaved you. Our Lord’s self-sacrifice liberates you. It frees you from realm of Satan, Sin, and Death. In this war, the Devil was defeated by the blood of the slain lamb. Through Holy Baptism you have been brought into Christ’s kingdom. When you eat the true Body and Blood in the Supper your sins are forgiven. Through these means the victory achieved by Christ’s self-sacrifice is given to you.
In our interactions with one another we realize that most of the time we are more concerned about ourselves than about others. Jiminy Cricket told Pinocchio, “Always let your conscience be your guide.” Many times our conscience isn’t our guide, and can accuses us. Have you ever felt that things are not going to go well for you on judgment day? Ever hear someone say—or perhaps you’ve thought it yourself—I’m too much of a sinner, I’m too far gone. If you focus on how much you mess up, you could end up viewing God as an angry judge, ready to throw you to the worms.
Don’t be fooled. Your status with God is not based on what you do. It is entirely based upon Jesus Christ who sacrificed his life. If you are a failure in your own eyes, take courage! Despite your failures, God is not angry with you because your guilt has been dealt with. Jesus Christ has redeemed you, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom. You can go to judgment day with a clean conscience. You have access to God himself. You can go to God in prayer trusting and knowing that God loves you and wants good things for you.
Because Christ sacrificed his life for us, we should sacrifice for each other. Because Christ has given himself to us, we should give ourselves to each other—particularly by caring for those in need. Because of Christ’s bloody death, Christ has won the ultimate victory over Satan, Sin, and Death. Through that same self-sacrifice of Christ, God himself comes to dwell in us and all Christians through faith. Just like the branches receive life and nourishment from the vine, we now receive the life and nourishment in the Lord’s Supper, which Christ, our Good Shepherd offers to us, His beloved sheep.