Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Are you offering false sacrifices?

"To obey is better than sacrifice." 1 Samuel 15:22

God gave King Saul specific instructions to be followed. However, Saul disobeyed God and tried to justify his disobedience by presenting a sacrifice to God. God describes Saul's disobedience as rebellion that is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry (see 1 Samuel 15).


The greatest obstacle to doing God's will, or the will of another, is one's own will. It is not difficult to do the will of another when it conforms to one's own will but when it requires denying one's own will for the sake of the will of another, we are faced with a massive internal conflict. We will avoid submitting our will to the will of another in various ways. Either we simply disobey and don't do the will of the other, or we say we will obey the will of the other but don't actually do it, or we do the will of the other in our own way as a cover-up for actually disobeying.

True sacrifice or false sacrifice?

True sacrifice means I lay down my own will (die to self) and do the will of another for their sake. True sacrifice is determined by the will of another. False sacrifice is different. It appears to be a genuine sacrifice but is actually self-determined and for one's own sake.

When my boys were little, I encountered "false sacrifices" many times. Rather than tidy their room, they would draw me a picture instead. In other words, rather than obeying a clear instruction, they presented me with something that could please me but was self-determined - a false sacrifice! Clearly the cute picture was precious but I would have preferred them to tidy their room as instructed! To obey is better than sacrifice.

The deception of false sacrifices

The more we justify disobedience with false sacrifices, the more insensitive we become to the will of God. For example, someone will justify not forgiving someone else by spending hours serving the poor. God requires us to forgive one another and to feed the poor. However, when we determine the sacrifice to cover up our disobedience, we deceive ourselves.

Grace and obedience

A fundamental question a Christian should ask himself or herself is: Does God require anything of me? You may think this an odd question to ask but I believe many Christians have the idea that grace replaces any requirement from God. Grace, however, has never replaced God's requirements of man. Just as Jesus came to do the Father's will, so every believer is called to the obedience that comes from faith (Rom 1:5). Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). Clearly God indeed requires something of us that we are called to obey if we truly love Him. Thankfully God gives us His grace to empower us to live according to His will.

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and wordly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.." Titus 2:11-12

Finding out God's will

Unless we seek the will of God, we cannot know whether we are doing His will or not. Paul's prayer for the Church was that the believers would know God's will in order to live obedient lives that pleased Him (Rom 12:1-2; Eph 5:17; Php 1:9-11; Col 1:9-10). 

Who is Lord in your life?

Jesus is Lord of all. However, He is only the believer's Lord when s/he lives in submission to Him. The writer to the Hebrews writes,

"In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him." Heb 2:8

Only those who surrender their will to God's will are subject to Him. We deceive ourselves when we call Jesus, "My Lord" when our own will is still seated on the throne!

Who are the sons of God?

The Bible is clear. Those who are led by the Spirit of God, have their minds on what the Spirit desires and do His will are the sons of God (Rom 81-17). How can we call ourselves disciples of Jesus and not do what He commands?

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31

Find out God's will and obey it

I believe every believer should be seeking to know God's will in every area of their lives. Although the Bible doesn't always reveal God's specific will on various issues, it is as we grow in our knowledge of God that we will know what His will is according to His nature.

Sacrifice or obedience?

It is important that we identify God's will for our lives and that we do not ignore the conviction or the prompting of God's Spirit. If we know what God requires of us, we must obey. False sacrifices may cause us to feel better about ourselves but do not justify our disobedience. The more we ignore the Holy Spirit, the harder our hearts become even whilst seemingly doing what pleases God. Spend time with God and find out what His will is concerning prayer, reading the Bible, your relationships, your resources, your church, your gifts, your leaders, your occupation, your children, your parents, your colleagues, the poor, the lost, etc.. 

"We make it our goal to please him." 2 Cor 5:9

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Do you love the Church?

"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." 1 Corinthians 10:16,17

The purpose of Christ's death on the cross was to pay the price necessary to reconcile mankind to God and mankind to one another. The cross represents the redemptive power of Christ's sacrifice that purchased man for God (vertical fellowship - koinonia) and man for one another (horizontal fellowship - koinonia). In other words, it cost Jesus His life to make us one with God and one with one another!

Through faith in Christ the believer is joined to God:

"But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit." 1 Corinthians 6:17

And to one another:

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is in Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given one Spirit to drink." 1 Corinthians 12:12,13

The mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets, is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:4-6).

The believer is not a saved individual but one who has been saved into the community of believers - the Church. Peter writes,

"Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God." 1 Peter 2:10

The believer has a new identity in Christ. The old identity that was independent, self-centred and separated from God and His people has been replaced with a new identity that is dependent on God, considerate (mindful of others) and joined to God and His people. 

Holy Communion, also called the Eucharist or the Lord's supper, is the act of remembering Christ's death and the significance of His sacrifice. Having seen that Christ died to reconcile man to God and to one another we can understand Paul's instructions to the Corinthian church about how they should take communion together. He writes,

"When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God?" 1 Corinthians 11:20-22

When believers do not consider one another and love one another, they despise and dishonour the Church. Paul writes,

"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number have fallen asleep." 1 Corinthians 11:27-30

"Recognising the body of the Lord" means honouring the Body of Christ, the Church. Paul is saying that before believers eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord, they must first consider one another. Taking communion together honours what Christ has purchased with His blood - union with God and union with one another. 

We cannot have fellowship with Christ and ignore our relationships with one another - that is to despise the Church. As those purchased with the blood of Jesus, we must "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit." (Ephesians 4:3,4)

We cannot produce the unity purchased by the blood of Jesus but we are responsible to keep it! 

I am convinced that when the people of God have revelation of their new identity in Christ, as the Church of God, and of what it cost Jesus to purchase men for God, that they will make a commitment to live in unity with one another. It is my prayer that the world would see the glory of the Church as we live in communion with God and one another. I praise God that on that great day when the times will have reached their fulfillment that we will hear "every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!'" And why will we hear every creature singing? Because Christ was slain, and with His blood He purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. He has made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth" (see Revelation 5:9-14).

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20,21