Last Lord's Day, in his third sermon in a row about worship, Pastor John grounded us in a passage from the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Romans, chapter 12 verses 1 and 2 (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. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Worship. From the last two times we have been at worship together we should appreciate that “worship” is attaching your ultimate sense of value or worth to something. Alright, then - what do you worship? Where do you spend most of your time or money or energy? What really do you get most excited about? Honestly, when you think about it, what is at the center of your life?
As Pastor John said, a compass's needle points to true North. Our spiritual compass should always points to God. But, just as magnetic interference can disturb a compass needle, lots of worldly attractions interfere with our focus on God. Let us count the ways!
Excitement? Center of life? Remember Pastor John told us about the gift of a fancy tread mill somebody gave his family? There was Initial excitement to begin with. But soon it was used as a storage device. Same as when we don't live out the life God created us for, we are a waste of His expensive creation. Pastor John gave us another illustration from experience:
The “SuperSmash Brothers” video game. Pastor John played it for hours at a time. Nintendo gaming was at the center of Pastor John's life as a middle schooler and as a high schooler, and as a college student. But....
God created us to worship Him forever. Shows what you value. If God is really at the center of our live we will be excited to worship. Here's again from the Apostle Paul. Romans 12:1 - “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
This means not just going through the motions, but being genuinely excited to worship. Our almighty God does not at all NEED our worship, but He CHOOSES to engage with us through our worship of Him.
We all are long familiar with the word “hallelujah”. Pastor John deconstructed it for us, then he used it to get us to examine our priorities.
“Hallelu” is the Hebrew word for “praise”. “Jah” or “yah” is the shortened form of the Hebrew word “yahweh” meaning “God”. If we really mean “hallelujah” then we are anchored in praising God. Okay, a reality check - what are you anchoring your life in?
Hallelu-GRADES? Hallelu-SCHOOL? Hallelu-JOB? Hallelu-MONEY? Think about it!
Actually, if you are really anchored in praising God, every area of your life can be an act of worship! Don't worry about some divide between sacred and secular, church stuff and worldly stuff. Preaching the gospel to others and vacuuming the house for others can both be acts of worship if we have the right attitude and godly orientation. Worship is not a separate act or object we give to God. Worship is giving OUR LIVES to God. We have been made “holy and acceptable to God” Everything we do can potentially be an act of worship!
Pastor John quoted from a famous New York City pastor, Tim Keller, in illustrating that right attitude: “You should never go to God because He's useful. Go because He's beautiful. And yet there's nothing more useful than finding God beautiful.” What that means is that God is not a means to an end (“God please give me...”) , instead, God IS the end (“I love you God for who you are.”). Go to God just for who He is, not for what He can do for you. True worship is NOT about what God can do for you, or what you can do for God, but what God has ALREADY DONE.
Romans 12:2 - “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” So then - have done with distractions, renew your mind in whole-hearted worship of almighty God, and be transformed!
Pastor John pointed out that true worship leads us to the WILL of GOD. He gave us the example of the prophet Daniel's three friends who got tossed into a blazing furnace on the command of the Babylonian king because they would not worship his giant golden statue.
From the Book of Daniel chapter 3 verses 17and 18 we read that they told the king: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.” And here is the key point: “But EVEN IF he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” The three friends were focused first on who God is, not what He can do.
Think about that EVEN IF: The Son of God, Jesus our savior, placed worth and value on us in dying on the cross for our sins. So, we know that EVEN IF we die a physical death from whatever terrible situation, we will keep on going spiritually, which is all that matters. When we place our worth and value in Jesus, we find the purpose of our lives to keep going NO MATTER WHAT.
Pastor John also referred to the crash of Northwest Airlines flight 225 in Detroit in August of 1987. A little girl was found to be the only survivor out of everyone on the plane. In the last seconds of the very short flight her mother's sacrificial love and quick thinking saved her. What of Jesus's sacrificial love? Pastor John illustrated from Paul's Letter to the Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
To sum it up, Pastor John gave us this take-home truth: The will of God in our ordinary daily lives and in our times of terrible trial is to worship God for who He is, and to enjoy Him forever.