Monday, January 12, 2015

A Stony Sacrifice

                There is a great and mighty war being waged inside my soul. Every morning when I wake, it has begun again. Throughout the day I find myself being tossed from one side of the battlefield to the other. In the evening when I am at rest, there it is again, raging in the depths of my being. What is this war? The same war you battle everyday- it is the war of our wills against the will of our God. My heart’s desire is to follow Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, but much like Paul I too
find a will to do something else within me. “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”(Romans 7:22-24a) There is a war being waged within me, and even though there is a desire within me to do God’s will, I find, instead, my will winning more often than not.
                So I prayed. I prayed diligently, humbly and openly before my God this morning. I know that He can do the impossible. I know and believe that through His precious blood which was shed for me there is hope that this desire of self can be put to death once and for all. But how, you ask? I asked the same question. How can this self-will of mine be put to death once and for all? And is it even possible for the Lord to accomplish such a defeat? That is when I heard the word, the word that can save us all from the power of our own self will. That word was and is, Sacrifice.
                The word sacrifice means to surrender or give up something that you hold dear for the sake of something considered to have greater value. In the Old Testament, the outward sacrifice of animals was given to God as an offering. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice for us all. He laid down His life, His very own life for our sakes. He did not consider His own will, but instead laid it down for the sake of the Father’s will, which was our salvation. Luke 22:42 tells us that He prayed that the Father would find another way, but He also resigned His will so that the will of God the Father could be accomplished through Him. He resigned His will to His Father’s when He said, “not My will, but your will be done.”
                All of us have said these words. We have laid down our wills before the Lord and have told Him that it was our desire to do His will. I have said these words many times. I have prayed these words many times. But, it hit me today, (very hard I might add) that these were just words that I have spoken. I spoke them, but in the depths of my heart, I did not mean them. If I had meant them, then certain attitudes and behaviors would have left my life and would have been replaced with something much greater.
                “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as new born babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” 1 Peter 2:1-3
                A sacrifice dies. It is laid upon the altar of God and is killed. There is nothing left of it, it is burnt up in the fire. When we lay our lives in surrender and sacrifice before the Lord, then these behaviors and attitudes that Peter has listed will no longer be a part of our lives. You may be wondering what any of these things have to do with the battle of my will over His, but I pray that you will bear with me as the Lord shows me exactly what it is He wants me to see and learn today. Pray, bear with me a little while, and we shall be blessed, I am sure of it.
                First of all, Peter tells us that we must “lay aside” all these behaviors. When we lay aside something, we give it up. It no longer is a part of our thoughts, of our actions or our words. It is gone. When I gave up smoking, there were no more cigarettes in my possession- they were gone. I did not carry them around with me- I put them aside, I laid them down and they are gone. The same is true of all the habits that I have given up, they are gone, no more a part of my daily life. These attitudes and behaviors that Peter is referring to are also to be gone from our lives, if we have truly given our lives in sacrifice to the Lord. If we have offered the sacrifice of self to Him, then these behaviors and attitudes should no longer be mentioned in us or seen in us. (There will be moments that they rear their heads, but He will put them down when they pop up- we will not walk in them.)
                First of all, Peter mentions to us that we are to lay aside all malice. Malice means ill will. It is a desire to injure someone because they have injured you. It also means that one is not ashamed to break the law. I have to admit, I thought I had gotten rid of malice in my life. I do not seek to hurt anyone, or cause anyone pain, but, in all openness and humility before God- malice is still a big part of my life. Why? Because breaking the law is something I make excuses for. I speed, I admit it- I like to speed. My foot has a tendency to get heavy on the accelerator and the next thing I know I am doing sixty five miles an hour in a forty-five mile hour zone. This lack of care for the law is a form of malice, and I must, as Peter goes on to tells us in this chapter, that I must “submit myself to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake”. (1 Peter 2:13) Malice is still a behavior I demonstrate.
                The next one Peter lists for us is deceit. As Christians we know that telling lies is sinful behavior. Most of us would say that we do not lie, that we are honest and upright with everyone. But are we? The words of Billy Sunday came to my mind when I read the word deceit. “An excuse is a skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” My excuses for not getting something done, my excuse for calling in sick when really I could go into work, they are simply deceit before the Lord, and I am without excuse for them all. Deceit is not only lying to one another, it is excusing our behavior before God, trying to make ourselves out to be better than the wretched people we really are. An excuse is no more than a lie. Deceit is the unwillingness to be honest and completely open with the Lord our God who already knows the very depth of our souls. We give Him excuses for our behaviors, instead of just confessing the sin before Him. In this we commit deceit.
                Peter then goes on to list hypocrisy, the desire to make ourselves into something we are not. Then envy- the desire to have when we do not need, a jealousy for the good that others are experiencing. He then lists evil speaking. Evil speaking can be putting someone down to lift you up, a defaming of their character before others. But, it is also connected to gossip. Gossip, no matter how we try to excuse it is evil speaking and is derived from the desire to build oneself up in the presence of others. There is no excuse for these behaviors and attitudes that we as Christians exhibit. They are derived from self, from the love of self and are a testimony to the pride that still resides in the depths of our beings. The changing of self requires sacrifice. There is no other way then to just come out and say it. If we want change in our lives, if we want to walk a more intimate walk with the Lord then these things must go. If we continue in them, they will hinder our growth.
            
    Peter now goes on to tell us how we can finally, once and for all lay aside all these attitudes and behaviors that hinder our growth. He tells us that we, “as new born babes, desire the pure milk of the word”. (1 Peter 2:2) Think about it for a moment. New born babes eat a lot. They desire milk all the time. When my children were newborn’s, they ate about every two hours. They would cry and cry until they were satisfied. It seemed like their appetite for milk would not end. The more they ate, the more they wanted. Do we approach His Word like new born babes? Do we desire for God’s Word like a new born babe? I do agree that at some point we have to get off the milk and into the meat, but that desire for His word should never wane. That desire to feed upon His truth should always be the driving force behind our days. We read our daily devotionals, we attend bible studies, and we attend regular church services, but do we desire His Word? Do we long for His Word like a new born babe longs for the milk? If we truly want to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) then we must begin by desiring His Word and His Word only. Nothing else, no one else should be more important to us than Him and His truth.
                “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4-5
              So how then do we take the knowledge that we have been given today in regards to the areas of our life that need to go and apply them to the principle of sacrifice? We come to Him. We come to Him as a living stone. We know that Jesus Christ is our Chief Cornerstone and that the whole house of God is being built upon Him. (1 Peter 2:6) A living stone is a stone that is willing to be chiseled down to fit into the place that has been prepared for it. A living stone is willing to be crushed into gravel if that is what is needed of it. A living stone gives of itself freely and fully without complaint. We are to be these stones. We are chosen by God, we are precious stones to Him. We have been specially chosen to be a part of the spiritual house of Jesus Christ. If we are allowing malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, or evil speaking to be a part of our lives then we are not being living stones.
                I want self to die. I want there to be nothing left of me and only His Word to remain. But I must also know and believe that without sacrifice there can be no building. How can a rock be hewn if it is not willing to let go of being a rock? A rock becomes a stone when it is willing to sacrifice who it wants to be for the sake of the builder’s mold. Our salvation came through sacrifice, and our salvation of self comes the same way. I know that I will battle for the rest of my days upon this earth with self desire, and self will. But I also know that nothing is impossible with my God. I also know and believe that if we are willing to be these living stones, and give the spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God, then we can and will be hewn into the stones that He has prepared us to be.
Photo taken from: www.closedtruth.com
                “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart- these O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) Are we willing to be broken under the working chisel of our God? Are we willing to humbly admit that we have not yet given Him the sacrifice that is pleasing to Him? Are we willing to be the living stone, coming to Him, our Chief Cornerstone? If we say that we desire His will over our own, then the list Peter has given us will no longer be a part of us. We must, in all humility and brokenness admit that we are not quite there yet. But, we can with all confidence say that He who began this work in us will complete it- (Philippians 1:6) we just have to be willing to sacrifice the rocks we think we are.

                Father, I pray that these words You have given to me today will become seeds that are planted firmly into the garden of my heart. Father, I pray that You would hewn me, that You alone would mold me into the stone that You desire me to be. Father, teach me what it means to be a living sacrifice, offering up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to You and You alone. Father God, the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ is my example, may Your Word be the chisel upon this stone heart of mine. In Jesus Name, Amen and Amen.