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He doesn't want this

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

Back in the day when Paul penned these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the church goers would have understood all about 'sacrifices'. As was the established custom under the Law of Moses, Israelites would bring various sacrifices to the Temple as an act of worship - especially during certain seasons of the year. It was in addition to their 'tithe' of their harvest, flock or herd increase. The sacrifices were specific such as, for atonement (dealing with the sins of the nation), while others were for 'jubilee' or celebration. Even the 'pagan' religions of the times brought 'sacrifices' to their pagan gods - burning them on the altar of their pagan gods. We don't have the same form of 'sacrificial offerings' anymore - because Christ's death did away with the need for those burnt or grain offerings of the Law of Moses. That doesn't mean God doesn't still desire 'sacrificial' dedication to his teaching and his direction for our lives.

Today's sacrificial offerings can still be 'tangible' - you can bring a sacrificial offering of a sum of money to the 'storehouse' known as your local church - something above and beyond your tithe. Some offerings are what we might refer to as 'intangible' - those would be more like the gift of your heart in loyal dedication to the principles God teaches. God's hope is that each of us finds our way to his altar through his Son, Jesus Christ - no other sacrifice being necessary in order to approach his holy altar. In approaching his altar, we may begin to sup with him, enjoy his presence, and 'keep company' with him. At times, he may ask us to 'lay down' something we have been holding onto right there at the foot of that altar. I don't know what it may be, but you likely do. Whatever we are holding onto may actually be what is keeping us from fully trusting God with some area of our lives. This is why he asks us to offer it at the foot of the altar - to lay it down and allow him to 'dispose of it' once and for all - so we can enter in a depth of trust that brings us deliverance from our fear, anger, bitterness, or other plaguing sin.

The altar was always a place of sacrifice - a place to see things 'dealt with' through the means of 'laying down' something of great value and importance. If the offering was a blood sacrifice, such as a lamb or dove, that life was of great value and importance to the one bringing it. It was to have been without blemish - making it one of the most valued parts of your flock or herd. It was to be of a specific age - such as a newborn or yearling - not some old, haggard animal that had outlived its usefulness to you. Today, we bring our 'offerings' to the altar, not so much as 'without blemish', or even all that 'valuable' to us. In fact, we bring our sins, worries, dashed dreams, and even our unholy thoughts. These things have definitely 'outlived their usefulness' in our lives - they aren't exactly those 'unblemished' sacrifices of great value, are they? Yet, God doesn't turn us away - in fact, he instructs us to lay them down so he might fill us with greater things in their place.

The 'prized sacrifice' has already been made by Christ, in order that we can bring the things that need to find their way to the healing of his altar. Many of us think we have nothing to bring that is 'of value' to God. The next time you think you have nothing to give to God, you might begin by asking if there is anything that has outlived its usefulness in our lives that needs to be left at the altar. You could just be surprised at what he points out! In bringing what needs to be 'laid down' at the altar, we could just find he is opening us up to realize there is something of 'utter beauty and worth' he puts in its place, making our presence with him the greatest 'sacrifice' he desires. Just sayin!


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