"Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin, They have become for him altars for sinning."
"My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, And their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, And they have played the harlot against their God."
You can read the story in these passages but really, it's all the same compared to most stories in the Old Testament: People serve the Lord, start mingling with wicked people and eventually turn to idols.
Old Testament, New Testament, us...it always boils down to our choice... to choose God or turn our back on Him. I've pondered these verses a lot and it's actually really a simple concept: IF we REALLY know God (and there are MANY things to know) and IF we REALLY love Him... why would we EVER choose something else to serve and surrender to? I believe the answer is: we wouldn't.
The downside of our free will, we get to choose whether we love Him or not. I use those words "love Him" because that is really what it is, don't you agree? It's not about whether we "know about Him" but whether we really "Know Him".
Isn't it crazy how we like to complicate things when it comes to our relationship with God? We have a million excuses for why being obedient to Him is so difficult don't we? But the Truth, the honest Truth... is that every single day, you and I have only 1 choice to make: obey Him or don't.
Because it's not that we don't have what it takes to obey Him (we can list SO MANY scriptures here... my favorite though is "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Phil 4:13) When we made the decision to accept what Jesus did on the cross for us, that He is God and His Word is Truth... He gave us His GRACE, that grace is what continually transforms us into who He has created us to be. When we accepted Jesus, we accepted everything that means, which all boils down to our surrender to His will which means Obedience.
Honestly, our excuses... simply mean that our hearts are not willing to recognize God as our King. Oh how I wish I could tell you that God understands our disobedience and that it's okay if we struggle to obey Him and it's okay if we need a while to "work it out"... but the TRUTH is sweet friends, God understands our "human nature" but He has literally given us everything we need to overcome our sinful human nature. The Holy Spirit is with us 24/7, available to help us choose obedience and walk in righteousness every minute of the day. We have control over all 24hrs of our day, it's our choice what we fill that time with yes? We choose whether or not we give God time in our day in order to know Him better, in order to hear His voice, in order to fall in love with our Savior. So it really is that simple. It's 100% our choice.
No, it is NOT easy, what "sacrifice" is? But when it comes to the altar of our lives, what does God see? A living sacrifice staying on the altar daily, sacrificing all the things that keep us from walking in freedom and living a holy life before our God, OR.. a life that continues to get up on the altar one day, then crawls off of it the next, or whenever the fire gets too hot, too uncomfortable, too "convenient"(think about this one a bit), and it starts chasing after worldly idols and worshipping Satan instead of the One who sacrificed EVERYTHING for us.... and we expect God to just simply "understand"?
loving grace has the ability to reach us wherever we are and transform us into His righteousness. The gift of salvation is free to us, there is NOTHING we can ever do, to "earn" our way to Heaven... but sweet friend, WHEN we accept that free gift of Jesus Christ... we must "accept all of Him"... and that means, we learn how to love Him and know Him and be obedient to Him. Believing He simply exists and died for you.... is that really enough to be called a "living sacrifice"? I'm humbled by these scriptures and I hope you are inspired to take a good look at your altar because sin or sacrifice... it's really up to you.