Obedience Over Sacrifice

December 22, 2021

Obedience > Sacrifice

Obedience Over Sacrifice

by Katie Pearson

“Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.”’ When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” - Hebrews 10:5-10

Imagine the mindset of the people as they continuously returned to the temple to offer their sacrifices. There was no hope of wiping the slate clean and restoring relationship with God: their sacrifices merely served to underline their sin. Rather than being redemptive, their offerings were simply a reminder of how far they were from God and a way to acknowledge their spiritual poverty.

Although we live on the other side of the cross, we still tend to believe we can secure our own salvation through self-sacrifice. Because it’s Christmas, we are more willing to act “spiritual” and give up favorite foods and beverages, spend more money on gifts for others than ourselves, or invite family members to dinner who we wouldn’t invite to our birthday parties. While these might be good choices, are they God’s ideas or our own? Do they really point us to the miracle of grace in Christ, or do they highlight our own shortcomings (and others’)?

How can we truly embrace the cross this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Hebrews 10 tells us that the answer is “delighting” in doing God’s will. Because of the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made in obeying God, we know that the highest form of sacrifice God desires from us is to be obedient to his lead, whether it makes sense or not. In fact, sometimes doing God’s will isn’t even painful like we tend to expect! Much of the time, it’s a “get to,” not a “have to,” if we are living with the mind of Christ.

What is love leading you to do this Christmas? How can you let go of expectations of yourself and others, and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit to lead you into the deeper intimacy with Christ through the silence of the season, and connect with the holiness imparted to us who believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world? There’s no greater gift you can give back to God than a desire to know him better, and to do his will.

What does it look like for you in these final days before Christmas to obey your Heavenly Father? Perhaps it is remembering to operate from the “mind of Christ,” rather than your own expectations. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we hope Christmas will look like and feel like, while God wants to do a new thing in our hearts. While giving gifts and extending goodwill to neighbors and family members is important, don’t miss the deeper opportunity of the “silent night” and “holy night” to stop, listen, and receive the good news for yourself so you are truly transformed by the birth of our Savior all over again.

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas story are all the characters obeying God’s Spirit without any idea what to expect. I gaze on my many nativity scenes on display in my home and marvel at Mary and Joseph ending up in a manger, the heavenly host directing the shepherds to look for a baby, and the magi faithfully following a star. What did they think would happen next? They didn’t know for sure—but they showed up because they were obedient, and they knew something greater than themselves was taking place.

Reflection:
Something greater than yourself is taking place this Christmas, and you get to take part as it plays out. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to the people and places he chooses, and stop long enough every day to simply exist in the stillness and mystery of this true story. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

Related Resource:

The Spirit-Filled Life

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a "gift" who will guide us, lead us, and empower us. Yet many believers don't experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This unique Christian small group Bible study provides a space in which we can explore what it truly means to "walk in the Spirit" on a daily basis. The Spirit-Filled Life small group curriculum centers on a 6-part video teaching series examining the life-giving and creative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Begin to experience the gift today!




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