Sacred and Living Sacrifice
Expression of Worship
The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Rome admonished them as follows,
Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvelous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship. (Romans 12:1, TPT)
Here he tells us what "genuine" expression of worship is. Wow! What a topic, so central to who we are and our walk with God. These are the kind of things I want to give attention to. Like Moses, "I want to step aside to see why the fire is burning and the brush is not consumed." [Exodus 3:2-3]
The mere use of the word "genuine" predicates the existence of "fake" expressions of worship. How do we differentiate between the genuine and the fake? It is the same way, people are taught how to identify fake currency. That is before the present advent of "counterfeit detection machines." The only way they get trained is to make them familiar with the real thing. The more they handled the "real money," the more likely they will be able to identify counterfeit money.
In the same token, the easy way to identify the "counterfeit" expression of worship is to have someone familiar with the "genuine" expression of worship. This takes time. There is no avoiding the passage of time that is required. It is not a "gift." It is a "fruit" you are going to have to grow. There is no free pass around it. Even, Jesus, as part of His passage rite in the flesh, had to go through this. The scriptures tell us, "He learned obedience by the things which he suffered." [Hebrews 5:7-10]
The first time one hears of "genuine" expression of worship one's mind quickly races back to Jesus converse with "The Samaritan Woman by the Well." [John 4:1-30] He said,
"From here on, worshiping the Father will not be a matter of the right place but with the right heart. For God is a Spirit, and he longs to have sincere worshipers who worship and adore him in the realm of the Spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24, TPT)
Elements of Worship
Placing the two scriptures together we see the following as features of a "genuine" expression of worship.
1 - Surrenderedness
2 - Sacred, Living Sacrifice
3 - Living in Holiness
4 - Delighting God's Heart
5 - Not the Right Place, but a Right Heart
6 - Sincere
7 - Realm of Spirit and Truth
All seven can be summarised in Number 2, "A Sacred and Living Sacrifice." It takes a "Sacred and Living Sacrifice" to surrender wholly to God; Live in Holiness; Delight in God's heart; Walk/Live in Sincerity; Gain Entrance to and Dwell in Spirit and in Truth. "A Sacred and Living Sacrifice" is the sum total, secret key to it all.
Sacred and Living Sacrifice
So, what is a "Sacred and Living Sacrifice?" Great question, indeed. To be very simplistic about it is to say, "it is the daily carrying of our cross and following the Lord."
That is it. No more no less. I know that does not help a whole lot. Our human mind needs something more complex. So, I'll oblige. Like my wife loves to say, "I need it practical. I need something I can put flesh and boots on." True of a disciple, and not a minimalistic follower.
“God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” (Charles Spurgeon)
A Few Examples.
So, let us look at a few examples. Just before jumping in on the examples, let us first establish some truths. A Sacred and Living Sacrifice submits to the sovereignty of God in all things. He/She is persuaded by the person and ways of God and chooses to entrust the details into His loving and capable hands. It is not settling for less than God's covenant provision but rests in the immutability of God.
"[God] is a spirit, whose being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable." (The Westminster Shorter Catechism)
God is the sovereign Lord. We can only forget that to our own peril. When we forget we begin to give heed to idolatry. [Colossians 3:5] Idolatry only pulls us in one direction and it is not the way of life. It takes us to deeper and deeper levels of lows for as long as we allow it to persist.
Then, we fall on opposite sides with God. For, only one God can stand at the end of the day. It empowers the devil to do his full work, which is to STEAL, KILL, AND DESTROY. [John 10:10a]
Our place is to always bow and give God place, irrespective of how daunting the situation might be. God is our one and only resort. That is if life is our desire. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God. [Hebrews 10:31; 1 Peter 5:5] Where is our comfort to come from if/when we choose the opposite side to Him?
He knows the way through the wilderness. He has the keys to the promised land. Our guaranteed success strategy is to always stand in faith and never let go. [Hebrews 10:38]
"Faith enables the believing soul to treat the future as present and the invisible as seen." (George Muller)
In Abraham's Sted
With these in mind, let us catch up with Abraham on the way to sacrifice Isaac. [Genesis 22] Just imagine Abraham taking Isaac up the mountain to offer him. Obviously, you know it was not easy. Let us tune it up a notch, and remind ourselves this was not a mere story or fiction. This was a real person like you and me. He was susceptible to the same emotions we are susceptible to.
So, let us for a brief moment exchange places with Abraham. How do you feel about going to some mountain to offer up your son? Note God's emphasis. "The son whom you love." [Genesis 22:2] This was not just an ordinary son. Your only son, Isaac, whom you love. Not Ismael, the son of Hagar. Isaac, the one you waited 25 years for? Don't you just feel so cool about it?
"Pain is only bearable if we know it will end, not if we deny it exists." (Viktor E. Frankl)
An Open Surgery
What better day to talk about this, but today, "Children's Day." How do you feel about going to sacrifice your only son, whom you love? This is what the scriptures mean by a living sacrifice. It is not the giving to God of some leftover, or surplus. It is not the giving to God of something that you have no attachment to.
This was an open wound. An open, real-life/time surgery operation on Abraham's heart. Surgery with no anesthetics. And, intentionally so. For, without pain, there is no growth, there is no development, there is no maturing. No one else can do it for you. Just as no one else can do exercise for you. No one else can do your press-ups for you. If they do, it becomes there own, not yours.
A Lonely Walk
Abraham had to make the sacrifice, and he had to be the one to do it, himself. It was probably less painful while he made the journey with his servants, but people can only help so far. There is a time, there is a place where no one else can go with you. It is the time and place of destiny. That is where fates are determined; umbilical cords are cut; chains are broken and prison doors are opened. It is the place where deep calls to deep. It is each person's holy of holies where he/she meets with his/her creator.
"Faith makes the uplook good, the outlook bright, the inlook favorable, and the future glorious." (V. Raymond Edman)
Abraham had to go the rest of the journey alone with His sacrifice. Jacob had to face God alone. [Genesis 32:22-32] Joseph had to face destiny alone in Egypt, starting from being thrown into that lonely pit. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego [Daniel 3:16-28] had to stand alone against the image of Nebuchadnezzar. And, the list goes on.
Same with each of us. People can only carry us so far. we have to meet with God face to face and decide if we are going to let go and let Him, or we are going to hold on to our false sense of security and lose it all.
"When I argue with reality I lose, 100% of the time." (Byron Katie)
When faced with a circumstance of life that was seemingly beyond him, Abraham did not run away from reality, nor start grumbling. He did not dilly dally in obeying God. He faced reality. If he could not change the reality facing him, he was going to define (access) it by the unchanging truth he knew. He might not have known the details of what God wanted to do, he understood God's boundary conditions. He understood the covenant he had with God. That was the basis of his confidence and rest.
God had promised him a son. Not one to be killed, but one to inherit. That was indisputable. It was not up to Abraham to make that happen. That detail was God's. It was going to be God's way, Abraham's, but the final outcome was never in doubt. [Hebrews 11:17-19]
What runs true for all the examples in scripture is God showed up. Their seeming downfall became their opportunity to glory. He will show up for us also if we stay true to Him in waiting.
Preparing our hearts to follow God is pivotal. We are only going to find the Lord and worship Him in spirit and truth if we prepare our hearts to follow. We have to cause our heart not to follow the negative gravitational pull towards destruction. We have to subdue it to the continuous washing of water by the Word of God. That is the only way up to God. That is the way into the Holy of Holies. That is the way to true intimacy with God.
© 2020 Akin Akinbodunse