Animal sacrifices in the Old Testament were presented to the Priest and were always burned with fire, offered up as burnt offerings for sin. Thereby atonement was made by the priest for the one who had sinned. The Bible teaches that all Christians today must "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1). What kind of offering do you present today? Are you "on fire" for the truth, "hot" for God? Is your Christian walk more like a bonfire or an iceberg? Do you feel the heat of persecution at times? Do you even sometimes feel temporarily "burned out" under trials and tribulations? If so, then take the heat and take heart. By these, you know you that are a member of that elect army of the Most High, a soldier joined to the invincible ranks of the true Israel of God.
by Jerry Gentry
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1Pet. 4:12-13).
Difficulties, problems, even persecution&emdash;called fiery trials&emdash;haunt the Christian's life like ants that are drawn to an open jar of honey. Such Christians, as the honey jar, when left open long enough, are eventually overwhelmed with adversity, what we might call "negative attention," to coin an expression.
Yes, fiery trials follow the Christian, whose life is hot for God. Do you know Christians whose lives are easy going and smooth sailing? Then rejoice with them, and wait a while. Trials are sure, for every genuine Christian. There is no way around it. Fiery trials are as inevitable in the life of the genuine believer, as wind is to a hurricane; as heat is to a roaring camp fire; and as streams of morning light are to a rising sun. And often those trials come from unexpected places, very close to home.
Yes, God often uses our loved ones to bring us through the ultimate test of our faith walk. Do you think you stand on ground where trials have passed you by? Do you think you can make your offering without being put to the fire? Think again. Soon you will fall into trials and temptations. It is the divine order of things, the inevitable means whereby God creates in you His pure gold, the true riches, called "gold tried in the fire" (Rev. 3:18). Are you a diamond in the rough? Then expect the hammer and chisel of God to show up on the anvil of your life, to fashion you into a sparkling jewel.
What exactly is it that God values so much, that he is willing to put us through fiery trials, to make us hot for God, "on fire" for the truth?
Is it our tithe that God wants so much that he will turn up the heat of our furnace? No, tithing is a command of God, which carries with it great blessings when obeyed. But God does not need our tithe at all. He already owns everything. "For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills" (Ps. 50:10). Tithing is for our benefit, not His. Tithing can teach us that money is not everything, no where found among the top seven things God wants to reveal in us.
Does God put us through trials so we will keep his Holy Law, summed up by the Ten Commandments? Even when we acknowledge and love that righteous standard of God's Holy law, our performance of that standard is always below par. As the apostle Paul admitted, "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me" (Rom 7:21). Can we admit the same? Fiery trials do not come upon us as a result of our low batting average in keeping God's law, strange as that may sound. If that were true, God would be testing us for a lifetime, then He would have to burn us up as failures in the end. We cannot keep the law in perfection, though try we must, because it is His command, His will. Fiery trials teach us a lesson far beyond the Law of God. Fiery trials teach us to become hot for God, on fire for His truth.
Then just exactly what is it that God wants to accomplish by putting us in the burning, fiery furnace, called trials and tribulation? In a word, it is faith!
It is abundantly clear that when an Old Covenant Israelite sinned before God, it was mandatory that he take a trespass offering to the priest, who "made an atonement" by spilling the animal's blood, and offering the flesh and fat on the burning altar, whereby atonement was made for sin. Sixty times in the Old Testament appears the phrase, "offering. . . made by fire." Atonement was made by fire, always, under Old Testament law. Christian, remember that Jesus Christ went through what must have felt like the fires of a thousand hells, when He suffered, bled and offered Himself in death on the cross, to appease the wrath of God and make atonement for sin.
In Christian churches, you hear little about "the atonement," even less about "an offering made by fire" except when applied in an Old Covenant setting. In most churches, there is little connection made between the fiery trials of a Christian life, and the Old Covenant Israelite who brought an offering to the priest who offered it by fire for sin. Yet scripture declares, "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect" (Hebr. 10:1).
What is the meaning of this Old Testament "shadow" under shining New Testament light? How can modern Christians learn the lesson of "an offering made by fire," and its application under the New Covenant?
The Old Covenant burnt offerings foreshadow the awesome reality of the New Covenant "living sacrifice," which every individual must present before it is possible to receive atonement.
Just as the Old Covenant Israelite brought his animal offering, we must bring our offering, that is, we must present ourselves. The Old Covenant priest then killed the offering, and made the atonement. Did you know that Jesus Christ our High Priest lacked any offering from us sufficient to atone for our sins? Did you know that He then willingly laid himself on the flames of the altar, so to speak, when he humbled himself and submitted to the Roman crucifixion? Did you know that Jesus is both our High Priest and sacrifice in one? Hallelujah!
Did you know that you and I failed even to bring what we had, flawed as it was, through sin? We were reveling in a life of worldly priorities, when He found us. Yes, the Bible says, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).
Can you understand this awesome reality? Understand it this way. Even while we were living a life of sin and shame, He loved us then, and died for us then. He says, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). No, we were not righteous, when he called us. We were having a big party, living it up, making the most out of our own pleasures. He died for us unconditionally before we had ever brought a "living sacrifice" to him, thus he made atonement available to the whole world of Adam's race long before we presented ourselves to Him.
Then is all of Adam's race saved? And if not, why not, if He died in atonement for all?
Answer: Forgiveness and atonement, though available to all, must be received individually. That reception is the simple yet profound role every individual must play. We must simply receive it by faith. Unless we have "received the atonement" (Rom. 5:11), we are yet living in our sins, yet unsaved, no matter what church we belong to, no matter our other good works.
The Old Covenant Israelite was helpless beyond bringing his offering to the priest. From that point, he was wholly dependent on the priest to make the atonement. Yet, without his bringing of the offering, there was no sacrifice, no atonement to be made. Such is also the case under the New Covenant.
As the Old Covenant priest offered the animal, Christ offered Himself. "For this [sins of the people] he [Christ] did once, when he offered up himself" (Hebr. 7:27). Yet before the merits of that perfect sacrifice of atonement are made applicable to any individual, there in a single requirement&emdash;present yourself by faith! When the individual believes, what happens?
"We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement" (Rom. 5:11). When a person comes to Jesus Christ in personal faith, at that instant, he has "now received the atonement." Through genuine belief, childlike faith, the new babe in Christ offers himself to his High Priest, Jesus Christ. This new "babe in Christ" may not understand it fully, any more than a new born baby understands what life may bring. Yet, once born, both newborn baby and new "babe in Christ" both begin an inevitable course set out for them.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). Yes, at the point of genuine faith, salvation occurs for the individual, who has then "received the atonement."
The only requirement on the individual's part is that we "present ourselves a living sacrifice." How simple, yet how profound! Christ did it all. He made the atonement once for all of Adam kind. But such atonement must be individually received, hallelujah!
When we take the bread and wine of Holy Communion, we are told to "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2Cor. 13:5). Are you "in the faith" today? Have you already "received the atonement," by faith, and not just the emblems of the bread and wine? You can know for sure.
Taking the emblems of the Lord's body and blood is only for those who have already "received the atonement," by faith, having already presented themselves a living sacrifice. Only believers are commanded to take these symbols as a personal witness to all: "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come" (1Cor. 11:26). If you have never humbly presented yourself as "a living sacrifice," then do so now. Otherwise, your efforts to "make your atonement" by taking the symbols is futile. Even worse, it is sin. There is no salvation, no atonement, in the symbols themselves. You can not have "received the atonement," regardless of how often you have taken Holy Communion, without having first presented yourself to the one "by whom we have now received the atonement" (Rom. 5:11). Take the symbols as an act of obedience to the Lord.
"For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (1Cor. 11:29).
When we take the bread and wine, "not discerning the Lord's body," we offer "strange fire," out of our own self will, to our own personal damnation. Our embers may be glowing, but we are not on fire for God, absent personal faith. The self willed pharisee has no acceptable offering to present. He brings his own "strange fire," out of a heart of human comparisons, judgment and condemnation of others. He derives his feelings of goodness from what he sees around him in the baleful sins of others. There is only one problem with the pharisee: He trusts in his performance and good works. He uses the name of Jesus Christ to promote his own agenda. He is not "in the faith."
"And Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD, when they offered strange fire before the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children" (Num. 3:4).
Three times the Bible records that these two fellows "died, when they offered strange fire before the LORD" (Num. 26:61). What is the meaning of these Old Covenant examples, "which are a shadow of things to come" (Col. 2:17)? One clear application is to the life of the individual today who is commanded to "present your bodies a living sacrifice." And without presenting such a genuine, personal bodily sacrifice, from a heart stirred and "on fire" for the Lord, then such a person is lukewarm, offering "strange fire" out of his own heart, settled on his lees, which is the condition of the modern church at large in our day. All who come to Jesus Christ are commanded: "be not faithless, but believing" (John 20:27), and "without faith it is impossible to please him" (Hebr. 11:6). A believing heart is on fire, hot for God. A believing heart despises the world. "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1John 2:15). "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled" (Titus 1:15).
"But the fearful, and unbelieving. . . shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).
Of the modern Laodicean church, the Bible declares: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:15-16). Are you hot for God, on fire for the truth?
"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (1Cor. 6:19).
"How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him" (1Kgs. 18:21).
How exactly, then, are individual believers to "present your bodies a living sacrifice," and become hot for God, on fire for the truth?
We must first believe. Then we must grow in grace and knowledge. We know our faith is real, when the commands of Christ become our priorities. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:20). Do you have a heart of forgiveness? Have you lately said, "I am sorry; I have sinned; please forgive me?" Have your set your own will above the will of God? Have you offended others?
"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" (Mat 5:23-24). Will you present yourself a "living sacrifice unto God," day by day, on the altar of Christian living? Then you will not bypass that brother or sister whom you have sinned against. You will not ignore the commands of the one who bought your atonement, if you are living "in the faith" in your relationships at home, at church and under government. God calls you to personal accountability today. Will you submit to His authority in your life at all levels? Will you submit to the authority He has placed over you? If not, then you are either still unsaved, outside of Jesus Christ, or you are a backslidden Christian, in desperate need of recommitment.
Are you living "in the faith," as a genuine believer, having already "received the atonement," whereby you are "on fire" for the truth, hot for God!
You will then show the evidences of your salvation, one of which is in taking the bread and wine, to "show the Lord's death till he come." If you have backslidden into worldliness, you should recommit your self now to live for God and not for yourself. Will you yield to God, as He burns the dross from your life through fiery trials? You will then come out shining like gold, gleaming like a precious jewel. For then you will have found the true riches of the kingdom of heaven. You will have bought the gold tried in the fire, called the fruits of the spirit. These nine fruits of the Spirit are the pure gold of God, the highest priorities for your life: "Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Gal 5:22-23). And a tenth quality we must add is a special kind of love known as charity. (1Cor 13). These are the true riches, the gold tried in the fire, for every Christian.
The great lesson of the New Covenant, which reveals our "gold tried in the fire," is foreshadowed in the Old, by "an offering made by fire." It is our Christian calling, even our bounden duty. "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" (Rom. 12:1).
Christian, present yourself daily as "a living sacrifice." Let the fire of God's truth burn in your soul, as you grow in grace and knowledge. Plant the word of God in your heart, grow the fruits of the Spirit and you will become hot for God! Hallelujah!