Open Doors Series #9
“THE DOOR TO SERVING!”
TEXT: Leviticus 6:8-13
INTRO: There is no doubt about God's call on our lives for service. To be a Christian brings a certain level of responsibility to serve. What is this call to service? What is it that God is asking from us? What are the expectations of servanthood?
Sometimes our focus as Christians can become misplaced ... while it is vitally important that we keep our eyes on Jesus ... there are other issues of servanthood that go along with that focus on Christ. It is not enough that we are concerned for our own salvation, God's call is twofold: that we get saved, and that we reach the lost!
ILLUS: D.L. MOODY ONCE TOLD THIS STORY ABOUT A PAINTING HE SAW THAT DEEPLY TOUCHED HIM AND IMPRESSED HIM GREATLY. IT WAS A PICTURE OF A WOMAN GRASPING AT A CROSS WITH BOTH HANDS AS SHE WAS BEING RESCUED FROM THE STORMY SEA. HE HAD HELD THIS PICTURE UP WITH GREAT ESTEEM AND IT MOVED HIS HEART ... UNTIL ONE DAY WHEN HE SAW A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT VERSION OF THIS PICTURE ... THIS SECOND PICTURE MADE THE FIRST ONE PALE IN ITS IMPACT ONCE HE LOOKED AT THE SECOND ONE ... IN FACT HE COULD NO LONGER HOLD IN SUCH ESTEEM THAT FIRST PICTURE ANYMORE NOW THAT HE HAD SEEN THIS OTHER ONE! THE SECOND PICTURE WAS VERY MUCH THE SAME ... IT WAS A WOMAN GRASPING AT THE CROSS AS SHE WAS BEING RESCUED FROM A STORMY SEA JUST LIKE THE FIRST PICTURE ... BUT IN THIS ONE SHE WAS GRASPING THE CROSS WITH ONLY ONE HAND WHILE HER OTHER HAD WAS GRASPING DOWN TO RESCUE SOMEONE ELSE BELOW HER! SHE COULD NOT GRASP HER OWN SALVATION AND IGNORE THOSE WHO WERE ALSO DROWNING BELOW HER ... THIS IS THE PICTURE OF CHRIST'S SERVANTS ... WE MUST NOT JUST GRASP ONTO THE CROSS WITH BOTH HANDS AND IGNORE OTHERS WHO ARE PERISHING ... WE MUST REACH OUT TO OTHERS TOO! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
The altar was the symbol of sacrifice ... it still is! In the Old Testament, the priests were called upon to minister at the altar ... what did this mean? Was it easy, was it convenient, was it glorious, etc.?
Leviticus 6:8-13 gives us an interesting picture of what serving was all about!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that a call to service is sometimes inconvenient and difficult, but the results are the freeing of a life from guilt and impurities!
I. DEMANDS OF THE NIGHT! Lev. 6:8-10
A. Inconvenient! Lev. 6:8-9
1. "Graveyard shifts" in ministry sometimes!
a. The night time was supposed to be a time of rest and sleep!
b. Instructions are given here however that required ministry during the night ... during times of darkness!
(1. Have you ever had to minister during times of darkness?
(2. Responsibilities for serving did not end at bedtime!
c. Times of darkness make serving tough!
2. What message was God trying to send to those servants who ministered at the altar?
a. God's work never ends, and thus we must be ready to minister at any time!
b. There is never a time when our life is not covered by the blood!
c. Serving is not just “a part” of our life ... it is a 24 hour a day call!
3. Nighttime for those who work is called the "graveyard" shift!
a. It is a tough time to work ... your natural desires fight the call to serve.
b. When have you been called upon to minister the graveyard shift in your walk with God?
4. No doubt part of the reason for this 24 hour vigilance to serve had to do with burning into their minds the constant need they had of God's covering for their sins ... to never take God's grace for granted!
ILLUS: FINDING A NEWLY APPOINTED PASTOR STANDING AT HIS STUDY WINDOW IN THE CHURCH WEEPING AS HE LOOKED OUT OVER THE INNER CITY'S TRAGIC CONDITIONS WHERE THE CHURCH RESIDED, A LAYMAN SOUGHT TO CONSOLE THE NEW PASTOR, AND SO HE SAID TO HIM, "PASTOR, DON'T WORRY ... AFTER YOU HAVE BEEN HERE A WHILE, YOU'LL GET USED TO IT!" THE PASTOR WHILE STILL WEEPING SAID, “YES, I KNOW ... THAT IS WHY I AM CRYING!” – SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. Can we lose the sense of God’s call to service? Is it possible to get to a place where our passion is missing and we are comfortable and no longer investing our time and talents and tithes to the work of God like we once did?
B. Investment! Lev. 6:10
1. It would have been easy for the priest to have said, “nobody is up at night anyway, why does it matter if we keep this sacrifice going all night?”
2. Notice that in this verse, they were to get up, dress a certain way and at regular intervals they were to scrape off the ashes that were building up around the sacrifice to keep the fire burning hot and so the sacrifice was fully consumed!
a. Laziness to remove the slow build up of ashes would have cooled the fire down during the night, and the sacrifice would not have been fully consumed!
b. While repetitious and dirty, this was a necessary job!
3. It might not have seemed that important to the priest who had to get up at certain intervals to take care of the building ashes, but in the long run it had a great impact of the overall quality of the sacrifice being burned!
a. He might have argued, "So some ashes build up ... what's the big deal ... at least there is a sacrifice!"
b. However, neglecting even this menial job could endanger the sacrifice from being consumed properly!
4. Are there "ashes" building up in our sacrifices for God ... are you ignoring the "dirt" that is building up from neglect?
5. Are you too busy or too tired to attend to your service for God? ... Are you letting things go with the sacrifices you promised God?
a. What seems so important to us today will one day be so unimportant...
b. We must keep our focus keen in these days with great demands on our lives and times!
ILLUS: A CERTAIN JOHN BACON, ONCE A FAMOUS SCULPTOR, LEFT AN INSCRIPTION TO BE PLACED ON HIS TOMB IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY: "WHAT I WAS AS AN ARTIST SEEMED OF SOME IMPORTANCE TO ME WHILE I LIVED; BUT WHAT I WAS AS A BELIEVER IN JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY THING OF IMPORTANCE TO ME NOW." – SOURCE UNKNOWN
6. What must have seemed like unimportant items of service at the time had long term impact however!
a. It was a dirty job scraping off the ashes during the night and laying them in a pile beside the altar.
b. Proper clothing had to be worn to do this ... it was not to be approached casually ... no ministry we are called to should be approached casually!
c. We are to wear the “garments of praise,” and the “robes of righteousness” when we serve ... no other clothes are fitting for service ... even if it is just scraping off the residue left behind from the fires of God in our lives!
7. All of this service required a huge investment of time on the priest’s part!
a. The call to ministry REQUIRES sacrifices!
b. The call to ministry DEMANDS our time and talents ... and tithes!
c. The call to ministry WILL be inconvenient and even routine at times!
II. DEBRIS OF THE ASHES! Lev. 6:11
A. Impurities! Lev. 6:11a
1. The dirty clothes are to be removed now ... new ones put on ... and the ashes that had been piled during the night next to the altar are now to be removed completely ...
a. When the fire of God burns in our lives ... it leaves behind debris!
b. This debris must be removed permanently ... or it will contaminate the sacrifice and our clean clothing!
2. Some people will have the fire of God burn in their lives and yet never deal with the dirt that is exposed, that dirt that is left behind in their lives after God's fire burns in their heart ... it needs to be removed.
a. This was the job of the priest himself ... he was to carry it away.
b. It was to be removed outside the camp ... away from God's people!
c. We need to get rid of the debris in our lives that is left over after God's fire is ignited in our lives!
3. If we don't dispose of this "dirt," it will soil everything around us!
ILLUS: THERE WAS A VERY CAPABLE EVANGELIST WHOM GOD USED IN SIGNIFICANT WAYS IN THE BRITISH ISLES THAT LOST HIS WAY AND DRIFTED INTO A LIFE OF SIN FOR SOME TIME. SOME OF THIS SIN WAS SECRET, BUT IT FINALLY WAS MADE PUBLIC. WHEN CONFRONTED WITH HIS SIN, HE GENUINELY REPENTED AND SOUGHT HELP ... EVENTUALLY, HE WAS RESTORED TO MINISTRY AGAIN JUST LIKE THE PRODIGAL SON WHO RETURNED TO HIS FATHER. LIKE THE PRODIGAL, HE FOUND THE FATHER WELCOMED HIM HOME, BUT THERE WAS ALWAYS SOME BIG BROTHER IN THE FAMILY THAT WOULD STILL BE UPSET. YEARS WENT BY, AND HIS PAST WAS LONG FORGOTTEN AS HE CONTINUED TO SERVE GOD FAITHFULLY UNTIL ONE NIGHT IN ABERDEEN ... AS HE APPROACHED THE SERVICE THAT NIGHT HE WAS GIVEN A SEALED LETTER. IT WAS AN UNSIGNED LETTER THAT DESCRIBED IN DETAIL HIS PAST SINS ... THINGS LONG GONE THAT THESE PEOPLE IN THIS AREA KNEW NOTHING ABOUT. HIS STOMACH CHURNED AS HE READ THE LAST LINE IN THE LETTER, "IF YOU HAVE THE GALL TO PREACH TONIGHT, I'LL STAND AND EXPOSE YOU." HE FELL TO HIS KNEES IN PRAYER ... WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THIS OLD DIRT ... THESE ASHES! AS HE TOOK THE PULPIT THAT NIGHT HE OPENED THE SERMON BY READING THE LETTER COMPLETELY TO THE CONGREGATION AND THEN HE ADDED, "I WANT TO MAKE IT CLEAR THAT THIS LETTER IS PERFECTLY TRUE. I'M ASHAMED OF WHAT I'VE READ, AND WHAT I'VE DONE. I COME TONIGHT NOT AS ONE WHO IS PERFECT, BUT AS ONE WHO IS FORGIVEN!" GOD USED THAT LETTER AND THE REST OF HIS MINISTRY AS A MAGNET TO DRAW PEOPLE TO JESUS CHRIST ... HE REMOVED THE ASHES FOR GOOD! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. After the fire reveals the "dirt" ... we need to scoop it up and carry it outside the camp!
B. Intervention Lev. 6:11b
1. Where were the ashes to be taken?
a. Outside the camp!
b. To a place that was ceremonially clean!
2. Calvary was "outside" Jerusalem ... and Jesus' death made the place "clean!"
a. We are to take the ashes of our lives after God's fire has burned and leave the ashes at Calvary!
b. The priest could leave the ashes and return without them ... the ashes were left behind forever!
3. Part of sacrifices is the leftover ashes ... and removal was a responsibility of the priest! But, the ashes were discarded permanently at a "clean" place!
a. This spot was the place of intervention ... a place "clean" that took "dirt!"
b. Christ's death on Calvary intervened in our need to discard the ashes of our lives!
c. There is a place to leave the "dirt" of our lives ... and it is a "clean" place!
III. DUTIES OF THE FIRE! Lev. 6:12-13
A. Important Lev. 6:12
1. The command here is just that ... a command! It is in the imperative mood, "the fire on the altar must be kept burning, it must not go out!"
a. The instruction here in the verse is very clear!
b. We must keep the fire going!
c. Failure to do any of the above things would lead to the fire dying...
(1. To not periodically scrape off the ashes as the sacrifice burned would diminish the fire!
(2. To not pile up the ashes and then remove this pile permanently would dim the fire!
(3. To fail to add wood would certainly cause the fire to go out!
2. The responsibilities for keeping the fire going resided with the priest!
a. We can diminish God's fire in our lives or increase it!
b. If our service is sloppy ... if we ignore the building ashes ... if we fail to add fresh fuel ... the fire goes out!
3. This was no ordinary fire ... it was the fire that had fallen from heaven ... it was to be continually burning ... but this required attention and service!
4. Much of what was required to keep the fire burning was menial and mundane, could have bordered on being boring even! -- but this is what kept the fire burning hot ... not the one-time events, the continual attention to details of service is what mattered!
a. And this is still true today!
b. This is often missed by Christians who always want something “big” or “exciting” to stir the fires!
ILLUS: ROLF ZETTERSTEN WHO WROTE "TRAIN UP A CHILD" MENTIONED ABOUT A TRIP HE TOOK TO WASHINGTON D.C. HE WAS IN A HOTEL ROOM THAT HAD NEXT TO HIS ROOM A FAMOUS CELLIST ... THERE WAS A CLASSICAL CONCERT THAT NEXT EVENING. HE COULD HEAR THE CELLIST NEXT DOOR PRACTICE HOUR AFTER HOUR ... BUT HE DID NOT PLAY GREAT PIECES OR GREAT WORKS ... ALL HE PLAYED WAS REPEATED SCALES AND RUNS ... AND ROUTINE EXERCISES ... OVER AND OVER AGAIN! THIS PRACTICE BEGAN EARLY IN THE MORNING, AND CONTINUED UNTIL THE TIME CAME FOR THE CONCERT TO BEGIN! AS THE CELLIST STROLLED ONTO THE STAGE THAT EVENING ROLF THOUGHT TO HIMSELF, "I'LL BET PEOPLE IN THIS AUDIENCE THINK THIS CELLIST LEADS A GLAMOROUS LIFE, BUT I KNOW THAT HE SPENT HIS WHOLE DAY COOPED UP IN HIS ROOM ALONE; REPEATING SCALE AFTER SCALE FOR HOURS, SO MUCH FOR GLAMOUR!" YET IT WAS JUST THIS CONSTANT ATTENTION TO THE MENIAL AND MUNDANE THAT MADE HIS MUSIC AND SERVICE SO GREAT! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
5. It wasn't as glorious to “tend” the fire as it was “to sit by it” ... but without someone tending it and feeding it ... it will go out!
a. We cannot sit by and hope that the Pastor and a couple of others will keep the fires going for all our altars.
b. We must all keep the fire going!
6. What are you doing to demonstrate that you are tending to God's fire in your life and at your altar!?
a. The repeated, "you must not let the fire go out" in this verse gives evidence as to how seriously God took this command!
b. We must not, cannot, ignore God's fire!
7. "Proper fuel"....
a. This fire would have to be fed with the right stuff!
b. We cannot keep God's fire alive in our life by our own design ... we must feed it proper fuel!
c. Repentance, sacrifice, prayer ... these things are the proper fuel for a fire!
B. Inspection Lev. 5:13
1. Have you looked at your altar lately?
a. Is there even an altar to look at!
b. Is there a sacrifice on that altar?
c. Is there a fire from God on it?
d. Are the ashes building up and choking out the fire?
e. Do you have fuel to feed the fire?
2. Sometimes we want to find the "instant" excitement from God ... or the “big rewards” ... but what we really need to do is tend the altar and the fire under our sacrifices for God!
a. Often this is where the real strength of our relationship to God comes from!
b. The greatest rewards are sometimes hidden is the very ordinary things of our lives!
ILLUS: AN OLD FARMER WHO WAS ABOUT TO DIE CALLED HIS 2 SONS TO HIS BEDSIDE AND SAID, "MY BOYS. MY FARM AND THE FIELDS ARE YOURS IN EQUAL SHARES. I LEAVE YOU A LITTLE READY MONEY BUT THE BULK OF MY WEALTH IS HIDDEN SOMEWHERE IN THE GROUND, NOT MORE THAN 18 INCHES FROM THE SURFACE. I REGRET THAT I'VE FORGOTTEN WHERE IT LIES, YOU'LL HAVE TO FIND IT." WHEN THE OLD MAN WAS DEAD AND BURIED THE 2 SONS SET TO WORK TO DIG UP EVERY INCH OF GROUND THEY COULD AROUND THE FARM, BEING ONLY 18 INCHES DEEP THEY DECIDED TO USE A PLOW ... AND THEY FIGURED THAT SINCE THEY PLOWED UP THE GROUND ANYWAY, THEY MAY AS WELL PLANT CROPS. THE FIRST YEAR THEY FAILED TO FIND THE TREASURE, BUT THEY GOT A WONDERFUL CROP IN THE FALL. THE NEXT YEAR THEY AGAIN PLOWED AS MUCH LAND AS THEY POSSIBLY COULD ... AGAIN THEY FOUND NOTHING, BUT THEY PLANTED THE NEW FIELDS AS BEFORE ... AND THEY REAPED A HUGE CROP IN THE FALL. THE MORE THEY TURNED OVER THE GROUND, FIRST IN SPRING, AND THEN IN THE FALL, AGAIN AFTER THEY HARVESTED THE CROPS THE BETTER THEIR CROPS GREW ... BUT THEY NEVER DID FIND ANY TREASURE! THEY KEPT TURNING OVER THE SOIL ... MORE THAN ANY OTHER FARMER IN THE AREA ... AND THEY FOUND THEY HAD THE RICHEST CROPS AROUND ... ONLY YEARS LATER DID THEY FINALLY REALIZE, THIS WAS THE TREASURE IN THE GROUND ... THEIR CONSTANT ATTENTION TO TURN OVER THE SOIL HAD MADE THEIR SOIL RICH, AND THEIR CROPS THE BEST ... THIS WAS THE "HIDDEN" TREASURE! THEIR CONSTANT SERVICE, MUNDANE AS IT WAS, LED TO A GREAT TREASURE ... IT WAS FOUND IN THEIR FAITHFUL WORK, THOUGH THE SAME JOB, YEAR AFTER YEAR! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. How about you ... have you opened the "door" to serving? Are the fires burning and the ashes cleaned up?
4. The door to service may be found in the constant attention to mundane tasks that keep the fire burning hot ... not just in some quick flash!
CONCLUSION: Serving Christ is much more than birth, baptism, and burial! God's call to serving is often inconvenient, dirty, and repetitious! Sacrifices require responsibilities. Much of our walk with God is full of routine responsibilities, but it is these that make us strong when the unusual strikes! Serving is not always glamorous, but it is glorious! Keep the fires burning!