Bethel Baptist Church

"For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:36

Pastor Cosand: September 2018

a call to systematic Bible reading

Each September the people of our fellowship are encouraged to begin, again, reading through the Bible in one year. Bible reading schedules are available in our foyer. We start in Genesis every September and end in Revelation every August. To read with any regularity takes no small amount of discipline, but the benefits to soul and life far outweigh the sacrifice. The Christian life, if it is anything, is a life of discipline. The call of the gospel of Jesus Christ has radical, far-reaching implications. We know the verses that tell us that Christ demands our all, but we often do not take them to heart. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Lk 9:23,24). “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Lk 14:26,27). “And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell” (Mt 18:8,9).

We sing "Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee." We know that Jesus requires of us commitment, but all too often the idea is just a word and we don’t stop to think about the day-to-day implications of our allegiance to Christ and the totality of what He calls us to do, in our living, if we want to follow Him.

The story of David in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 is an encouragement to us to be sacrificially disciplined. It is the story of David's worshipping God in offering sacrifices. God's judgment came to Israel in the form of a plague and 70,000 Israelites died (2 Sam 24:15; 1 Chr 21:14). To end the pestilence, the prophet Gad came to David with a command from the Lord. David was to go to a certain place, build an altar, and make a sacrifice. God told David, through Gad, that the place for this sacrifice would be the threshing floor of a certain Ornan. Ornan not only respected the king, he had a reverent fear of the Lord and he made a generous offer. “Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all" (1 Chr 21:23).

It may sound like a wonderful windfall to us. Ornan was offering is exactly what God required of David and it would not cost him a thing. Ornan was perfectly willing to give his field to David, plus the animals for the sacrifice and stones to construct an altar. David could even use the wood from the threshing sledges and the yoke of the oxen for wood for the fire. In addition, there was wheat to make a grain offering. In such a situation, we might be prone to say, "Isn’t it wonderful how the Lord provides what He requires." But that was not David’s response. Instead he said, "No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing" (1 Chr 21:24).

David was unwilling to offer to the Lord something which took no toll on himself personally. There would be no sacrifice on David’s part if he accepted Ornan’s offer. He insisted that he purchase the field from Ornan and for the full price … 600 shekels of gold (or about 300 ounces). It was a considerable amount of money, just like 300 ounces of gold would be today.

David's statement is a bone-jarring exhortation. When we hear David say, "I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing" we should immediately think about our sacrifice, or perhaps our lack of sacrifice, for God’s kingdom. We often give to God the bits and pieces of our lives, instead of being so consumed with our salvation in Christ and His call for us to lay down our life for Him. We have the tendency to attend church meetings only when it is convenient. We give to God the spare moments of our time for prayer and Bible reading. We usually give our money to God’s work as long as we don’t have to sacrifice anything we want to buy.

Of course, we do not earn heaven by our sacrifice, but the call of Christ is a call for us to lay down our life for His name. "Deny yourself … take up your cross … put your hand to the plow and do not look back … suffer hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." The call of Christ is not a call to ease, it is a call to self denial and discipline and hardship in a world hostile to the name Jesus.

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Cor 4:17,18).

Beloved, we cannot keep our earthly life. We can only expend it. And we will expend it for something. Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Do not give to the Lord that which costs you nothing. Bits and pieces of leftover time do not honor Him. Regular Bible reading is one way of sacrificially using our time and energy to seek God with passion and delight.

With hand to the plow,
Pastor Cosand