A Worship Problem

You may have heard me say it a lot – worship is not only just singing.  In fact, singing is a very small percent of worship – we worship with our entire being and person.  We are all created to be worshipers, therefore we all worship something – so what is it?

God created the world and created us to enjoy him and his creation that points back to him and his greatness.  In Romans 1 he says that this is obvious – just walk outside or sit by the ocean or the Grand Canyon, or the mountains and it smacks you in the face – there is a Creator.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20, ESV)

Knowledge that there is a God and that he is eternally powerful and divine (not human) is “plain to” us in Creation.  The Apostle Paul then uses stronger language and says that we are “without excuse!”  We can’t say to God that “Oh, gee, I didn’t know you existed.”  He made everything in such obvious complex beauty and structure it is obvious that he exists.

And so if it so obvious that he exists, it also should be a given that he is to be worshiped.  C.J. Mahaney once said something to the effect that there are two categories- the created things and the Creator.   By nature and design the created things worship the Creator.

We are part of the created things and therefore need to worship the one who created us, but this isn’t just singing songs – it’s devoting our whole lives in worship to God.  He has provided a way for us to worship him fully in Jesus Christ. For as created things, we sin and that sin separates us from a 100% sinLESS God.   This is a cosmic dilemma for we cannot fix this separation ourselves.  God in his grace has provided a mediator for us in Jesus. Thru faith in Jesus and perseverance of a life dedicated to God we are restored and the separation repaired – this is the gospel. God’s Gospel.  His design and creation to reconcile us to himself.

Paul also uses strong language that we are to “obey” this  – calling it the obedience of faith in v5.   The bad part is that if we do not obey, we’ll still be worshipers – however we’ll worship the created things, instead of the Creator (v25) – and when worship is directed at the wrong things – it all goes wrong.  The list of sins that stem from this worship problem is astounding, and we see it everywhere today. Check out v26-32 for a commentary on much of what we see today.

No one will deny that this world is jacked up, that’s obvious too.  But, God is working his plan to fix what sin has broken and restore his creation back to him.  Let’s remember that creation itself screams out that God exists and the sin we see is an indication of a fundamental worship problem – and let’s all rightfully worship our Creator thru faith in Jesus.

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Hope-o-meter

One of the biggest things that biblical counselors try to do by God’s grace is impart hope.  Not of ourselves, but hope in a person – Jesus Christ.  I will frequently ask people “How is your hope-o-meter?”  Yes, it’s kind of a silly question, but it’s a way to gauge how hopeful they are.   Usually, when everything is hitting the fan, the hope-o-meter is very low.  But as we go thru God’s word as we see the glorious gospel of Jesus expanding before their eyes a funny thing happens – Hope emerges, and slowly but surely the needle on the hope-o-meter rises!

A Christians hope is not a fickle, tentative hope (like “I hope I get a pony”) it’s rather a confident expectation of what is to come, based on the person and work of Jesus as recorded in His revealed word – the Bible.

One of the clearest and most encouraging verses on hope is Romans 15:13 –

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.

There is a prayer, there is proof that God is the God of hope.  Easter is drawing closer…our hope is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus.  He rose from the dead, literally and so we to can rise to a brand new life in Jesus, because of what he did.  Check out Romans 6 – thru faith we are united with him into his resurrection.  Leave our old life behind and start over!  There’s hope!  Unfortunately, there is a bit of a warning implicit here – there is hope in no other name, no other process.  Everything else is just putting a band-aid on…real hope, real lasting change, real healing is only found in one place:  Jesus.

So what if your hope-o-meter is low?

  • Pray – literally pray Rom 15:13 out loud. Yes, out loud, trust me, it makes a difference.  “I pray that you, the God of hope, will fill me with all joy and peace in believing YOU, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit I would abound in hope.”
  • Meditate on this truth
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.  Pray, mediate on that verse…
  • Find other verses and sections of scripture that deal with hope! (Hint…Romans has a lot – see Rom 5:1-5)
  • Dwell on the truth of the Gospel and literally preach it to yourself.  Read his word, read books about the gospel, like Milton Vincent’s “The Gospel Primer
    • For a quick link to the prose version, you can click to this blog here
  • Find a gospel-centered church that preaches the whole word of God and find some encouragement in Godly brothers and sisters…perhaps they may even have biblical counseling available.

How is your hope?

Fixing after Faith…

In prepping for some upcoming premarital counseling that Melanie and I are doing this weekend, I have been focusing on the gospel.  I know…you are shocked, it’s so unlike me.  :-). But specifically, the power of God in the gospel of Jesus as designed to cut thru the fog of the worst of the worst situations, because at the core we are all sick with the same thing:  sin…and God offers us a solution to sin:  new life in Jesus.

As I walked thru the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11-12, I was once again amazed at the level of insanity that the situation has descended into.  Yikes.  It starts with a glance, then acting on the heart-palpitating lust, adultery…and then an incredulous plan that ends with the murder of an honorable man.  Crazy messed up situations like this still occur, probably every day in every state of the nation.

Sin, for all it’s deception – works the same way every time.  James 1:13-15 lays it out for us, and David acted it out.  It’s been acted out in my life and everyone else who sins.  Our own selves, our own sinful nature tempts us, lures us. Desire is conceived into action and sin is born.  Sin when fully grown and as the situation gets messier and messier in the end…is death.  Sin is inside us, it’s in our nature.  Adam started it and we’ve been faithfully carrying it on ever since.

The cycle needs to be broken with the grace of God in Jesus.  The worst, most complicated, most screwed up crazy situations are not beyond the reach of Jesus.  They are not beyond the forgiveness and mercy of the cross.  Perhaps most of all, they are not beyond the reach of the new life that Christ’s resurrection offers us.  The resurrection is the proof that God looked on Jesus’ sacrifice and accepted it, as payment for all the sin messes – no matter how bad.  Yes, God is that big.

So why am I so obsessed with the gospel of Jesus?  Because like many, my life used to be a mess.  A whirlwind tornado spiraling death fog of sin- but Jesus cut through it all, cut thru my sin and gave me new life (not an improved life, but a brand new life).   I had tried to focus on my problems first, but the funny thing is that wasn’t working – I didn’t need to focus on fixing the problems, I needed to focus on God.  You see, all of our problems are spiritual problems anyway, in God we find everything, because he is sovereign over everything. No one can “fix themselves.”

David, when confronted by Nathan says a pretty curious thing first – “I have sinned against the LORD.” (2 Sam 12:13).   David knew his mess was a spiritual problem, it was sin against first and foremost God and he knew turning to God was the solution.

We have Jesus.  Jesus brings the hope to the impossible messes. It kinda makes the ground a bit more level, doesn’t it?  The Bible is very clear, we are all sinners – there is no one that is superior except God himself – we have all turned away (Rom 3:10-12)…and there is one solution – the perfect God-designed solution: faith in Jesus (Rom 3:23-24). Jesus was our sin-bearer, though he never sinned. He lived the perfect life, and we can never. God poured out all the just-wrath he has for all the messed up situations, those sinning and those sinned against– on the cross of Jesus, it’s paid.  Through faith in Jesus God saves us from all of our sin messes, declares us INNOCENT and the journey to be more like Jesus (AKA “the fixing”) then can begin in earnest.  But note the order – the fixing comes after faith.

What are you trying to fix without Jesus?

 

What are you so happy about?

A few years back a co-worker looked at me and said “Are you always like this?”, “Like what” I replied.  “HAPPY”, she said.

Now, don’t go getting the wrong idea, I have my “challenging” days, but I guess most of the time I’m pretty “up” – but it always struck me that someone noticed that.  I don’t feel that I’m a particularly bubbly dude.

To those who understand what Jesus has done for us – there is something to be very happy about, something that brings about a rock solid foundation and assurance.  Today I spent some time in Romans 5:8 —

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That word “sinners” means literally “devoted to sin.”  So, while we wanted nothing to do with God and probably didn’t even realize the huge offense our sin is to him, he still paved the way to be reconciled to him thru the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

I love how CJ Mahaney puts this in the “Cross Centered Life”

…the conflict between God and man, only one party has been offended. God has been profoundly and acutely aggrieved by the other party; He Himself is fully innocent, entirely without fault or blame. The other party (all of humanity) is undeniably, categorically, and completely guilty – yet this guilty party doesn’t even care to be reconciled, but is locked in active hostility to the other party. In contrast, God is fully committed to resolution with the violators.

That is something to be happy about, isn’t it?  That is an amazing act of grace and love.  Here’s some more good news, not only has God already done the work – he wants us to come to the knowledge of the truth — check out 1 Tim 2:4

4who desires(C) all people to be saved and(D) to come to(E) the knowledge of the truth.

This should have a tremendous impact on our worship.  When we draw near to God and sing praises to Him we need to focus on the work that God has done to reconcile us to himself – even when we weren’t interested in the least.  When you come to understand that in faith – it’s kinda like “You did this, God?  Already? For me?!” 

THAT should put some spark in our worship.  I was reading Leviticus this AM and in it describes in 23:40 about the Feast of the Booths – that they rejoice before the LORD 7 DAYS.  Seven days of worship.  How about THAT set list, worship leaders?!

…and 7 DAYS!  I start to get the “can we PLEASE sit down look” after our 3rd song in a row where everyone is standing…

Try this – when you go to worship tomorrow- think about the reconciliation God has done thru Christ to bring you to him, to settle the dispute our sin caused, and how he is fully committed and WANTS to be reconciled.  Then…see if you notice how long you are standing up.

…if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to work on a 7-day setlist.  ;p

Don’t Get Bogged in Leviticus

Hey all you chrono-readers! Chin up!

I know we are in Leviticus and I know it is pages upon pages of detailed (sometimes kinda gross) laws…but don’t get bogged down!

  • All of scripture is written to point to Jesus (Luke 24:27).
  • The sacrifices and all the laws are made to be a shadow of the coming Messiah – the laws and sacrifices can never save us – but Jesus came to be the perfect sacrifice and so fulfill the law (all of it) so that thru him we may be counted righteous!

11And every priest stands(N) daily at his service,(O) offering repeatedly the same sacrifices,(P) which can never take away sins. 12But when Christ[b] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he(Q) sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time(R) until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14For by a single offering(S) he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

  • Mine for keywords…like the ones I came across this morning in Leviticus 14:

(V) Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD. 19The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness.

Did you catch that?  “the priest shall offer the SIN OFFERING to make ATONEMENT…”

Remind you of anything?  How about Rom 8 —

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2For the law of(A) the Spirit of life(B) has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For(C) God has done what the law,(D) weakened by the flesh,(E) could not do.(F) By sending his own Son(G) in the likeness of sinful flesh and(H) for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that(I) the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,(J) who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

or…Rom 3:

21But now(AD) the righteousness of God(AE) has been manifested apart from the law, although(AF) the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God(AG) through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.(AH) For there is no distinction: 23for(AI) all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24(AJ) and are justified(AK) by his grace as a gift,(AL) through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God(AM) put forward as(AN) a propitiation(AO) by his blood, to be received by faith.

When you read the OT — the NT EXPLODES with meaning…

Christ fulfilled the law, perfectly – and for all eternity.  Thank you Jesus.

Keep at it!!

Marks of the true Christian

I came across this amazing list of commands from the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:9-20 today…seemed like a good exercise to list them out. My Bible has a heading that says “Marks of the True Christian.”  I need work on some of these, how about you?

  1. Let love be genuine
  2. Abhor what is evil
  3. Hold fast to what is good
  4. Love one another with brotherly affection
  5. Outdo one another in showing honor
  6. Do not be slothful in zeal
  7. Be fervent in spirit
  8. Serve the Lord
  9. Rejoice in hope
  10. Be patient in tribulation
  11. Be constant in prayer
  12. Contribute to the needs of the saints
  13. Seek to show hospitality
  14. Bless those who persecute you
  15. Do not curse them
  16. Rejoice with those who rejoice
  17. Weep with those who weep
  18. Live in harmony with one another
  19. Do not be haughty
  20. Associate with the lowly
  21. Never be wise in your own sight
  22. Repay no one evil for evil
  23. Give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all
  24. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all
  25. Never avenge yourselves
  26. Leave it to the wrath of God
  27. Do not be overcome by evil
  28. Overcome evil with good

Romans 12:1-2…Let’s be rational about this…

Is basically what Paul is saying…I never got that until today…

That became readily apparent as I came upon the chapter “Paul and the Service of the Gospel” in David Peterson’s book “Engaging with God, a Biblical Theology of Worship.”

The author translates Rom 12:1-2 as:

Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your understanding worship

“Understanding” worship?  Where the heck did he get that?

Even the mighty ESV has “spiritual worship.”  (KJV says “reasonable service…” a clue here…)

First, it’s important to realize that Paul is saying “therefore” – in other words, ‘because of the last 11 chapters I just explained to you about the amazing sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus…think this way about worship’

On the one had you had the traditional Jews who still were advocating the traditional animal sacrifice for worship. On the other hand you have the Greeks saying “Animal sacrifice? Yikes. How gross. Let’s be ‘reasonable’ about this.”

Reasonable.  Logical. The words in question here in the Greek are “logike latreia.”   Looking it up on BlueLetterBible.com  – – ‘logiko’ agreeable to reason and ‘latreia’ – the service and ministry of God.

So, what is Paul saying we should be rational about?

In light of the fact that God sent His Son Jesus to die for my sin, in light of the cross, the amazing mediation, in light of the Gospel of Jesus – your worship should be the giving of your whole bodies – an ‘extreme realism’ as it is referred to in the book.

I’ll close with a direct quote from Peterson –

It may be best to read ‘understanding worship’ and to recognize from the context that this means ‘the worship which is consonant with the truth of the gospel, or the service rendered by those who truly understand the gospel and it’s implications

In other words – look what God has done for YOU.  The least you can do is offer your whole lives – every bit of them, every inch and dark corner of your heart, to him in service as worship.  I mean…let’s be rational here.

-M