22 May 2013
There is a word in scripture associated with the worship of God that we have all but banned from our modern faith vocabulary. We have with great gladness gulped down the theology that the cross is the last and final sacrifice.
Of course salvation by grace without works is absolutely and awesomely true, however we tend to slide off onto the soft and slippery shoulder of self. We jump at the idea that freedom from any serious sacrifice has been granted to us as an inalienable right. A “no sacrifice for any reason” imitation gospel has stealthily steered us to migrate from being lovers of God and men to lovers of self. Our modern Church has accepted this detour from the truth with open arms apparently finding great delight in the self centered life. Unfortunately this tangent to the truth of scripture is without doubt receiving rave reviews by the evil forces of the world below.
A ”no sacrifice gospel” defines its proponents as TAKERS. Takers who are Christians are known to the world as hypocrites. Even the world intuitively knows that Christians are designed and predestined by God to be givers. If we were to study the cause of the decline of the impact of the Church on our communities we should look no further than the massive move of church members to join the ranks of self-focused takers. The issue of being or becoming a taker or giver is only discernable within the human heart. God looks on the heart. Some of the activities of givers and takers may seem to be the same, but the eternal outcomes are poles apart.
Becoming a Christian taker is quite easy and exceptionally comfortable. Our flesh gives a standing ovation while the world joins in its approval. The strategy of our arch enemy while thinly veiled provides strong support and encouragement on every front.
Romans 12:1-2 (NASB95)
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice,acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. ( emphasis added)
God is a giver and we as His children are to be transformed into His likeness by the renewing of our minds. We are to be transformed from takers to givers. A foundational issue is the extent of our knowing God. This is not the same as knowing about God or knowing scripture or even being able to quote it. Only as we grow to intimately know God will we find the faith to die to self.
It is a known fact that those with whom we spend time will make an indelible imprint upon our lives. The more we get to know God and walk with Him the more we will be transformed toward His giving nature. It is often difficult to determine the extent of the intimacy of our walk with God. An excellent litmus test however is to look at the extent of the opening of our hearts to give. Hearts wide open to authentic agape-like giving only flow out of knowing and walking with God.
One explanation for why takers are never really fulfilled is we were not made for taking. However, we are constantly encouraged to believe if we just can take a little bit more then the satisfaction we seek will finally arrive. In reality takers settle for plastic pearls, fake fulfillment, that will never truly satisfy.
The path toward nearness to God does not follow Easy Street. It is not a downhill slide. Nearness to our God requires sacrifice. An attitude of humble submission and continuous thanksgiving and praise does not arise in the heart of a tenacious taker. God tells us that if we draw near to Him He will draw near to us. Drawing near to God takes time and discipline, in a word sacrifice.
Where do we start? We must sacrifice the time and effort to seek God earnestly. O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. -Psalms 63:1
Hebrews 13:15 (AMP)
15 Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name. (emphasis added)
When we find ways to worship God daily, particularly in times of prayer set apart to seek His face, He will draw near to us and through this time of drawing near to God and His response of drawing near to us our hearts begin to move toward opening wide to give.
James 4:8-10 (NASB95)
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
On a human level how is the best way to develop and deepen an appropriate relationship? I fear that many believers in our modern churches today do not know what it means to develop and intimate relationship with God. God desires to be first in our hearts. He instructs us to worship Him to love Him and to obey Him.
1 Peter 2:4-5 (AMP)
4 Come to Him [then, to that] Living Stone which men tried and threw away, but which is chosen [and] precious in God’s sight.
5 [Come] and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.
The idea of worship through sacrifice should not be thrown out. But the idea of worship for our pleasure alone is not scripturally sound. Yes Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a single once and for all sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, but we must not use this truth to reject any sacrifice on our part as it relates to the worship of God.
Loving relationships are built upon giving and receiving. While our Lord gives much more, we must never assume that we are to only receive. When Jesus instructed us how to pray, He first instructed us to humble ourselves and hallow the Name of our Father. The next thing He taught was we are to pray first for the interests of God. Our relationship with God centers first on God, His will, and His plan.
When we pray for God to bring renewal and revival to His church, at the heart of our desire should be the concern for God’s kingdom and His glory. Father, we ask You to reveal to us the ways we are centered in ourselves, and help us turn away from self to You.