Last Sunday: Shon talked about what it really means to be a follower of Christ-that when we put our faith in Him, He is expecting that to mean we are making a commitment to live for Him.
- Involves submitting our will to God's will and living be Jesus' commands
- Involves life change: giving up old ways and living a new life-a life for God instead.
The question we ask ourselves then is how do we do that? What does it take? I think most of us who have put our faith in Jesus and have accepted His gift of forgiveness for our sins want to show Him our commitment, and need to know what that involves.
Give me a list
All over the world and throughout history people have asked this question-What does it take to please God? What do I have to do?
One thing we humans are very good at is coming up with "to-do" lists, so we come up with lists of things to do to please God.
- get out check-list
- These things become religious rituals - do them to make sure God knows we are committed to Him.
Is this what God wants?
The appearance of Peity
This is the kind of situation the prophet Isaiah was speaking into when he wrote the book of Isaiah. Many people in isreal were fulfilling their religious duties, but were confused because God wasn't responding to them. He didn't answer their prayers, He didn't bless them as He did their ancestors. So
what was the problem here?
Let's take a look at what God told Isaiah to share with the people in Isaiah 58.
Read vv. 1-4
- No real commitment here. No life change. Went in before God, "Here I am God, OK...check...check...check...see how good I am....see ya!" Left without ever really connect with God...not taking anything away from the experience.
What does God want?
As we read through the next several verses we will see that God specifically addresses fasting, but I think you'll see that we can extend what He is saying to any of the ways we serve God or come before Him to show our devotion.
Read v. 5
What do you think about when you think of fasting..why do people do it?
- Lent, no meat, no eating beore communion
- Throughout Bible, people fast in times of mourning, times when want to make a special appeal to God
- Has been used by people in all kinds of religions to show devotion-look at the sacrifice I am making. To plead with God...to say, "I really need to Lord, I am going to humble myself...sacrifice...for you in the hope that you will see my humility and respond favorably to me"
We, too can fall into this kind of attitude. Video to illustrate the kind of approach we sometimes take toward fasting or serving God.
God says, Is this the kind of fast I want? Is it just for you to humble yourselves for a day? Is that what you call devotion? Is our service to God what He wants? Are we truly serving Him or do we have the appearance of devotion?
However committed we are to Jesus, we need to take this warning seriously. With all the things that go on in our lives...and the influences around us...there is always a chance that we will slip into this kind of religious ritual behavior where we are doing things for God without ever considering His purpose in them. We need to take a good look at what we do for God and ask Him if that is what He wants.
- The question is what does God want...not what am I willing to do and expecting God to find acceptable.
This is one of the things I really like about the next couple of statements here. God tells us what He wants.
Interesting...so God isn't looking for us to just do thing for Him...He wants our service to Him to be a tool that changes things. He wants us to engage Him...you may hear people say, "It's not about religion, it's about relationship" This is what they are talking about. God wants us to really seek Him and draw close to Him so that we may know Him and experience life with Him.
...for what purpose? To loose chains, untie cords, break yokes, free the oppressed, feed the hungry, shelter the wanderer and clothe the naked.
You know what this reminds me of? What did Jesus say are the two greatest commands for us? Love God...love your neighbor.
Our service to God is not about us...it is about offering ourselves to God for Him to work in us and in the people in need around us.
Loose the Chains
Now we might need to ask ourselves how this works. How is my service to God supposed to "loose chains?" What is that all about?
There are a couple of ways to look at this:
- making a sacrifice for others-letting go of things you don't feel you can let go of for their sake. Recognizing the great sacrifice Jesus made for us..are we willing to make the same kind of sacrifice for the benefit of others...can you forgive? Can you go without something? Can you give up your time...your freedom...so that others may know the love of God? Can you give up time on other things to heal a relationship and offer God's grace to someone...Can you take time to learn more about God so that you will be better equipped to help others know Him too-not just talking about physical hungry and oppression here, but spiritual as well. Can we make a sacrifice for others so that that can be free in Christ just as we are?
- There are chains within each of us that need to be broken so that we can fully live for God. Something that happens within us what we truly make a sacrifice for God.
- Fasting for eg: needs to be a real sacrifice. Something you feel you can't do without...long enough for it to be a struggle. Going to reach a point where you will be tempted to break the fast and it will be a fight to maintain your promise to God. This is the breaking point. Will you give in? Or will you recognize the hold that thing has on you...that you are not as strong as you thought and are being controlled by your desires? If we can turn to God in those moments and remain stedy for Him..we can break the hold that desire has over us. Can extend into other areas of our lives. Some people feel they have no need for God...life is good...if they would take some time to go without something, they will discover that they are bound more by those desires than they thought and their life is not their own. Self-sacrifice in one area can help you recognize the hold sin has on you in other areas and your need to God's forgiveness and strength to break free from that oppression.
- This applies to other areas of serving God. It is a challenge to step out and serve Him in a meaningful way. Often we look for wys to serve Him that fit into our lives, but that is not the kind of service He is looking for. He is looking for us to make a sacrifice for Him...to say I will give up some of my own life for God...when we take that step and we stick with it long enough, we reach a point where we will have to choose to give in to our selfish desires and give up...to say I don't have the time...to say that I don't know enough...to say that the people are too difficult to for me to deal with and the needs to great...or to turn to God and ask Him for the strength and endurance and love to continue on.
It is not always easy of comfortable to serve God in this way...but it is what God wants and He knows we can do it with Him, and He know it is the only way for us and for others in this world to experience the freedom and joy He wants for us.
Take a look again at Isaiah 58. Read vv. 8-11
Do you see what happens when we sacrifice of ourselves for God and for others? "Then your light with break forth and your healing will appear quickly" It is when we spend ourselves that we experience the fullness of God's love in our own lives...and when our own chains of oppression to sin and selfishness will fall away.
What is it that God wants from us? How can we please Him?
"Spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry-both the physically hungry and the spiritually hungry. Spend yourselves on needs of the oppresed to know God and be free. And know as you spend yourselves that the Lord WILL guide you always and satifsy your needs and strengthen your frame.
It is hard work, but the rewards that come from truly giving ourselves to God are well worth the effort.