Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The little blue packet of obedience

This morning I was reading in 1 Samuel 15. An excerpt from verse 22 says, "...Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice..."

It really got me thinking. This week I was talking to a friend of mine who is not a church-goer. He grew up in the Catholic church and has a Christian perspective on life, but he does not go to church. He was talking about how some guys he knows were adamant about abstaining from eating beef during lent while having no trouble chasing after women behind their wives' backs. I thought it was a profound observation. Why would they do this? Because they believe that sacrifice trumps obedience.

Sacrifice is a weak substitute (like equal for sugar) for a living, breathing, real relationship with the Creator of the universe. Even in the Old Testament, the LORD was revealing Himself, speaking to His children and asking for obedience and faith. They ignored him and offered him some token burnt offerings to try and make amends for their disobedience. This passage goes on to say that presumption is iniquity and idolatry. I think this is dangerous because I see a lot of presumption in the Church. We presume that God is pleased with a packed house at church. We presume that our songs are real worship. We presume that God is pleased that we decided to get out of bed and go. Maybe we even presume that because we fast or pray that God will have more grace on us. We presume that giving up beef will make up for cheating on our wife. It's sad that this system didn't work thousands of years ago, and it still doesn't work today.

God is not interested in sacrifices that make us feel better about ourselves. He's not interested in how many people we got to come to church. He's not interested in how well we pulled off a worship experience. I don't think he's using (I know I'm presuming now) the same scale to measure success. The next chapter says "For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." Romans 12 says that worship has nothing to do with an hour and a half on Sundays but the way we live our lives. James 1 says that religion that is valid is taking care of widows and orphans. There's a real danger the week after Easter to feel like we're advancing the Kingdom because our numbers were big. Consequently, do we feel like we're doing less advancing because they won't be back next week?

So, where are we? Are we sacrificing and offering things in an attempt to draw near to God? Or, are we drawing near, listening for the still small voice, and responding in obedience to the sovereign plan of an Almighty God and Creator who loved us enough to come to us. We should stop trying so hard to win his approval by what we're trying to "pull off" and realize that His approval is a gift given to us through His Son, and His sacrifice is what's important. I pray that God would reveal the things we're offering as substitutes for obedience and that we would walk by faith and not by sight - in obedience and not in self-centered sacrifices.


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