SACRIFICE OR OBEDIENCE?

by Jeannette Haley

What do you think of when you hear the word sacrifice? Perhaps you immediately relate that word to the Old Testament sacrifices God required of the Israelites, and with a sigh of relief thank God that such sacrifices are no longer required. Or, maybe the word sacrifice turns your mind toward the expectations of your church to give tithes and offerings. Then again, perhaps sacrifice is deeply personal to you—something that is an intimate part of your very life in God.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, sacrifice means “an act of offering something precious to deity; the offering of an immolated victim; something offered in sacrifice; destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else; something given up or lost.” In every primitive or pagan society the world over, the offering up of sacrifices was (and still is) an integral part of their way of life. Furthermore, archaeological discoveries over the past few decades have proven the fact that the sacrifice of human lives has been practiced worldwide, and was considered essential for the very survival of the tribe or culture involved.

In our so-called enlightened and civilized world today, the bloody, pagan practice of human sacrifice continues in the form of abortion and infanticide, as the innocent are sacrificed on the altars of selfishness.  Fanatical, deluded suicide bombers sacrifice themselves and others in the hope of gaining “heaven” in the afterlife. And, what is even more frightening is the undetected and for the most part ignored, worldwide underground network of satanic covens that torture and sacrifice countless human victims on a regular basis. I often wonder how Christians can ignorantly and carelessly participate in Halloween celebrations and teach their children to do likewise, or how churched people can overlook blatant witchcraft such as promoted in the Harry Potter books and paraphernalia.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” Romans 12:1. We see in this verse that God wants us to live for Him. Our very lives are to be holy and acceptable to God. Furthermore, this is our “reasonable service.”

To be a holy sacrifice means to be pure, blameless and consecrated to God. Consecration is an act of the will as we yield to God. In other words, a person cannot live for himself or herself and be consecrated to the Lord at the same time. Being pure and blameless is in the area of morality. When a person is totally yielded up to God inwardly, he or she will walk uprightly outwardly. The result is daily, practical, Christ-like service to others as written in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.”

What about tithes and offerings? Are these things an acceptable sacrifice to God? The answer to that is that it all depends on the motives behind giving, if the tithes or offerings are given in accordance with God’s will and direction, and for what purpose they are given. There is so much misunderstanding, misinformation and misuse of the tithing teaching today that whole books could be written on the subject. But, the bottom line is why you are giving (if you are) in the first place? And, is it sacrificial, which is acceptable to God, or are you giving out of your abundance? Is your philosophy, “After me, you come first”?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, “But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God” Philippians 4:18. To the Corinthians, he wrote, “Now concerning the collection for the saints…” 1 Corinthians 16:1a. In Acts chapters two and four, we read that all giving was for the purpose of distribution to those who had need. Any mention of giving in the New Testament was for the purpose of helping saints in need. No mention is made of lavish building programs or other vain pursuits for the glorification of prideful man.

Here in America, very few of us know what true sacrifice is. We are not used to denying ourselves for the benefit of others, and even if we do, we are usually assured that somewhere down the line whatever we “gave up” will be replaced. I do believe that the majority of church-goers fully believe that their regular tithing to their church is their reasonable sacrifice and after that, God doesn’t require any more. But is this true?

First, let’s consider why we hold the church in such high esteem, even to the point of exalting it over Christ, who is the Head. We give to the church system and participate in it because it benefits us.Somehow, it is easy to delude ourselves into believing (because of our pride) that by our “sacrifice” of church attendance and “sacrifice” of prolonged fleshly “worship,” we are pleasing God and that He will surely reward us for it. This conclusion is dangerous because it redefines God according to man’s narrow parameters and brings Him down to the same level as man, while at the same time, it exalts man (the church) above Christ (the Head.) This thinking redefines true Christianity by reducing it to certain religious rules and practices that delude people into believing that by their devoted adherence, they will gain an entrance into heaven. Worse yet, the Kingdom people promise world domination. The emphasis has shifted from the glories of heaven and the visible return of Christ to their militant rulership over the nations of this world.

It is a dangerous practice to ever substitute the church for Christ. It is dangerous to seek out a mediator other than Christ under the guise of needing a “covering.” It is dangerous to neglect one’s salvation, while conforming to the worldly church or by following charismatic leaders. It is dangerous to assume that, in spite of living in disobedience to God, one’s religious sacrifices are acceptable to Him. Bottom line, what we see today is a system that is parallel to the Roman Catholic Church, and as such, is IDOLATRY. The Church did not die on the cross for you, and it cannot save you. Period.

How, then, can we know that our sacrifices are pleasing and acceptable to God? The key is obedience. In 1 Samuel 15:22 we read, “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Sacrifice that is performed out of religious duty, or ritual, lacks heart. In other words, it is merely an outward show of piety and is hypocritical. Notice in this verse that true obedience comes down to hearing the voice of the Lord, and then hearkening to that voice.

Obedience that is both genuine and acceptable originates in the heart that loves God above all else, including self. Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37-40 explain this to us:  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Genuine sacrifice, acceptable to God, proceeds out of obedience to this, the “great commandment” of the law. In other words, sacrifice does not necessarily produce obedience, but obedience from the heart will produce sacrifice that is acceptable to God. Anything less is idolatry. Think about it.