Eric V. Snow Sermonette 05-10-03 Ann Arbor, MI UCG
About 20 years ago, I was reading the novel “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. I came across a Biblical quote (on p. 300), which was put in the mouth of the leading villain of the novel, Ellsworth Toohey. Skeptical was in Bible. Later on, when reading the Bible through, RSV first time, I found it. Checked KJV to make sure it was the exact same quote found in the novel. Since Ayn Rand made it a central point of her philosophy to deny the need for self-sacrifice, this particular Scripture made a point she heatedly objected to. But this text’s main point is central to Christian ethics, so we’re going to pay it some close attention today.
For are we willing to give up things in this life to have things in the next? Do we have the faith to deny ourselves pleasure now in order to have pleasure in the next life? What do we really value the most?
S.P.S. We need to be willing to give up happiness in this life in order to have eternal life if God requires it of us.
V. 24: Self-sacrifice in Christianity has a transformative, ultimate goal. Self-destruction isn’t for the sake of self-destruction. God wants something positive accomplished by our self-sacrifice as an outcome. Here, Jesus’ own sacrifice makes our salvation possible, the “fruit” in question.
V. 25: Ellsworth Toohey quoted from. We pledged ourselves at baptism to be willing to die rather than deny Jesus as our Savior.
Martyrdom examples: Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, Sunday-keeper, the Roman emperor Trajan had him condemned to be eaten by the lions, c. 110. He said: “I am God’s wheat, ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may be found pure bread.”
Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, upholder of Nisan 14 & Passover, the Roman governor said: “Swear, and I will set you free: execrate Christ.” “For eighty-six years, I have been His servant, and He has never done me wrong: How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
Roman persecution campaign in Gaul (modern France), time of Marcus Aurelius (161-180): Some who had denied Jesus later affirmed him when questioned again, thus ensuring their own deaths (Roman citizens beheaded, rest handed over to beasts). Eusebius: “These were individually examined with the intention that they should be released, but they confessed Him and so joined the ranks of martyrs.”
Beast power reborn: Not just theoretical stuff in end times for us.
Tests not necessarily spectacular like this. Some would do well at this, but would fail at long, slow, nagging issues that deny pleasure in this life as we obey God’s law. Use gun to head example, “boom!”
Hedonistic calculus argument for obeying God’s law not always good. Used on youth often. Examples of consequences of doing drugs, drunkenness, sex outside marriage. Conclude get more happiness from obeying God’s law now than if don’t.
Suppose this isn’t the case? Sabbath-keeping vs. old, better-paying career example. One example: Man from GM to MSU, maint. Another: Single or divorced person who can’t marry or get remarried lawfully.
Are we willing to still obey then, despite it doesn’t help us in this life, but hurts us? Do we have the faith to believe the next life really exists then? Those considering baptism should keep in the mind the deadly serious issues of the faith required for obeying God’s law out of self-sacrifice.
vs. 6-8: If never punished, not Christians! Radical stuff!
vs. 10- 11: No pleasure in being punished, yet has good ultimate outcome. Are we willing to accept this?
If we’re punished by God for sin, would we be bitter about it?
Backup example: Near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, greatest earthly desire God tested him on, passed since was willing to give Isaac up. Gen. 22:2, 12, 16.
Conclusion: We as Christians have to be willing to sacrifice ourselves as Jesus did. We must be willing give up pleasure in this life while obeying God’s law when God requires this of us. It could be in a spectacular test in the years to come: God may require us to die at the hands of the government if it demands that we deny Jesus as our Savior. Or the trial could be a long, nagging, life-long test in which some earthly goal that would give us happiness can’t be had by us lawfully if we wish to obey God. True, He might not require such a sacrifice of us. But we had better be ready if He does!