The Covenant By Sacrifice
What will your answer be?
The night before the accident, Brother John had devotions for us in our member’s meeting. One of the first things he said was, “Welcome, overcomers, friends, neighbors, loved ones.” And if John were here this morning, I believe that’s exactly what he would say.
In Psalm 50 it says, “The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.” And then we come to the fifth verse that speaks of gathering His saints unto him – those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
I’d like to talk this morning about that covenant by sacrifice. The Lord has spoken very clearly and powerfully in those verses. Beloved friends, when God calls, will we answer? Will we answer like Abraham, when God called him, and he answered “here I am”? Or does He have to tap us on the shoulder and try to get our attention?
I don’t know how many of you know John or have heard his testimony, but he answered that call many years ago. He made much of the blood of Jesus Christ. He made much of prayer. He was a man of prayer, and his children would testify to the fact that he would often exhort the congregation to be a praying people, especially in our private prayer lives.
John would exhort us to renew our salvation. He often spoke about awaking in the night and feeling like he was not clear with God. He would get up and fall on his knees, and renew again in his heart what Jesus had done for him, till peace flooded his soul. Over and over again that would be his experience.
In instruction class he would encourage us to be praying. In the midst of struggles he made choices of faith and kept going forward. Yes, John made a lot of mistakes. But he always seemed to come to a place where he was resting in the Lord. He loved truth, and he loved people.
We could spend the next two hours speaking about John’s family. I think of dear, faithful Leroy and his loving wife Naomi. They struggled through their adoptions, praying through the pain of empty arms. Naomi would struggle and ask, “Why, God, can’t I have children?” They adopted three little children.
And dear brother Joel. We saw him come through to the Lord. He wasn’t the easiest boy to get to know, but once you did, you found a friend at heart level. My son says that he had a extra sparkle in his eyes the last few weeks; he was engaged to be married, and was excited and looking forward to that time.
John shared with me a few weeks ago that he was burdened for his daughter, Rose. She was a little weak in the mind, and she struggled with that. He wished he could find something worthwhile for her to do.
And sister Anna. Who will fill her place? Her family told me that she was known in the community for visiting widows. One of the things on her checklist of things to do before she went to Brazil, was visiting a few more widows. Friends, home congregation, who is going to fill that place?
I think also of Rachel. She was easy to get to know, and didn’t hesitate to speak about the Lord.
I believe their heart would be that their death would glorify God just as their lives did.
I believe God has spoken to us. At Mt. Sinai there were thunderings and lightnings and smoke, and the people feared and trembled. The people backed off and told Moses to go talk to God; they would just as soon stay away! God’s heart is that we, as His creation, would make a better covenant with Him than the one that was made at Mt. Sinai.
The covenant made at Mt. Sinai was the covenant of the law. We all know the ten commandments that Moses was given, written on the tablets of stone. “This do and thou shalt live. And if you don’t, you’re going to pay.” If you transgress the covenant of the law, you die, or you make a sacrifice.
The law upheld right living, but made no provision for right doing other than striving in our own strength. I know what it is like to try to get my life together so that I will be a better person. I remember sitting under some of those hellfire and brimstone sermons, quivering. “You know, I’ve got to get my life together! Something has got to change!”
But it was never long before I went back again, because I had no power! I had nothing to give me the overcoming power of God.
The law is ordained of God to bring us to the end of ourselves. Galatians tells us that the law it is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. It isn’t against the promises of God; it has been given to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
The law stands firm: “This do and thou shalt live.” We stand before a holy God, and He is expecting holiness. The law doesn’t move to accommodate our sin; God doesn’t erase a little piece of our sin because we didn’t quite match up. That is not what the law of God does. The law of God stands firm and doesn’t move when we sin! We need to have an answer.
We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God; there is not one of us that is righteous. And that includes you and me. It doesn’t matter if we’re Jew or Greek, Amish or Mennonite, Baptist or whatever we are – all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And unless you have that answer, you have no hope.
Either you are a Christian in heart, and your life shows it, or you are not. There are only two categories. Oh, that we would fathom the reality of that! Your good deeds, your profession, your culture, will not buy access into heaven.
When we get to the place where Isaiah had been and get into the presence of the Holy God, we will say, woe is me, I am undone, I am a man of unclean lips, in the midst of an unclean people”, When we are in the presence of God, we realize that we are unclean and undone. We realize there is no hope for us without something to pay for our sin. But God is very near to us in that place.
God does not want to make you miserable; it was never His intention to stand over you with a big stick, to rap you on the head when you make a mistake. It’s not some kind of punishment. That is not the God that we serve. Rather, He wants the law to do it’s purpose in your life – it is the love of God shed over us.
We aren’t left without a remedy. There is a better covenant than “this do and thou shalt live.”
Hebrews 8:7 “If the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, behold, the day comes when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and the shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
Where do you stand before God? The covenant is made. God will keep his part. I would be foolish to simply conclude that in such a vast sea of people out there that I can’t even discern who’s there, that all of you are just automatically going to heaven. It’s a very good possibility that a lot of you here that are not prepared to die.
If it would have been you driving up I65 that morning, and all at once the headlights shone into your windshield, where would you be? Often when you are driving it doesn’t register all at once what is happening; you don’t really understand until it comes. I don’t know if they had time to say anything. But that’s not the point.
The point is, if those headlights would shine into your face, where would you be? Beloved, it’s this serious! In a million years from now, where will you be? It’s not just about today, the next couple hours, a week or two years and then we’re free. In a million years from now, where will you be? Do you have an answer?
God has provided a remedy. We read of God putting His laws into our minds and hearts. He says He will be to us a God and we will be to Him a people. How does that happen? Sometimes we see signs when we’re going across a railroad that say, “Stop, look, listen.” What if we would just be real and honest, and stop, look, and listen; what would we hear coming our of our mouths?
As I look around me, what are my interests? What are my passions? What am I drawn to? We need to be able to stop in this busy, hurry-up world, and ask, “Where am I going?”
Take the time to evaluate your life. As we think of the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith – beloved friends and neighbors if we’re honest with our hearts, are these the fruits that are flowing from our lives? If not, what are you going to do about it? It’s the fruit of the Spirit. If you don’t have the Spirit of God, you’re not of His!
God is not interested in just profession; He is looking for holiness. He’s looking for a life that reflects Jesus Christ. You are not going to reflect Jesus Christ by sitting around, telling dirty jokes, cheating on your taxes or being unfaithful to your wives. Those things are not the fruits of the Spirit; they are the works of the flesh. And those that do those things shall not inherit the kingdom! Do you have the fruit of the Spirit, or don’t you?
Sometimes I get a picture of people whose sins have gone on before them. They’ve confessed them, sent them on before; they’ve been judged and forgiven. And they come up to the throne, to the face of Jesus Christ, and those sins are gone! God remembers them no more!
But there are others whose sins follow after them. How would you feel if you came to the holy throne of God, feeling pretty good about yourself. You’ve been a church member, you’ve done everything right. And all at once your sins come after you. The sins you forgot about. Oh, we had better do something about it! It’s not safe!
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and the wages of that sin is death. What shall I do? The first step is simply acknowledging that I’m not living right. This does not take us all the way through salvation, but it’s a start.
The missing link in today’s Christianity is repentance. We often hear of faith and of being saved, but seldom do we hear of repentance and Godly sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. Godly sorrow is a sorry that can say so. When we recognize we are not living right we will be willing to say “I am sorry for my sins”.
Why is it so hard for people to repent? It’s not as hard to say, “You were right” as it is to say, “I was wrong.” Somehow it’s easier to say that that somebody else was right, than to just confess that I have sinned. You will never be sorry you confessed your sin, if you’ve truly repented. But there is many a soul in hell today, hearing the words, “Son, remember!”, because they did not confess. You can say, “I have sinned. I have made some wrong choices.” But the realization that I cam condemned to die.
As we think of repentance, I think of David and Bathsheba, when Nathan the prophet came to him. He had been told that the man who stole the poor little sheep from the poor man, that man would die. And Nathan turns to David, “Thou art the man.”
Unless you have confessed your sins and put them under the blood, God is saying the same to you. “Thou art the man.” There is none exempt. There is no in-between place between the Godly and the unsaved. There is no third place. Either you’re godly, or you’re not.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I believe that those words have just as much power as when God said, “Let there be light.” Look what happened – there was light! Tremendous things took place!
“For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created unto Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
We have salvation by faith in grace, not just in faith. We have to have something to base our faith on, because faith without a substance to put your faith on is nothing more than positive thinking. We’re not interested in talking about trying to drum up more faith so that we can make it to heaven. We want a faith that is focused on the finished work of Calvary.
Grace is a divine influence upon the heart of man, not just a mushy feeling of somehow having favor with God. It’s a free gift, something we don’t deserve. But it is more than that. It is the Divine influence of God; it is God’s very Spirit in the heart of man, that changes our hearts and makes us live differently.
A empty profession, no matter how good it is, is not salvation. Many people have repented, and are sorry for their sins, but they stop there. It is like the man who had the unclean spirit cast out of him. The spirit went out of him, and came back, and found that heart swept clean. And they took seven more spirits with them, and the last state of that man was worst than the first. Why?
That heart, swept clean, was not filled with the Holy Spirit. The question, then, is how do we get that Holy Spirit? What happens? Romans 10:8 is very clear on that issue.
“But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.”
You’ll never be ashamed! You’ll never be sorry to put your confidence and trust in the finished work of Calvary. I assure you, by the truth of the Word of God, that’s the only answer we can have.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. And I would like to paraphrase that a little bit: “Faith cometh by hearing the word of God.” Whether it’s through preaching, or reading the word of God prayerfully, it will bring forth faith. And you will find victory to overcome.
Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”
It is clearly a covenant by sacrifice. We must have that sacrifice, and we must make a covenant with God. But there is only one sacrifice that avails before God, one sacrifice that God will accept, and that is the pure blood of the Lamb. I assure you, that blood speaks for us.
God saw the travail of His Son and was satisfied. Do you believe that you serve a satisfied God? We will never be able to drum up enough righteousness; we’ll never be able to run fast enough or do enough good to satisfy God. It is only through that sacrifice of His son, and through our believing in and accepting that sacrifice, that He accepts us.
Such a thing is almost too hard for us to grasp. We want to pay our own way through; we don’t want to accept something for nothing. You cannot pay your way through to salvation! If you don’t accept the salvation that God provided, you’re going to hell. It is very simple.
There is no hope outside the sacrifice that was made for you. Absolutely none. Zero. It is a hundred percent sufficient. He is satisfied but He will take nothing less.
I think of my account, my youth days. Many of you my Amish friends here, you know me from my youth; I was not a Godly young man. I had a lot of sins. And yes, you have reasons to wonder about my life. But there came a day when, in God’s mercy, He took the whole list of all of my vast sins; and I picture Him taking a pen and writing, paid it in full by the blood of the Lamb.
That blood is the only thing I have to lift up; it is the only answer to our tremendous debt of sin. We won’t make it outside of the blood of Jesus Christ. What is your answer?
There’s a point in time that God reveals to each on of us, our immense need. Then, we can repent and believe in the finished work of Calvary. There’s no greater joy than to be able to kneel beside a broken sinner, and hear them pouring out their hearts before God, confessing their sins, and crying out to God for forgiveness.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And we dare believe that.
This is how He writes the law in our hearts. The Spirit enters our hearts and makes all things new, as it talks about in Corinthians: “Behold all things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” It’s not just a fresh start, not just a resolution to do better. It’s divine influence, in the heart of man – this, friends and loved ones is the new birth. Ihr müsset von neuem geboren werden. (Ye must be born again). There is no other hope. The Bible says if you’re not born again you will not see the kingdom of God You will not enter the kingdom of God unless you’re washed in the blood of the Lamb and His Holy Spirit has been put in you’re heart.
You have the opportunity to have the law written in your heart, rather than the stone tablets. You know, the law written in stone – the ‘do this, or thou shalt die’. The law that you continually break, time and time again. And you have the opportunity to have this law written on your heart! Isn’t that a much better way to live?
How do I know that this new birth has happened to me?
Romans 8:14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
Friend, are you led by the Holy Spirit? Is the fruit of the Spirit flowing from your life? If it is not, will you be honest enough to admit it?
If the headlights shine into your windshield, what will your answer be? This is serious business! Are you in the bondage of fear? Are you in the bondage of pursuit of vanity fair, making a profession and yet getting both hands full of earthly things at the same time? Are you getting all you can get and enjoy everything you can and still talk about the grace of God? Let us watch our hearts.
Brother John’s house burned down not long ago, and afterwards the community came together to build him a new house. He was overwhelmed and troubled at times, wondering if it was just too fine; he didn’t know if God was pleased with it. He enjoyed it, but it was far beyond anything he would have built in a house. His heart was not after the things of this world.
We need to be honest about where we are at, and repent of our sin and look to the Lamb of God for cleansing. Es ist aber der Glaube eine gewisse Zuversicht des, das man hofft, und ein Nichtzweifeln an dem, das man nicht sieht. (Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen). That substance is the finished work of Calvary, and the blood of Jesus Christ; that’s what we fix our faith on!
The new birth is not something you grow into. When a baby is born, do we say that he was born from five o’clock in the morning until twelve o’clock at noon? Of course not! That baby was born at twelve o’clock! And when a baby is born, it starts growing. The new birth is not an end in itself. The new birth is a foundation that we work from.
We aren’t speaking of a once-saved-always-saved doctrine. But we do believe in being saved, and washed by the blood. We do believe in claiming that as an answer for our soul. But we also know that if we are not abiding in Him, it is not going to come our right.
Only those who have made that covenant by sacrifice will enter into the Kingdom of heaven. If you saw those headlights shining into your face, would you be able to cry out, “Lord Jesus!” or will you say, “Oh, I wish….” and then it’s over. From then it’s son remember, son remember throughout eternity. You will remember the opportunities and privileges you have today. If you are not right with God and are not born again, there will come a time, if you make no change, that you will suffer the pains of hell. You have the opportunity to change today. Today if you hear His voice harden not your heart.
To the families: we know that the everlasting arms of God are holding you up, and we’ve experienced that these past couple of days. I am not sure I can even fully understand everything that took place. But I do want to thank you for your prayers. God will be here today, and He’ll be here tomorrow.
I’d like to spend time on each family member. Naomi was a quiet sister; modest, always faithful, and never causing any problem in the church. She was modest in dress. She was very careful never to push herself or her children forward. She and Leroy had their hands full with their dear little son, Josiah. She was a faithful sister.
Rose’s mind was not as strong as some – she was often troubled. But she knew her sins were under the blood. May she rest that troubled mind in peace.
Anna loved God. Pure religion and undefiled before God is this: to visit the widows… I think of Anna’s list; she had just a few widows left to visit.
Little Rachel was fair and lively. I will always remember when she was in instruction class: so full of questions, ready, carefree. She loved the Lord, and wanted to see Johnny.
Joel was a heart-level friend to those who knew him well. Communication was often difficult for him; at times he found it hard to express his heart, and some misread him. But when you got to know him on a heart-level, he was a fine young man. In his spiritual life I saw him grow tremendously over the past couple years.
Brother Leroy. Friendly, quiet, always passing out tracts. He was the one who provided the community with tracts. You’d see him with his tracts in his pocket, talking to a trucker here, a neighbor there. He loved God and was concerned about the trends that are trying to creep into the churches. Materialism, etc. We’ve lost a pillar. But God will raise up others. We’ll take courage as a congregation, we’ll move on. God will raise up others.
Leroy was friendly and quiet. He provided the community with tracts. Often you would see him with his tracts in his pocket, talking to a trucker or neighbor. He loved God, and was concerned about the trends that are trying to creep into the churches. We feel we’ve lost a pillar, but but trust that God will raise up others.
Dear sister Sadie had such a different spirit. She was meek and quiet. She visited my wife just a couple of evenings before she passed away. They had a cup of tea together, sharing together about our trip to Pennsylvania, the wedding, different things that she wanted to hear about. My wife gave her a friendship cup, and Sadie confessed that she used to have many of those before the fire, but now, those things just don’t mean anything. Her eyes were set on the eternal.
I don’t trust myself to say too much about brother John. He feared God with a reverent fear; he knew what it meant to pray and to reach through. He was very concerned about wrong attitudes.
I copied a little poem in memory of the sisters:
“Sisters, you were mild and lovely, gentle as the summer breeze,
pleasant as the air of evening when it floats among the trees.
Peaceful be thy silent slumber, peaceful in the grave so low,
Thou no more will join our number, thou no more our songs shall know.
Dear sisters, thou hast left us, here thy loss we deeply feel,
but tis God that hath bereft us, he can all our sorrows heal.
Yet again we hope to meet thee, when the day of life has fled,
Then in heaven with joy to greet thee, when no farewell tears be shed.
That is what we look forward to. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh with the morning. We know what it felt like four years ago, when Johnny died. Those were hard days. But after awhile we could talk about it without a lot of grief. There was joy, also.
You younger siblings, pitch in there and carry the torch that Joel was carrying. Father and mother, remember that someday we will open that door called death, and shut it behind us, and we can be with those we love.
I have one more poem in closing, in memory of brother John. It’s titled, “The Preacher.”
“He held a lamp of truth that day,
So low that none could miss the way.
And yet so high to bring in sight
The picture fair, the world’s great Light.
But gazing up the Lamp between,
The hand that held was scarcely seen.
He held the pitcher, stooping low,
To lips of little ones below,
and raised it to the weary saint,
and bade him drink when sick and faint.
They drank the pitcher thus between,
The hand that held it scarcely seen.
He blew the trumpet soft and clear,
That trembling sinners need not fear,
And with louder notes and bold,
He raised the walls of Satan’s hold.
The trumpet coming thus between,
That hand that held it scarce was seen.
But when the Captain said, “Well done”,
“Thou good and faithful servant, come!
Lay down the pitcher and the lamp,
Lay down the trumpet, leave the camp,”
The weary hand will then be seen,
Clasped in Christ’s hand with naught between.
When the headlights shine into your windshield, what will your answer be? God bless you all.