That is the title of a book, and it has stuck out as a singular principle that makes me chuckle. The idea behind it, of course, is that we all have pet ideologies, sacred cows, that we carry around. They are not necessarily truth, or they are full-blown lies, but we carry them as something we’ll defend to death! And these cows, the principle goes, make some of the best hamburgers, in that we put them to death and use their remains to get us to the truth.
Well, I don’t know about everyone else, but this has been a recurring theme in recent weeks, months, and even the year. God seems bent upon driving everything out of me until all I have left is His will. Now, that sounds bad, but think about it, really. If I am to give my life to His use, what better reality can exist than to drive all of “me” out and let all of Him fill the space? This doesn’t mean I stop being me, nerdi-ness and all. It just means that I stop being so focused on me, what I want, what I (think I) need, etc. I become conformed to His will. Don’t believe this is what God would do? Let’s take a look.
(I apologize for the older English. I only have a KJV handy at the moment.)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. – Romans 12:1-2
Did you catch the last part? Be not conformed to this world…but transformed by the renewing of your mind… Now, I’ll admit that in my few decades on this earth, my mind has NOT been encouraged toward God for much of it. My parents and youth pastors tried, but the schools I attended and some of my friends pushed it a different way. That is not to mention the stuff I did to myself because I participated in sin!
Ok, ok. So, where am I going with this? Simple. What are you willing to give up to have God? “Who says I have to give up anything?!?!” God does. Take a look:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord the God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Oh! That’s the Old Testament! The New Testament says that love is not jealous and God is love. Hold on now, friend! Hold on. God is love, this is true! But God is also righteous and just. These characteristics demand God be glorified, not out of spite and arrogance, but out of decency. It would be like demanding that people don’t set fire to burning trees. The only reason you’d do that is to kill the tree and maybe to start a forest fire. The one difference is that in God’s case, He is the only one who deserves that worship.
But let’s break it down. What could you possibly worship before God? Mmm. Your job! Your paycheck! Your car! Your girlfriend! Your boyfriend! Your worldview (the way you view the world)! All of it! Remember, “or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath…” You could even get in trouble by putting the whales above serving God! And again, remember that this isn’t because of some ego trip that God is on. No! This is because He truly does deserve this!
So, what does that look like? It looks like the dismantling of a Jenga tower (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7H6wGy5zf4). And yeah, in the midst of what God is doing, it may feel like your tower is going to fall…and it may! But the blessing of knowing Who God is, lies in knowing that even if our own kingdoms fall, He will rebuild it into His Eternal Kingdom; that which is lost becomes better than it could have ever been.
So, walk with me once more into the Scriptures, and see something of what this looks like. Do you remember Abraham? Well the first encounter we have with Abraham is when he’s named Abram. And as Abram, God comes to him and says, “Get up, and go to a land I will show you.” Now think about that. What if I showed up at your door and said, “Come on! Let’s go.” You probably wouldn’t go with me unless you know me; so we know Abram had a relationship with God. But also, if you turned to me and asked, “Where are we going?” It’s a reasonable question, but I answer with, “Oh! I’ll show you.” It takes and incredible relationship to trust that, but it takes even more to trust that if I tell you to pack some large duffel bags for a trip. In fact, you’re not coming home from this trip!
So, Abram follows and God eventually promises him a son, a son of his own loins, even though Sarah is too old to be carrying a child to term, let alone carrying one at all. Still, God makes a promise and eventually turns Abrams name into Abraham. God saves Abraham’s wife’s integrity twice, even though Abraham is lieing, and even makes Abraham very wealthy in the process. But in the midst of this all, Abraham’s trust wanes as several years (possibly decades) pass by. Abraham is stuck in his own thought process and doesn’t understand the miracle God wants to perform. So, Abraham, at the encouragement of his wife, has a child with his wife’s maidservant. In short, this does not turn out well either, and it is the single greatest reason why we have conflict in the middle east today: two basic nations warring against each other.
Well, God eventually comes through with His promise, twenty-five years after He originally promised it. Just take a second. For many of us, that is 50-80% of our lives thus far! 50-80% of your life waiting! Just waiting!!! I don’t think many of us can conceive (no pun intended) of the dedication it takes to hold to that kind of a promise. I think we all understand, now, why Abraham and Sarah might have gotten a little impatient since they are WELL PAST the birthing years!
But they have Isaac, and that’s great! And that’s it, right? I mean, God fulfilled His promise, and Abraham had waited, so God should give him a break now, right? We like the idea, but it’s not what happens. No, in fact, some years, as Isaac is now grown, God calls Abraham to make another sacrifice: he is to sacrifice his son! And mind the trust of Isaac. By most scholar’s estimates, Isaac was, broadly, between 5-36, but the Jewish Historian Josephus puts him at or near 25 years old. In short, old enough to fight back good and old enough for this to be a gut-wrenching decision by Abraham to sacrifice his only son (Ishmael was cast away already), especially when he was just reaching that age to marry and have children. Ouch!
And it came to pass after these things, that God did [test] Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovestk, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his [donkey], and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it uon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My faterh: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering. And Abraham said, My son God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. – Genesis 22:1-3, 6-8
To shorten the quote, the simple is that as Abraham is about to plunge the knife into Isaac, God stops him and even provides a ram to be sacrificed. But what Abraham is rewarded for is his willingness to do what it would take! He was willing to trust God to do something miraculous again! Maybe God would raise Isaac from the dead, maybe another heir, maybe something….we don’t know. But Abraham trusted the entire way; I don’t think he trusted blindly either. I think that Abraham knew God well enough by then to know that God was going to provide.
And so that leads us back to you, dear reader. What will you decide? As God pulls your Jenga blocks and unsettles your tower, what will be your response? Will you scramble to save what you can? Will you argue with Him about how bad a God He is for doing what He did? Or will you trust in His goodness? Will you trust in His sovereignty? Will you trust in His infinite, perfect knowledge, goodness, love, and grace?
For my take, throw another burger on the grill! It’s gonna hurt to hear it sizzle! And yet, when I smell that sweet aroma of the “burger” cooking and feel the freedom of falling into God’s arms, I will know i have made the right choice. Because I will know I have trusted Him!