Archive for August, 2012
My final observation from Paul’s classic text in Romans 12 was that worship results in a life that is re-oriented and re-directed to the will of God. In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus published his final work, titled, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres. His supposition displaced planet Earth as the center of the universe and proposed that the Earth rotated around the Sun. For the believer, worship is a daily and weekly “Copernican Revolution,” where he or she is displaced as the center of the universe. Worship is our acknowledgement that God is God and we are not. We are creature, he is creator. In a sense worship is the denial of our own divinity.
In worship we become re-oriented to the greatness of God. He is God, and we are not. This is the foundational key to understanding God’s will. When we deny our own divinity, we are in position to discern God’s will, agree with God’s will, and act upon God’s will. This is true of our lives personally and our churches corporately. It all begins with God in worship.
This weekend I’m moving to the next paragraph in Romans 12. The title of my sermon is “Check out your Equipment.” From verses 3-8, I’m going to talk about the equipment God gives us to enable us to perform his will. I hope you’ll visit throughout the coming days of Training Camp.
This week I’ve been posting about worship from Romans 12:1-2. The third observation I want to make is that worship involves your total being. In the text, worship involves the presentation of our bodies and the transformation of our minds. Simply stated, worship involves both our thinking and our behaving. Allow me to unpack this a bit.
First, we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Paul intentionally uses Old Testament sacrificial language here to cause the reader to make the connection between the testaments. He wants them to reflect on the Old Testament system, yet at the same time desires to redefine sacrifice to make it fitting to the new covenant. There are no more bulls and rams. The sacrifice is now the sacrifice of self–our bodies, our minds, even our very lives.
The Old sacrifices were dead, the New are to be living.
The Old sacrifices were unwilling participants, the New are to be willing participants; yielded and surrendered.
The Old sacrifices had no thoughtful participation, the New are to exercise reason and thought.
The Old sacrifices were offered on behalf of others, the New are the offering of self.
No worship can be pleasing that is purely inward, abstract, and mystical. It must express itself in concrete acts of service.
Second, we are to experience transformation as God renews our minds. Our thinking processes are changed. We begin to think as God thinks with a view of putting it into practice. This world and God’s will are placed in contrast with one another. Paul challenges us to not be conformed to the world. The word here is schema, from which we get our word schematic. Paul points out that the world is constantly trying to force us into its schematic, trying to fit us into its system. Do you ever sense that? But rather than conform, we are to be transformed, experiencing the metamorphosis that God enacts in us and through us. This transformation allows us to live in the world without being of the world.
Worship, in short, involves you total being. Which makes perfect sense because that is all God has wanted all along. He wants you.
Here’s an interesting piece of research coming out of the University of Washington on the emotional impact of mega church worship services. This report, published by Huffington Post, can be viewed HERE. The research attempts to link the emotional experience with the success of mega churches in America. What do you think?
Worship is my appropriate response to the self disclosure of God. While worship may have private and personal expressions, it is also a corporate experience. There are a myriad of ways people feel most connected to God in personal worship. Some connect through a daily devotional exercise. Others through music or nature. There are those who feel most connected through in-depth Bible study. The list goes on and on. These personal and private expressions create avenues for God to reveal himself and for us to respond in worship.
But worship is not limited to our private experience. There is also an important corporate dimension to worship. In this week’s text, Romans 12:1-2, Paul references “brothers and sisters.” He’s writing to them as individuals and as a congregation, if you will.
Corporate worship is vital to the health and function of the church. When I served in Texas, I worked with a worship pastor who was completely convinced that corporate worship is the life blood of the church. It is where we draw strength for service and guidance for her unified mission. When the body worships together, a synergy is created that helps the body discern God’s will for the body, and, be strengthened to perform God’s will.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been posting the links to the four part report on Christian women by Barna Research Group. In this final edition, Barna reveals research regarding the political preferences of Christian women in America. You can read the final post HERE.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:1-2, NLT).
The first element of training camp that I emphasized to our congregation as we prepare for the fall is the importance of worship. I offered this simple definition: “Worship is my appropriate response to the self disclosure of God.” Let me unpack that a bit.
Worship begins with God, who reveals himself to his people. One clear example is found in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah, having seen the exalted, thrice holy God, sees himself as “undone” by his sin. God disclosed himself as holy, and Isaiah’s appropriate response was confession of sin.
Romans chapters 1-11 reveal God as the God of grace and mercy. In those chapters, Paul has reminded his audience that though they are sinners, God through Christ has extended grace and mercy to them. So his request in chapter 12 is based on the God who has revealed himself through the currency of mercy and grace. His plea for them to worship by presenting their bodies is not baseless or unfounded. The presentation of their bodies as willing offerings is their appropriate response to mercy and grace.
As I have mentioned, worship is our appropriate response to the self disclosure of God. How has God revealed himself to you? How is he presently revealing himself to you? Worship begins with God and involves more than our liturgy. It involves our attentiveness to him and his initiative. As we see him “high and lifted up,” our response becomes our act of worship.
Tomorrow I’ll continue with the second observation from Romans 12:1-2. Thanks for checking in today.
My son left for fall football camp a couple of weeks ago. This is a big season for him, given it is his final year of college eligibility. As we talked I asked him what he would be doing in fall camp. His simple response? “Go to meetings, check out equipment, and practice.” This conversation led me to think that our church needed our own training camp to get ready for the fall. I have developed a three week sermon series titled, Training Camp, based on Romans chapter 12. Here’s my preaching itinerary:
August 26 “Go to Meeting” (Romans 12:1-2)
September 2 “Check Out Your Equipment” (Romans 12:3-8)
September 9 “Put it into Practice” (Romans 12:9-16)
The picture that is part of this post will be the bulletin graphic that we will use for worship each week. Each week I’ll post on those topics. Thanks for checking in from time to time and to those of you who have recommended this site to your friends. God Bless!
Barna.org released part three of their report on Christian women today. This section focuses on the inner well being and emotional health of Christian women. You can read the third part by CLICKING HERE.
Here’s part two of the Barna Report’s four part series on women in the life of the church. This edition focuses on women’s lifestyles, priorities, and time commitments. You can read the part two by CLICKING HERE.
Your place in this world is not only the holy ground of God’s good work in your life, where you are is also the holy ground of God’s good work through your life.
Our relationships in life are wrapped up with our purpose. It’s not just the people we choose to have surround us. Its also the place that God has planted us. God gave Abram a place, then a people. But he also gave Abram a purpose. He was blessed not because he was “blessable.” He was blessed to be a blessing. My friend Cliff Jenkins used to challenge his congregation to “take an inventory of your life so you know what God expects of you.” That inventory includes who you are, what you have, and who you have with you. It also includes where you are.