Lessons on Self-Sacrifice
“What Happened to Your Hand?” is the title of a famous painting by Harry Anderson. If you are not familiar with his work it would be worth your while to look him up and become familiar with his work and ministry. This man was being groomed to be the next Norman Rockwell; yet somewhere in his journey in life he had a conversion to Christ and dedicated his talents to God. I believe his ministry and work will stand in the judgment. You will see that he did his homework before painting a subject. His work reflects a gift placed on the altar of sacrifice to which the Spirit of God had obviously added His blessing—something we all need to experience and grow into. “What Happened to Your Hand?” portrays a young girl sitting on the lap of Jesus, while her older sister and brother are enjoying the bliss of a day in heaven, and she notices a scar on His hand and inquires what happened. It is based on Zechariah 13: 6. There will be those in heaven who don’t know Jesus by name, but because they were sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and obeyed the voice of God, He judges them worthy subjects of the Kingdom of God. There they will grow up like stall-fed calves into a knowledge of the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world.
Another painting of Harry Anderson’s worth studying is one of the woman caught in adultery, described in the gospel of John, chapter 8. The very first two verses set the stage for this famous story, whose setting is often lost in the sermon. We read: “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” These two verses speak mounds to us, for in them is the secret to self-sacrifice. We see Jesus going to the Mount of Olives to do what? To consecrate His life and His work for that day to His Heavenly Father who watches over Him. We know what He prays—He does everything as an example that we are to follow, and if our work is going to be accepted in the judgment we need to have eyes that see and ears that hear “This is the way, walk ye in it.” We are instructed by the last-day prophet to pray a prayer of consecration every day, which goes like this:
“Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, "Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee."
This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. [And by doing this, the promise is:]
Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ.”—Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 70.
Wow! What a promise!
Again we read in verse 2 of John 8: “Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.” Here we see Jesus coming into Herod’s temple to teach the people early in the morning. In Hebrews 13:8, it tells us Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. So set up your body temple so you don’t miss your appointment with Him in the morning, and He’ll meet with you and teach you. The promise is yours! In Revelation chapter 3, verse 20, Jesus speaks to the church of Laodicea: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Where do you think the door is in your sanctuary? In Scripture, there is a table of showbread in the Holy Place. That bread is a symbol of the Word of God. So set up your schedule so you don’t miss your appointment with God first thing in the morning.
As we continue reading in John 8, verses 3 to 11, we learn that while in the temple teaching, the scribes and Pharisees brought before Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery—testing Him that they might find something of which to accuse Him. What does He do? As Harry Anderson portrays in his painting, Jesus stoops down and begins to write on the temple’s floor in the dust the sins of her accusers. You will see in the painting, beginning with the eldest, a departure from the scene. What a fitting scenario. The sanctuary was set up, or I should say came into existence, when sin did. God is never caught off guard. He had a plan then and it still exists today. Put your faith in that plan and He will honor your faith. When conviction of sin comes to you don’t run away from Jesus but to Him, and beat your chest and declare yourself a sinner. He is all merciful to forgive you and give you grace in time of need to overcome. To finish this scene in John 8, when Jesus is finished writing in the dust of the sanctuary floor the pharisaical pots who called the kettle black all leave the scene. I see Jesus straightening up and stepping into that dust rendering it unintelligible to the eye, not wanting to expose their sins prematurely, almost anxiously waiting another day to deal with the sin problem.
In dealing with the woman caught in sin, we can see how Jesus will deal with our sins. When I come to the realization that I can’t handle the weight, responsibility and consequence of my sins, that they are not cute and innocent but that they are crushing the life out of me and the ones I love, I beat my chest and declare myself a sinner, not worthy to live. Then and only then am I ready to receive His mercy. He will give me grace to overcome, and I become a lively stone to be used for His kingdom, a willing sacrifice.
To complete our study on self-sacrifice, we have one more picture of Harry Anderson’s to look at—the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus said, and I quote: “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). A child is very trusting and believing. In contrast, the older we get, the more responsibility we perceive and our faith can waiver. Thoughts such as “Can I afford it?” or “What will people think?” run through our minds, and we justify ourselves out of a willing obedience to God’s will, back into the world of slavery to men-pleasing instead of God-pleasing. But don’t miss the child-like faith that Jesus had as He took the boy’s lunch and fed 5.000. And note the boy’s faith as he was willing to sacrifice and give his food. As we use Christ as our perfect example to follow, what will be the outcome? Revelation 14:12 tells us: “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
So today, what can we take with us but this:
What or how can I contribute to the family of God? What talent or gift do I have in my possession you can use that I might become a “Sanctuary Alive.”