God is not interested in religious rituals – He’s interested in righteous behavior. He wants husbands and wives to love one another. He wants children to honor their parents. He wants employees to put in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage. He wants government officials to seek the good of the governed. The religious rites and ceremonies in which we occasionally engage may give us the sense that we are communing with God, but the communion God wants constitutes the whole of our lives.
The sacrifices and offerings of the Old Testament were intended to foreshadow the great offering of His own life that Jesus Christ gave for the redemption of the world. Consequently, they were also intended to foreshadow the giving of our own lives in thankful response to Him. That is, we daily make choices to do things that we ourselves would not prefer because we know that God wants us to do them. An athlete sacrifices the pleasures of certain foods and beverages in order to achieve competitive superiority. In the same way, we sacrifice our personal pleasures out of deference to the Lord’s will – because of the glory it will bring Him and the ultimate satisfaction it will bring us.
That we would take those Old Testament sacrifices and transform them into little rites occasionally performed at a church building misses the point entirely. Did Jesus Christ suffer and die on the cross so that animal sacrifice could be replaced by sacraments in a church? If that was the case, why didn’t He just start with sacraments and skip the slaughter of animals altogether?
As a metaphor, animal sacrifice was a much more powerful communication than any church sacrament. Animal sacrifice effectively conveyed the gravity of our sin, the profundity of life and death, and the eternal value of human existence. God sought to replace the shadow of animal sacrifice with the substance of our living sacrifice – not another shadow.
The life that the Lord would have us live consists not in choosing what we want but rather what is best for those around us. That is what He means when He says that we should love one another, that we should lay down our lives for one another. When we do, our lives become a sacrifice – a sacred offering to Him. This is the sacrament He is interested in experiencing with us.
If you want to be baptized, be immersed in the light of the awareness of Him. If you want communion, feast daily on the bread of His presence and the wine of His joy in our obedience. If you want confession, confess your sins to the One who can forgive you for them.
In other words, if you want a sacrament, live for Him. That is the sacrament He ordained for us. And if you’re not willing to participate in that one, don’t think He’ll be satisfied with a lesser one.
Let your life be your sacrament.