Are We Called to Obey or Sacrifice?

I was attending our Prayer and Share group at church. Someone said, “Scripture tells us that obedience is better than sacrifice.” The Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, “Obedience is a form of sacrifice.” Time for me to do some studying.

The first act of disobedience is recorded in Genesis 3.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God when they ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Because of their sin, God sacrificed an animal to clothe them with garments of skin. If Adam and Eve has obeyed, there would not have been a need for sacrifice. Obedience would have been better than sacrifice. Disobedience required sacrifice.

The first reference to obedience being better than sacrifice is found in I Samuel 15:22 NLT.What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.These are Samuel’s words to Saul when Saul disobeyed and God rejected him as king. Sacrifice did not mean obedience was unnecessary.

Lack of obedience led to the need for sacrifice. The Ten Commandments are recorded in Exodus 20. The Israelites did not obey all that God asked of them. This led to the need for sacrifice. Leviticus 1-7 describes all the sacrifices God would require. There were burnt offering, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and trespass offerings. So many sacrifices! All because of disobedience.

Would sacrifices continue forever? No! Hebrews10:1-18 tells how Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was made once for everyone. The law for sacrifices was only a shadow of Jesus’ sacrifice yet to come. These annual sacrifices were a reminder that the blood of animals did not take away sins. Christ set aside the animal sacrifices and made a holy sacrifice through His body once and for all. The priests had to stand while performing their religious duties because there was always a need for more sacrifices. Christ is now seated at the right hand of God. His work is completed. Verse 18 proclaims, “sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” No sacrifice required – but obedience is required.

Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice when He died upon the cross. Romans 10:4 says, “Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in Him are made right with God.” Now we must obey God. We must believe.

Jesus was obedient to His Heavenly Father when He sacrificed His life. Now He has given us a command to obey. In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.” “Taking up our cross” sounds like sacrifice. “Follow Me” sounds like obedience. We may be asked to make some form of sacrifice. Then we must obey.

If we are asked to make a sacrifice, what might our sacrifice be? Very likely, our will. (Let us pray the words of Matthew 6:19, “Your [God’s] will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”) Possibly our desires. Maybe our reputation – what people think of us. Our time is another thing that may need to be sacrificed.

We have been thinking about sacrifice. Now let’s focus upon obedience. Jesus obeyed perfectly. Jesus says in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” Philippians 2:8 says, “And being found in appearance as a man, He (Jesus) humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!”

The following are several scriptures that will help us walk in obedience.

You must love the LORD your God and obey all His requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands. – Deuteronomy 11:1
If you love Me, keep My commands.John 14:15
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love. – II John 1:6
Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it. – Luke 11:28
This is love for God: to keep His commands.I John 5:3

Obedience and sacrifice seem to go hand in hand. Obedience may be better than sacrifice. However, obedience may require sacrifice. I encourage you to strive to sacrificially obey the Lord!

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The Denial

cross-for-denialHe (Peter) began to call down curses, and he swore to them,
“I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
Mark 14:71

Peter denied Jesus he denied Him three times! Mark 14:71 records Peter’s third denial. A synonym for deny is refuse. In this case, Peter refused to admit that he was one of Jesus’ disciples. I think Peter may have refused to admit that he knew Jesus because he felt confused. Making a slightly different interpretation of the word deny, I suggest that to deny can mean to forget. Did Peter have spiritual amnesia causing him to forget what Jesus had explained to the disciples about His upcoming death? When Peter witnessed what was happening to Jesus, he may have become worried about what might happen to himself. For his own safety, he may have have felt the need to deny any association with Jesus. Anxiety can cause us to not think clearly and to do strange things.

A short time after denying Jesus, Peter heard a rooster crow two times. Oh, oh! Peter then remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him as recorded in the beginning of Mark 14:72, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

And he broke down and wept.
Mark 14:72b

The crow of the rooster may have cured Peter’s amnesia and caused him to reconsider who Jesus truly was. Peter wept with remorse when he realized he had denied Jesus.

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
John 21:15

Fast forward to a few days after Jesus’ resurrection and we find Jesus having breakfast with His disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. Although Peter denied (or forgot) Jesus three times as recorded in Mark 14:68-70, Jesus does not deny (or forget) Peter. Jesus knew Peter and He knew his strengths and weaknesses of character. While Peter forgot Jesus three times, Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to remember who He was. I wonder if Peter needed to be asked this question three times because it took him that long to remember who Jesus truly was. Peter had to have his mind remade – he had to be re-minded.

It is worth noting that the first two times Jesus questioned Peter about his love, He used the Greek word agape for love while the third time He used the term phileo. Agape love is God’s love, a spiritual, selfless love while phileo love expresses love on a friendship level. In His first two inquiries, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with God’s kind of love. The last time, Jesus lowered his type of love to friendship. It is also interesting to note that each time after Peter assured Jesus that he loved Him, Jesus gave him a command of something to do, such as “Feed my lambs.”

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves
and take up their cross and follow me.
Matthew 16:24

These words of Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 16:24 are also words being spoken to me. I want to consider what Jesus has to say to me by applying Peter’s experiences with denial to what denial entails for me today.

It was not OK for Peter to deny Jesus but it is OK for me to deny myself. In fact, for me to be a disciple of Jesus, I must deny myself – I must forget about my selfish desires. Numerous times I have denied Christ by focusing upon my own accomplishments rather than His accomplishments upon the cross. If I do not deny myself, I may deny Jesus.

Peter denied Jesus only a few hours before He was crucified upon the cross. The Matthew scripture tells me to take up my cross. What does my cross look like? Most likely I will not have to die upon the beam of a cross like Jesus, but I still need to die to myself. I need to crucify my own plans and purposes to fulfill God’s plans and purposes. When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered Jesus and what Jesus had said to him. He was
re-minded. The cross has been described as a memorial, or a reminder, of who Jesus is and of what He has done for us. For me, to take up my cross allows me to be re-minded.

Although Peter denied Jesus, Jesus still had a job for him to do. Jesus told Peter to “feed His sheep.” Jesus tells me to follow Him. Only then will I know where He wants me to go and what He wants me to do.

For Peter to deny Jesus was a bad thing but for me to deny myself is a good thing.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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