Monday, March 27, 2006

No Polluted Thing

…everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean. (Numbers 31:23)

In her book, "Passion & Purity", Elisabeth Elliot says that the walk of faith and obedience to Christ isn’t just about forsaking bad things; sometimes it is about giving up some very good things to and for God.

No polluted thing…
I’ve been reading in Numbers lately. A large part of what I’ve read so far has been about offerings and sacrifices (or at least that is the part that has jumped out at me this time around). One thing that struck me was the regularity and purposefulness behind offerings and sacrifices. I think there is something to that whole ritual that the modern church has lost. Week in and week out, sometimes even daily, the people were made to give things up, to take things that were precious…required…even the only things they had for life or of wealth…and offer them up to God. In so doing, they not only acknowledged their devotion to Him, but their faith in Him to provide for them regardless of how things looked circumstantially. Though they were far from perfect in their faithfulness, I think these offerings and sacrifices worked something in them that we do not have. Because of Christ's once-for-all sacrifice, these types of regular offerings and sacrifices are no longer necessary. The debt is paid forever. But, I don't believe this grace we live under means the end of offerings and sacrifices as a way of life. In fact, I believe we should be even more compelled to give all we have. I also believe that the loss of this type of living has made us more convinced of our own self-sufficiency and thus we fail to rightly acknowledge or even know what it is to live in utter dependence on God.

These offerings and sacrifices were the firstfruits, the cream of the crop, so to speak. They weren’t the leftovers, the scraps, whatever was unnecessary. And, though we don’t have rituals and rites and rules to follow, that is what is required of us. Often, we want to look at our relinquishing or renouncing or repenting of our sin as an offering or sacrifice to God, but I don’t think the whole of scripture would support that thinking. Repenting of sin is what is required…not something that is fit to be an offering to the Lord. I can’t hand Him my pride and expect it to be a pleasing aroma. It is a vile thing that should be taken and burned outside the camp…not brought with me into the Holiest place. So, if sin is not fit for an offering or sacrifice…what does that leave?

A lot.

Some very good things…
From Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest…It's as if Paul were saying, "My determined purpose is to be my utmost for His highest -- my best for His glory." To reach that level of determination is a matter of the will, not of debate or of reasoning. It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point. An undue amount of thought and consideration for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision, although we cover it up with the pretense that it is others we are considering. When we think seriously about what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He doesn't know what our obedience will mean. Keep to the point -- He does know. Shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in this one thing only -- my utmost for His highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.

For Him and Him alone. Not for us. What a battle this is in the heart of each believer! We want things…passionately. We don’t like to lose things, either. Yet God comes in and asks for everything. For precious things. For our treasures. He asks us to turn from them, to put them on the altar, to sell them, to give them away, to relinquish all claims to all we claim is ours. To give all we are for all He is.

And more often than not, I falter. My flesh and my heart fail and, even worse, rage against the very notion. But this is what is required. There is no other way to live a truly crucified life. Repentance of sin merely gets us to the starting gate. The real race is run by sacrificing our life daily, surrendering our will for His, and offering our treasures (whether they are actual things or plans or hopes or people) for His use. For His use as HE sees fit. We cannot offer or sacrifice with conditions or strings attached. It is all or nothing. Sometimes He will purify our offering and return it better than it was. Sometimes our sacrifice is consumed in the fire and we are never to see it again. We cannot know when we put it up on the altar, what the Lord is going to do. We can only trust that He will do what is best. Not just good…or something we can tolerate…but what is best.

God wants everything…but it must be clean…it must be our best…and little by little, fire after fire, He will have all.

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