* The book of Genesis talks about Abel - he gave his best. Better than his brother Cain. And God blessed Abel because he gave his best.
* Again Abraham, in the Old Testament, gave his best ie his own son as a sacrifice.
* Moses was in the palace for 40 years. That was the best thing in his life and he was willing to give it up for the Israelites.
* Esther was a Jewish girl who could easily have become a slave. Inspite of that she became a queen. That was the best she could be in her life. But even though she had the best she put it on the line so she could save the Israelites.
* In the New Testament there was a rich young man who had something 'best' with him - money. He was holding on to that. When Jesus asked him to give it up he was not able to do it.
* Peter and others they had their best thing - boats and nets. When Jesus asked them to, they gave it up so they could follow Jesus. The tsunami. When it came the fishermen lost their best - their boats and nets. They had to give it up.
God has something which is 'the best' with him. Do you know what it is? Do you know what Jesus had that was the best? God had the best thing in his life - Jesus Christ himself. God did not hold back the best thing for himself - he gave it up for us.
1. Jesus is the best that God had
1 Peter 1:18-19
18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,
19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
Sometimes we wonder what's the best we have. Here it says that we were not redeemed by gold or silver because these are perishable. We were redeemed, we became disciples, we were saved because of Jesus Christ and his blood that was shed for us. It is so important for us to understand why Jesus is so important. So often we sideline Jesus. We don't take the name of Jesus. We don't try to understand who he is. We believe in God, we believe there's someone outside of the universe who takes care of us. We intellectually know him but we don't make the efforts to know Jesus Christ who has helped us to be saved. Let's turn to Hebrews to learn who Jesus is. Jesus is not of the past - we are not going to learn who Jesus was. We're going to learn who Jesus is because he's alive today and is here even today wherever you are.
1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
The Bible says that in the past God spoke through the prophets but in the last days (ie now) he has spoken through Jesus Christ - God's son. Who is the Son? He is the person who created the whole universe. Who is the Son? He is the radiance of God, the exact representation of God himself. The God who created the world, the universe - who is God himself - came down into this world as a small baby. He was a sacrifice, for us, on the cross so we could be saved. After he provided sanctification he is sitting on the throne in heaven. He is the person who, with his blood, cleansed our sin. He's going to help us reach heaven soon. And because he was willing to shed his blood, become like one of us, the Bible says he was lifted high above the angels. So he is over all and everything. Jesus is the best that God has. Do we believe it? It is not the sun. It is not the universe. It is not many universes put together. It is Jesus who is the best that God has. God did not spare the best thing he had - Jesus - so that we could be saved.
2. God knows what is the best thing we have in our lives
Sometimes we don't understand, we don't know what is the best for us. We think if we have a house, if we have a vehicle that is the best for us.
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
We don't want to be confused about what's the best. Here we see that God was interested in Abel's offering and that was the best that Abel he had and he gave his best to God. Cain did not give his best. So God had a conversation with Cain. God was not upset with Cain, he was concerned about Cain. Cain was upset with God. God was not upset because God had given his best.
When God talked to Cain he asked him, 'Why are you angry, Cain? Why is your face downcast?' The best part of our outward being is our face. If our face is downcast it will affect our physical body. The best part of our face is our eyes. The Bible says if our eyes are in darkness our whole body will be in darkness. Our faces should not be downcast. If they are that means we are not giving our best to God. He says, 'If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. And it desires to have you'.
What we think is God sometimes protects us. Most of the time he leaves us free. Practically if we look at our lives God's protection is there all the time. We are aware of this every time when we go out into the traffic. It's a miracle if we come back home safe. The traffic is so hectic. So often we wonder how we are alive. In the same way, certain cities are so polluted. There's so much of sickness. We wonder how come we are not that sick. When we look at all these things, we are sure of one thing - God protects us all the time. Sometimes he lets go - he makes small cracks in his protection - so that we can cry out in our distress.
Bible says that giving our best is good for us - not good for God. We think we do a favor for God when we give our contribution, give our service. When we give, its good for us. The Ten Commandments was given not to protect God or others but to protect us. Honor your father and mother. Why should we honor our fathers and mothers? So that we can have a long life. That's why the Bible says we need to honor our father and mother. God has given us an opportunity to give to God, to do what is right - for our sake, for our good. God tells Cain, 'For your own good you should give. For your own safety you should do what is right so sin will not take control of you'.
In the past people thought the earth is the centre and the sun, moon and stars all revolved around the earth. We also, in the past, thought the church is the most important thing and we were revolving around the church, so excited. And it is true. It was good for a long time.
In 1500's Copernicus found out that the earth wasn't the centre but instead was just one of the many planets revolving around the sun. The universe is big and the earth is just a small, tiny object in that big universe. Later on in the church we found out that ' yes, we are not so important'. We found out that the sun is not so important, the moon is not so important and we started slandering about the sun and moon and everything around us. We felt it was all useless.
Without the sun, without the moon and stars earth cannot be earth as it is today. As much as the earth was so important in the past, as much as the church was so important in the past, the church is so important even today. Because the church is where we survive, where we are saved, where we can give to others, where we can reach out to others and it is where our children are going to grow with God and Jesus with them. We need to give our best to God. We need to give our best to God in His church.
3. We need to reflect God when we give our best
In other words we need to keep God as an example when we give. Genesis 22 talks about Abraham and how he gave his best to God. In v2 it says, "God said, ' Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah and sacrifice there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about'". This is how we know Isaac was Abraham's best. See how God tells Abraham. Take your son, your only son, the son that you love. It's like taking a knife poking it in your heart and slowly turning it. It was painful what God told Abraham. Take your son, your only son, the son that you love. God drove the idea into Abraham's mind that, making him understand that he is the only person thorugh whom the promise will be filled. The best that Abraham had. And then - God said, 'Sacrifice it'. The son's best is the father.
Little son holding his father's hand and walking up. He doesn't know what's happening. He looks at his father, 'Abba'. The father's heart goes out to him and he says, 'Yes, son?' The painful question follows, ' The fire and wood are here but where is the lamb you're going to sacrifice?' That was a painful question that the father had to answer and Abraham said, God will provide'. God comes down and sees the knife on Isaac's neck. 'Abraham, Abraham, stop what you're doing. Do not lay a hand on the boy. I know that you've not held back anything from me - even willing to sacrifice your son, the best that you have. I will bless you. I will take care of you. I will do anything. I will even give up my son because you did not hold back your best'.
It might not be riches that we have as our best. It could be the sin that you're holding on to. It could be laziness - it may not be the best but you love it and are holding on to it. Maybe it's immorality. Maybe it's lying again and again - not knowing it's going to hurt your life. We hold on to it and are unwilling to give it up because we think that's the best that we have. Sometimes it's anger - time and again we catch ourselves getting angry. That's the best thing - to threaten others, to put down others, to keep people in their places. That may be the best thing we don't want to give up.
4. When God gives us his best he is at his most vulnerable - he becomes the weakest.
We've got to learn to appreciate Jesus.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
As a church we are willing to love each other and die for each other. We may will do it for good people. But for a person who molested our child, molested people around, who did bad things, who cheated and did everything wrong - nobody wants to die for that person. But Jesus demonstrated his love for the worst sinner - you and me. We need to appreciate Jesus. Jesus Christ did not come into the world to condemn or blackmail you and me - that's what many people think. He didn't come to kidnap us or argue with us and convince us and help us go to heaven. He didn't come into this world to protest against all the bad things in this world. He just came to this world to give his best ie himself.
God gave Jesus. Jesus gave his blood. What are we going to give?