I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
One of those unique terms that seem to be used only in fundamental churches is the term "sold out". You may have trouble finding this phrase in a dictionary. What does it mean and what does it have to do with being a normal Christian? You will not find the phrase "sold out" anywhere in the Bible either, but you will find all that it means within the pages of Scripture. You will find too, that the normal Christian is a "sold out" Christian. So, let us turn now to the Scriptures as we study this week on the meaning of the term "sold out".
Joshua exhorted the children of Israel to "choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell" (Joshua 24:15). Similarly, Elijah asked the people of Israel, "How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him" (1 Kings 18:21). God told the church of Laodicea, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot" (Revelation 3:15, see also Matthew 6:24 and James 1:8). Many times God has drawn a line and asked His people to get on one side or the other. What a great picture of what it is to be sold out. For, if we could capture all that the term "sold out" embodies into one idea, it would be this: to draw a line and step across it.
To further illustrate this thought, we shall consider three great examples found in Scripture, each of which highlights a specific aspect of drawing this line and stepping across.
In Leviticus 1, God begins a set of instructions concerning one of the five types of offerings that were to be made - the burnt offering. One of the unique parts of this sacrifice is given in verse 9 where God says, "the priest shall burn all on the altar". The burnt offering was distinguished from the other types in that the whole sacrifice was to be consumed by fire upon the altar. No doubt the intended lesson from this sacrifice was to remind the offerer of the complete dedication of his whole being to the service of God. Paul applies this to the believer in Romans 12:1 when he pleads for every believer to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" which he adds is our reasonable service. You might relate the phrase "all gone" with this term "sold out", and this would be a fair comparison for to be sold out means that self is all gone!
A winning basketball team consists of players who know that when they step across the sideline onto the court, they must give their all for the victory. It means giving every ounce of energy, continual concentration, giving up the glory of a basket when a teammate has a better shot, and allowing your body to be bruised in order to draw a charge. Could we conceive of the Christian life as any less than this? When we draw the line and step across, we are devoting our whole being to service of God. That's what it means to be "sold out"! As Paul says, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain". What kinds of things would characterize the life of one wholly dedicated to God?
O we never can know what the Lord will bestow
Of the blessings for which we have prayed,
Till our body and soul He doth fully control,
And our all on the altar is laid.
Only two years after Saul became King over Israel, a great host of Philistines consisting of 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and an innumerable number of foot soldiers encamped just four miles from the capital of Israel (1 Samuel 13:5). Despite the overwhelming superiority in forces, God gave the Israelites the victory thanks to the courageous exploits of Saul's son Jonathan as told in 1 Samuel 14:1-15.
Jonathan makes a very interesting statement when he reveals his plan to his armor-bearer in verse 8-10. Basically he told him that they were going to reveal themselves to the Philistines, and if the enemy asked them to come to them this would be a sign that God was going to give them the victory. Otherwise, they would stand and fight where they were. It would be easy to pass over this part of the story without realizing the importance of what Jonathan had said: when he left the camp in verse 1, he was going to go fight the Philistines whether they would be victorious or not. In other words, there would be no turning back. Jonathan had no intention of retreating even if God was not going to cause them to win. When Jonathan revealed himself to the enemy, for all practical purposes, he had burned any bridge that might allow him to return.
When Jonathan crossed over the line, he was committed to the battle. To be "sold out" is to cross the line with the resolution to never return. It is to be committed to the service of God. If you have to decide on Sunday morning whether you will come to church or not, you are not committed to being faithful to church. If you choose to quit drinking alcohol, but you leave a few beers in the refrigerator just in case, you are not committed to obeying God. It is easy to make a decision for God, but the sold out Christian actually steps across the line vowing never to return! Like the ham and egg breakfast, the chicken participated, but the pig was committed.
When Paul was making what would be his final journey to Jerusalem, he was warned by the Holy Spirit in every city to which he came that imprisonment and persecution would befall him when he came to Jerusalem (Acts 20:23). He makes a remarkable statement though, to the Ephesian elders when he arrived in Miletus saying, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). It seems that Paul could think only of finishing the work that God had called him to do. When Paul stepped across the line, he wasn't going to let anything cause him to look behind. Neither would he look to the left nor right. No, Paul was focused firmly on the objective of finishing his course. He possessed stability - nothing could move him from doing the will of God!
In every city through which Paul went on his way to Jerusalem, friends and believers pleaded with him not to go on (Acts 21:12), yet this did not influence him to change his decision. The Christian walk can become quite difficult in those times when you find yourself alone in your stand for right and against wrong. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were apparently the only Jews to refuse to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar's image. The sold out Christian is stable in his stand and unaffected by what others believe and do. To be sold out is to be a thermostat and not a thermometer. If you are only going to serve God when things are going well, you are not sold out to the work of God. Paul says, "be instant in season, out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2).
How important is it for a Christian to be sold out? Consider what the Bible has to say about those who chose not to step over the line and about those who did. Those who refuse end up spending their lives in the wilderness, while the sold out Christian dwells in victory in the promised land!
Demas had been a man who Paul once called a fellowlabourer, but in 2 Timothy 4:10 we find that he had forsaken Paul "having loved this present world". Could Demas have ever been truly happy with the rest of his life? In Matthew 16:25 Jesus said, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." There have been many Christians that left the faith and ended up with shipwrecked lives (1 Timothy 1:19). These are the testimonies of those who were never sold out to the service of God.
What a contrast of outcomes we find when we consider those who were sold out to God. Jonathan and his armor bearer killed twenty Philistines and sent the rest of the unnumbered host back home in fear. Daniel saw God shut the mouth of the lions. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked unscathed through the fiery furnace with one "like the Son of God". God delivered Paul from death in Jerusalem and eventually brought him to testify before Caesar. These are just a few examples of those who gave their all for God with no thought of turning back regardless of the circumstances.
Compare the Kings of Judah who were sold out to God with those who were not, and then look at which ones were blessed and beloved of God. King Josiah is mentioned in the Bible with great honor having this testimony, "And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him" (2 Kings 23:25).
Dedication, commitment, stability: are these words that describe your service to God? D.L. Moody once heard an evangelist say, "The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him." Moody vowed to himself, "By the grace of God, I'll be that man." It is estimated that in his lifetime, D.L. Moody preached to over 100 millian people. Oh Christian, would you take that step? Won't you step across the line and be a "sold out" Christian?