Thursday, March 25, 2010

“An Acceptable Sacrifice”

Ever since the dawn of creation man has been trying to do things to get God's approval, acquire His favor, or demonstrate to Him their love or dedication. Men give up things they love and give away their possessions, they perform all kinds of strange and bizarre rituals, they deny themselves pleasures, and treats their bodies harshly. Some have gone so far as to commit suicide, all in an attempt to get God's attention, forgiveness, or invoke His favor.

The first recorded incident of man bringing an offering to God is found in Genesis 4:1-4 where it reads, “Adam knew Eve as his wife, and she became pregnant and bore Cain;… next she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions.” We do not know Cain’s or Abel’s motivation for bringing the Lord this offering and the text doesn’t indicate it to us. However what transpires next has been a source of contention between men and God every since. “And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering. But for Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard.”

Cain was a farmer, and Abel was a rancher, so it would appear on the surface that both of them brought to God an offering out of what they loved and what they did. Abel’s offering was accepted by God, but Cain’s was not. This story used to bother me greatly, for Cain was bringing to God a sacrifice of the best that he had. He was a farmer so he offered to God what he deemed most valuable. He probably offered the best of his grain. He did not raise livestock so it seems reasonable that he would not bring to God an offering of something he did not have. He offered to God that which he had. But God did not accept his sacrifice. Cain became so upset and enraged because his sacrifice was rejected while Abel’s was accepted, that his jealousy soon led him to murder Abel.

We learn from this incident that some offerings and sacrifices God accepts, and some he does not. So what is it that God wants? What can we do for Him or bring to Him to get His attention, demonstrate our love, or receive His favor? What is an acceptable sacrifice in God’s eyes, and what is not?

We often hear things like, “What God wants is just our love!” While it is true that God does desire that we love Him, --- our love is not an acceptable sacrifice. Some may say, “What God wants is our heart and our devotion!” While this is also true, --- giving God our heart and our devotion is not a sacrifice God can accept either. Others say that, “What God really wants from us, is for us to repent and turn from our sin!” While it is true that in order to come into relationship with God we must first recognize our sinful state and make a decision to turn away from our sin and self and turn instead to Jesus,--- repentance is not an acceptable sacrifice, and just like Cain’s offering, it too will be not be accepted. We cannot receive God's acceptance by giving money, fasting, doing works of charity, performing religious duties or rituals, or even bawling our eyes out with sorrow. So with all that said, why then was Abel and his sacrifice accepted, while Cain and his sacrifice was not?

Cain brought to God an offering out of his own labor. An offering from what “he” loved, from what “he” found most valuable, rather than an offering that “God” loved and one that “God” found most valuable. Cain’s offering was a product from out of the ground that God had cursed. (Gen. 3:17) Man in himself never has anything to bring to God that is not the fruit of his own labor or self effort. Self effort can never and will never be an acceptable sacrifice.

Abel on the other hand brought to God a sacrifice that was a foreshadow of what “God” loved most, a foreshadow of what “God” deems as most valuable. A foreshadow of His own beloved first born Son whose blood would be poured out as a payment for your sin. Whose body would be crushed and bruised to bring you healing. Abel brought the only sacrifice that demonstrated the act of grace where by the life of the innocent was given as a substitution for the life of the guilty. Here is the bottom line, the only sacrifice that God can or will accept is the life blood of His Son Jesus Christ. Through the sacrifice of the death of Jesus Christ, we can receive forgiveness of all sin and enter into and sustain a relationship filled with the favor of God.

Therefore let us stop bringing sacrifices to God of what “we” love, of what “we” think is valuable, and of what “we” want to give, but rather bring to Him the ONE and only sacrifice that “God” loves and deems worthy and of utmost value. Let us stop bringing to God sacrifices from the works of our self effort and goodness, expecting them to somehow please Him; but rather let us offer to God the blood of His own Son, the spotless sacrificial lamb that He gave for us. Let us stop trying to “earn” God's favor and instead realize that all of God's favor already rests upon His Son Jesus Christ, and that Jesus has already done all that is needed, and has already “earned” God’s favor on our behalf. We need only to be “IN” Him (Romans 8:1) and trust fully in His blood and grace to have all Christ’s favor now rest upon us as well. So offer to God “Jesus” as your only sacrifice, offer “Jesus” as your only righteousness, offer “Jesus” as your only need.

Father God, I bring to you this day as my offering and sacrifice; the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Knowing there is nothing else that I could bring that would be an acceptable sacrifice. I make no attempt to bring you anything of my flesh, my goodness, or the works of my hands; but as I humbly bow before you, I offer up only the blood and body of Jesus. In so doing, I express to you my love and devotion; and by grace, through it receive forgiveness of sin, and obtain your favor. I thank you and praise you for your mercy and your grace. Amen!

“For it is by free grace (Gods unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through your faith. And this salvation is not of yourselves (of your own doing, it came not through your own striving), but it is the gift of God.” Eph.2:8 Amp.

“For by a single offering He has forever completely cleaned and perfected those who are consecrated and made holy.” Heb.10:14 Amp.

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