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.