Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday Morning Rewind: Worship

We are in week 3 of our series "We are Covenant!"  This week, we started looking in depth at one of the three primary ways we become the kind of world-changing, Spirit-filled, loving, truth-telling, powerful people Jesus envisions us to become.  In the last two weeks of the series, we will look at engagement, and community.  But yesterday, we started with the most important--worship.

When you hear the word "worship" what comes to your mind?  Depending on where you grew up, what religion you followed as a child, what culture you were first exposed to or what tradition of Christian faith your parents belonged, you might first think of a certain kind of prayer posture, or a type of clothing, a style of music, or a certain type of emotional experience.

One of the strengths of our congregation at Covenant is that our people are highly diverse when it comes to our faith backgrounds.  Some of us grew up in no faith at all.  Others grew up in another world religion.  Many of us grew up in any one of a large number of Christian traditions--from Presbyterianism to Pentecostalism to high church liturgy to the edgy, contemporary atmosphere we experience together most Sundays.  This means that when we hear the word "worship," there are more than a few default pictures in our minds.  Some of us picture people quietly and reverently in prayer--others invoke childhood memories of shouting and hanging from chandeliers!

But regardless of how worship is expressed, yesterday we looked at how God's Word defines genuine worship.

Simply put, genuine worship happens every single time you or I bring pleasure to the One who created us.  And as we search the Scriptures, from beginning to end they tell us repeatedly that this should be our first and highest goal in life.  We also come to the inescapable conclusion that "worship" is something that transcends what happens when we get together on Sunday morning.  For the follower of Jesus, it encompasses and dominates every area of our lives.

I. In Worship, We Give God our Attention.  Paul begins Romans 12 with this encouragement: "I urge you brothers, by the mercies of God...  Basically, this means that our worship should be driven by what God has first done for us.

Within the context of Romans, we can see clearly what God has done.  He created us, revealed Himself to us in the created order as well as within our own moral consciousness.  And in spite of our rejection of Him and the gifts He has given, He sent Jesus into time and space to live the life we should have lived, and die a our substitute--taking the penalty of sin on Himself in our place.

Simpy put, God makes the first move.  And worship, in its purest expression, occurs whenever you and I recognize this fact, internalize, it, and give that attention right back to Him.

II. In Worship, We Give God Our Affection.  In view of all God has done, Paul says we are to "present your bodies as a living sacrifice."  Because He has already given all of Himself to us through His Son, we should offer everything we have back to Him.

In today's world, "affection" is understood as something mushy and romantic.  Its something that always feels good.  But in Paul's mind, affection is something far deeper.  Come to think of it, the average set of wedding vows indicate this too.  Most of us who are married made a pledge at our wedding ceremony that was something along the lines of "I am going to give all of myself to you, and no other until death do us part!"  The real test of whether we take those vows seriously rarely comes during the passion-filled nights of the honeymoon.  Most of the time it comes during times of high conflict, or stress, or chronic illness, or rebellious kids.

And in worship, the real test of whether we are truly giving God all of our affection rarely comes while the hair is standing up on the back of your neck during a powerful song on Sunday morning.  Most of the time it comes during the hardest moments of our life when we make a decision that says "God, if nothing else goes right today; if I get nothing else done today, I am going to know you better and love you more!"  And when God has all of you, the things needed to fulfill your purpose in life will already be there.  When a church is short on cash, short on volunteers, short on passion for the nations, most of the time the issue isn't structural of financial.  The problem is a group of people who haven't yet given their entire selves over to God.

Giving God your affection in this way is hard, but when we do it, the results are powerful!

III. In Worship, We Give God our Abilities.  Paul concludes by saying "this is your spiritual service of worship."  In other word, to focus all your attention on your Creator after everything He has done for you.  Responding to His undeserved love with nothing less than your whole heart and life is simply the reasonable thing to do!

In view of God's mercy, this is truly the only response that makes sense.  But that kind of service motivated by guilt is not true worship.

For example, I'm told by the Bible that as a husband, it is my solemn duty to kiss my wife.  Its true guys!  Here's the thing.  If Amy believes the only reason I'm kissing her is because I know its my duty, it sucks all the excitement and joy out of the moment.  The great news is that I quite enjoy kissing her!  Its fun!  So yes, I fulfill my duty, and I'm happy to fulfill it, and that brings both of us pleasure and joy.

Guilt-motivated service is easily detected, and nobody wants to be around that--especially our Creator!  But when we give our abilities, service, and our very lives to Jesus based on a pleasure that is motivated by all He has done for us, that is true worship!

I am praying for a church family where every member will eventually pray every night; "God, tomorrow morning I'm going back to work and my co-workers are going to get a new and better colleague.  I'm going to school tomorrow and my classmates are going to see and experience a new person.  Because from this moment, everything I do will be out of love for you and the desire to bring you the pleasure and joy you deserve from me!"

Imagine what would happen if an entire church had this attitude?  That is the kind of church that exudes the transformative power of the Gospel.  And it starts with a very simple, yet profound realization......

...We were made for His pleasure.

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