Colossians 1:18g

The Preeminence of Christ:

The Altar


Presenting a Sacrifice (Rom. 12:1)

The term “present”: lit = to place beside; to place a person or thing at one’s disposal.
· Luke 2:22 – It was used of Jesus offered to the Lord as a baby.
· Acts 23:33 – It was used of Paul being presented before the governor.
· II Cor. 11:2 – for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
· Acts 9:41 – he raised her and “presented” her alive.
· Col. 1:28 – that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus

a. Infinitive: it is an infinitive, but used as an imperative
• I beseech you to present…
• This makes it clear that it is OUR responsibility to do the presenting!
• We have to CHOOSE to present our bodies a living sacrifice.
• This is not optional. It is a command.
• The fact that it is a command also reveals that NOT every believer will always obey this command.
• In a sense, when we were saved, we were made a priest unto the Lord. And at that time we were consecrated to God and God’s service positionally. We ARE priests.
• This is a command to ACT upon our position… to PRESENT our bodies as a living sacrifice… consecrated to the Lord’s service.

b. Aorist: does not indicate that it is to be done once for all, but indicates that this is to be done decisively. (Do it!)
• Some have gone overboard on the interpretation of the tense here and have assumed that this “presenting of self” to God is a once for all act.
• They speak of it as a crisis point in life.
• It may well BE that it takes a crisis to get us to turn self over to God. (A good kick in the rear!)
• But the aorist does not demand that meaning. It just speaks of the action as a “do it.” Do it… and do it decisively!
• We should present our bodies on the altar with the INTENT of leaving it there… but we are aware of human nature as well.
• We know that our old nature can creep in and exert itself… and inserting self will at any moment…
• Nevertheless, when we put our all on the altar, we are to do so decisively—and MEAN it…

2. Presenting our BODY…

a. Paul uses the language of priesthood here.
• I Pet. 2:5 – As a Christian, we are priests…who are to offer up spiritual sacrifices… living sacrifices.
• This priesthood consists of ALL that are born again; male; female; young; old; mature; immature;
• God EXPECTS sacrifices from His priests.
• There are several types of spiritual sacrifices mentioned in Scripture: fruit of our lips; testimony; praise; our finances; our talents; our service.

b. Rom. 12:1 speaks of ONE particular kind of sacrifice: SELF.
• As a priest, we are to present or to OFFER a sacrifice to God.
• The sacrifice is our BODY.
• By presenting our BODY a living sacrifice, we are obviously presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice… we are presenting the person IN the body!
• Presenting the BODY means we are presenting to God the vessel in which our entire life is lived.
• In one sense, it is no great sacrifice on our part. The Lord has REDEEMED us and already OWNS our bodies. Offering it up to Him is an expression of faith… an acknowledgement that we BELIEVE that we are God’s possession and that He has a RIGHT to our all.
• This is the MOST BASIC and fundamental sacrifice we offer as a priest… without which, no other sacrifice is ever acceptable… no matter how big a sacrifice; no matter how costly.
• II Cor. 8:5 – the gift that the Macedonians gave to the poor saints was pleasing to God because the Macedonians “first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”
• Without having given themselves to the Lord, their money would not have been acceptable to the Lord.
• Without having given themselves, they probably would not have GIVEN so generously to the poor saints in Jerusalem.

c. In this illustration, Paul views the believer as both the priest (the one making the offering) and the sacrifice itself: WE offer SELF to God.
• The cost of this sacrifice is substantial: we offer ourselves… all we are and all have… the entirety of our being.
• In doing so, we are simply acknowledging by faith what we know to be true… we belong to the Lord and we are not our own, we were redeemed! We are His purchased possession.
• Just as when a man puts his head in a yoke, there is a cost, so too when presenting our bodies as a sacrifice—there is a cost involved.
• Even though we are offering to God what is His anyway… it still involves a cost on our part…

3. Presenting our bodies to God is an act of our will.

a. This is NOT automatic in the Christian life.
• And not every believer is willing to make this choice…
• Some are willing to put ALMOST their all on the altar…
• Others will put a substantial part of their lives on the altar
• And we try to convince ourselves that we have been obedient… or NEARLY obedient… (Samuel; Agag; Saul)

b. Only the Holy Spirit can produce a Christ-centered life and reproduce the life of Christ in us.

c. However, there is a pre-requisite to being filled with the Spirit: yieldedness!
• Andrew Murray called this absolute surrender!
• Jesus referred to it as submitting to His yoke.
• Paul uses another illustration to teach a similar truth: presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.

d. By presenting our bodies on the altar of sacrifice, we are CHOOSING to yield EVERYTHING over to the Lord.

e. By presenting our bodies on the altar of sacrifice, we are removing the only OBSTACLE to a Christ centered life: SELF.

f. It is our responsibility as a believer-priest to YIELD self to God by presenting our bodies a living sacrifice.

4. Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice to God is a FREEWILL offering.

a. It is of no value unless it is offered freely and willingly… as an act of LOVE to God.
• Not only are we priests offering sacrifices to our Great High Priest…
• But we are also the church… the bride… offering up our love to Christ – the bridegroom.
• To do so out of a sense of duty, obligation, or compulsion destroys the NATURE of the offering. It loses its value to God.

b. You cannot FORCE someone into making a freewill offering… the two concepts are contradictory.
• Hence, Paul is careful in his wording here.
• “I beseech you by the mercies of God!”
• He pleads with them on the basis of God’s mercy AND on the basis of its “reasonableness.”

c. You cannot FORCE someone into making a LOVE offering.
• If it’s forced, it’s not love.
• The law can make demands from without.
• But it is the LOVE of Christ that constrains us from within.
• Offering ourselves to God ought to be a freewill act of love… therein lies its value to God.

d. It is a heavy burden and painful to be FORCED into putting an area of our life on the altar…
• When this occurs, the offering isn’t given freely… it isn’t given out of love… and it isn’t done out of personal conviction. It is FORCED…

e. This sort of thing occurs all the time in Christendom—and with the very best of intentions.
• It is the quickest way to make changes in people’s lives: demand it! Make it a rule! Law! Do or die. Conform or else.
• Christians universally recognize that our lives need to change… that we need to be obedient and submissive to Christ.
• But HOW to perform it—that understanding is not universal.
• Some men out of frustration beat on the pulpit, and scream—hoping that their zeal and fervor will cause people to surrender.
• Some groups put peer pressure on folks… put guilt trips on people… some constantly berate those who do or don’t… (don’t do this; this is worldly; this is carnal; etc.)
• But when the pulpit is constantly hammering away at issues, it comes across to the people like LAW… and is often obeyed like LAW… even if that was not the intent.
• The best way to convince believers to submit to Christ’s yoke is to cause them to fall in love with Christ!
• The best way to convince believers to put their all on the altar is to demonstrate the DELIGHT this brings to Christ, our Great High Priest!
• The best way to convince the church to obey Christ is to get them to KNOW HIM… for the better we know Him, the more LOVE we will have for Him…
• The best way to produce submission to Christ is to learn to DELIGHT ourselves in the Lord… then submitting to His yoke is easy… putting our all on the altar is a reasonable sacrifice…
• God’s love and grace constrains us to do that which the law could NEVER do: willingly, lovingly SUBMIT… yield… present our bodies as a living sacrifice.

A Living Sacrifice

1. A sacrifice is SLAIN… dead. Presenting our bodies to God is an END of SELF.

a. Animal sacrifices were slain before they were offered to God.

b. The dumb animal was led away to the slaughter, unaware of what was about to transpire.

c. It was killed and then offered up to God.

d. As believers, if Christ is to have preeminence in our lives, presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice is a prerequisite.

e. And since we are both the priest and the offering, we are to offer ourselves as a sacrifice willingly and freely…

f. God shouldn’t have to drag us to that altar… led to the slaughter.

g. It is an act of our will… a choice we must make. Will I put my head in Christ’s yoke, or not? Will I present my body a living sacrifice to Him or not? Am I willing to come to an end of self or not? Will I yield to the preeminence of Christ… or will I refuse to yield?

h. This will be tested COUNTLESS times in our lives… life is one continuous test… in which our willingness to yield to God… to keep self on the cross crucified by faith… is TESTED.

i. The various areas where we might fail are only the symptoms. (smoking; drinking; pornography; gambling; greed; stealing; etc.)

j. The disease is SELF-will, opposing or ignoring the will of God.

k. God’s method of dealing with the self-life is DEATH… a sacrifice of my body and the old man in it—slain and placed on the altar.

2. Offering a sacrifice…

a. A sacrifice is offered in its entirety. We can’t offer ½ of self to God… We can’t offer our bodies… everything except our eyes… or hands…

b. The sacrifice is HOLY… dedicated to God and God’s service; a life set-apart unto God; a sacred vessel; the body is a sacred temple… no more secular, but holy…

c. Once offered, all rights and claims to that sacrifice are released forever.

d. Isaac is a good illustration of what it means to be a “living sacrifice.” He willingly put himself upon the altar; and when he climbed off the altar, he was a living sacrifice—willing to surrender his all—even unto death.

e. We sing the songs, “Is Your ALL on the Altar of Sacrifice Slain?” or “I Surrender All.” Easy to sing; not so easy to live.

f. Not until we are ready to put our ALL on the altar can we say that Christ has preeminence in our lives.

g. If we are holding back, then SELF is still reigning… self is preeminent.

h. And it is impossible to have TWO preeminent persons in our lives. You can’t have TWO masters.

3. Rom. 6:13 – the word YIELD is the same word as PRESENT in 12:1. (However, there are a couple of minor differences…)

a. That which is yielded/presented…
• This yielding/presenting is exactly the same concept as in chapter 12, but practiced on a different scale.
• 12:1 – present your BODY
• 6:13 – We are to yield our individual members to God…
• The believer who presents his body to God as a living sacrifice today may discover tomorrow that his “hand” has wiggled down off that altar… and needs to be YIELDED all over again to the Lord’s service.
• The believer who has presented his body a living sacrifice may discover that a month later his “eyes” have begun watching things that they ought not… and need to be yielded all over again to the Lord.
• We may present our bodies—our all—to the Lord today… and perhaps down the road a bit, the Lord will reveal to us through His word that there is another area of our lives that perhaps we never thought of yielding to the Lord… and once the Lord shines His light upon it – it too needs to be yielded.

b. The Tenses…
• 12:1 – present your BODY… (aorist) (dot – action)
• One other difference is that 6:13 is a present imperative… speaks of continual action.
• This is NOT something we do ONCE in an altar call or at a crisis point in our lives.
• This is to be an ongoing attitude of yieldedness… something we have to deal with every single day for the rest of our lives!
• We are to present our bodies and all we are to God decisively.
• And if a hand tries to drag itself off that altar—yield that hand to God—again and again if need be.
• This is the real struggle of the Christian life. MAINTAINING this attitude of selfless… yieldedness… surrender to God and His will.
• This is a moment-by-moment responsibility… continually yielding our lives and every aspect of our lives over to God.
• And this is not a matter of personal willpower either. It is a matter of FAITH… reckoning self to be DEAD unto sin and self, and yet ALIVE unto God.
• This is a matter of BELIEVING God… who said that our old man is dead… and that we no longer HAVE to give self the preeminence in our lives… and believing that we are ABLE to lead a new kind of life—walk in newness of life—a life wherein Christ has all the preeminence—and where HIS will is paramount…
• This is a life where we no longer live unto ourselves, but unto him which died for us, and rose again.”
• This sacrifice is dead but alive; a LIVING sacrifice.

4. Not until we are ready to put our all on the altar…including each and every member of our body… as slain… dead…get self out of the way… are we going to be filled with the Spirit… and thus filled with a Christ centered life.

a. The Spirit can’t fill us when we are already full of self.

b. If we are holding back from God—in ANYTHING… unwilling to yield… surrender… present our body as a living sacrifice, then we are living a self-centered life… the flesh and not the Spirit.

c. And no matter how well we dress up the flesh, it is ALWAYS contrary to the Spirit…

d. Christ does NOT have preeminence where the flesh reigns.

e. Putting our all on the altar is an act of the will, and is also a prerequisite to a Christ centered life.

5. And what is OUR responsibility?

a. To get self out of the way BY FAITH… and keep him out of the way… by faith.

b. This is ALWAYS the method God’s Word conveys as the way for Christ to have the preeminence.

c. Whether it is conveyed in the illustration of the yoke, the altar, reckoning self to be dead; presenting our body, yielding our members… the bottom line is always the same.
• When it comes to living a Christ-centered life… where Christ has the preeminence… the problem is always the same: ME!
• And God’s answer is always the same too: the cross… death… and end of our old self-life…

d. And oh, how our old self hates the cross.

e. But when we do decide to put our old self-life on the cross by faith… the hindrance is removed.

f. THEN God’s Holy Spirit fills us with His power and He reproduces the sweet character of Christ in our lives… more and more Christ is formed in us… and more and more HE has the preeminence… unto His glory.

6. In the practical sense, this requires some difficult choices in life…

a. Are you willing to put all of your TIME on the altar… for the use of God as HE sees fit? Can we surrender our time to the Lord… that He might function as LORD of our time?

b. Are we willing to reckon ourselves to be DEAD with respect to ENTERTAINMENT? Are we willing to bow in absolute surrender to Him in this area? (What we watch; read; listen to; participate in…) Are we willing to abandon anything He makes clear is displeasing to Him?

c. Are we willing to put our CLOTHES on the altar?

d. Are we willing to submit to His yoke when it comes to the use of our FINANCES? Are we willing to give Him authority over it all? Remember, He said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

e. Are we willing to place our FAMILY on the altar of sacrifice to God? Remember, He said, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”

f. Are we willing to put our MUSIC on the altar?

g. Are we willing to put our CAREER on the altar?

h. We can make all kinds of promises to God; we can claim that He is Lord in all things… that He has the preeminence. We could even have an altar call for folks to publicly declare it so… but that does not MAKE it so.

i. Time will tell. God will reveal to us who really has preeminence in our lives. God will put all of our claims to the TEST… one by one… to give us opportunity to PROVE our love to Him… to PROVE whether we are surrendered to the perfect will of God… or whether we are still living in self will.
• I don’t consider this to occur as a once for all crisis experience. Rather, we ought to put our all on the altar every day… sometimes moment by moment.
• Once for all would be great, but it doesn’t work that way.
• We vacillate in our willingness to allow Christ to have the preeminence in our lives. Yielded one moment; rebelling the next. Experientially, we all know whereof I speak.
• Maintaining this attitude of surrender… yieldedness… submission to His will… keeping the old self life on the cross… and trusting our all to His care is the struggle of our lives as Christians.
• Don’t be so arrogant as to say, “Oh, I’ve done that. I walked the aisle at a revival service. I already committed my life to Christ. He already has preeminence in my life.”
• The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. We may honestly put our head in His yoke and genuinely INTEND to keep it there… and then a moment later in a spirit of rebellion, raise up our neck in rebellion against Christ’s authority… and walk in our own way. Don’t think it can’t happen to you.
• Just like when we sin, we are to keep on confessing our sins—for the rest of our earthly sojourn.
• So too when it comes to submission to Christ as Lord and giving Him first place in our lives… we have to acknowledge this every morning when we get up… and perhaps yield and re-yield throughout the day.

j. Deep down inside, we all know who is preeminent in our lives at any given moment.

k. Spiritual growth… growing up in Him occurs this way: He increases and we decrease. His preeminence in our lives becomes more and more evident… and self diminishes… and that too becomes more evident.

l. We all go back and forth in this area. But spiritual growth occurs when those flips and flops between self and Christ occur less and less frequently… with longer gaps in between.

m. We will never reach perfection in this life, but we should be STRIVING to reach the mark… where more and more, Christ has preeminence in our lives.

n. Are you making progress in this area?

o. Maybe some folks here need to do some business with God today… you know what needs to go… and what needs to be added. There is no better teacher in this realm than the Holy Spirit.

p. If self has been on the throne for a while… then there is no better time than NOW to make some changes… put your head in His yoke… present your body as a living sacrifice… yield your members. You choose the illustration, just DO IT!

The Goal of Presenting Our Bodies

1. The GOAL of presenting our bodies is NOT external conformity.

a. This is the world’s way of dealing with the flesh.

b. This is also religion’s way of dealing with the flesh.

c. The world has its “norms of behavior” and religion also has its “accepted standards of behavior.”

d. Men make up the rules… and then attempt to conform human behavior to those rules.

e. This is called behavior modification.
• A smoker learns to stop smoking; an adulterer stops committing adultery; a thief stops stealing; a liar stops lying; and a curser stops cursing.
• They successfully conformed that person to an acceptable code of behavior.
• When that occurs, the world and its religions say, “Isn’t this great! Mission accomplished!”
• On a human level, and on an earthly level, that is quite an improvement.

f. But Paul’s point is that this kind of outward conformity is NOT what God is after. This is NOT Christianity.
• But it IS the way the world works. And the world and its religious systems are often quite successful in accomplishing their goals.

g. There are lots of effective ways to outwardly conform to a code of behavior.
• Hypnosis has been effective in getting smokers to stop smoking.
• Fund raising schemes are effective in getting church folks to give more money.
• The peer pressure of an Amish colony can cause young people to conform to their standards of dress.
• Hiring Michael Jordan to speak at school to encourage kids to stay off drugs could be quite effective too.
• Cutting off hands has been a successful way of dealing with thieves in Saudi Arabia.

h. The world and its religions deal with the problem of the flesh by various means… and their goal is outward conformity to their ways.
• When a person has conformed to their ways, they view that as success.
• They are often successful in reaching their goal.
• But “outwardly conforming” is NOT the goal of God.
• It is possible that the smoker stops smoking, the adulterer stops committing adultery, and the thief stops stealing… and the real issue has never been addressed: the heart!
• Cf. Matt. 23:25-26—outwardly conformed—but NOT inwardly transformed!
• The world’s way is to DOTE over the externals… and when all LOOKS clean on the outside—to pat itself on the back for a job well done.
• BUT – when the outside has been conformed to a man made standard… and the person was quite successful in cleaning up the outside of the cup, the REAL problem has not only NOT been dealt with… in fact, the REAL problem has been exacerbated.
• The real problem is SELF is ruling.
• SELF does have the capacity to reform… to clean the outside of the cup… to put up a good front… and then to GLOAT over how shiny the cup is.
• But SELF is still reigning… the flesh loves to DO and then GLORY in what it did!
• This is being CONFORMED to the world. The world looks on and is always flattered by what the flesh can do without God.

i. But God is never pleased with what the flesh can do.
• The flesh is nauseating to God.
• God is not impressed with outward conformity.
• Outward conformity often serves to merely COVER UP the deeper, inward problem: dead man’s bones!
• Outward conformity is worldly because it seeks to impress men… and puts on a good show… but is impotent to deal with that which is VITAL: the heart!
• The world and the flesh make valiant efforts to conform us to better standards… but it exacerbates the real problem because it only intensifies the self-life… it is SELF help… SELF-improvement… improving SELF’s quality of life…
• SELF is still very much in control. Christ does not have the preeminence in any of this.
• It is impossible to improve the moral quality of one’s life; to improve the quality of one’s life; to cease from many bad habits; and STILL be an ungodly, proud, self-righteous, rebel against a holy God… a person who exalts self…

2. The goal of presenting our bodies is internal transformation.

a. God’s goal for us as His children is quite different.

b. God’s goal for our lives is not external conformation, but internal transformation.

c. This kind of transformation is a supernatural work. It is God working IN us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
• Transformation stands in contrast to conforming.
• Transformed: present; passive; imperative
• God does it; (passive)
• But it happens BY MEANS OF the renewing of our minds. God does that too… but the means He uses is His Word… and it is OUR responsibility to fill our minds with Christ and His Word and His glory.
• Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into that same image. (same word as transformed!)

d. God wants SELF placed on the altar… a slain sacrifice… out of the way SO THAT the Spirit of God has liberty to begin His inward work of transformation.

e. Until the self-life is dealt with properly, God’s Spirit is not at liberty to transform us.
• God’s method of dealing with the self-life is not to dress it up… reform it… improve it… fix it… or bring culture, religion, and sophistication to it.
• God’s method is to crucify it! The cross!
» This is the ONLY acceptable way of getting self out of the way so that Christ might be preeminent in our lives.
» This occurs by FAITH… believing that our old man was crucified with Him…

» By FAITH, place our old self-life on the altar…

f. Paul says here: Present your bodies a living sacrifice… and be transformed… (one active; one passive)

g. When we present… He transforms. If we hold back on presenting… no transformation occurs.
• This cup is to be cleaned from the inside out… when the inside is clean, the outside will take care of itself.
• The end result of this work of transformation is a believer who is PROVING the will of God… practicing it… walking with his head in Christ’s yoke… submitted, surrendered, and in the process of being transformed.
• The goal of this transformation is NOT behavior modification. The goal of this transformation is Christ likeness.
• We present our bodies to Him—a shell—and He fills it with Himself… the fullness of God… the fullness of the Spirit.
• Presenting our all to Him isn’t some great thing we are giving to Him; rather, it is some great thing HE will do IN us.
• When we present our body to Him, we are merely giving him an empty container to fill… emptied of self… to be filled with His character, power, and grace.

h. When we put our all on the altar, we are removing everything that would hinder the LIFE of Christ from being manifested THROUGH us… so that the life of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal bodies.

i. This person is being transformed into the image of Christ… his life is being gradually transformed – to the place where Christ has the preeminence.

j. This is a supernatural work of the Spirit IN us… but the pre-requisite is PRESENTING our bodies as a living sacrifice.

k. When we present self as a sacrifice (crucified; slain)… THEN and only then are we experiencing the transforming power of Christ’s indwelling LIFE… a LIVING sacrifice…

l. Self is dead… (by faith; by presenting) Christ’s life REIGNS in us. Christ has the preeminence.

“Will you please tell me in a word,” said a Christian woman to a minister, “what your idea of consecration is?” Holding out a blank sheet of paper the pastor replied, “It is to sign your name at the bottom of this blank sheet, and to let God fill it in as He will.”

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