Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sacred Sacrifices


Pastor Paul Ciniraj of India wrote these words:  “I’m a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the power of the Holy Spirit. The dye has been cast. I have stepped over the line.  The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of Jesus. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.  My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.  I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.  I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.  My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.  I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ.  l have a great hope of His coming back, so I preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problems recognizing me; for my banner is clear!”  Perhaps this is the kind of life that the Hebrews writer has in mind when he says that believers need to live a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:10-16,18).  Or, even if not, there is much to be loved, learned and lived in the brother’s statement. Regardless, we all need to be seeking to glorify God in our lives.

In chapter 11, there are some great examples of people who live by faith. In chapter 12, Christians are encouraged to live by faith.  This last chapter (13) of the book of Hebrews considers evidences of faith. Now, we consider some characteristics that should appear in our lives if we are truly walking by faith and not by sight.  A majority of the book of Hebrews compares the old and new covenants, and distinguishes between the two by sharing that the new covenant of Jesus Christ is far better.  A Jew under the old covenant could point to the temple as an important landmark for their faith.  Christians do not (or at least they should not) put the same emphasis on a building which could be here today and gone tomorrow.  We are the building…Christians are a heavenly sanctuary (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), inasmuch as our lives are committed to God.  The Jewish people were proud of the city of Jerusalem, but Christians have an eternal city – the New Jerusalem (heaven).  For each of the Old Covenant believer’s religion that involved temporary earthly details, there is a spiritual, eternal counterpart which is far better for the Christian.

Verse 10 says, “We have an altar,” and this is not speaking about a “physical” altar, as under the old covenant, but for us who are believers in Jesus, He is our altar.  It is through Him that we offer our “spiritual sacrifices” to God.  This can be so, because Jesus the Christ’s sacrifice has already been made. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Day of Atonement. He was the perfect sin offering sacrificed for us outside of the camp, so that we might have eternal life.  The gifts that we bring to God are acceptable…not because of an earthly altar…but because of Him, our heavenly altar.

The big issue for the Hebrews then, and for us now, is – separation from a dead religion and identification with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  This has not ever changed.  We must give ourselves wholly and completely to the Lord and not compromise with religion or the world. (Romans 12:1-2)  The Hebrews writer names some of the “spiritual sacrifices” that we, in turn, offer as believers in Christ.  Words of praise that come from our lips should find their origin from our hearts…and in turn is displayed like beautiful fruit on a fruit tree.  There are many ways that we are able to praise the Lord in song.  If we are filled with His Spirit, songs just spill out of our hearts and from our lips.  We may be participating in a worship service on Sunday, traveling down the road in our family car having a sing along, or walking down a lonely road.  When we are joyful, we sing praises (James 5:13).  When we are tempted to grumble instead of being grateful, we need to count our blessings and realize just how blessed that we truly are.  As one person shared, “Sacrificing our praise begins with a frame of mind that tunes the heart.”

Another spiritual sacrifice is the good works of sharing, which, according to the Hebrews writer, includes hospitality and ministry to prisoners (13:3).  “Doing good” covers a multitude of ministries – whatever blessings and gifts God has given us to share…sharing food with the needy, taking people to and from church and to others places, sharing our resources, perhaps just being a good neighbor (as State Farm is).  Finally, the writer emphasizes the importance of prayer. He is unable to visit with his readers personally, but he does ask for their prayers.  When we are convicted by the Lord and for the Lord…many wonderful things happen.

One of my friends who lives in the desert of Arizona posted this picture of a giant Saguaro recently.  This is one of the remarkable creations in nature.  It can grow to be over 50 feet high, weigh in excess of ten tons -- a plant that can weigh up to 20,000 lbs! Their efficient root systems, which can stretch to 60-70 feet across collect every bit of moisture that filters through the topsoil. It stores the water in its body, which functions so well that even after years of drought, the Saguaro still retains enough moisture to produce fruit.  In a similar way, we Christians are to be filled with Living Water…but we cannot ever get full enough.  The fuller that we are, the more that we are able to bear fruit for the Lord.  We have much to be thankful for, and much to praise God about – family, church family, health, life, opportunities, homes, jobs.  If we seek to live a life with integrity, we need not be ashamed or guilty, but as Paul Ciniraj indicates, live life blameless, and to the fullest…to sacrifice our praise and our lives for the Lord.  We are so blessed to be able to be in a one on one communication with our Creator.  We no longer have to be subservient to a system, but have openness and freedom thanks to the death, burial and resurrection.  Let’s live a life that reflects our thankfulness to God for what He has given us, and offer ourselves as “living sacrifices” to His service.

Blessings, Don

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