“The multitude of your sacrifices — what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” — Isaiah 1:11
When I first read this verse in Isaiah, I thought, “That is about as harsh as it gets right there!” The Israelites had begun to treat God the same as other religions treated their gods. In fact, they had simply lumped Him in with the other gods. They were offering sacrifices to those other gods and freely breaking Commandment number one. Yet, because they still gave God a little nod by offering Him what He said it took to have your sins covered, they thought they were okay. They most certainly were not. Isaiah let them know that because of their sin and disobedience, foreign enemies would destroy their current way of life.
Today, God has allowed the main way that we honor Him to be rocked. We can no longer freely pack churches without the odds greatly increasing that someone will get sick. This pandemic was the beginning of a great division amongst Americans. Even among Christians, we are greatly divided about government control, the wearing of masks, and just whose lives matter the most. It reveals that we are not unified. It reveals that we are breaking His command of loving each other as He loved us (John 15:12). Just as Isaiah 1 was a chance for them to turn it around and make things right, I think we are in a warning period.
Three times now, I was allowed to be a part of a church where the Holy Spirit of God absolutely manifested Himself regularly. Even though each church was different in the way they did things, it was apparent that there were people who very simply loved the presence and the nearness of God. He was all they wanted. God was more than happy to come and meet with them. I can’t hardly describe the feeling when you enter such a place. It is like you just want to cry. It is like there is just raw emotion in you dying to be released. Once you are in that atmosphere, you just never want to leave. You could be around it all day and never worry about beating the crowd to the restaurant or what you need to get done the rest of the day. It is nothing short of amazing.
I was able to talk to the preacher of one these churches and ask him what he thought happened. He said that God began to move in their services. He said that people from all different walks of life began to come. As a leader, he said he simply got out of the way and let the Spirit lead. He said it was all almost effortless. Then, he said that a small group of people who didn’t care for it began to work behind the scenes. This group found fault with the new people who were coming. They found fault with him as a leader and decided that he needed to find somewhere else to preach. In short, they didn’t like change. They liked the way things “had always been done.” It was enough for them to open up the Bible, read a bit, pray a bit, take up an offering, shake some hands, talk to some good ole folks, and then go on about the week with regular business. Here is the question we must ask, does God take pleasure in our church services? Or, has He had enough of what we’ve been offering Him?
The original sin is still the biggest sin flowing through our hearts. Adam and Eve wanted to be “like God.” Unfortunately, they succeeded. We can all freely choose to be the master of our own lives and make our own decisions in life. What God asks us to do is give up our preferences and desires to follow Him. He says it like this, “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Yet, as we begin our journey with Him, as soon as something He wants interferes with what we want, that is where the breakdown begins. It is precisely at these moments in life where we have our greatest opportunities to truly worship our Creator. It is at these moments where we have the chance to truly exercise faith and trust in Him.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many great churches doing it right. But we have to ask ourselves, “What are we really doing?” Are we truly experiencing God as we worship? Or, are we simply feeling better about ourselves by going through the motions? As Isaiah 1:11 teaches us, by the time we are just going through the motions, our hearts are very far from Him.
Lord, I don’t like writing such harsh things. Even now, something in me is saying to just repost an old WMD. I know people aren’t going to like this because I don’t like it. It is convicting. Help me to honor you with all my heart. May you be the love of my life. All else pales in comparison to knowing You. Help us to learn what you want us to learn. Help us to be what you called us to be. Help us to fall crazy in love with You and honor the greatest commandment more than any generation ever has. I look so forward to the day when my faith becomes sight. I love You, Lord. Please help Your church to get this right!