“Life cannot simply be about happiness. It must also be about honor and obligation.”
--D.W. Ulsterman (The Irish Cowboy)
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is."
--Romans 12:2 (NLT)
I am bothered by the fact that too often we come to church less solemn than we should. By solemn, I mean seriousness of purpose. When we do that we make God weary. Look at Malachi 1:8, "And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably? says the LORD of hosts." (NKJV) He continues on in verse 10, "...I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts. Nor will I accept an offering from your hands." (NKJV)
I can hear some of you now, "Oh, but that was Old Testament," or "that is legalism." No, it's the Word of the Lord. God expects us to give our best. And don't think it's only Old Testament. There was trouble in the Corinthian church when they made light of the Lord's Supper. They were taking it lightly, not respecting the purpose and the symbolism behind it and Paul wrote much of chapters 8, 10-11 regarding proper respect regarding the Lord's Supper and proper habits. He goes on to say that because of the way some treat the sacrament of the communion unworthily. Remember, Paul is writing to believers in the church at Corinth. "So if anyone eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, that person is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking from the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup unworthily, not honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God's judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died." (11:27-30, NLT)
Malachi warns about bringing blemished sacrifices to the altar. There was a proper sacrifice that was laid out by God in Leviticus. The lamb/sacrifice was to be without spot, without blemish. It was to be a "perfect" sacrifice. They not only brought unworthy sacrifices, they actually expected God to bless them for it. Here they hold the worship of God in contempt and they expect blessing.
Paul writes that we are to be "living sacrifices. "And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice--the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?" (NLT) What does that mean? "It means that when we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, we choose to obey him over our own will and desires. We no longer seek to fill our lives with earthly pleasures. Instead, we seek to serve God in all that we do." (NLT notes) I like what one of the early church fathers, John Chrysostom wrote,
"How can the body become a sacrifice? If you don't let your eye look at anything evil, it has become a sacrifice. Don't let your tongue say anything filthy, and it has become an offering. By not letting your hand do anything lawless, it has become a burnt offering.... For a sacrifice can't be unclean. Sacrifice is a first-fruit of all other actions. So then, let us give the first-fruit of our hands, feet, mouth, and all other parts to God. Such a sacrifice is well pleasing."
No, the pure, holy sacrifice is what is pleasing to God. One with spots will not be accepted. One that is given half-heartedly will not be accepted. One that has blemish will not be accepted. Oh, my, is there any hope? The problem is that we have forgotten the doctrine of sanctification. We have turned sanctification into the despicable term of legalism. Legalism is what adds to your salvation, sanctification is what comes out of your salvation and continues until we meet the Lord. It is growing in grace, not sinning and asking forgiveness over and over, but growing in grace is the lifestyle that is practiced so that sin is not part of our life.
Part of our problem, and I say part, is that we don't prepare ourselves to meet with the Lord. We don't "wash up" before going to the "supper table." There is a time for repentance (every day in fact), a time when the Holy Spirit removes the daily stain so that we can have full fellowship with the Lord. Therefore, there should be seriousness of purpose when we go to meet with the Lord, when we partake of the Lord's communion. Don't offer yourself as a second-rate sacrifice.