Sacrifice & Worship
This post is a continuation of Raise the Knife and a little more writing on the subject of worship.
I sometimes think that the world has a better understanding of worship than many Christians. I say this largely as a result of looking at the example of Abraham and the willingness he had to sacrifice that which he loved most. I really feel like the world understands that.
Every person who does not claim to be a follower of Christ, and who does not have a genuine and intimate relationship with Jesus as Lord and King, can be arranged into a larger group called the world. When the Bible speaks of those that are "in the world" or "worldly" it paints a very distinct and exclusive line. At the end of the day, there are those that are followers of Christ and there are those that are slaves to the world. There is no grey area. There is no middle ground. You either follow Jesus or you do not. With the groups clearly defined and divided, allow me to explain why I think the world may have a better understanding of worship than many Christians.
This world understands sacrifice. It understands giving up everything to try and achieve the promised gratification. When the world desires money and wealth, it sacrifices time and relationships. When the world desires prominence and notoriety, it forsakes conscience and morality. When the world desires pleasure and happiness, it endures the painful and sometimes heartbreaking journey on the path to ultimate satisfaction. This world understands what it means to search endlessly for satisfaction, always grasping firmly some misled sliver of hope that gaining the next item, title, or recognition will provide their life with fulfillment.
This world understands what it means to worship. To worship is to give up everything in the pursuit of what the individual believes will bring ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment, no matter the cost. When the world worships, it gives all that it has, every bit of energy, fight, and perseverance to attain that which is promised to them. But it never ceases to fail. As we gaze at our accumulated treasures and riches we realize they are not as beautiful as they once appeared. The gold coins we once delicately stacked are tinged on their edges with green oxidation. The gems in our crowns are clouded and opaque, our silk robes eaten away by moths. The world promises riches of gold, silver, and precious stones, but fills treasure chests with filthy rags.
Can we as Christians take a note from the world and really begin to understand what it means to truly worship? Do we see our relationship with Christ as that which is deserving of all that we have, every fibre of our being? Do we really believe following Christ will provide us with the very completion and fulfillment of our satisfaction? These are the questions I struggle with, because in all honesty, I do not think I can say yes.
I remember a conversation with someone about a very difficult question we must come to terms with as followers of Jesus. If we were to lose everything we have, every friend, every family member, every piece of monetary wealth and success, would Jesus be enough? Would Jesus continue to be our everything at having lost everything of value in this world?
I still cannot answer this question.
But it reminds me of the story of the rich, young ruler in Luke 18:18-24,
"And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"
I do not believe Jesus expects every person that follows Him to sell all they possess for the sake of the Gospel, but I do believe God calls certain people to that lifestyle. Is it wrong to possess wealth and material goods? By no means, as it is a gift of God, but how is the world to see our faith in God's provision if we are not willing to give up everything to follow Him?
Even the disciples were deceived into equating Kingdom of God values with the values of the world. But Jesus makes quite clear the reward that is in store for those that give up everything to follow Him in verses 29 & 30,
"And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Whenever I read in the Bible, "truly, truly" I cannot help but think how faithful Jesus is to us. Unlike the world and the rulers of this world, Jesus always keeps His promises and He never disappoints. When we come to the understanding that He is the only One that truly provides satisfaction and completion, we will begin to see our lives as they truly are. We will soon come to the conclusion that our lives are not our own, and that they are to be sacrifices themselves to a God and King that is worthy of them.
The Kingdom of God is the only kingdom that is built upon the blood of its King. Let us stop seeing Sunday as our only time of worship and begin to see our lives as sacrifices partnered with faith attesting to the truth that God is good and will always keep His promises, even when everything is taken away from us and even when we are asked to sacrifice all that we have to follow Him.