Tuesday, September 01, 2009

In Other Words--Sacrificing or Obeying?

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases. All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs his heart. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
Proverbs 21:1-3

There is great comfort in these verses when a person feels that the decision makers pursue paths that are opposed to his or her beliefs. It is possible to at least take comfort in the fact that God indeed does direct the decisions, whether the king recognizes it or not. So it would be tempting to write today a reassuring "God wins in the end" type post.

But it is not that easy.

The passage does not end with verse one telling us the king is accountable to God. It moves on to verse two to tell us that we are all accountable to God--not just for our blatant actions but also for the motivations of our heart. Ouch. If that was not enough then verse three tells that it does not matter what we believe we are sacrificing, what God really wants is our total obedience. Double ouch.

Because total obedience is immediate, and with motivation to love God not motivation that "we have to do it." We cannot volunteer for one project in order to be "too busy" to participate in that ministry God is nudging us toward. We cannot just give a monetary offering to help with a project if God is telling us to be the hands and feet of the project. We cannot "give up" Sunday morning for worship and believe that is all we need to do when God is saying be in relationship with the people of God. What we deem as "sacrifice" is often an attempt to divert attention from the real call.

This weekend, one of the young men in our church gathering who is attending Bible College, came home to preach. He spoke on the passage of the sheep and the goats in Matthew and how that spoke to our purpose as "the church" of God. He reminded us that loving one another, and loving those in need, is also loving God explicitely. He expounded upon the point that we do not get to choose whether or not we want to love others--it is a command. If we want to love God then we will obey and love others. He gave an example of being in South Africa and meeting with "the church" Tuesday through Saturday as they went into homes to pray with the sick, took care of children orphaned by AIDS and providing other practical help. He said that by Sunday morning worship, he already knew 80% of the congregation--and if they had never met together for corporate worship they were still the church because they were working together in obedience to what God had led.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Matthew 25:35-40

He ended with a provacative question that I will be pondering for some time to come:

"If we stopped having Sunday morning gatherings, would you still be called out (ecclesia) and what would you be called out to?"

In essence, if we were not meeting together in a large setting once a week, would anyone, including ourselves, have any idea that we were identified as "the church"? I believe our answer says much about whether we are depending on "sacrifice" of attendance or if we are seeking to "obey."

Are you sacrificing or are you obeying?

Nina is our hostess today at Mama's Little Treasures. Please come and visit the others who are writing on this verse. You are sure to be blessed.


Karen said...

Oh good I get to be the first stitch added today :) That was a great post loaded with a lot of truth. Thanks for sharing today.

Denise Hughes said...

Great words to ponder. How can I participate more in the global church as well as my local one? Thank you for your thoughtful words today.

Denise Hughes :)

Debbie said...

You always seem to have a way with these quotes that gets me thinking. And I love that, so thank you. We can do all the "right things" but am I really being obedient to what God has prepared for me to do?

Anonymous said...

Loved your take on this, with our sacrificing or obeying. Sometimes, it's both isn't it? To obey, we need to sacrifice.

Thanks so much for sharing today.

Tami Boesiger said...

Ooh. You got me in two points.

What we deem as "sacrifice" is often an attempt to divert attention from the real call.

Amen, sister. I hear ya there! And then the question your young pastor asked,

If we stopped having Sunday morning gatherings, would you still be called out (ecclesia) and what would you be called out to?

Is the church still the church without meeting together? I'll be thinking on that along with you for a long time, friend.

Thanks for a really good post.

(And p.s.--what's the deal with us, always thinking the same way?)