Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Living Sacrifice

Romans 12:1 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship"

Living but sacrificed? Alive but dead? Oh Scripture, you are so notorious for pricking our minds and pushing us into contemplation on a phrase that is only two words! :)How I love that God desires for us to engage our minds in order for our spirits to be established in Him!

This idea of being a sacrifice while living has intrigued me and caused much stirring of my heart for several years now. How can we be a sacrifice and yet live? Does He not realize that in order to be a sacrifice, you must actually die?! How can we be alive and yet dead at the same time? Ah, I know, the death and sacrifice does not refer to our physical bodies, but to our spirits. Death to the "old self" and resurrection in Christ into our "new self": our justified, sanctified, glorified new identity that solely consists of CHRIST!

The other aspect of this concept that I think should be considered is the thought that as a living sacrifice, you continue to live, so the need for a sacrifice is continual! It is not a one-time event. It is necessary constantly. Every minute of every day. We are called to die to ourselves as our spiritual act of worship. In other words, the only thing we can do to prove our love and devotion to our maker is to lay ourselves down and be determined dead. This is the only way for us to be filled again with HIS life!

Now, I am queen of analogies, and my understanding stems from relating concepts to visual and experiential comparisons. Since I am a part of the medical field, specifically Oncology, so many things relate to cancer, treatment, and such. This idea of "living sacrifice" and dying to our sinful self in order to be alive in our justified self, mirrors a patient with a type of advanced cancer of the blood who is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.

Basically, the patient's entire being is infiltrated with cancer, seeing as it is a cancer of the blood. It has traveled through every organ, consumed every part of the body. The cancer represents sin. In a bone marrow transplant, a patient receives clean, pure, perfect blood cells to replace the cancer cells. However, in order for the transplant to take place, a patient must first be put through RIGOROUS chemotherapy treatments in order to completely anihilate the contaminated cells. The blood is wiped clean! The patient is left vulnerable and empty. They have nothing left in them. If it were not for other intense therapies, a patient left in this state would surely die. The process is miserable, and there is much suffering in the midst of it. However, just as the patient reaches this point of complete and utter vulnerability, the transplant takes place! They are filled with new, fresh, pure cells! (In the transplant unit, we call this their "New Birthday"--we sing and everything.. it's awesome!) Once they receive these new cells, they are determined in "remission". They are free of cancer. They are alive!

OK. So, the analogy is: We are filled with our sinfulness. Completely consumed with it! We NEED to be filled with the righteousness of Christ, but we can not be filled unless we are emptied first! The emptying process is a painful experience of death to the sin that has consumed us for so long. However, just as we are completely emptied, Christ comes and fills us to overflowing with His perfection! We get a "New Birthday"!!! Praise be to God! Oh, Lord, allow me to die! Empty me of all of my cancer cells and fill me with YOU!!

Now, I clearly recognize that none of us can fulfill this calling perfectly... We will continue to sin, thus reqcuiring daily sacrifice. This is why we need the covering and redemption of Christ to be the ultimate sacrifice for us. He is alive, and yet He died. He is, and always will be, THE Living Sacrifice, making it possible for failures like me to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and have the privilege to lay all of me down at HIS feet! Praise God for His perfect gift!!!

2 Corinthians 9:15 "Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift!"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Complex Simplicity

The term "complex simplicity" stems from my understanding of my Maker's grace. The aspect of grace that terms "simplicity" is clear: I am a sinner in need of a Savior; He saves me; The end! The idea of grace is so entirely desired by my heart that my initial, gut response is "but of course His grace is sufficient!!" However, upon further meditation on the state of my heart and life in relation to sin, my response is a little more grim. I tend to focus on the impossibility that there could be full atonement and reconciliation. The complexities that these ponderings present have caused me to experience a fullness of understanding that His grace is not only my greatest need; it is my greatest desire! Praise God that HE denies all impossibilities and fulfills all promises to make His own righteous in His eyes.

My attempt to explain my musings on the topic of His grace might be a bit disjointed, but hopefully will show the redemption that the Lord has for a sinner like me, feebly attempting to understand Him. The framework for my understanding stems from the teaching of my youth. Growing up in an Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the teachings of Calvin were constantly imposed upon me. As a teenager, I did not give much thought to the theological implications of claiming to believe in Calvinism, so I simply listened, and somehow absorbed the doctrine without much thought towards it at all. Now, as an adult, at my ripe age of 26, (haha) I am beginning to adopt my personal understanding of the character of God and the fundamentals of a Christian life. Please don't misunderstand- I do not consider or call myself a "Calvinist". I do not claim to follow the teachings of any earthly man; I follow the teachings of Christ!

The concept of my total depravity is something that I can wrap my head around. This is probably the point that resonates with me the most. I am painfully aware of my daily failings. I am also in complete agreement that even my most righteous acts are as filthy rags, as Isaiah 64 explains. Simply looking at the pattern of my life, the roller-coaster of relational ups and downs I have in my spiritual journey, I see that my constant tendency is towards the selfish, the pleasurable, the instant gratification, and the thrill. My rationalizing brain of course tricks my heart into believing that "I am not really THAT bad" or "I do a lot of great things for people".. Which leads my posture from that of humility into that of pride, thus fooling myself completely that my rags are indeed royal robes! I am grateful that the Lord does not allow me to continue to view myself and my robes in this skewed way for long. He allows refocussing and humbling of heart to be able to see my rags as they are. Mine. The rags that I have created for myself in my own sin. I do not have the necessary fabric in my own store to even be able to create something resembling royal robes. Neither do I possess the funds or resources to purchase or create royal robes. Therefore, I recognize my need for the fabric to be purchased from an outside source, sewn by a master seamster, and gifted to me by a loving benefactor.

The concept of unconditional election is nearly impossible for my finite mind to comprehend. It constantly fails to take hold in my heart. I recognize that Scripture states that Salvation is by faith, not by works, so that no one can boast. However, the idea that I can do nothing to earn or deserve Salvation is, to put it bluntly, FRUSTRATING!!! My personality is such that I constantly am moving. I am a "doer". There is nothing I can DO to make God love me more! There is nothing I can DO to make myself more righteous! To most, these are probably freeing statements and a huge load off your back. To me, it is maddening! Ok, Ok, I agree that it is a completely freeing concept.. Especially because of my understanding that I can do nothing righteous aside from Christ.. (My rags are filthy, remember?).. But my constant struggle rests (another oxymoron) in the truth that His grace is HIS. Just like my sin is mine. SO, my resolution is that I need to quit attempting to reckon myself dead to my sin, and realize that the most important truth is that I AM (state of being, not active verb) ALIVE in CHRIST! He has done it all. Not because of me. Because of HIM. He chose, without any help from me, to save me! To determine me righteous in His sight.. all on His own! He sent His Son to die. He paid the price for MY sin. He bought the BEAUTIFUL fabric, sewed the robes Himself using the thread made of the very flesh of Christ, and has not only gifted me with the perfect royal robes, but has also dressed me in them and admires me and reckons me beautiful in His sight! Amazing. Simply, complexly, amazing!

This grace... It is not a one time gift. It is a life-long process. Sadly, I have to admit that more than a dozen times I have willingly traded my perfect robes, given to me out of sacrifice, for the rags. I have consciously chosen filth over sublime perfection. Grace is daily, my friends. His mercies are new every morning. GREAT is HIS Faithfulness!!

Let us all quit reckoning ourselves to whatever posture we think we ought to live in, and let's rest in the complex simplicity that we are ALIVE in Him! His grace is amazing. It is real. It is constant.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship" Romans 12:1

PS. I love the oxymorons in scripture! I think I might muse on being a "living sacrifice" next..