Sunday, December 23, 2007

An Acceptable Offering

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of god, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1

God does not desire self-sufficient saints—He desires thirsty saints. He provides water to quench that thirst, and His life-giving spring is sufficient.

When Joseph and Mary came into Jerusalem carrying a six-week old infant in their arms, I can imagine that they felt their lack of self-sufficiency. They came to present Jesus Christ to God the Father; to dedicate the Messiah to the Deliverer; to give Emmanual, God-with-Us, to I AM, God-with-Them. Their knowledge of Christ’s full personhood may not have been complete, but they did know this—they held in their arms the Promised One who would redeem Israel… and all they had to offer were two turtle doves.

Joseph and Mary were poor. I can imagine that their poverty never stood out so starkly to them as the moment that they stood before the temple preparing to enter. “Knowing the greatness of the child, Joseph and Mary would never have used the lesser sacrifices if they could have afforded the regular and more costly one.” (The Fourfold Gospel) They bore the Lord of Creation in their arms, and had nothing more than a couple of cheap birds to give for Him.

God was so gracious to send Simeon to them that day. I can imagine the dawning realization that mingled joy, awe, and pain to know that they brought two offerings that day—one, a cheep, tangible fulfillment of the Law that told of their poverty; the other, a light for the Gentiles and the Glory the nation of Israel. In their emptiness, God proved faithful.

There are times that I enter into God’s presence with next to nothing in my hands. Other times the only thing that I have to offer is my sin—my pride, my lust, my idolatry—because I have nothing else. But, like Joseph and Mary, I also bring the Lord Jesus Christ as an offering, because He dwells within me. And when I come to God with empty hands, bringing nothing, or at best, bringing an offering fouled by my sin and idolatry, God accepts it, because He looks on the work of Christ and has accepted that.

When I present myself as a living sacrifice to God, it is a holy and acceptable offering, and it is spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1) “Holy and acceptable” is written in such a way that makes this a statement of present truth, not a command to obey or a goal to strive for.

It is God’s great condescension that He will vouchsafe to accept of anything in us; and we can desire no more to make us happy, and, if the presenting of ourselves will but please Him, we may easily conclude that we cannot bestow ourselves better. —Matthew Henry on Romans 12

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