by Mike Ratliff
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40 ESV)
With the takeover of the visible church by the “Innovation Cult” pragmatism is the rule. This pragmatic approach to ministry is lead by some men who have become blinded to the truth of what God requires of all those who are called by His name. They are blind because they, being in spiritual darkness with hardened hearts, are bent on their man-centered, man-made methodologies; i.e. doctrines of men. The fruit of this is well represented by Rick Warren’s “deeds not creeds” slogan for all this really consists of is works righteousness.
I find it interesting when I encounter very religious people who view the doctrines of God, which are known and understood through the proper exposition of His Word, as secondary, if that, to their traditions or their religiosity or their innovations, et cetera. This is, of course, a byproduct of post-modern thinking. That is, it is assumed that the best anyone can do with God’s Word is come up with opinions. That is quite sad because God does indeed bless the proper handling of His Word to teach and edify the saints in their mind renewal, which transforms them from immature to mature Christians as they become the living sacrifices He commands for all of His to be (Romans 12:1-2).
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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
What will it look like for a believer to be this “living sacrifice?” At the top of this post I quoted Matthew 22:34-40 in which our Lord gave us what the one who is truly walking before the Lord will be doing. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is that mindset, the focus of the mind, that has its loins girded for action that marks the “living sacrifice.” However, if you asked the pragmatist this same question, you would probably get a very different answer. They would point us to human philosophy and their New Kind of Christianity that is focused on good works and making the world a better place as the marker for one who is a “living sacrifice.” Well, that would not be according the Word of God.
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8 ESV)
Notice that religiosity is not what marks the believer on the right path before the face of God. Spiritual blindness leads professing believers to offer everything except the one thing God commands from His people. He commands us to be living sacrifices who are so because we live and breath within a spiritual commitment of the heart from which right behavior ensues (Deuteronomy 10:12-19; Matthew 22:37-39). We looked at the passage from Matthew above. Here is Deuteronomy 10:12-19, which speaks of the circumcised heart.
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:12-19 ESV)
The verse in bold is v16. Here is that verse from the Apostolic Bible Polyglot, which uses the Septuagint as the source language for the Old Testament.
16 και περιτεμείσθε την σκληροκαρδίαν υμών και τον τράχηλον υμών ου σκληρυνείτε έτι (Deuteronomy 10:16 AB)
16 And you shall circumcise the hardness of your heart, and you shall not harden your neck any longer (Deuteronomy 10:16 AB)
And (και) you shall circumcise (περιτεμείσθε) the (την) hardness of your heart (σκληροκαρδίαν υμών), and (και) the (τον) your neck (τράχηλον υμών) you shall not (ου) harden (σκληρυνείτε) any longer (έτι). (Deuteronomy 10:16 word for word translation from the Septuagint to English).
The word translated as “you shall circumcise,” περιτεμείσθε, literally refers to the cutting off around as in physical circumcision, however, spiritually it always denotes the mortification of the sins of the flesh (Colossians 2:11). Where do we “operate” to mortify these sins? We must cut away the hardness of the heart, σκληροκαρδίαν. This refers to a hard heart, i.e. one that is stubborn, obstinate, and perverse. In other words, this heart is keyed in on the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life. We are all born with this heart. Our Justification, our eternal salvation, is a declaration by God that we are righteous as He imputes Christ’s righteousness to our account as we believe the Gospel and trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, repenting of our sins, all by grace through faith. However, we are in dire need of the transforming work of God in us and that is why we are called to the be the living sacrifices who submit to God’s mind renewal work in us to transform us from fleshly, immature Christians to humble, mature Christians. As we are humbled more and more by God, our necks become less and less stiff in rebellion against God. We see the truth of God and are transformed by it causing us to cease insisting on serving God our own way as we submit to His way.
Our positional salvation is eternal and instantaneous as God saves us. However, we are continually being sanctified for the rest of this life in these bodies. Our responsibility through all of this is what? It is to be living sacrifices, submitted to God for His glory as He changes us eternally from the inside out unto obedience and good works (Ephesians 2:1-10). Through this, we will learn to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. We will, as God works in us through and by His grace, learn to keep the greatest commandment, we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and we shall love our neighbor as ourselves. This is impossible for any of us to in and by our own wills and abilities. However, as we are humbled and we mature and grow in grace and learn to walk obediently and selflessly within His grace, we will find that we actually do have the mind of Christ and He will manifest Himself through us in ways that we could never do ourselves.
This is what a mature living sacrifice looks like. It is not accomplished via any thing man can do. It is not done pragmatically via programs like Monvee. In is done via God’s own agenda as He takes us through His own program of spiritual maturity. Our part as leaders is to disciple the younger Christians unto this. Our part as our Lord’s sheep is to submit to His rod, staff, and leading by the Holy Spirit. We must set our minds on becoming the living sacrifices we are commanded to be and trust God, who never lies, to change us forever according to His own promises.
Soli Deo Gloria!