I preached yesterday. Basically my message was this. In Matthew 5:23, Jesus talks about someone coming to give their sacrifice at the altar, but upon remembering that he has offended someone, should leave his gift at the altar, go and be reconciled to his brother, then return and give the sacrifice. This reveals the stages of our approach to God:
1. our desire to approach God (either out of religious obedience, true desire, fear, desperation, whatever);
2. we are checked by the Spirit (we discover that something is required of usâ€¦ the sacrifice isnâ€™t so much an external offering, a thing outside of ourselves, but we ourselves are to be the sacrifice to God);
3. we deal with the mundane realities of our lives in the ordinary events of our daysâ€¦ loving and being loved, reconciliation and forgiveness;
4. we return, maybe less inspired or spiritually high, but having died to ourselves, we approach God more out of obedience than desire, although desire is not excluded.
I compared this to the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17ff. Hereâ€™s the sequence of events:
1. he approaches Jesus out of desire to give his gift (he wants eternal life);
2. he is checked by Jesus (â€œthis one thing you lackâ€);
3. he will not deal with itâ€¦ he is â€œshockedâ€ because the requirement is too great.
4. he leaves Jesus shocked and downcast.
It is important to note that Jesus â€œloved himâ€ before the requirement was met or even voiced. I think this shows important steps in our relationship with God. We come to him for various reasons, but it is usually self-motivated and on our own terms. God always, out of love, reveals that he doesnâ€™t desire something external from us, but we ourselves, and the requirement is very great because it means death to ourselves and our own agendas, even religious ones. As Jesus said, â€œUnless you take up your cross and follow meâ€¦â€ The flesh, that can possess very religious aspirations, desires to follow, but without taking up the cross. We want the friendship of Jesus without the requirement of him being the Lord of our entire lives.