Obedience, Not Sacrifice

Last weekend, we had a worship and prayer night with our students at church. It was a great night and God used my little girl to speak truth to me. We all were given the opportunity to write down one thing that seemed impossible in our lives. At the end of the night we ripped the card up that had our "impossibility" on it and laid the shredded pieces in a bowl at the foot of a small wooden cross. My oldest daughter wanted to know what we were doing and so I explained it to her and asked if she wanted to write anything down. She did, so she went and grabbed one of those little cards and a pen and came back to where I was sitting. I asked her if she knew what impossible thing she wanted God's help with and she immediately knew. "I want God to help me obey" she said. She needed help spelling it, so it took us a minute, and then she signed her name on it and took it and laid it at the foot of the cross. It was beautiful.

 I was reading in 1 Samuel fifteen, later that night, and wouldn't you know it, the theme of the chapter is "obedience, not sacrifice". Here we are, in the middle of the Old Testament, where the people are living by the laws of sacrifice, and God is saying "I want your heart!". Even then, when the law was all there was, God was a God of love wanting relationship. God has always wanted to restore the heart of man. The thing about obedience is it fosters relationship. My little girl wants to obey because she knows it pleases her mommy and daddy when she obeys. She want's to please us because we are living life with her and nurturing a relationship with her. I pray that as she grows in maturity she will want to obey out of love and not duty. Perhaps that was her "prayer of impossibility". That God would help her heart WANT to obey. That would be the impossible part! The heart of man is bent towards the ways of the world. Obedience doesn't come naturally! God knows this. As I am reading through the Old Testament it is so apparent that everything is "building up" to the perfect sacrifice that will make the way for man to once again abide in God. The truth is that I could never offer a sacrifice that is perfect because I have never been perfect. I am made blameless through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. I stand before God not with a list of the "good things" I have done that make me right but only the blood of Jesus that purifies my heart. This is where I find freedom. This is where I find the power to live for God. 

I have been writing a lot lately about this conversation of relationship and ritual and everything in between. I may sound like a broken record but I just can't help it! I am so excited about the truth I have found and I see now how deceptive the enemy is in his attempts to create walls between us and God. He keeps us in chains of shame and guilt that make us afraid of God. I confess, it is hard to break the habits of ritual in everyday life. With every deed, every word, I hear God whispering "I want your heart and soul". It is easy to live in the system of sacrifice but still be far from God. I can go through the motions of serving God without actually serving him. This is where my heart has changed. I set out to follow his ways because I know he looks on me with his perfect love. I am not afraid of offering an imperfect sacrifice because the only sacrifice he wants is my spirit devoted to him. When I abide in his love, he abides in me and I have the strength to live for him. The difference I find in offering my heart to God rather than empty sacrifice is that I desire to follow him. I hate the thought of causing him grief or pain. I want to be like him. The moment I do something that grieves his spirit in me, I want to fall on my face and accept his forgiveness so that I can once again feel his delight in me. His love is so tender and so pure and I have found nothing, absolutely nothing, in this life that can compare to it. I want to abide in it everyday for the rest of my life.

Every one of us will face God at the end of time and we will give an account for our life. Until recently, the idea of that day brought only a sense of dread because I saw that day as nothing but judgment and truthfully there will be those who stand in judgment but it will be for one reason only: they did not live by faith in Christ. If not for Christ what hope would I have on that day? I could stand there and list off all the times I did something "good" and yet, there would be even more times when my thoughts were evil, or I acted selfishly. If not for Christ, my sacrifice would be nothing. However, on that day, I will stand before God and offer the only answer I can give that saves me from certain death. "I have trusted in Jesus, the perfect sacrifice". I will not fear for I know my faith in Jesus has saved me. That day, for me, and anyone else who has believed, will be a day of rejoicing. I pray that I am offering that hope to those who have not yet believed.

After my daughter placed her prayer in that bowl she did something that, in my eyes, was beautiful and perfect. She ran over to her daddy and threw her arms around his neck and told him what she had done. I could see the delight on his face as he hugged her. God immediately reminded me that he loves me the same way and he delights in my offering of the heart. On that day when I stand before him, I will be free to run and throw my arms around his neck and see the delight on his face as I tell him "I gave you my heart Papa". I will feel no fear of judgment because I will know then just as I know now that my salvation has come through faith in Jesus and not through any act of my own, be it good or bad.

God wants obedience of the heart, not sacrifice of rituals and religion. Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice, constantly growing in faith and love. When we set out to live a life of obedience of the heart, grace, forgiveness, mercy and mostly love will become our foundation. We have found complete perfection in Christ. Let's not tarnish it with our empty sacrifices and burnt offerings. God restores the soul through his grace mercy. Let's offer mercy and forgiveness to this world.

Obedience...not sacrifice...

"You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart O God." 
Psalms 51:16-17








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