- 2017Nov 04
A good worship pastor will be quick to tell you that worship is more than music. Music is the part we see on Sunday mornings, but there is a much deeper aspect to worship that runs throughout our lives every day of the week. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul addresses 'true and proper worship', and it has nothing to do with singing:
12 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. (NIV)
Paul's oxymoron "living sacrifice" is a profound statement which initially appears to be contradictory. A sacrifice is something that is given up, or from the historical context in which Paul is writing, an animal that is killed as an act of temple worship. The word 'sacrifice' carries a connotation of death and of blood atonement, so for Paul to tell us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice is an astonishing concept.
This is why Paul says that we do this"in view of God's mercy". It is because of God's great mercy that we are free to accept the forgiveness of God and live a life in Christ. It is because of His mercy that we can trust Him and because of His mercy that we can be certain He is faithful as we follow HIm. This represents a shift in thinking from an Old Covenant and it's requirements of regular animal sacrifice that never completely cover our sin, to a New Covenant built on the all-encompassing-once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that completely and forever covers our sin, and His resurrection to new life that holds a promise of our own eternal life with Him.
Jesus references the idea of a living sacrifice on several occasions:
- "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." Mark 8:35
- "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24
- "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10
The beautiful thing is that when we seek to become a living sacrifice, we not only engage in true worship, but we find a life deeper, richer, and more fulfilling than anything else we could imagine. We become a living sacrifice by starting each day in the Word and in prayer.
We become a living sacrifice when we offer all that we are to God's service, no matter the cost.
We become a living sacrifice when we base our decisions on Godly counsel and not worldy wisdom.
We become a living sacrifice when we approach encounters with all people in grace and truth, not in fear and doubt.
We become a living sacrifice when we strive to be the hands and feet of Christ in a lost and hurting world.
We become a living sacrifice when we make difficult decisions to do things the right way and not take shortcuts.
We become a living sacrifice when we place the needs of others above our own.
We become a living sacrifice when we smile at people we don't know in a society where smiles are hard to find.
We become a living sacrifice when we love others in spite of their politics.
We become a living sacrifice when we suffer for doing good, but do it anyway, even if no one else knows why we do it.
We become a living sacrifice when over time, our first response to situations is a Godly response.
Being a sacrifice is not easy, and it was never meant to be. In fact, it is likely to be uncomfortable.
When we strive to become a living sacrifice, we echo the words of Paul in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me".
This is true and proper worship.
- 2017Oct 31
As we celebrate #Reformation Day, I can't help but to be thankful for those such as Luther who lived with a willingness to walk out into the unknown; standing against the religious leaders of the day to speak the truth of God's word. Likewise, let us be willing to give all we have to honor the God who has so freely given all to us. Let us hold nothing back in our pursuit of all that is right.
I'm not sure anyone could compile a true "top-ten" list of all that Martin Luther said. However, the quotes listed below are my personal favorites, and I hope they inspire you as well. To God be the Glory!
1. The whole being of any Christian is faith and love. Faith brings the person to God, love brings the person to people.
2. The Bible is a remarkable fountain: the more one draws and drinks of it, the more it stimulates thirst.
3. I simply taught, preached, wrote God's Word: otherwise I did nothing. The Word of God did it all.
4. A simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest pope without it.
5. Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
6. God created the world out of nothing, and so long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.
7. I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide.
8. None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience.
9. Peace, if possible. Truth at all costs.
10. As long as we live there is never enough singing.
- 2017Oct 25
The best thing about the Christian faith is that it is based on an everlasting, unchangeable covenant. It is not about us being 'good enough', checking the right boxes, or trying to 'be better'. It is about a covenant between ourselves and God.
This idea of covenant is seen throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and some of the most powerful passages about who Jesus are found in the Old Testament. While reading in Ezekiel 16 during my morning quiet time, I was moved by this passage that so clearly lays out what this "New Covenant" would look like.
But first, what is a covenant?
In non-Biblical terms, a covenant is essentially a legal, binding agreement. When you get married, take out a loan, lease a house, or sign a document, you are entering into a type of covenant; an agreement in which both parties make certain promises to one another.
In Biblical terms, a covenant between God and people holds a great significance, and forms the foundation of how God interacts with people. The covenant most often referred to by Jesus as "The Law" is the Mosaic Covenant. Given to Moses at Mount Sinai, this covenant laid out the rules for how God's chosen people would agree to live. This is where we get The Ten Commandments.
The problem with this covenant is that try as we might, no one could possibly ever live up to it! The law gives a guide of how God would have us to live and what a sinless life would look like, but our end of the deal is simply impossible to uphold. Because of this, in Ezekiel 16, God promises a new, better covenant:
59 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant (side note, they weren't even trying to fulfill it anymore).
60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you (side note: God doesn't forget His promises, even if we do).
61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both those who are older than you and those who are younger. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on the basis of my covenant with you (side note: non-Jews are now going to be allowed in on this new covenant)
62 So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord.
63 Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the SovereignLord.’”
What we read here is the fullness of the Gospel: Even though we can't keep our end of the deal, God is faithful to remember His and will give us another, better opportunity. God does not choose to just be done with humanity forever, but remembers the old covenant, and promises to establish a new, better and everlasting one. This new everlasting covenant is established through what Jesus did on the cross, which is also the atonement mentioned in verse 63. God promises throughout the Old Testament that He will not break His covenant. He keeps this promise by not only keeping up His end of things, but amending the terms in our favor.
The people of Israel will receive their sisters and brothers (non-Jews who were not a part of the first covenant with Moses) on the basis of this new covenant. This is the picture of the good news of Jesus being preached to every nation, by which everyone on earth may be saved and brought into the promises of the new covenant.
This new, everlasting covenant is much different from the previous one. Where the first covenant turned out to be impossible to keep, the new covenant brought about by Jesus requires only our faith and trust. Jesus fulfilled the old covenant completely so that through faith in Him, we may be brought into this promise of God's people and have certainty that we are in good standing.
This is the beautiful mercy of the new covenant and the aspect of Christianity that distinguishes it from every other religion: we are saved not by works, but by faith.