Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

Undesired Sacrifices

Imagine waking up every morning to trudge out to your backyard, sleep still in your eyes, and build a fire to offer a burnt sacrifice on a stone altar placed there.  You head back out again later in the day when you choose self over others, and again when you have that unkind thought about your friend, and again when you snap at your husband or child.  In and out of the house all day long, offering sacrifices for sins committed.

I’m sure if I actually offered a sacrifice in my backyard, my neighbors would think I was crazy!  My family would think I was crazy!  We no longer offer burnt sacrifices like the Israelites did in the Old Testament, …or do we?

During my devotional time earlier this week, I read in Hebrews 10 about the futility of the Old Testament sacrificial system.

Hebrews 10:11

    Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices,

which can never take away sins;

“Daily,” the priests stood at their posts; “time after time” they offered sacrifices for the “same” sins, over and over and over.  Such repetition calls attention to the futility of their tasks.

As a mom, I have a lot of sympathy for such a job!  We do laundry and dishes and cook and play, and then we wake up the next morning to do all of those jobs all over again.  Sometimes those daily jobs feel endless.  Sometimes if we focus on the futility of those tasks that are continually being undone, we grow weary.  I imagine that the priests grew weary as well, offering temporary atonement for sin, day after day after day.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains that at the time the letter to the Hebrews was written, the temple had not yet been destroyed.  Thus, Jewish practices of offering atonement for sin on the altars continued to take place daily.  But for those who believed in Christ, such offerings should have been rendered meaningless.  In the first place, such sacrifices only served as temporary substitutes at best.  In the second place, once Christ fulfilled prophecy by offering Himself as the final sacrifice, no further sacrifices were needed.  The work He accomplished on the cross completely and permanently fulfilled the Old Testament Law.

So, why were these Jewish Christians still trudging back and forth to the altar of sacrifice, so to speak?  They were not fully trusting in the blood of Christ as payment for their sins.  They knew of the gospel, the good news that abolished the old system and established a new covenant built on the cornerstone of Grace, but they struggled to let go of their old ways.

At first glance, I’m tempted to think, how silly of them – they’re doing so much work and it’s all meaningless!  I’d like to believe that I would never continue to offer sacrifices – it would be pointless, after all.  But the Lord has been opening my eyes to an alarming truth: I sometimes offer my own daily sacrifices, often without even realizing it. 

Think about it. This is what we like to do. We wake up in the morning thinking we’ll do His work today.  We’ll be the best mom, wife, aunt, sister, friend, child, Christian we can be.  We even have this list in mind. Devotions – check.  Prayer  – check.  Serve others –check.  Play with children – check.  Be a good steward of our home – check.  And we offer these things up to Him as our very sacrifices.

Okay, Lord, I’ve accomplished all of those things on the list.  Here ya go.  Are we good now?  I can go about the rest of my day as I please, right?  You’re pleased with me, right? I pile the sacrifices of good behavior up in a nice neat pile on my altar, thinking I’m all good to go.

Except I’m not.  Because while I was busy trying to check those things off of my good-Christian-girl list, I was withholding my very self, and I didn’t even realize it.  In a Screwtape Letters sort of reversal, Satan has me buying into a system of works all over again!

Look at what Jesus says about such sacrifices in Hebrews 10:5-7:

“Sacrifice and offering You have not desired,
But a body You have prepared for Me;
In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.
“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come
(In the scroll of the book it is written of Me)
To do Your will, O God.’”

These verses are a repetition of an Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah.  In effect, Jesus says that God the Father takes no pleasure in burnt offerings.  Instead Jesus offers something else – His very being.  He offers only to do the will of the Lord.

The same is true of us, co-heirs with Christ.  The Father doesn’t desire my sacrifices in the first place.  He desires my heart, my very being.  He desires I should abide in Him, moment by moment, fully surrendered  to His will, not out of guilt or an attempt to somehow earn His approval, but out of love for Him.  What the Lord desires is so much less about doing than we like to make it, and so much more about being than we like to offer.

Don’t get me wrong, sisters in Christ.  We should be loving others, choosing joy, offering praise, living in the Spirit. But if any of those good things are done out of a sense of obligation, duty, or an attempt to earn His favor, then they are pointless.  We might as well build an altar in our backyards and start burning animals on it.

The truth is that we who are in Christ already have the Lord’s favor.  We already stand in Grace. That work was finished at the Cross.  All He requires of us, is US.

So, if we’re laying all of these “good things” down at His feet while failing to truly surrender our very selves to Him, then He is not pleased.  If we become consumed with doing, doing, doing to the point of neglecting just being with Him, then we’ve missed the point entirely.

And for some of us, myself included, this being rather than doing is a difficult doctrine to accept because we are natural-born doers.  But we cannot offer doing on that sacrificial altar at the expense of being.

Consider this: if I fail to check off a single item on my spiritual to-do list, but I’ve sat at the Father’s feet with a willing spirit, then I have given Him what He desires.  Self.  Control.  Being.

Yet what about Paul’s call to offer ourselves up as living sacrifices?  Here’s the problem.  We humans get it backwards! We try to live right in order to make ourselves acceptable.  Even those of us who are in Christ and who understand Grace might catch ourselves living in this way – making meaningless sacrifice after sacrifice, knowing that Christ’s death alone was enough yet still striving in our hearts to “earn” favor.

being vs. doing 2

The real equation for right living comes by first understanding and accepting that there is absolutely nothing we can do ourselves, that it’s all about Him and the life He gave.  Once we begin to live in that place of grace and embrace being in relationship with Him, then those good works naturally overflow from us as a result of being in the presence of the Father himself!

Doing never leads to being; being always leads to doing.

Just look at Jesus’ example given to us here in Hebrews.  He pleased the Father by simply offering Himself, his very being, up to the Father’s will.  And out of that offering came the greatest sacrifice known to mankind for all eternity, the sacrifice to end all others.

So, ask yourself.  What am I offering up to the Lord today?  Am I offering meaningless sacrifices in an attempt to please Him so that I can go about doing what I really want to do?  Am I focused constantly on doing and not on being?  Am I weary with the futility of it all, trudging back and forth to the altar in the backyard?

If you find yourself weary with all of the doing, the Lord has good news for you today,  stop.

Just stop.

This section of scripture in Hebrews concludes with the following words:

“And their sins and their lawless deeds
I will remember no more.
Now where there is forgiveness of these things,

there is no longer any offering for sin.”

Hebrews 10:17-18

He desires not our meaningless sacrifices.  He desires instead that we would just be with Him.  Find rest in the being first and let your doing naturally overflow from His work in you.

being vs. doing 1

What the Father desires most then is really very simple and has little to do with how we mother, how we serve at church, how clean our houses are or how happy we make our husbands.

What He desires is you.

Simply  you.

What a sweet relief to realize that our falling down at His feet in surrender is enough!

Father, help us to let go of the doing and embrace instead the being. Remind us that if we abide in You, the doing naturally overflows.   Help us to rest in the grip of Grace, for Your Son was and is enough.  The debt is paid once and for all.  Now we are set free. 

Set free to just be.

Amen.

Jen 🙂

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A Savior Who Never Grows Weary

I’m privileged to attend a women’s bible study on Tuesday mornings most weeks.  We’re currently studying the book of Hebrews in depth, and this week the focus was on the latter part of chapter seven.

In this chapter, the author spends a great deal of space demonstrating why Jesus is the ultimate High Priest, even greater than Melchizedek, who was a pillar of the Hebrew faith. Because Jesus is eternal, He is superior.  Because He is perfect, blameless, He is superior.  Because He continues to intercede on our behalf at the Father’s right hand, He is superior.

Hebrews 7

“23 The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.”

When asked to reflect on these verses, the end of verse 25 jumped out at me.  “He always lives to make intercession for them.” That is His purpose at the right hand of the Father, to intercede on my behalf, continuously, for all of eternity.

Did you catch that?  Our risen Savior didn’t just choose us at the cross. He chooses us now; defends us now; redeems us now; intercedes for us now, moment by moment, forever and ever, hallelujah! 

I often grow weary of my children (let’s be honest, now :)). I often grow weary of my husband, of others, and sometimes I even grow weary of my Lord. My love fails.

But His love never fails.  

He never grows weary of being my Savior.

He never grows weary

It wasn’t just a one-time act, that choice to suffer on the cross, that forgiveness of even the most unpardonable sins. He continues to act on my behalf, acts for my forgiveness, over and over again. Today, and the next day, and for all of eternity.

As humans, we cannot even come close to that kind of love!  In fact, even our most sacred vows end with ” til death do us part.” One day we will come to an end, and with that end, our imperfect love will also cease.  We says things like, “I’ll love you forever” but that promise is impossible for us to keep.  And even if we manage to love one another for a lifetime, our love  is full of faults, imperfections, wounds, conditions.

But His love is not our love. He alone can keep the promise of a perfect, forever love.  Our High Priest claims us time and time again. “Father, you see that one right there?  I chose her. I died for her.  Her sin is covered by my blood.  She belongs to us now. I call her beloved.  I love her as she is.”

Oh, the overwhelming grace!  It’s almost painful in its power.  It floods us and we drown in it, dying to self and rising anew.  Rising to bone-deep gratefulness.  Rising to undeserved confidence in our eternal position. Rising to true love.

Grace floods us

If you’re feeling low-down and unworthy today, unloved or under-appreciated, overwhelmed by sin or temptation or trials, or maybe just a little weary of life in general, remember who your Savior is.

He is real.

His love is real.

And it never ceases.

He sits at the right hand of the Father and proclaims, “Covered by my blood, covered by my blood.”

Rise anew, beloved, rise anew.

Jen 🙂

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