Well, here we go….I’m hoping this makes sense to somebody!
Math is something I happen to despise, because I don’t understand it. Dyslexia does not come in the form of letters for me but numbers, if there is such a thing. Yet for some reason the word picture I have for this blog entry is a mathematical equation. So I’m like a 3 year old trying to explain algebra.
Think of these three points like a mathematical “if, then” problem. (Or a triangle. I don’t know, you tell me, you math people)
God says in His word:
Obedience, love, and faith.
Out of these three verses, I am going to make the bold statement that the ONE WORD that matters most to us Americans, and what we see as most spiritual, is….Sacrifice. Note: not part of the equation.
We desire sacrifice, we applaud sacrifice, we dream of sacrifice, our heroes are made from sacrifice. We are about stepping out and taking risks, even if it hurts.
We question obedience. We question if we can hear from God at all. The very word conjures visions of unhealthy relationships and leadership structures. We question if the Lord is pleased with us outside of what we do for Him.
I am NOT talking about the kind of sacrifice we make when we take up our cross and die daily to ourselves and to our flesh. That is called “maturing” in our faith, becoming more Christ-like. What I am talking about is when our flesh actually grows stronger when our motivation to sacrifice is selfish.
Sacrifice is what we do when we jump ahead of the Lord’s plan for us. It is when I am not sure whether I really heard from the Lord or not, and I act out of my own wisdom. Sacrifice asks us to….well, sacrifice, things to make sure that something happens. We might have the best of intentions, but out of a state of boredom, insecurity, panic, pain, or pride, we can launch out ahead of Him.
Dear Friends, God is not impressed or even blessed by our sacrifice. It PAINS him.
If you do not believe me, check out King Saul in 1 Samuel 15. Besides the interesting sarcasm, this passage shows us what our wanderings into self determination look like to God. King Saul is the perfect image of a hero; reluctant, yet good looking and gifted. No doubt that was God’s point in picking him, since Israel begged for a human king. But reading the whole story throughout 1 Samuel, I can feel the pain in God’s heart.
This natural born leader was replaced with someone who was foolishly in love with God, a teenager spending his time singing love songs about God to an audience of sheep. Would leadership have shown up on his Gallup strengths assessment?
We cannot transpose our values onto the purposes and heart of God. We must value what He values if we are to please Him.
Take Mary of Bethany, anointing Jesus with her perfume. The guests were not bothered because she was sacrificing practically her entire estate. They were offended by who she was sacrificing for. They did not get that this was not a sacrifice for her, but a heart movement of LOVE. And that is exactly how Jesus received it.
Jesus is impressed by our acts of LOVE. He desires our acts of LOVE (obedience). They make His heart melt. Seriously.
When Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments,” He was not making a threat. A Good Husband does not manipulate His Bride. I think he was saying, “Obeying me comes naturally to those who love me, it is just something they do, not because they have to, but because they want to.” I believe He was making more of an observation about those who love Him, rather than a “Do this or else!” statement.
We MUST get the difference between obedience and sacrifice into our hearts. A day will come in all of our lives, where life will be unbearable, and we will say to ourselves that this (call to obedience) is not worth it. If love of God is not our motivation, it will not be worth it.
I don’t care how successful you are in ministry. You will not be “successful” in the eyes of the Lord until love, not sacrifice, is your motivation. He does not want our burnt offerings of frazzled nerves, stressed relationships, and poor health, all sacrificed for ministry. He wants us.
For some reason sometimes I need a soundtrack going through my head when I write. For this blog, it was a song by Brooke Fraser which I’ll include just for fun. I’m not exactly sure what the connection is but maybe it will bless you. 🙂 CS Lewis Song