Sacrifice: The Fragrance of Worship

Christian praise and worship art image (drawing, prophetic painting). A Christian person worshiping God in spirit and truth as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). He is consumed as a burnt offering on God's bronze (brazen) altar as the colors of worship arise as a sweet fragrance to God.

PRAISE AND WORSHIP SERIES 2

Click on the image to enlarge it.

$150 AUD ($160 USD), Watercolor Pencil and Colored Pencil on Matboard, 28.5 cm x 40 cm (11″ x 16), Prints Available

 

“‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 11:35-12:1)

This drawing is about what God has been working in me in regards to worship: sacrifice, absolute surrender and total dedication and consecration to him.

The Lord used the life of Abraham to teach me some of these lessons in worship, faith and sacrifice. Regarding Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22), pastor and writer Francis Frangipane commented in his book When Many Are One (Charisma House):

“The Lord brought Abraham to a place of spiritual fulfillment in his son, Isaac. But a time came when it was required of Abraham to choose between his love for God and his love for what God had given him. The Lord commanded Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah. There Abraham was told to offer Isaac on the mountain of God’s choosing.

“On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you'” (Genesis 22:4-5). Please notice Abraham’s last statement, “We will worship and return.” We see here the perfection of faith in the atmosphere of worship. Abraham’s faith told him they would both return, but it was his attitude of worship that enabled him to go up. The story is well known. The angel of the Lord stopped Abraham, knife in hand, from taking Isaac’s life. Yet it was within the plan and purpose of God to require obedience of His servant. Abraham’s love for God was tested and proven true…

…we must possess…a worshiping heart; we must be willing to give to God what we love the most…

In death every man ultimately surrenders all he owns to God. Those who are called to build Christ’s house do so by surrendering even their highest loves and their very desire of fulfillment to the Almighty. It is a death not unlike the death of the flesh. Hope of human recovery is abandoned; the sense of trust abides alone in God. Abraham offered to God his greatest love, Isaac, who was the embodiment of his spiritual fulfillment. He laid all his dreams upon an altar he built with his own hands.

Abraham was willing to trust God to fulfill His promises, knowing that death is no barrier to the Almighty. So also those whom God will use in building His house will be people who willingly surrender their greatest loves to God. Within their yielding, worshiping hearts, He will build His house.”

Like Abraham, the Lord led me up my own personal Mount Moriah and asked me to build an altar and sacrifice everything to him in worship (This started when my “Gethsemane” dream (which inspired the drawing, “Gethsemane: Not My Will, But Your Will Be Done” (Believer’s Road Series) began to be fulfilled. My Gethsemane dream had a sequel to it, my “Crucifixion” dream, which has been part of the inspiration behind this drawing. In my dream, I was being crucified, for it was the only way vibrant praise and worship could be released out of me. Please see “Crucifixion was The Only Way Worship Could be Released” (Believer’s Road Series 2), which is an illustration of my “Crucifixion Dream”.).

To lay down my husband, my daughter, my marriage, my family, my ministry and all my hopes and desires for future ministry was to lay down “all that I have”.

Sometimes we view these things as our possessions and even our rights in this life, thinking that they inherently belong to us and that we are somehow really generous by giving them all up to God. However, none of these things inherently belong to us. Rather, the reality is, to put it in Job’s own words:

“Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.'” (Job 1:20-21)

All that we have on this earth is only what the Lord has given to us, even our very breath. Nothing we “possess” on this earth ultimately belongs to us. In fact, the situation is very much the opposite. We ourselves are God’s possession, for he has purchased us to be his very own.

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

“You [Jesus] are worthy…because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

The Lord has purchased us and made us bondslaves of Christ who own nothing and whose only ‘task’ is to worship our great Lord and Master by serving him in total obedience. In light of eternal life and all of the other spiritual blessings he has freely and abundantly bestowed upon us (Ephesians 1:3), to sacrifice everything, as some Bible versions translate Romans 12:1, is only our reasonable service unto God.

To lay down our possessions on God’s altar is one thing, but to lay down our very own lives is another.

When we are young in the Lord, we often view and approach God as the one who will make us happy, bless us, help us and comfort us. Like little children, we are very self-focused and self-oriented in our relations with God and our prayers to him. However, as the years go by and God matures us ever increasingly into the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29, Philippians 1:6), we begin to understand that we are not the central figure in our lives at all, but that God and the desires of his heart are the center. We begin to learn the meaning of Jesus’ words to Peter:

“‘I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!'” (John 21:18-19)

We may be able to lay down all that we have…but it is another thing to lay down all that we are.

The most difficult part of our ‘self’ to lay down is the desire to live a happy life, our soul’s desire to live and seek its own happiness. This is where the battle between Self and God rages most strongly. Jesus, our great example, obediently yielded him-Self to death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11) and we are exhorted to do the same. He was willing to forgo the temporary happiness of his soul to be eternally satisfied.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering…Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” (Isaiah 53:3-10)

I could feel the unpleasant battle between Self and God’s perfect will within me. I wanted to hold onto my life’s “right” to the pursuit of happiness…but what if it was the Lord’s perfect will for me to be well-acquainted with sorrow just like my Savior? What if it is the Lord’s will to crush me and to cause me to suffer for his own eternal purposes and glory? Am I ready to give up pursuing happiness in order that I may be submitted to God’s perfect will for my life, even if it means it is filled with earthly sorrow and suffering?

I knew exactly what God was asking me, “…do you truly love me more than these?…do you truly love me?” (John 21:15-17).

In my mind’s eye, I could see a beautiful flower being crushed and trampled upon so that its fragrance may be spread abroad–the fragrance of worship through sacrifice. (See Luke 12:1-8).

The same Scripture passage that brought the sorrow of death upon me now brought the hope and promise of spiritual joy and reward, “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied…” (Isaiah 53:10-11).

To lay down “all that we have” and “all that we are” upon God’s altar in sacrificial worship is far worth it to see the will of the Lord prosper in our hands. The hope and joy of the future spiritual and eternal satisfaction we will have (on account of submitting to God’s perfect will for our lives) far outweighs any sorrow and suffering we may have to endure in this life (Romans 8:17-18, Hebrews 12:1-13, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Not our will but your will be done in our lives.

By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit may God cause all of us to see what Abraham and Jesus saw as they went through their own personal “Gethsemane’s”. Through the eyes of faith and through the sacrifice of worship, may all that we have and all that we are be completely consumed in the fire upon God’s altar. May sacrifice: the fragrance of worship rise to God out of the flames.

May the same Spirit of grace that enabled Abraham to sacrifice his son and Jesus to lay down his life now be at work within us. May we come through the sorrow and agony of death into the resurrection life and power of the Holy Spirit.

There is no greater joy than to bring joy to the heart of our blessed Father! There is no greater delight than to be in his perfect will! There is no greater pleasure than to pour out all of our love upon him in sacrificial worship! When we love God more than anyone or anything, sacrifice is not a painful, agonizing thing, but rather a joyful act of worship unto the One we love most.

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The imagery in this drawing is a mixture of the Scriptures,  impressions I had in prayer and worship and a dream during this season of truly learning what it means to be a living sacrifice.

We are told, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1). The person in this drawing is offering himself up as a living sacrifice in worship to God. With arms lifted up, he surrenders to death in the bodily form of one being crucified. However, his arms are also upraised in worship as a living sacrifice. He is not one who hangs limp and dead, rather he is one who has come through death into life and continually stands in worship.

The man is being wholly consumed upon God’s altar of burnt offering. In the Old Testament, someone could offer a burnt offering as an act of worship. It symbolized absolute surrender and total dedication and consecration to God, for the entire offering was wholly consumed by fire. This sacrifice of worship rose as a sweet fragrance unto God. “It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, and an aroma pleasing to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:9). The flames that totally consume this man turn into the fragrance of colorful worship, rising up as a pleasing aroma to God.

Regular burnt offerings were made every morning and evening at the tabernacle and the temple. The Lord commanded his people in Leviticus 6:13, “The fire [of the burnt offering] must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out”. This symbolizes our continual absolute surrender and sacrifice of ourselves to God in worship.Worship is to be our perpetual lifestyle and not just one-off acts. To reflect this continual morning and evening sacrifice, I have chosen to draw a background which suggests both dawn and twilight. It also exemplifies another metaphor: a sunset suggests death and the end of our lives while a sunrise suggests our resurrection to a new life of worship. Being a living sacrifice is a paradox of simultaneously being both dead to self and alive in God.

Once, during this season of learning how to worship through sacrifice, I was meditating on Christ’s experience in Gethsemane and his crucifixion. I distinctly had the impression that his life was all poured out in worship to God. I later remembered the Scripture from Isaiah 53:12 “…he poured out his life unto death”. The impression of a cup of wine, symbolizing Jesus’ blood, being totally poured out came to me.

On another couple of occasions during this season, the impression of “a life all poured out” unto the Father in sacrificial worship, came back to me again, but this time the words of Paul came into my mind, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure” (2 Timothy 4:6).

I could see that just as Christ poured out his life unto death so that the will of his Father would prosper in his hand, so Paul did the same, and we are to follow in their footsteps. To symbolize this in my drawing, a drink offering being poured out accompanies the burnt offering.

“When you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering or sacrifice…Also bring half a hin of wine as a drink offering. It will be an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.” (Numbers 15:8, 10)

May we also follow the example of King David, a worshiper after God’s own heart, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).

Sacrificing all that we have and all that we are is a very painful, difficult thing to do. It is actually impossible for us to achieve in our own strength; therefore, we must trust in God to work it in us by his grace.

Remember Jesus did not have to strive to do God’s perfect will in his life or to die to self. He did not have to strive to get himself crucified. The Father was always continually working his perfect will in Jesus’ life, including the sovereign order of events that led Jesus to the cross. Therefore, to see the Father’s perfect will fully accomplished in his life, Jesus did NOT have to strive to achieve God’s will but rather to SUBMIT to the Father’s will as he sovereignly and continually worked it out. This is precisely what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).

Therefore, total submission to God inevitably leads to God’s perfect will being accomplished in our lives. What hinders it is our own resistance and lack of surrender (NOT our own ‘failure’ to strive hard enough.)

Peter, in the Garden of Gethsemane, tried to resist God’s will by attempting to prevent Jesus from being crucified. This is why “Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’ (John 18:11).

Peter also strived to lay down his life for Jesus in his own strength:

“Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’ ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘today–yes, tonight–before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’ But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And all the others said the same.” (Mark 14:29-31)

Peter’s three denials demonstrated how his own best efforts to lay down his life in his own strength failed miserably. This is why, at the end of John 21 (vs. 18-19), Jesus showed him how God’s will was to be successfully accomplished in his life. Peter, at the end of his life, did find the grace of God to absolutely surrender unto death, for tradition holds that he was crucified upside down. All of Jesus’ other disciples (aside from John), who also insisted at the Last Supper that they would lay down their lives for him (but like Peter, fled in Gethsemane), also eventually found the grace to surrender, for all of them were martyred.

Paul outlines the pathway to Christian maturity in Philippians 3:7-4:1, and it is the cross.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead…All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (from Philippians 3-4)

(See “Gethsemane: Not My Will, But Your Will Be Done” (Believer’s Road Series), “Job, The Worshiper” (Believer’s Road Series 2), “Crucifixion was The Only Way Worship Could Be Released” (Believer’s Road Series 2)“Submission To The Breaking From The Hand of My Master” (Believer’s Road Series)).