The Greatest Life Ever Given

2 Cor 8:9

You know how full of love and kindness our Lord Jesus Christ was. Though he was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. (NLT)

This message was preached September 22, 2002 at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at toulonbaptist.com  

Last week we spoke on the greatest life ever lived. How that Jesus knew His purpose and lived it out. But not only did Jesus live His life, He also gave His life.

Now many people have lost their lives for very good causes, but Jesus more than lost His life. He gave His life.

John 10:15-18 15 "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. 17 "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father." (NKJ)

Do you get that? Jesus laid down His life. No one took it from Him, He laid it down.

For family devotions, Martin Luther once read the account of Abraham offering Isaac on the alter in Genesis 22. His wife, Katie, said, "I do not believe it. God would not have treated his son like that!" "But Katie," Luther replied. "He did." -- Roland Bainton in Here I Stand. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 5.

We marvel at the case of Abraham, we wonder if he would really go through with it. But then we do not question God. I think because we know the end of the story.

But in all reality God did just that. He sacrifices His Son on a cross. His Son willingly laid down His life rather than keep it.

Phil 2:5-8 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (NKJ)

He did that out of love. He died there because He is in love with you. It was the only way He could save you from your own rebellion.

Eph 5:2 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. (NKJ)

But His loss of life was not a senseless display of devotion. His death accomplishes a great deal in the lives of those who trust in Him.

Titus 2:14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right. (NLT)

Did you get that He died, gave His life in order to free us from every kind of sin. He died, laid down His life to cleanse us, to make us pure, to make us whole. And then He gave His life to make us His very own people. He purchased us, we are His in a very real sense. We are not our own we have been bought with a price. 1 Cor 6:19-20 and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. (NKJ)

For those of us who have claimed Jesus as our Savior, we also must be willing to lay down our lives as He did. I Jn 3:16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (NKJ)

Our notion of sacrifice is the wringing out of us something we don't want to give up, full of pain and agony and distress. The Bible idea of sacrifice is that I give as a love-gift the very best thing I have. Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) -Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entries 9761-9764.

In his book Written in Blood, Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The doctor had explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance for recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor.

"Would you give your blood to Mary?" the doctor asked.

Johnny hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said, "Sure, for my sister."

Soon the two children were wheeled into the hospital room--Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. Neither spoke, but when their met, Johnny grinned. As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny's smile faded. He watched the blood flow through the tube.

With the ordeal almost over, his voice slightly shaky, broke the silence. "Doctor, when do I die?" Only then did the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why his lip had trembled when he'd agreed to donate his blood. He'd thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life. In that brief moment, he'd made his great decision.

Johnny, fortunately, didn't have to die to save his sister. Each of us however, has a condition more serious than Mary's, and it required Jesus to give not just his blood, but his life. -- Thomas Lindberg, Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 1.

Ministry is giving when you feel like keeping, praying for others when you need to be prayed for, feeding others when your own soul is hungry, living truth before people even when you can't see results, hurting with other people even when your own hurt can't be spoken, keeping your word even when it is not convenient, it is being faithful when your flesh wants to run away. -- John A. Holt, Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 1.

In A Book of Saints, Anne Gordon tells the story of Father Maximilian Kolbe, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz in August 1941. A prisoner escaped from the camp, and in reprisal, the Nazis ordered that ten prisoners had to die by starvation. Father Kolbe offered to take the place of one of the condemned men. The Nazis kept Kolbe in the starvation bunker for two weeks and then put him to death by lethal injection on August 14, 1941.

Thirty years later a survivor of Auschwitz described the effect of Kolbe's action: "It was an enormous shock to the whole camp. We became aware that someone among us in this spiritual dark night of the soul was raising the standard of love on high. Someone unknown, like everyone else, tortured and bereft of name and social standing, went to a horrible death for the sake of someone not even related to him.

"Therefore it is not true, we cried, that humanity is cast down and trampled in the mud, overcome by oppressors, and overwhelmed by hopelessness. Thousands of prisoners were convinced the true world continued to exist and that our torturers would not be able to destroy it.

"To say that Father Kolbe died for us or for that person's family is too great a simplification. His death was the salvation of thousands. ... We were stunned by his act, which became for us a mighty explosion of light in the dark camp." -- Bill Norman, Markham, Ontario. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 2.

The most important thing my dad ever taught me is that there are more important things than me. -- John Ashcroft, United States senator. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2.

In the movie The Poseidon Adventure, the ocean liner S.S. Poseidon is on the open sea when it hits a huge storm. Lights go out, smoke pours into rooms and, amid all the confusion, the ship flips over.

Because of the air trapped inside the ocean liner, it floats upside down. But in the confusion, the passengers can't figure out what's going on. They scramble to get out, mostly by following the steps to the top deck. The problem is, the top deck is now 100 feet under water. In trying to get to the top of the ship, they drown.

The only survivors are the few who do what doesn't make sense. They do the opposite of what everyone else is doing and climb up into the dark belly of the ship until they reach the hull. Rescuers hear them banging and cut them free.

In life, it's as if God has turned the ship over and the only way for us to find freedom is to choose what doesn't make sense: lay down our lives by serving, supporting, and sacrificing for others. -- Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2.

# One of the schemes that lay nearest to Paul's heart was the collection that he was organizing for the Church of Jerusalem. This was the Mother Church but she was poor, and it was Paul's desire that all the Gentiles' Churches should remember and help that Church which was their mother in the faith. So here he reminds the Corinthians of their duty and urges them to generosity.

# He uses five arguments to appeal to them to give worthily.

# (i) He cites the example of others. He tells them how generous the Macedonian Churches had been. They were poor and in trouble but they gave all they had, far more than anyone could have expected. At the Jewish Feast of Purim there is a regulation which says that, however poor a man is, he must find someone poorer than himself and give him a gift. It is not always those who are most wealthy who are most generous; often those who have least to give are the most ready to give. As the common saying has it, "It is the poor who help the poor," because they know what poverty is like.

# (ii) He cites the example of Jesus Christ. For Paul the sacrifice of Jesus did not begin on the Cross. It did not even begin with his birth. It began in heaven, when he laid his glory by and consented to come to earth. Paul's challenge to the Christian is, "With that tremendous example of generosity before you, how can you hold back?"

# (iii) He cites their own past record. They have been foremost in everything. Can they then lag behind in this? If men were only true to their own highest standards, if we all lived always at our best, what a difference it would make!

# (iv) He stresses the necessity of putting fine feeling into fine action. The Corinthians had been the first to feel the appeal of this scheme. But a feeling which remains only a feeling, a pity which remains a pity only of the heart, a fine desire that never turns into a fine deed, is a sadly truncated and frustrated thing. The tragedy of life so often is, not that we have no high impulses, but that we fail to turn them into actions.

# (v) He reminds them that life has a strange way of evening things up. Far more often than not we find that it is measured to us with the same measure as we measure to others. Life has a way of repaying bounty with bounty, and the sparing spirit with the sparing spirit.

# Paul says a very fine thing about the Macedonians. He says that first of all they gave themselves--and so indeed they did. Two of them stand out above all the others. There was Aristarchus of Thessalonica. He was with Paul on the last journey to Rome (Ac.28:2). Like Luke, he must have come to a great decision. Paul was under arrest and on his way to trial before the Emperor. There was only one way in which Aristarchus could have accompanied him, and that was by enrolling himself as Paul's slave. Aristarchus in the fullest sense gave himself. There was Epaphroditus. When Paul was in prison in the later days, he came to him with a gift from Philippi, and there in prison he fell grievously ill. As Paul said of him, "he nearly died for the work of Christ" (Php.2:26-30).

# No gift can be in any real sense a gift unless the giver gives with it a bit of himself. That is why personal giving is always the highest kind, and that is the kind of giving of which Jesus Christ is the supreme example.

John Griffith grew up with one dream in his heart--a dream of travel. He wanted to travel to faraway places and see exotic sights. Those strange-sounding names of strange-sounding lands--that's what he dreamt about and read about. That was his whole consuming passion of life. But that dream crashed with the stock market in 1929.

The Great Depression settled like a funeral cloak upon the land. Oklahoma, his native state, was turned into a swirling dust bowl by the dry winds, and his dreams were swept away with the wind. So he packed up his wife, his tiny baby boy, and their few meager belongings in an old car and drove away to find greener pastures. He thought he might have discovered those on the edge of the Mississippi, where he got a job caring for one of those great, huge railroad bridges that cross the mighty Mississippi.

It was in 1937, Dennis Hensley tells us, when this true story took place. For the first time, he brought his 8-year-old son, Greg Griffith, to work with him to see what Daddy did all day. The little boy was wide-eyed with excitement, and he clapped his hands with glee when the huge bridge went up at the beck and call of his mighty father. He watched with wonderment as the huge boats steamed down the Mississippi.

Twelve o'clock came, and his father put up the bridge. There were no trains due for a good while, and they went out a couple of hundred feet on a catwalk out over the river to an observation deck. They sat down, opened their brown bag, and began to eat their lunch. His father told him about some of the strange, faraway lands that some of these ships were going to visit. This entranced the boy.

The time whirled by, and suddenly they were drawn instantly back to reality by the shrieking of a distant train whistle. John Griffith quickly looked at his watch. He saw that it was time for the 1:07, the Memphis Express, with 400 passengers, which would be rushing across that bridge in just a couple of minutes. He knew he had just enough time, so without panic but with alacrity he told his son to stay where he was.

He leaped to his feet, jumped to the catwalk, ran back, climbed the ladder to the control room, went in, put his hand on the huge lever that controlled the bridge, looked up the river and down to see if any boats were coming, as was his custom, and then looked down to see if there were any beneath the bridge. And suddenly he saw a sight that froze his blood and caused his heart to leap into his throat. His boy! His boy had tried to follow him to the control room and had fallen into the great, huge gear box that had the monstrous gears that operated this massive bridge. His left leg was caught between the two main gears, and the father knew that as sure as the sun came up in the morning, if he pushed that lever his son would be ground in the midst of eight tons of whining, grinding steel.

His eyes filled with tears of panic. His mind whirled. What could he do? He saw a rope there in the control room. He could rush down the ladder and out the catwalk, tie off the rope, lower himself down, extricate his son, climb back up the rope, run back into the control room, and lower the bridge. No sooner had his mind done that exercise than he knew--he knew there wasn't time. He'd never make it, and there were 400 people on that train.

Suddenly he heard the whistle again, this time startlingly closer. And he could hear the clicking of the locomotive wheels on the track, and he could hear the rapid puffing of the train. What could he do? What could he do! There were 400 people, but this was ... this was his son, this was his only son. He was a father! He knew what he had to do, so he buried his head in his arm and he pushed the gear forward.

The great bridge slowly lowered into place just as the express train roared across. He lifted up his tear-smeared face and looked straight into the flashing windows of that train as they flashed by one after another. He saw men reading the afternoon paper, a conductor in uniform looking at a large vest-pocket watch, ladies sipping tea out of teacups, and little children pushing long spoons into plates of ice cream. Nobody looked in the control room. Nobody looked at his tears. Nobody, nobody looked down to the great gear box.

In heart-wrenching agony, he beat against the window of the control room, and he said, "What's wrong with you people? Don't you care? I sacrificed my son for you. Don't any of you care?" Nobody looked. Nobody heard. Nobody heeded. And the train disappeared across the river. -- D. James Kennedy, "Message from an Empty Tomb," Preaching Today, Tape No. 66.

Our notion of sacrifice is the wringing out of us something we don't want to give up, full of pain and agony and distress. The Bible idea of sacrifice is that I give as a love-gift the very best thing I have. Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) -Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entries 9761-9764.

In A Book of Saints, Anne Gordon tells the story of Father Maximilian Kolbe, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz in August 1941. A prisoner escaped from the camp, and in reprisal, the Nazis ordered that ten prisoners had to die by starvation. Father Kolbe offered to take the place of one of the condemned men. The Nazis kept Kolbe in the starvation bunker for two weeks and then put him to death by lethal injection on August 14, 1941.

Thirty years later a survivor of Auschwitz described the effect of Kolbe's action: "It was an enormous shock to the whole camp. We became aware that someone among us in this spiritual dark night of the soul was raising the standard of love on high. Someone unknown, like everyone else, tortured and bereft of name and social standing, went to a horrible death for the sake of someone not even related to him.

"Therefore it is not true, we cried, that humanity is cast down and trampled in the mud, overcome by oppressors, and overwhelmed by hopelessness. Thousands of prisoners were convinced the true world continued to exist and that our torturers would not be able to destroy it.

"To say that Father Kolbe died for us or for that person's family is too great a simplification. His death was the salvation of thousands. ... We were stunned by his act, which became for us a mighty explosion of light in the dark camp." -- Bill Norman, Markham, Ontario. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 2.

The most important thing my dad ever taught me is that there are more important things than me. -- John Ashcroft, United States senator. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2.

In the movie The Poseidon Adventure, the ocean liner S.S. Poseidon is on the open sea when it hits a huge storm. Lights go out, smoke pours into rooms and, amid all the confusion, the ship flips over.

Because of the air trapped inside the ocean liner, it floats upside down. But in the confusion, the passengers can't figure out what's going on. They scramble to get out, mostly by following the steps to the top deck. The problem is, the top deck is now 100 feet under water. In trying to get to the top of the ship, they drown.

The only survivors are the few who do what doesn't make sense. They do the opposite of what everyone else is doing and climb up into the dark belly of the ship until they reach the hull. Rescuers hear them banging and cut them free.

In life, it's as if God has turned the ship over and the only way for us to find freedom is to choose what doesn't make sense: lay down our lives by serving, supporting, and sacrificing for others. -- Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2. John Griffith