Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
You’ve heard a parent reprimand their child over unacceptable behavior. You have overheard a fellow employee comment concerning an ‘unacceptable’ rating on their yearly review. You’ve purchased a new gadget from Wal-Mart, only to find it in the package damaged when you got it home. The clerk marks the reason for return with large letters marked, “UNACCEPTABLE.”
Back in Genesis 4, Cain and Abel each had a revelation what acceptable means. Abel brought a sacrifice of what God had given him, as God had directed him. Cain brought a sacrifice of what he had planted, the seeds of his choosing, and the fruit of his choosing. One was UNacceptable, the other God blessed. We should find out what is acceptable to the Lord, and what is not.
- and yourself.
The innate desire of every human being is to be accepted by God. The religious will deny it, the atheists will reject it, the heathen will twist it, but it is indisputable. We were born with an ingrained wish that our Maker would be pleased with the result of our life.
Before the ultimate Love, the ultimate Standard, and the ultimate Judge- would it not be considered uncaring, if not an insult, to be insincere in our gifts to Him? Jesus Christ opened the door so that we could dwell with Him, and so that we could KNOW what was acceptable to God. Today let us look at Cain for a minute, and consider what makes UNacceptable sacrifices:
- COST: If it is unwanted and unneeded to you- why would the Lord want it?
And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. (2 Samuel 24:24)
David was the king. He could have anything he wanted, at his word. It would have been a menial sacrifice if he had given to God what had been given to him. Easy come, easy go, they say. Sacrifice is all about cost.
We can donate thousands of items all year long without making a sacrifice at all. Giving out of abundance is effortless, but giving out of poverty hurts. That feeling of hurt is not the basis of acceptable sacrifice; but it is the SYMPTOM of it. Its one thing to sing out praise to God when the family is all present and healthy, but it is entirely another to sacrifice praise and thanks to God in a hospital, or in a nursing home.
- CHOICE: If you are making the sacrifices of your choice, that is not a real sacrifice.
A shepherd making the sacrifice for sins was required to bring a lamb without spot and without blemish. Whatever was left, he could raise for money. Don’t you think there was a temptation to swap out for a cheaper substitute? But it should be God’s choice, not ours- after all, when God had to choose a sinner, or his spotless Son, I’m sure glad he didn’t go for the cheap option.
We have really only two options: convenience or inconvenience. I can pray first thing in the morning, or I can squeeze it in whenever I can. I can make devotion to God my primary objective, or let it slip by. There are two places on my list for sacrifice to God: first or last.
- COERCION: God accepts offerings, not tribute. Wicked men must be controlled by fear and force, but friends volunteer their services.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
People all around us are in great need. You could begin to give, and never quit, and it would not be enough to satisfy everyone. The Corinthians felt this hopelessness as they took up their offerings every week. Hopelessness turned to bitterness as they felt the weight of necessity.
Friend, you don’t have to go there! Remember that we give- we sacrifice- for the Lord Jesus. We do not give for His needs, we give for His nearness. God’s very real and near presence is worth the sacrifice.
- CONSCIENCE: If your conscience is wicked, it desecrates the gift, and God rejects it.
The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?(Proverbs 21:27)
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
If there was ever a wasted offering; it’s the one given while harboring a grudge. God is our Father, and our attitude toward him should reflect our son-ship. Since we are then brothers and sisters in Christ, our heart should also be right toward each other. In-fighting is most destructive- and even more- despised by God.
My kids love to draw pictures for me. When they are all drawing at the same time, often a fight breaks out and somebody ends up crying. The child who won the argument will then proudly march up and show me what they’ve done. If I accept the picture, painted at the expense of another sobbing child, would I be endorsing the bad blood between them? I sure would be. Our Heavenly Father encourages us to “Let brotherly love continue.”
- COMPENSATION: God does not need a job. He is not ‘for hire’.
Anytime in history when somebody tried to ‘buy’ God, it never turned out well. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus was sold to a violent mob of Pharisees to Judas- the treasurer. Needless to say, God rejected the offering, the givers, and the receiver of this offering.
God is no respecter of persons; His will is second to no one. That’s why Paul said, “For by grace are ye saved through faith… not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Many a person in severe danger, or on a sudden deathbed auctions off their last possession in hopes of purchasing the grace and mercy of God: “GOD, IF YOU’LL GET ME OUT OF THIS, I’LL CHANGE- I’LL BE A BETTER PERSON- I PROMISE, LORD!”
In Acts 8:20-21, Peter responds to a sorcerer named Simon, who wanted to receive the power of God, as Peter had. He offered the apostles money to buy a spiritual movement in his life. “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.”
How important it is to know what is that acceptable will of God! Armed with the knowledge of the unacceptable, let us seek to avoid these attitudes, and approach true worship with willing hearts.