Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

There was a time when I would have said that worship was something I did on Sunday mornings.  To worship, I thought, meant to “go to church;” to sing hymns, participate in the liturgy, and listen to the pastor’s sermon.  While it’s true that this is worship, it is only one kind of worship.

Romans 12:1 describes a worship that takes place every minute of every day.  God’s Word says to me, “. . . In view of God’s mercy . . . offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Worship means living my life in such a way that brings glory to God.  If I truly believe that God had great mercy on me, a poor and miserable sinner, and that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life because of my sins, then I have opportunity to live like a new person.  I have opportunity to respond to God’s great love in a way that pleases Him.  That shouldn’t just be on Sunday during congregational worship, but on every day of the week and in ever circumstance.  The choices I make, the work I do, the way I serve others, the attitude I have – all of these common, everyday thoughts and actions are either worship of God – or self.

It’s far too easy to worship self.  I do this every time I insist on my own way, or put my needs before others, or whine, or pout, or feel sorry for myself.  But, to worship God, my Creator and Redeemer, I must “become nothing” so the Holy Spirit who lives in me can alter my thinking, choices and behavior.  How does this work?

Jenna is in college… and pregnant.  The father of the baby wants to marry her.  They love each other, but the timing is all wrong; after all, she has plans for a career, travel, and the joys of marriage for a while without children.  Her dreams are shattered.  But, in view of God’s mercy, Jenna has the opportunity to sacrifice personal desires for the life of another.  Her choice to adjust plans in order to welcome a precious new life is her spiritual act of worship.

Max is a grandfather.  The patriarch of his family.  He is plagued with one physical challenge after another.  He had wanted to be the strong one for his wife and family; instead, he is the one who needs constant care and medical attention.  But, in view of God’s mercy, Max has the opportunity to adjust his attitude and his plans for “life after 80.” Rather than wasting time by complaining, Max chooses to sharpen his wit and laugh in the midst of adversity.  He encourages friends and family by turning their attention toward running the race marked out for them (Hebrews 12:1).  This is his spiritual act of worship.

Since childhood, Jake had wanted to be a physician.  Between the university and med school, he served his country in the military as a medic.  On a routine mission, something went terribly wrong and Jake’s life was forever changed.  He endured a series of operations intended to restore the use of his hands, but it was the Holy Spirit who performed the miracle.  In view of God’s mercy, Jake had opportunity to sacrifice personal goals and, instead, travel a different path.  He entered seminary, married, and became a father.  Several  years later, Jake and his family became missionaries.  His spiritual act of worship made a difference in the lives of countless men, women and children who might never have known Jesus Christ without Jake.

Our everyday lives are filled with opportunities to worship God  At work, we have the choice to give the best we can offer… or just get by.  In the neighborhood, we have the choice to engage ourselves in serving others… or remain unengaged and self-focused.  At a party, on a date, or at a sports event, we have the choice to please God… or please ourselves.  In view of His great mercy, we are encouraged to think, say, and do holy things… things that please God.

How do I know what is pleasing to God?  He tells me in His Word found in Romans 12:2.  “Don’t conform any longer to the pattern of the 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.

What does worship mean to me?  The Holy Spirit has been patient with me.  Slowly (and against my will) opening my eyes to see.  To hear.  I’m beginning to understand that I have opportunities to worship with every attitude.  Every choice.  My behavior toward others.  Even my tone of voice.

Do I worship well?  No, I’m still a poor, miserable sinner.  But, in view of God’s mercy, I am a forgiven sinner.  Because of what Jesus Christ did for me, each new day is an opportunity to start over.  To try again.  To live differently than the world around me.  I am not captive to my past mistakes.  Because of Jesus, I have the freedom to make choices that are pleasing to God, but also a blessing to my neighbor.

My prayer is that I will worship on Sunday with thanksgiving and praise for what God has done.  God wants to see our faces turned toward Him.  But, even more, He wants to give to us.  I come to church on Sunday empty.  Used up.  Ready to be filled.  I don’t give to God on Sunday.  He gives to me.  He fills me with His Word and Sacrament.  Walking out the church door, and for the rest of the week, I have opportunity to live in response to His great mercy.

Each word, work, or service can be my worship — to His glory.

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God says: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”  It is His first commandment (Exodus 20:3).  But, when we label ourselves “sexual beings,” we are tempted to put our “sexuality” — our flesh side — before God.

Doubt me?  Take an honest look at the culture.  Only one thing is “holy of holies” above all other things; only one thing is untouchable, my “right,” and to be revered no matter the cost.  That is “human sexuality.”  Beginning early in sex education, children are told: You are a “sexual being.”  Therefore: It is who I am.  It is me.  It is what I do.  It is even my excuse for what I should not do.

Telling ourselves and others (especially children) that we are “sexual beings” is bestowing the wrong identity.  Bestowing the wrong identity, we put ourselves in God’s place.  We call ourselves something that He did not.

God does not identify us as “sexual beings.”  God clearly identifies us a “human beings” or “humankind” or “man created in His own image” (Genesis 1:27).  Reading on, we learn that God created mankind to be “male and female.”  Is this where some Christians get the notion that God made us to be “sexual beings” or to possess “sexuality?”  Well, I don’t think Martin Luther or other church fathers would agree.  Luther writes, “Moses put the two sexes together and says that God created male and female in order to indicate that Eve, too, was made by God as a partaker of the divine image and of the divine similitude, likewise of the rule over everything.  Thus even today the woman is the partaker of the future life, just as Peter says that they are joint heirs of the same grace (1 Peter 3:7).  In the household the wife is a partner in the management and has a common interest in the children and the property, and yet there is a great difference between the sexes.”  (The Lutheran Study Bible, commentary on 1:28, p. 14).  How interesting that Luther did not take this opportunity to proclaim: Look, here, believers!  God has made humans to be sexual beings!  It is who we are!  Luther does, however, point to our real identity: Bearers of God’s divine image.

We do not bear the image of animals.  (Thus, we are not captive to animal instincts.)  We do bear the image of God.  God’s image is holy.  Even though we no longer bear the perfect image of God, He still calls us to holy living!  The kind of living that honors His name and reflects His glory rather than our own.  The kind of living that does not tempt others to sin but, instead, guards both our soul and the soul of our neighbor.

Ahhhh.  Now, we’ve come even closer to our true identity.  We are more than body or mind.  We are spirit, created by God who is Spirit.  We are immortal souls.  “Sexuality” has nothing to do with our souls.  Our souls will live forever.  (In heaven, Jesus tells us, there will be no marriage; in other words, no expression of “sexuality,” no “one flesh union” [Matthew 22:30].)

There is spiritual danger in choosing to identify ourselves as “sexual beings.”  True, we are male or female creations of God.  As male or female believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are God’s children.  Even when we fail to act as His children, He is still our Father.  The Father-Child relationship doesn’t change because of our sin.  But, when we sin against God by calling ourselves what He does not; when we focus on ourselves as “sexual beings” and not His children with immortal souls, then our wrong identity shapes our behavior and our behavior changes our attitude toward God.

A changed attitude toward God can dangerously tempt us to put ourselves in the place of God; to, in fact, become our own god.  A god who defines “self” and “sexuality” as being supreme.

The pagan defines himself and lives however he pleases.  But, the believer proclaims: It is God who made us and not we ourselves.  God says: I have called you by name; you are Mine.  In Jesus Christ, God calls us His children.  We are treasured souls bought with a price.  That is our identity.  Anticipating Jesus’ return, “sons” and “daughters” live their lives as male or female: two eyes of the human race.  Both are needed for a clear understanding of life.  It is folly to think of every interaction of male and female as being sexual in nature.  What an abhorrent mess that would be!  Being male and female is not so much sexual as it is the partnering of our complimentary differences to bring glory to God, proclaim Jesus Christ, and affect the culture for good.

Only in marriage does our “flesh side” – our “sexuality” – find its home.  Only in marriage is the “one flesh” union a divine gift to humanity.  It is a power from God.  Who, but the Creator God could join with man and woman to procreate, to bring new life — new body, mind and soul — into existence?  Husband and wife respond to God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.”  Yes, in the act of sex, male and female are “sexual.”  They procreate sexually.  In Scripture, all things “sexual” pertain to the act of sex.  It is the “will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his (or her) own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like [those] who do not know God”  (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).  The commentary on verse 4 found in the Lutheran Study Bible brings clarity.  “Our sexuality is God’s gift for use within the parameters of marriage.”  Do you understand what is being said here?  Our gift of sexuality, or the ability to have sex, is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman.  To be male or female, however, is a gift for daily use in glorifying God.  We are not to abstain from being male and female.  We are not to do battle with the attributes of maleness or femaleness, but with “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry . . . [T]hose who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:19-24).

It matters how we identify ourselves.  It determines our behavior.  It can become the argument for homosexuality.   It can help – or hinder – our neighbor.  It honors – or dishonors – the sanctity of human life.  When we identify ourselves as “sexual,” we may be tempted to give ourselves license; to, in fact, worship and serve ourselves rather than God (Romans 1:24-25).  But, re-created in Christ, male and female identify themselves in a different way.  A Christian’s body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit who enables the believer to turn away from a “sexy” life to a “holy” life.  When we identify ourselves as “holy” and “immortal souls,” we are encouraged to guard the treasure that Jesus bought at tremendous price.  “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17).

We “are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh” (v 12).  In Christ, our fallen nature has no claim on us.  Our “flesh side” may tempt us, saying: “This is who I am,” or “I owe it to myself,” but we aren’t obligated to obey its impulses or satisfy its desires.  Why?  Because we “did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear” or idolatry.

We cry: “Abba Father!” (v.15)

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