So, yesterday I started a reading plan with YouVersion called 21 Day Fast. I don’t think I agree with the whole focus of this plan, which is good because I start to investigate when I’m uncomfortable. I don’t see anything really wrong with it, and perhaps it will get better…
But today, Day 2, it said to make an altar and lay a sacrifice on it. I’m not much of a “law” person so I immediately got out my favorite concordance and Bible versions and looked up “sacrifice” and “altar” so I could better understand exactly what was being asked of me by this reading plan- and more importantly what God wants me to learn. Will building an altar and laying a sacrifice on it please God or benefit me in any way? What do you think?
“I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please him; it is the logical “Temple worship” for you. In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the ‘olam hazeh (this world, this age). Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed.” (Romans 12:1,2 CJB)
Now what am I to do in light of that passage and the reading plan request? Am I really to put myself as a sacrifice on an altar? Outside in the cold, in my home, in a church? Should the altar be made of earth, unhewn stone, rocks, cedar, or bronze? I read about various altars (structures made for sacrifices) and I just don’t see how I can offer myself on one- especially alive. I believe the writer of Hebrews explains.
“We have an altar from which those who serve in the Tent are not permitted to eat.” (Heb. 13:10, CJB)
Now you can do your own research on this verse. Some say the altar we have now is the cross while others say that the altar is Christianity, and others have a slightly different view. The important part is that Jesus Christ changed things! It was his sacrifice that matters. Continuing on in Hebrews I got the main point I needed for today, and perhaps my verse(s) to focus on this year.
“Through him, therefore, let us offer God a sacrifice of praise continually. For this is the natural product of lips that acknowledge his name. But don’t forget doing good and sharing with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:15, 16 CJB)
Will this be easy? I guess it depends. My reading plan said the sacrifice should cost me my convenience and my comfort, and take serious willpower and commitment. At first thought it seemed it would be easy to sing along to a praise CD I set to wake up to each morning. Job done. But there’s more to it. My sacrifice of praise to God is to be “through him” – not just something “I” do to fulfill an obligation and feel righteous about. This will take some serious change and effort. Effort to not put out MY effort but praise God from a natural place of being in communion with him through Christ.
Then, I get to the part where perhaps my own effort is expected a bit more- where I have a little more control. Though I am still to do all things through Christ, I think verse 16 requires my willingness. Willingness to do good and to share with others. At first thought it’s easy to think I do good and share enough already- I can even make a list. But to serve/do good to others I can’t be so selfish with my free time. Maybe I can’t play so many games or watch so many movies. To share with others will probably cost me more financially, too. Maybe I need to give up eating out so much or turn off cable TV. (Or maybe I can take others out to lunch with me or invite them over to watch TV.) See how hard this will be for me? I’m already thinking how I might be able to keep what I like. This will take willpower and commitment. It means I need to pray for opportunities to do good and for the resources to share.
Is the reading plan worthless? Not at all!! Even if it kind of recommended an unnecessary thing for a Christian, I learned something. I am starting the new year with a focus and special verses which I never even thought about until moments ago. I have spent a few hours seeking God’s wisdom today. I think maybe that’s how this was supposed to turn out! God does work in interesting ways. And I hope he will be well pleased with this sacrifice- me- as a living, praising, doing good, sharer.