Sacrificing the Heart

This is going to be a rather lengthy blog today about one of the important themes of the bible, ‘To obey God is better than our sacrifices and offerings.’  This came to me after I read an article in the Daily Mail about an Anglican vicar of 30 years, Father Minchew converting to Catholicism and taking 70 of his parishioners with him.

Father Minchew made the point that 2000 worshippers attended the mass at St. Mary’s on Easter Sunday, more than 10 times the congregation he got at the Anglican Church. He went on to say, “In the Catholic Church they take their faith seriously compared to the take it or leave it attitude of the Church of England. ” Two questions arise from this statement:

Are we followers of man and rituals or are we followers of Jesus?

What does it mean to take your faith seriously?

To answer these rather provocative questions we need to see what God says about it.

The laws of sacrifice in the Old Testament were immensely important to God. Not because the sacrifices themselves pleased him, but because they caused the people to recognise their sin and refocus on living for God. Similarly today religious rituals can help people understand God and nourish their relationship with him, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

However a religious ritual is helpful only if it is carried out with an attitude of Love and Obedience to God.

God does not just want our sacrifices and rituals, he wants our hearts

I want to share some scriptures that shows the most important sacrifice we can make is that of Sacrificing our Heart

1 Samuel 15:22 “Samuel said, what is more pleasing to the Lord; your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?”

Obedience is far better than routine sacrifice. God is not interested in our Church attendance, if it does not change our heart. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams. If we think that sacrificing the tithe on a Sunday morning is enough without our heart changing towards God and our neighbour, then we are probably missing the fundamental point that the gospel is about relationships. God is desperate for our heart over everything else.

The prodigal Son lost everything but God loved his heart. The Rich man had everything but God wanted him to change his heart.

Proverbs 21:3 “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”

Sacrifices and offerings are not bribes to make God overlook our character faults and attitude. God is always looking for our actions to be with the right motives with the right heart.

Isaiah 1:15,17 “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you, even if you offer many prayers, unless you learn to do right, seek justice, encourage the oppressed.”

We must not place more faith in the rituals of our religion over the God we worship. We must always understand the desires of God’s heart. We need a faith that grows our relationship with God.

Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy not sacrifice.” 

Are we sacrificing our materials, without sacrificing our heart; Do we need to forgive someone or show mercy to someone in need? Again God wants our heart in line with his heart.

The hardest thing to give someone is not our money but our heart

Amos 5:21-24  God hates pretence and hypocrisy. He wants to see justice flow like a river

  God wants sincere hearts, not the songs of hypocrites. 

Micah 6:6-8 God is not satisfied with offerings, unless we are fair, just, merciful and are able to walk humbly with God.

God seeks a heart for generous justice

Mark 12:33 “To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 

Church must never become a formula, where you spend certain time, offer certain sacrifices, all wrapped up in a tidy box. We are truly loving God, when are loving his people. We are truly loving people when we are willing to help them. We are truly helping when we make a difference  in someone else’s life.

Prayer: Father forgive me for ever thinking that Church rituals are more important than my relationship with you and your people. Thankyou that you are continually changing my heart to beat in line with your heart. I long for a sacrificing heart. Amen.

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The Power to live the Christian Life

God has spoken to me this week and has clearly stated that His Spirit and His Spirit alone gives us the power we need to live the Christian life. This seems quite a simple fundamental statement that all Christians understand. But do we understand that without it, the power we need to not only change our lives but the lives of others is terminally weakened.

During this week I met a lady for the first time who required our help in relation to her debt situation. Like so may of these encounters the debt issues were the very least of her problems. She opened up and spoke about her past and her future aspirations and hope for the future. Firstly I thanked God for this amazing privilege to be able to serve in this way.

However it really dawned on me that this broken lady totally put her trust in a stranger, that she had only met five minutes previously. I asked God, Why? The answer was a revelation really. God told me that everywhere you go, every person you meet will recognise the Holy Spirit within us. Sometimes we forget that we have this power source within us, but the people we meet see it clearly. They may not understand it, they may not voice it, but they will feel something different.

The scripture from Romans shows us that the Holy Spirit releases us from our past lives, so we can have the power to set others free.

Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of  THE SPIRIT OF LIFE set me free from the law of sin and death”

Without Jesus and his Spirit within us we would have no hope at all. However thank God that he has declared us not guilty and has offered us freedom from sin and power to do his will. So understanding this profound truth from Romans allows each one of us to walk, talk and see as Jesus does.

The Spirit of Life in this verse refers to the Holy Spirit, which was present at the creation of the world and is now the power behind the rebirth of every Christian. He gives us the power we need to live the Christian life. We can only use this power when we fully understand that we have been given it.

Many of us find it so hard to relate to this power in our everyday lives. However we must have total confidence that Jesus loves us and His promise that our new birth comes with it the power of the Holy Spirit.

Father thank you for your power source that sustains us, changes us and releases people from past lives

Inconvenience of Easter

I had the good fortune to bump into an old colleague from my Police days this morning. It was a great opportunity to share a coffee and catch up. He got the debate about faith well and truly started with the following statement. “Typical of Easter getting in the way of the shop opening times.” Now my friend, who is a confessed atheist, made me laugh with this comment. However when you take away the comical aspect of this statement, there is a fundamental underlying  issue about our society today.

It may not come as a surprise, but for many people in this country Easter comes as a surprise. Over the years the Church has increasingly been marginalised with a powerful secularism that has attacked a Christian’s belief in many different forms. From employees unable to wear the cross to councils abolishing prayer times before meetings. The beautiful thing about Jesus though, is that no dark forces of secularism or the negative views of Christianity from the atheist  lobby can take away the loving, forgiving heart of the believer.

As I was sharing my faith to my friend, it dawned on me that this is the most important thing we are called to do. The good news of the gospel in all its glory and magnificence gives a deep and meaningful hope into people’s lives.  I was also made aware that God gives us many opportunities in order for us to share out faith. It is then up to us whether we are bold and obedient enough to follow God’s challenge.

It has been evident to me that so many people have the wrong idea about what the Church really represents. It is only when we show Jesus, explain Jesus and share Jesus that people begin to understand the REAL Jesus. 

The Great Commission may be an inconvenience to non believers, but for us as followers of Jesus it is a very convenient time to live up to that commission. To many it may be about shop opening times, and chocolate eggs, but for us its celebrating the knowledge that Jesus died for us personally so that we may not be broken but have the promise of eternal life.

Showing and Sharing Jesus, the convenient truth at Easter