Monday, May 18, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Convenience or Commitment?
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-5 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Right after Easter, I started a series of sermons on Sunday mornings on the topic of Knowing God Through Genesis. The book of Genesis is incredible. In it, we find not only the foundations of the world and of civilization, but also the revelation of the nature and character of God and His work on behalf of mankind. There is nothing more deeply satisfying to any of us than the knowledge of God, and so far, after only four chapters, we are becoming overwhelmed with awe at the splendor of God.
Each week, as I study, I discover things that have real significance to me. Yesterday we spent time studying the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. One part of the story stood out to me and made a point that has been with me for days now – the sacrifices that were offered by the two brothers. One was acceptable to God, and one wasn’t. Why?
Many have stated that the reason God accepted Abel’s sacrifice was because it was a blood sacrifice of an animal. Cain’s was rejected because it was grain. This belief is based on the need for a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, which God demonstrated to Adam and Eve when He clothed them with the skins of animals after their sin in the Garden of Eden. I completely see the connection and the significance of the symbolism, but I think that we stretch the meaning when we think this way. Nowhere in the passage does it say that the sacrifice they were bringing was for the forgiveness of sin. They were bringing an offering, not making a sacrifice.
Interestingly, when God passes on His laws to Moses, grain offerings were fully acceptable. Therefore, it was not the offering that caused the problem for Cain. So what was it? It was the attitude of his heart towards the glory of God. Cain did not truly respect God as the provider and sustainer of his life. He simply came and made an offering of convenience. Abel, on the other hand, gave God the best of the best that he had. Cain brought some of the harvest of his fields. Abel gave of the fat portions of the firstfruits of his flocks. Cain did not honor God as His provider, but kept the best for himself to provide for himself. Abel showed trust in God’s provision by giving up the first born of his flock, thereby limiting his flock’s reproductive potential.
This has deeply impacted my heart. I want it to touch you as well. Open your heart to think about this principle in light of your current commitment level to Christ. Are you offering Him only what is convenient? Do you give Him only the time that doesn’t interfere with your plans? Do you give Him offerings of resources that don’t restrict your buying power?
We live in a modern world of convenience. Everything is about making life easier. Unfortunately, easy living comes at a huge price. It costs us our sacrificial spirit. Easy living becomes the passion of our pursuits, and the motivation of our decisions. If we carefully and honestly evaluate it, easy living is the product of our own invention and is accomplished in the strength of our own will. As a result, we make very few if any true sacrifices, because all choices are based on return value.
Peter tells us today that together we are to grow as a spiritual house to be holy priests that offer spiritual sacrifices to God. I cannot justify convenience with spiritual sacrifices. Cain’s sacrifice of convenience didn’t represent commitment. Abel’s sacrifice of income potential did. We must each decide if our relationship with Christ is one of convenience or commitment. We may call our service in the church a commitment, while it may be nothing more than a convenient way to continue to appear spiritual.
Sacrifices of convenience grow out of a spirit of self-fulfillment. Sacrifices of commitment come from a heart that is already fulfilled in Christ and needs nothing more. Convenience is all about gain for self. Commitment is all about gain for God. Convenience demonstrates trust in self. Commitment models trust in Christ.
My friends, this is an urgent word for the day in which we live. We cannot any longer live as materialistic-minded people. Giving God what’s left of our time, our energy, and our finances is nothing more than convenient Christianity that benefits self. We must…I repeat, we MUST understand that God requires compliance when it comes to commitment. Anything less is an unacceptable offering. Give God your best – the best of your best. As the Apostle Paul said, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)