Thursday, October 10, 2013

Is He Worth the Sacrifice?


II Sam.24:22 And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.
23 All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The Lord thy God accept thee.
24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
25 And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.

The Industrial Revolution brought forth a literal tidal wave of inventions that not only enhanced our earthly lives but also provided ingenious ways to build things quicker and at a reduced price. Eli Whitney incorporated the assembly line method which is still in operation today. It constructs things quickly and makes these things affordable to a wide variety of people. And here we are in 2013 where almost everyone owns a car and a cell phone and a television. I can remember the first digital watches selling for $200 which now can be bought for $7 in Wal-Mart. Thirty years ago a television remote was special and expensive item while today you probably cannot even purchase television without one. I could list thousands of things which are commonplace today but which a few decades ago were absent from the culture.

Years ago a color television was precious. A cell phone was very special. A Walkman was a phenomenon. A VCR was a luxury. But today all those things have lost their special quality and now they are taken for granted as things that everyone should have. And that is exactly what has happened to the faith of Christ today. The mystery is gone. The sacredness is gone. The preciousness is gone. The sense of eternity is gone. And just like our modern conveniences the faith has become something that is taken for granted and costs nothing. Self denial and sacrifice are something that athletes practice and people do to lose weight, but they cannot be found in the church anymore.

Think about what terms like “self denial” and “sacrifice” might mean in the context of a modern believer’s life and in the life of the church as a whole. These surely do not just mean refraining from sin and all its ways. That is a given. But what do we deny ourselves today? What kind of sacrifice do we make today? We enjoy the benefits of His sufferings and sacrifice, but what do we sacrifice for Him? What does “take up your cross” mean? Does it only mean to include it in your statement of faith?

Are we missing an important and necessary element of the faith which follows Jesus? Yes, salvation is by faith alone, but what is that path for the redeemed sinner who is now a child of God and a follower of Jesus Christ? Is that path basically like the path for the unbeliever with a few doctrinal differences? Or is our path completely and profoundly different in ways that are observable to the world? This nonchalant path that the western church has laid out is a fraud. And worse than nonchalant the church now teaches and enjoys the fruits of a hedonistic lifestyle. While the martyrs went to the stake we now go out for a steak.

If the extent of your worship takes place in an air conditioned room with wonderful music and a limited time frame then all you are doing is enjoying a self serving experience. And if you leave the gathering the same way you came then you never met with God. If there is no sacrifice in your life then there is no authentic worship.

Phil.3: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Jn.16: 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

And in light of these Scriptures how is it that in the very midst of the most hedonistic, immoral, and violent culture we as believers seem to blend in so fully? And just what do we suffer for His sake? And just what persecution do we endure? This western brand of Christianity has been birthed from the culture and not the Scriptures nor the Spirit. Preachers are treated like gods and debt ridden building litter the landscape and the pursuits of believers come from the same menu as unbelievers. Rising gas prices are our tribulation and political causes are our banner.

The church desires to “have a seat” at the political table and it even suggests that it is the rightful heir to the country known as America. Activism has replaced prayer and believers join hands with moral unbelievers and even cultists in order to gain political power and win elections. And because of decades of this behavior we have become known as the “religious right” rather than humble followers of Jesus and His teachings. And in a stunning display of spiritual treachery the church has taken the teachings of Jesus and repacked them into something which can fit nicely into a hedonistic democracy without fear of authentic persecution. Once believers were fed to lions but now we fare sumptuously at the restaurant of our choice.

But think about it for just a moment. What literally do we sacrifice for Him? What sufferings do we endure that are His? It is profoundly disingenuous to suggest we suffer for Jesus at all. And yet why are there no questions as to why? The comfort of this culture has reached out its tentacles and imprisoned us with earthly accoutrements and we love to have it so. And in another breathtaking alteration the church has incorporated the materialism and hedonism of the culture into the very teachings of Scripture albeit openly false.

And in light of all these things and more we cannot with spiritual integrity call what is practiced today the authentic faith taught in the New Testament. It is not. Just meditate on that statement for a while. If we really desire to love and follow Jesus then is it not incumbent upon each and every believer to search the Scriptures and see what Jesus actually taught and not just receive your “truth” through culturally compromised preachers? The very first commandment given to Moses was that we should have no other gods before the True God. But believers have all kinds of gods which lead their lives and make all kinds of demands upon their lives including giving their lives for these gods.

Nationalism and political power and entertainment and earthly success and sports have become gods. And subtly and openly they take more and more ground until the church can only do one of two things. We can either reject them and become an observably peculiar people, or we can embrace them and make them part of our religious practice. We have chosen the latter.

And so leaving the precious gold and silver of His promises and His presence we continue to feast upon the scraps of this fallen world and call it “living for Jesus”. But in the end what will we say to Him? Who will give a reasonable account for our spiritual infidelity? How will we look Him in the eye and explain away that which openly shamed Him? What words can mitigate our unfaithfulness? He gave it all for us and yet we live innocuous and saltless lives which mesh with that which is against all He lived and taught. And how do we justify such things? We cannot.

Are we not yet tired of the same old powerless expression of the faith? Does anyone yearn for more of Jesus so deeply that it drives us to be broken in the threshing floor of His prayer chamber? And knowing there must be so much more are we willing to sacrifice anything and everything in order to go where He is? Or will we just sit back and maybe lament a little but in the end do nothing of any substance which would alter our very lives. It is the dynamic and eternal difference between adhering to a religion or following a Person. And with that difference dwells life or death. Be aware, death can be all dressed up to look like life. But in the end only Jesus can bring life and only to those who diligently seek Him. But is He really worth it...


Anonymous said...

So true. And Amen.

These are questions I ask myself. Is just trying to survive in this culture good enough in serving Christ? I personally believe living in the richest nations puts us in a very dangerous place, for our souls. It numbs and softens us and we don't even know what sacrifice feels like. But, there is a verse that says the Lord prefers obedience over sacrifice. Yet, as the Church, we all have a role to play, and we've lost our way. No one knows how to 'minister' because the carnal ministers play church in a way that they are the masters and decide who ministers or not. From the smallest to the most prominent, every believer should minister, as commanded in the NT. In Acts, the promise given on the day of Pentecost was for all and their children.

From what I see, we're all to pass along the gospel to anyone who'll hear and pray for the sick. That's a command. I believe we've been hoodwinked all these years by clergy who hoard all the gifts to themselves and their ministry. Clergy have lost their vision and the people perish. The church wasn't meant to become big or successful or loud in the world. It's not about numbers and voices and talk and constant clamor, it's about doing in small doses, in small neighborhoods, staying with the same people in the neighborhood, equipping believers to go unto their neighbors and so on and so on. It was never meant for the same 200 people to meet once a week to hear the clergy put on a show. This isn't what the epistles teach. This isn't what the Book of Acts teaches. We have the Word, we've heard every interpretation of the Word possible and still, because we do nothing with it, no ground is gained, because greedy power-hungry clergy want the praise reports and glory for themselves.

I believe that unless I and my husband (if he were of the mind) had to do it over, we should have immediately prayed and moved to a location where few ever heard of Jesus Christ. Staying in this country, living in this culture, did nothing to help us grow or to help reach people. If we had moved away, worked at any job with, no doubt, minor pay, this is what God would have required of us. I think this is why I am so conflicted lately, I feel the frustration of what Rick is teaching, and now in my fifties, I am no longer strong or youthful and energetic to take on a task from God. I can try to encourage people, reach someone who comes in my path now, but every person so far is caught up and preoccupied with keeping up with the Jones, travel, entertainment, accumulating for retirement, etc. Everyone seems to have their fill of the world and it numbs them spiritually. All I can do is pray and ask the Lord to give me renewed energy like the eagles and place me in a much-needed place.

Giving up this western lifestyle would be a sacrifice, and we wouldn't have to make things up to pretend it looked like a sacrifice. In this day and age here in the West, I (right now) don't see any hope of believers making any progress. Christian TV, evangelists, christian radio super-stars, they've hijacked the church and there is no place for humility, meakness, like the Lamb of God. It's all fanfare, sparks and aggravating noise and talk talk talk and we've talked ourselves to spiritual death.

Just my view. I hope I'm wrong.


Rick Frueh said...

" I personally believe living in the richest nations puts us in a very dangerous place, for our souls."
Yes. What a great insight which the church is blind to.

Anonymous said...

A few more thoughts.........a few years ago, a church I had visited (an old apostolic movement) had their annual directory newly printed out and the ministerial couples' photos were placed on the front pages. One young couple, for some particular ministry, had their photo, where they posed sitting smiling, and another head was in between them. It was their pet dog. So funny to see. All the others had kids and this photo, at first looked like a young child, but upon second look, it was a dog. OK, I love dogs and love people's pets. But this goes real far. I'm thinking of sacrifice, and if someone were to ask them to go to a country where people eat dog meat, now that would be a great sacrifice for them.

I don't know if our generation here in the west really experienced want and need and real sharing. They're not used to struggling. I know christian sacrifice comes in all forms, and one is a prayer life, of which I have a hard time to even pray for an hour. So many examples of sacrifice. No one wants to take care of elderly parents anymore, no one takes the elderly seriously, even in churches. In the middle east, the elderly are highly respected and are looked up to to share wisdom. We laugh at 'old' here and everyone has to be young and fresh and women, including christian women, are preoccupied with looking youthful. And sacrificing time is a hard one. Very few churched christians do the work themselves, they send money to clergy who demand tithes so they can visit the prisons, hospitals, (but only their own church members). People send the money and that's considered the "sacrifice".

I remember Jan Crouch(TBN) sharing about her Christmas charity for children in Haiti, (Smile of a Child?); donations of money were pouring in and she asked the viewers not to send money, but rather send a toy that they selected and bought and wrapped themselves, with a bible verse, to send to her charity's address. She had a special 3-day visit to Haiti and brought all the boxes of gifts with her. She told viewers that the Lord sometimes wants us to make the sacrifice and put our heart and hands into the 'giving'. It is an acceptable offering to the Lord, because we put our time and energy into it. She, even she, of the prosperity movement, acknowledged that sending money can be a lazy way to make an offering.


Lorena said...

Rick, thank you for this post.
Most definitely, the church has gone along with the things of the world.
Even the way the world does things.
And the pastors/teachers are all decked out in expensive clothing with expensive cars, and expensive homes etc. The congregation treats the pastor like he is a rock star, sometimes, having favourites. I don't want to say every congregation but generally yes, because we're following the world's ways...everything they do and the way they do it we seem to copy.
The over abundance of all things has made us lazy and convinced we deserve it all. Why do we have such big fancy many do.
Christ IS worth the sacrifice. He has to be or we're in big trouble.
Too much of the world or I should say, the world period, clouds our minds/hearts and desire to serve Him.

Anonymous said...

I know a busy woman who stopped wearing make-up after she was born-again so she could devote that 15 minutes in the morning to prayer. The same woman stopped dying her hair every six weeks and donated that money to the poor. These were the most visible signs of her new found faith. It was what she had that was hers to reach for and offer up to the God she loved.

When this plain-faced woman with roots of greying hair crowning her head walked into her conservative Christian neighborhood church full of joy, she was not greeted by a single person. The pastor did phone her the next day to politely request that she NOT take communion unless she attended mandatory classes and became a member.

Some time later, this same woman (now with much more grey adorning her head), walked into a non-denominational church on a recommendation from someone she knew. This church, affiliated with the Word of Faith movement, received her with great joy. They then proceeded to tell her about all the ways that God wanted to prosper her and began prayer and encouragement for her physical transformation. After all, she was told in so many words, we don't want to needlessly offend the world.

This is a woman who never once claimed that make-up was sinful or that others shouldn't wear it or that hair dye was an evil to be purged. She was simply seeking ways to make room for God and His will and ways in her life. She was rejected by the world AND by the churches in her neighborhood. She is loved and cherished by the LORD, however.

The worldly church LOVES worldly things. The LORD will vomit it all out of His mouth someday....

Anonymous said...

Dear readers, God can grow beauty of character in us no matter whether we live in a poor or rich country. Every person no matter where they live will face immense hurdles to surmount principally because we all find ourself in a war. Can I encourage you to be gentle on yourself, Jackie. Take one day at a time and dedicate it to Almighty God. That's always the best approach.

Yes, Jackie continue to pray and ask the Lord to give you renewed energy like the eagles and place you in a much-needed place as an encourager and planter of God's word, for that is a task that you do very well.

Ask Him to bless you with the thinking that you are energetic and resilient enough to take on this vital task from Him.

Jackie, it is important now that you are in your fifties that you study closely the people in the Bible who were fifty or more and ask the LORD to bless you with the strength of mind to believe that He has an interesting assigment for you in the months and years ahead- should Lord Jesus choose to let finite time run some time more.

Reine Gnade

Anonymous said...

Reine, thanks for the kind words and you all are very encouraging and understanding. Joel, what an interesting life working as a cowboy. And all commenters here, I just pray you are well, and able, physically and spiritually.

So interesting too on the story from Anon. It's true that the majority of churches care too much about the impression they give to the world. They compete with the world in dress and visuals. When it gets to the point that a woman can't let her hair get grey or choose not to wear make-up because it might embarrass the clergy, it gets scary.

If these 'word of faith' and prosperity churches ever had to face war and calamity, would they turn away facial disfigurements and refugees with yellow or crooked teeth or grainy complexions and put conditions on them before introducing them to Jesus? I expect they'd be teaching them to expect money so they could repair any cosmetic or physical impairments, because the Lord wants to bless them with beauty...........

When the church is more interested in the outside of the temple instead of the inside of the temple, it's not too surprising we are in the last days.


Anonymous said...

Amen again Brother Rick, it is a shame we need to be reminded to live our lives for Jesus. Self denial, sacrifice, pick up our cross and put on the yoke. Even a cursory reading of the scriptures should be enough to convict a believer of all the former. We should be spending all we have to find that pearl of great price.


Anonymous said...

I read this article this morning at BosNewsLife.

Maryam Naghash Zargaran is in Evin prison in Iran. Maryam has heart problems and is in a hospital ward in critical condition. In 2012 she was arrested for having Christian materials in her home. She paid $61,000 bail and gave up the deeds for her family’s home. She was re-arrested again earlier this year and has been in prison since.

What have I sacrificed?