Bible Study – Believe #13

We are currently in a message series called Believe.  Next week we will look at Worship — but I wanted to point out that these three actions: Worship, Prayer, & Bible Study, really are at the centre of our relationship with God.

Last week we looked at a day in the life of Jesus to see about prayer.  I want to do something very similar today, but not as the entire message — just a brief survey of how the bible intersected with Jesus — how we see that Jesus knew the bible and that he understood it.

Our first encounter with the Jesus story is all about the fulfillment of scripture.  They way the bible is quoted and used in those early chapters of Matthew and Luke assumes that the author is familiar with both the content and authority of the Bible.  Jesus’ encounter with the devil in the temptation narrative is actually a story about misuse of the bible (devil) and proper use of the bible (Jesus).  There is a lot more going on in that story — all Jesus’ quotes come from Deuteronomy in the wandering narrative — where Israel — God’s son — lacked faith in God and his promise.  Jesus was the obedient and faithful son as he faced his temptation in the desert.  

Jesus’ first sermon he takes a scroll and finds his place and reads from Isaiah.  There is a sense of familiarity that we see as Jesus reads the scroll.  Look at our key bible Text today:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12, NIV

The more we read about Jesus words and interaction with others the more it becomes obvious that this is exactly how Jesus thought about the bible.  We need to learn from him.  We need to …

Study the Bible! Experience the change!

Let look at how we can take seriously that the bible is God’s word to us, that it is alive and active and helps us discern the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  

First, we need to…

Read it!

If you’ve been coming here for a while, you know this is not an original idea . . . it has been said many, many times before.  We need to read God’s word — and I would include listening to God’s word for those who find reading a bit painful or if you have health reasons that make reading difficult.  When I say “read it” what I’m really saying is that you need to take what is in the Bible and get it into your head and into your heart.  That is the goal.  If you are reading it and thinking about baking muffins or balancing your budget you are not achieving the goal even though you are technically reading it.  

Just like prayer, Just like worship, Bible study is about God relating to us. It’s not about us.  It is not about having more knowledge, it is not about knowing the geography of the Holy Land, it is not about understanding the ancient culture and languages used at that time — all of this helps — but the main point — the most important point — is God speaking into us his wisdom and his ways.  

If that is going to happen we need to use a version of the bible that we can understand.  It needs to be at our reading level and that’s a very personal decision. The only thing I would say is that it should be a translation and not an all-out paraphrase.  In a sense all translation is paraphrase but a version like the NLT or the new NIV are great for studying. For general reading, I have always enjoyed the Good News Bible — but again it’s personal.  Find something you will actually enjoy reading.

A few years ago, I bought the TNIV on CDs so I could listen in the car.  It has multiple readers and I have enjoyed it very much.  When I was in college, I bought a dramatized NIV new testament on cassette tapes — yes for those who thought CD’s were old — I had a cassette tape player.  But it was a very powerful reading the NT with multiple voiced parts in the Gospels and Acts — it was excellent.  I would listen when I was mowing the lawn or doing household chores.  It was amazing.  

I still remember the day when I was mowing the lawn trying to think of a passage to preach on for Father’s day and I heard 1Thess 2:11-12.

1 Thessalonians 2:11–12 (NRSV)
As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, 12 urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

I was a new dad, I was a new pastor and the weight of having something to say every single week was weighing me down — and then I heard this.  It was more than a Father’s day message it was a message to me about my real goals of pastoring.  I was letting the burden of a weekly message take my focus when what should have taken my focus was doing all I could to urge and encourage the church to lead a life worthy of God because it is his kingdom and his glory that ultimately mattered.  Standing here week after week with something to say is still hard — but it is a lot easier now because God’s word to me that day.  And I heard it mowing the lawn because I got a bible on tape.  Now you can listen online for free.  Bibles are available online for free.  Access is easier now.  But we still need to take the time and let God speak to us.

Maybe you read the bible but needs some help applying it to your life.  Devotional materials can help us take that extra step.  The Bible app is free and has lots of devotional materials for us.  There are other apps out there as well. Olive Tree has a bible app and lots of free books and materials that can help us apply God’s word to our lives.  

Reading the bible is the beginning, reading with devotional helps even better, but if we are going to follow Jesus on this — and really take seriously the message of Hebrews 4:12 — we need to The second thing I would want to …

Go deeper!

We need to go deeper in God’s word.  We need to do more than just read it and hear nice stories about other people applying it, we need to actually study God’s word.  

Jesus was a carpenter and he knew the Bible. In fact, before we say “that was Jesus, he was the son of God” we need to realize that every Jewish child — from the time they are babies until adolescence are trained in the Bible by their parents and by their community of faith.  What we see as extraordinary was actually quite normal for Jewish people.  Even today, Jewish children go to Hebrew school after regular school to learn the language of their bible — the same Bible Jesus had in his day and what we now call the Old Testament.  

I used to do carpentry.  My dad is a carpenter, my grandfather was a carpenter. . .it was a default choice for me. I used to help my dad, work on the jobsite and see how things were done.  When I was a kid, I would clean the yard, sweep the floors, stack lumber, organize stuff, all the while watching the others do their work.  Later when I worked as an apprentice with my uncle — my dad’s brother  — he gave me some great advice.  Spend a little more to buy quality tools.  If you buy the cheaper stuff, you’ll end up replacing it over and over.  I worked with a guy who heard the same advice but he always went for the cheap stuff.  Cheap block planes, cheap utility knives, cheap squares — I say all those things in the plural because just like my uncle predicated, he replaced those items repeatedly.  But before they broke — they produced bad results.  He had to do more work fixing the problems his low-quality tools created. Softer steel used on his block plane would get nicks on it and eventually score the surface of the wood. My Stanley plane never did that. Hard steel, blade stayed sharp, always did what I wanted it to.

The same is true for the tools we use to understand the bible.  If we use low-quality tools, we will have a low-quality understanding. A poor understanding will lead us to apply the bible to our lives in ways that God never intended.  You can see how that can be a problem.  The thing is, when it comes to bible study, high quality tools does not mean expensive or even new — it just means high calibre.  The works of John Wesley or Jonathan Edwards are still full of treasures all these years later — even though they are old and even free online.  There are great commentaries that are free online.  For the person who likes the feel of a paper book — there are lots of bargains on high quality tools.  

We also should listen to good teachers of the Bible.  They have done their work and they are sharing their harvest of knowledge and wisdom with the church.  Tim Keller has free podcast messages.  The apologist Ravi Zacharias has free content online.  The philosopher and scholar William Lane Craig puts his Sunday school class online — which is more like a university class really — but some people are ready for that level of engagement about biblical ideas.  BiblicalTraining.ORG has lots of materials available at the higher end and the internet is teeming with far more content than we could ever listen to in a single lifetime.  Pick a good teacher and start listening.

Most importantly, studying God’s word helps us to hear the author.  The human author of the text — with their language and culture built into the communication as it is in all communication.  But when we see through that, we hear the divine author.  We hear the message from God.

Let me give a simple example.  The phrase ‘evil eye” in English means a hateful look.  If someone gives you the evil eye, it means they are angry with you for some reason.  It is our default understanding and we don’t even think about it.  But with Jesus, evil eye means nothing like that at all.  It means to lack generosity.  Jesus uses it in the parable of the laborers to describe the attitude of the all-day workers getting the same pay as the last minute workers — they were stingy whereas the owner was generous. Jesus uses it in a list of sins that eat away our souls in Mk 7:22 and he uses it again in Matt 6:22 just before talking about not being able to serve both God and money.  The evil eye is different for Semitic cultures than western culture. Going deeper shows us this.

When we choose to go deeper, we make a decision for life change.  The more deeply we understand the Word of God, the more opportunity we create in our lives for God to shape us and steer us.  We create more handles for God to grab hold of.

The danger in all of Christian life is ourselves and our subjective thinking. Everything can become “all about me.”   Our default is to go into ourselves — to rationalize our behaviour or thinking.  The answer to this is going deeper in his word. Doing hard work of study so God’s word is part of your thinking.

First we study the Bible then we let the Bible study us.

At some point need to become teachable people.  We need to allow the work of God’s word to happen in us.  Let’s look at that key text one more time:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12, NIV

The danger in all of Christian life is ourselves and our subjective thinking. Everything can become all about us.  Maybe you are hurting emotionally.  Maybe you have suffered abuse.  Maybe you are just learning something about yourself that is ugly and hard to accept.  Our default is to go into ourselves and to rationalize our behaviour but we have a choice for a new experience.  

The Social Critic, Neil Postman once said that popular culture tells us what we want to hear but God tells us what we need to hear and they are not always the same thing.

Without going deeper in God’s word, by studying it and listening to good teachers, we just go on our own intuition which will lead us to the same experiences of disappointment, creating an itch for something more, something better.  God wants something better for us but we will never get there on our own.  We need to go deeper with God and part of that is going deeper into his word.

Our goal is to see things from God’s point of view –

“It is a dangerous thing to live your life without a spiritual “plumb line,” or standard, by which you determine right from wrong. God’s Word is that plumb line…God established absolute moral and spiritual laws that we are free to ignore, but we do so at our own peril. These laws are timeless. Culture does not supersede them. Circumstances do not abrogate them. God’s laws are eternal, and they will save you from death if you follow them.” ― Henry T. Blackaby, “Experiencing God Day By Day

Our goal is spiritual transformation

The ultimate goal of knowing God’s word is becoming more like Jesus.  Jesus said to the leading Bible scholars of his day:

39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39–40, NIV)

This is the great warning Jesus gives to us. For those who love to do Bible Study — it’s meant to lead you to follow Jesus.

If there is one thing we know from watching Jesus at work with his disciples — not just the 12 but Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Zacchaeus and the rest, following Jesus means changed lives.

We look to the Bible but not to get ideas from what people did for God. We look to see what God did in peoples’ lives.” ― Henry T. Blackaby, Hearing God’s Voice

Studying the bible has as its goal to know God better, to hear his voice more clearly, to love him more, and to follow his one and only Son who was sent into this world for us.

We want to study the Bible not so we can just know it but to allow it into our hearts and souls — or as Paul describes it…

18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV)

God’s word is alive and active

Study the Bible! Experience the change!

Prayer – Believe #12

If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! (Psalm 66:18-20, NIV)

Prayer is connecting with God. It is very personal experience and yet at the same time an outward expression of us walking by faith and not by sight. As we seek to learn to walk in faith with God we come to the spiritual practice of prayer.

Prayer is a central expression of faith. John Calvin spoke of this when he said, The principal work of the Spirit is faith … the principal exercise of faith is prayer.

Introduction: Prayer: A day in the life of Jesus

I don’t know about you, but when I look at my bookshelf, I have a lot of material relating to prayer.  Books by theologians like J.I.Packer by Spiritual Directors like Richard Foster and pastoral and even faddish books ranging from Prayer Evangelism, intercessory Prayer to actual collections of prayer written down by great men and women of faith in the past.  Prayer is such a central and intimate part of our relationship with God, it seems that no matter how much we read or study there is always more to learn and practice relating to prayer. There’s no way I can say everything about prayer, or even everything that is important about prayer in the time frame of a message.  But I can say this, prayer is part of what it means to follow Jesus — because prayer was important to him.

“All prayer is language—language in conversation, conversation between God and us. The most frequent distortion of prayer takes place when we fail to listen to God’s Word to us. We do all the talking, demanding that God do all the listening.” – Eugene Peterson

A conversation with God

Today, I want us to look at a day in the life of Jesus with our focus being the place of prayer.  How did Jesus approach Prayer?  How can we take his example and apply that to our own situations.

Let’s look at a day in the life of Jesus

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and …he prayed.

At the start of the day, Jesus prayed

We don’t know exactly what Jesus prayed. Did he pray in Aramaic, did he pray in Greek. Did he use Psalms as his guide, did he pray extemporaneously.  There are so many question we want to answer — but practically speaking we know this — he got up early to pray.  I can deduce a couple of things from this.  First, Prayer was a priority for him.  It was important enough to get up early for – very early.  

Praying at the start of the day – orients our minds and hearts to hope, peace and love.

It also keeps the tension between praying and doing in a healthy balance. We pray before the day begins where we are called to act and to do.

The other week, Lise went to Thunder Bay to help our daughter Christi move into a new apartment.  Her plane left Moncton at 5am — that meant getting to the airport at 4am which meant getting up at 3:30am.  In my honest opinion — that is just a terrible time to get up — but we did.  We got up because our alarms went off and our alarms were set — lots of alarms were set — phone alarms; clock alarms; I even set my fitbit alarm — because it was important that we get to the airport.  

When something is important we do all kinds of uncomfortable things, don’t we.  When I learned I was lactose intolerant, I gave up milk and along with it all those other things like ice-cream — oh, how I miss ice-cream with Lise’s homemade chocolate sauce — made with cream no less.  All gone.  Why? Because it was important to me to change that habit so I could be more healthy.  

Lots of people here have made changes regarding fitness.  We have several here who have run their first 5k and 10k others who have taken up intense workout routines to become more fit and healthier.  Those kinds of changes don’t just happen.  They require us to prioritize our values — to accept that doing A means not doing B.  

Jesus did that with Prayer.  He chose to get up early to pray rather than catch that extra hour sleep.  He accepted all things things that went with that.  Going to bed at a time so he could get up without the convenience of an alarm clock — or any clock.  He got up when it was dark and he went to pray.

We need to prioritize prayer in our lives. It must become something that happens regularly before the busyness and chaos of the day begins. If we don’t prioritize it — it won’t happen.  Our prayer life will consist of a few sentences to God as we drink our coffee and drive to work.  We can do better than that, but only when we see prayer as important — like Jesus did.  At the start of the day — Jesus prayed.

Mark 6:45-46 …he dismissed the crowd… he went up on a mountainside to pray.

In the midst of heavy demands, Jesus prayed

I think it is safe to say that life in Jesus’ time was simpler than life in our day. The mechanical clock, artificial light — we live in a 24/7 world and we don’t know how to shut things off and we don’t know why we would do such a thing.  Yet despite the simpler times that Jesus lived — his life was filled with activity and interruptions. His life was taken up by the needs of others — he loved people and he did what he could to help and heal those who approached him.  We have a number of stories in the Bible about the kinds of things Jesus did — but sometimes we our information is like Luke 4:40:

At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.

We know the kinds of crowds that followed Jesus. One time he was called upon to feed 5000 men, women, and children.  That’s a big lunch crowd!  In Luke we read of a crowd that came with their sick friends and relatives — people who were desperate and he laid his hands on each one of them.  He did this day in and day out.  Most of us don’t have that kind of crowd problem.  Some do, but not most.  

Ironically, after spending all day with needy people — helping them, counselling them, healing them. . . .   In the midst of heavy demands, Jesus prayed.

John 17:9 (NIV) – I pray for them…

When seeing spiritual needs of others, Jesus prayed

As Jesus was coming to cross we come across his prayer for believers. He prayed for their protection, for their transformation, for their love, for their faith and joy in the midst of this world.

Jesus saw the spiritual needs of others – he prayed for them.

When I pray for other people’s spiritual protection, peace, faith hope and love. When I pray for their journey of faith – it changes everything-  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Life Together wrote:

A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner. This is a happy discovery for the Christian who begins to pray for others. (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, (HarperSanFrancisco, 1954), p. 86 )

Mark 14:36 “…Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

When God’s will is hard, Jesus prayed

Here we come to garden of Gethsemane – Jesus purpose to give his life a ransom for many was at hand. Jesus said “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”

In that garden, the reality of living out God’s will was meeting Jesus head on. As he contemplated the suffering, anguish, the betrayal, taking on the sins of the world – Jesus felt the intense struggle of obedience – But He said – “…Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Where is doing God’s will hard for you. Must become a servant of all – Take up your cross and follow me – pray for your enemies –

The following is a prayer written by Serbian bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, who spoke out against Nazism in the early 1940s. Because of his protests, he was arrested and taken to the Dachau concentration camp.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to Earth; enemies have loosed me from Earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an un-hunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless and do not curse them.

In all of this the main point — if you remember nothing else remember this.  Jesus prayed, we should too

Prayer is the way Jesus walked His Father – Prayer was a conversation for Jesus – it is a place where we call out to God – where we are silent before God – where reflect on the presence of God – it is where we seek the face of God

Seeking God’s Face – Praying with Bible through the Year

Set prayers are prayers provided for us to keep our praying in company with our ancestors, prayers of others so that we stay in touch with the authentic world of prayer revealed in our Scriptures. They are prayers that we can use to distinguish prayer from prayer impostors, fantasy, and magic. They are prayers that do not depend on our own initiative, prayers that don’t wax and wane according to the phases of our moods.

These are just a few things that we can do to take a next step in our prayer lives.  But it all begins by seeing prayer as important — Just as Jesus did.

Worship – Believe #11

Before Advent and our journey to Christmas, we asked the question: What do I believe? We took a  look at 10 things which that Christians believe.  Now we are going to take another 10 week journey answering the question “What should I do?”   Now that we have these 10 beliefs — how do we put them into practice?  

Just as we started with God when answering the first question, we are going to start with God answering the second as well.  Today we are going to look at Worship and what does it mean to become a true worshipper of God.

True Worshippers

Well, if our 10 week question is “what should I do” our key question for worship is simply this:

How do I honor God in the way he deserves?

It’s a great question because it puts God at the center of it.  Worship is about God with us.  That is an important statement and you since I’m only going to make three of these today, it would be good if we took some time to remember that idea: worship is about God with us.  Let me break that down a bit.  

First, worship is about God.  The very words used in both Hebrew and Greek speak to bowing before someone with your face to the ground.  The idea was making oneself low in the presence of someone great.  While this could apply originally to a servant before a master or a subject before a king — it became a technical term to describe our disposition before God.  We make ourselves low to demonstrate his greatness.  While originally this was a literal action, it because a metaphor sense for our worship of God.  I only say this because it is important for us to see that build right into the vocabulary of worship is the idea that God is at the center — not us.  Even in Psalm 95 we have the words: “Come let us worship and bow down”.  The two ideas are inseparable.  That’s why our big idea today is: “True Worship Bows Down”.  If we are to worship God, we need to acknowledge that he is God and we are his people.  He calls the shots.  Our job is to bow down — to do what he says, to follow his instructions.  If he says be kind, we work up a sweat being kind.  We take God’s word and ways seriously because true worship bows down.

I think this may come as a surprise for a non-christian witnessing our discussions about worship.  Often the only thing missing from our conversation is that it centers on making God great among us.  That it is primarily about demonstrating clearly how much we think of God.  How great we believe He is.  It is so easy in our consumer society to just buy into the idea that it is about me and my preferences and what I want to consume — but when it becomes that it is not longer worship — at least not in a biblical sense.  

When Dave and started on our outline we wanted to say as our point “it’s all about God” but then we realized that was only half true.  When we look at worship in the OT, it happens in specific places.  Whether it is Abraham or Jacob building an altar and worshipping because of something God did in a particular location or whether it was in the Temple, where God’s special presence existed in the holy of holies — the heart of the reasoning for worship was that God was in that place.  The Hebrew people believed that God is everywhere, but they also believed that God showed up in power at times and places. The altars and memorials were a way of declaring: God showed up here — His special presence or Shekinah as it was called in Hebrew manifested in this place.  It was all about God, but also it was about God with us.  The intersection of the Shekinah and human life.

For Christians this is especially important because the Bible tells us in Matthew’s Christmas story that Jesus will be called Emmanuel, which is translated: “God with us” (Mt 1:23).  In other words, we see Jesus as the perfect representation of God in human form.  

Hebrews 1:3 (NIV)
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…

Over our Christmas series we looked at how the Word became flesh and came to live among us.  Eugene Peterson said: He moved into our neighbourhood.  This is the amazing truth of Christmas — God is with us.  We can see what God would do by looking at what Jesus did — Jesus, the one who is the exact representation of God’s being.  The one who said: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14.9).

Jesus had a conversation one time with a Samaritan woman at a well.  For us this seems pretty “ho-hum” but for the 1st Century it would be like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton getting together post-election for some brunch & conversation. That just is not going to happen — they don’t like each other – to put it mildly.  Samaritans and Jews were just as likely to get together for polite conversation — they were bitter religious opponents.  They did not like each other.  They would use each other as an insult in their own community.  Jesus – God incarnate – crossed that human division and redefined worship and in doing so redefined what a true worshipper is.  The words were simple but they changed everything:

John 4:23 (NIV)
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

All through John’s gospel we see that Jesus is the truth and way, that the words of Jesus are truth and life, that Jesus himself is the giver of grace and truth.  He tells Nicodemus that to enter God’s kingdom a person must be born again from the Spirit.  We must become a spiritual people quite literally — the Spirit of God must live in us.  Something the Bible tells us only happens when we put our faith in Jesus Christ.  So according to the Bible, true worshippers are those who believe in Jesus and accept his word and example as truth.  It is no longer about worshipping on a mountain like the Samaritans or worshipping in a Temple like the Jews.  Worship is all about God with us.  

Now, true worship starts as we personally believe in Jesus and accept his word and his ways — but it doesn’t end there. Christianity is all about community. We may be required to believe and commit to Jesus in a deeply personal way, but if we are to experience the fullness of Christian worship, we must do that together.  This isn’t an introvert/extrovert argument — this is just the way it is.  Worship is all together.  

Worship celebrates who God is and all he has done for us. While our key statement today reinforces this individually:

I worship God for who he is and what he has done for me.

We worship God together.  I remember when I was a child how we would have what we called our “Sunday best” that we would wear to Church.  Our best shirt, pants, & shoes.  We would get dressed up as best as we could to go to church.  It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that wearing our best clothes to church was actually in the bible. In Colossians 3 Paul says:

Colossians 3:12 (NIV)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Now, I must admit that my understanding of “best clothes” and God’s understanding of “best clothes” were a tad different and I realized that perhaps complaining all the way to church because my shoes were too stiff or my shirt didn’t feel right may have revealed that I really didn’t get it as a kid — but the fact is, most of us don’t get as adults either.  If we are to be true worshippers — a spiritual people who follow the word and ways of Jesus — sometimes we don’t clothe ourselves with our Sunday best.  

  • Instead of clothing ourselves with compassion we clothe ourselves with criticism.  
  • Instead of clothing ourselves with humility we clothe ourselves with hostility.
  • Instead of clothing ourselves with patience we clothe ourselves with pettiness
  • Paul tells us we must clothe ourselves in these things because worship happens together and  there is never an authentic “together” when we do not love each other in an authentic Christian way.  

We say we want to become a church that loves like Jesus.  Very practically it means that we must commit to certain behaviours.  Each one of us must decide:

  • To be compassionate not cruel.  
  • To be kind not critical.
  • To be humble not harsh
  • To be gentle not grating
  • To be patient not prickly
  • To bear with each other not be a bear with each other
  • To forgive each other just as Jesus has forgiven us
  • To let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts

Paul’s words in Colossians are just a summary of what we see in Jesus.  There is nothing surprising here for the true worshipper — one who is born of the Spirit and follows the word and ways of Jesus.  What is interesting in Colossians 3 is that all of this relational stuff — how we interact with each other — moves seamlessly into talk about worshipping together — about challenging and encouraging each other with Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, and gratitude in our hearts as we give thanks to God through Jesus.  True worship is all together and it flows out of Christ-Inspired interactions with each other and because it is rooted in following Jesus in our how we treat other people, we take this worship mindset everywhere we go. It is all encompassing.

Paul says in Romans 12 that our entire lives are to be a living sacrifice.  Let’s just listen to what he says:

Romans 12:1 (NIV)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Surrendering ourselves completely to God as an act of worship is a 24/7 experience.

As Paul would say in another letter to the early church.  So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31) If God is the center – If God has accepted me because of his grace in Jesus – than all of my life needs to express my heart desire to show that I love Him. Every day becomes a place to practise the presence of Jesus. Every day becomes a sanctuary of praise where I can express my trust and obedience to God and my reliance on His grace.   

I like this little story by Barbara Adam –

For 37 years I’ve taught piano, rewarding my students not only for mastery but effort. Points are earned for memory work, amount of practice, written work, and improvements, as well as actual performance.
After finishing his lesson one day, I asked my first grade student, Tyler, if he’d performed for anyone that week. He thought for a long time, finally saying with all seriousness, “God was listening!”

God is always our audience!
So let us finish the phrase that helps us grasp what true worship is all about –
True Worship Bows Down, before God, in the Spirit and truth of Jesus; which we do all together and is all encompassing.