Tuesday, November 22, 2011

laundry devotion {on mercy vs. sacrifice}

 
Today's laundry devotion is about love and sacrifice, and how they can be two separate things if we aren't careful!

Women are great at sacrificing themselves for others, and I think that's why this is important to read and study more about what the differences are between doing it out of motivation for ourselves and doing it for the Lord. I've been so excited as I've studied this- I'm always amazed at how God puts everything together in His Word!

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In Matthew, Jesus says two times, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice." As I was reading it hit me like a ton of bricks- even today we get so caught up in the "sacrifice" that we forget the mercy side of it. I love that there are so many references to this in the Bible! Let's get started by digging into the context of that phrase a little more...


In Matthew 9, Jesus has just recruited Matthew, the tax collector as a disciple, and here's what happened next:
10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 12 But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."'
and Jesus repeats the same idea in a different situation in Matthew 12:
1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath." 3 He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath."
Jesus was quoting this Scripture from Hosea 6:6, when God is speaking to Israel through the prophet: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

And again, it's the same idea that appears in Micah 6:
6 "With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"
8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
You see, the people of Israel were so lost- they were doing all the "right things" and sacrificing like they were required to do, but they didn't have the steadfast love and mercy Jesus is talking about. They were no different in His time than they were hundreds of years before when the prophets spoke to them.

It's pretty easy to see Israel's shortcomings- the Bible gives many words to the fact that they were stiff-necked and stubborn- resisting the love and authority of God himself. They thought that they could be forgiven by doing what was right- and following the law. They could make sacrifices so they might obtain mercy from God but they couldn't offer mercy to sinners themselves- they refused to love people the way God loved them.

We don't physically hold burnt offering sacrifices today, but maybe we can see the mentality of Israel in ourselves right now. I think women are extremely good at offering sacrifices. We sacrifice ourselves for others because it's the right thing to do in service to God- we give up sleep, time, food, money, work, and more for our family, friends, and jobs because we know we should- and perhaps it's in obedience to God. God made us to be helpers- it's in our nature to give ourselves for our children and husband. But when we start to do it out of requirement or for paying what is due to God, instead of in love, we are offering useless sacrifices to the Lord.

1 Corinthians 13:3 never had more meaning to me than it did when I read it in the context of Jesus' words: "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."

I think we can do all the things that are right- we can give to the poor, we can give every spare minute to our children, we can sell all we have and even offer ourselves as a martyr- but if we don't have the very heart of Jesus- love- it is all for naught. It's useless.

Love is the very essence of God Himself- 1 John is all about how we know we abide in Jesus- when we have love for others.

This is so convicting to me- because I can do so much out of obligation and Christian duty- I can work for my family day after day to be a keeper of the home- but if I don't do it out of love, I'm offering up a useless sacrifice to my King. I'm not abiding in Him- I'm trying to do my own saving work.

Now if it worries you that you can't love perfectly like He wants you to- you aren't alone! No man could ever love like that- except for Jesus! And He showed us the perfect sacrifice- in perfect love- when He died on the cross. He did it so that we could know His love.

You see, sinners like us would never be able to love like Jesus did- but He has given us the way to do it through Him! His Holy Spirit is present in those who believe- and is constantly working in our hearts to change us to be more like Him.

I'm reminded of that section in Matthew 7 when Jesus says:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Those people did amazing things in the name of Jesus- without ever knowing Him. They could tell Him all the things they had done, because they worked to gain entrance in the kingdom. Like the Pharisees, they are reliant on the deeds that they had done rather than knowing and practicing the love of God, and the deeds pouring out from His goodness.

Jesus says, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice."

A sacrifice is giving up something that belongs to you. Love is giving back to others what God gave you in the first place.

When you love, you see how God loved you and gave Himself for you and you can't help but see who you are in light of it- your heart is changed and giving yourself up for others in offering to Him becomes a natural response to His awesome love. It's not out of obligation or just doing the right thing.

Is it automatic? Like suddenly when you are saved you are overtaken with love and you never have to fight the urge to be selfish? No way.

It's a work of the Spirit- and it's at war with your flesh all the time.

In Galatians 5:17 it says that: For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

And in Romans 7:18: "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."

Do you feel that tension? I do like every.single.day. No matter how much I read or study or know the truth, I end up doing the wrong thing. It seems like every day I have come to Jesus deeply aware of my heart's sins- ashamed that my flesh won and that's where I feel His forgiveness and love wash over me the most. He is the epitome of mercy- of what I should be- and through His Spirit, and His love, and when I repent and seek Him, He can change this sinner's heart to be like His own.

Oh, the goodness of the Father! He transforms our sinful hearts in the most amazing way! I'm so thankful that we can come to Him, to seek Him, to desire to know His love and become like Him, and He answers us!

Over time, when we are His, we slowly get to be more and more like Him! That thought alone makes me excited to grow old! That His love would increase in my heart- and that I would offer up myself for Him, and not for my own good or profit- that my will would become more and more molded to His.

Let's read it again: "But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

He came to call sinners- those who are sick- those in need of a Savior. Call on Him just like that- broken and repentant, realizing and confessing that you are unrighteous and unmerciful- and watch as He does His work on you! Nothing you can do will ever be enough- it is Christ alone who saves and He is faithful to answer us when we seek Him. Isn't that amazing??

What a wonderful gift to be thankful for! Praise His name and give thanks to the Lord our God, for He is good. Please pray that we seek His heart and will, and love like Him this week.

About Laundry Devotions:
I tend to think of my laundry room as my prayer closet. I spend a lot of time in there where I get away from everything else while folding clothes (laundry for six keeps a girl busy ;). It's awesome because my hands are busy doing what I'm called to do and I get to spend time with God at the same time. I realized maybe that concept would work for others who are in a super busy stage of life like me. Maybe you are in the car, or at the kitchen sink, or prepping dinner. Whatever you might be doing, I hope this short audio format helps you give you a chance to focus on God even in an unlikely setting, like the laundry room! :)
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