AUSTRALIAN IDOL’S just begun its new series on Channel 10. Series 5. I don’t even think we had a break from Big Brother. But we’re straight into it. Scouring Australia to find the next IDOL. The next singing and dancing sensation for us to WORSHIP. Which is what you DO with IDOLS.
As if we don’t have enough things in Australia to worship ALREADY.
Most people say we’re not very RELIGIOUS in Australia. But I don’t reckon that’s true. There’s LOTS of things we worship. Every weekend, more than 100,000 people in Sydney will RELIGIOUSLY head to their local cathedral and join in with thousands of others to worship. They focus their attention on the object of their worship, they sing songs, they raise their hands in praise, they work themselves into an emotional frenzy. They even PRAY on occasion.
It’s the idol of …. FOOTY.
But it could just as easily be netball, or cricket, or fishing. Or some other sport.
Then there’s the idol of GARDENING, or cleaning the CAR, or renovating the house. The idol of weekends away, of bike riding, of quality time with the family, of music and concerts and restaurants, or even the idol of just of sleeping in and reading the Sunday papers.
And that’s just on THE WEEKEND! During the week, we’re busy worshipping MONEY, or WORK, or SUCCESS, or APPROVAL, or POWER and INFLUENCE, or EDUCATION, or SECURITY, or MATERIAL POSSESSIONS.
Our idols are anything that’s so important to us, they consume our time, our thoughts, our attention, our money. Anything that TAKES PRIORITY, that becomes more important than anything else. Our idols are the things we WORSHIP.
Normally when we think of WORSHIP, we only think of CHURCH. We get mental images of exuberant praise, of great music, of getting caught up in the emotion. Or perhaps you think of worship as quiet and reverent contemplation. Of meditation. Or candles and robes and choirs and organs. I guess it depends on what your background is.
But what if we BROADENED our view of what WORSHIP is/ to something like this dictionary definition – To worship is “TO IDOLISE OR REGARD WITH ADORATION a person or principle”? (repeat)
Then we can begin to imagine how it’s possible for Aussies everywhere to be WORSHIPPING their IDOLS. Whether it’s Damien Leith the SINGER, or Benji Marshall the FOOTBALLER. Whether it’s their Commodore station wagon, or their Commerce degree. Their new EXTENSION, or their new PROMOTION. Their new BABY, or their new BIKE.
Whatever they idolise, or regard with adoration, whatever they focus their attention, or their time, or their money on, is what they WORSHIP.
Let me show you a picture that captures the idea of worship pretty well. Taken last year at a Jane Fonda book signing in a Pitt Street shopping mall. It’s a picture of 33 year old Sydney man, Simon Bloomfield. He’s showing to the star herself the tattoo he got five years ago of Jane Fonda in her famous role as Barbarella. He got her to sign, not only the book she’d just launched but also a 1968 Life magazine of Simon’s with Jane as Barbarella on the cover, and his own Barbarella cartoon book.
Worship is about that sort of devotion. An expression of admiration. Of ADORATION.
Humans will worship just about ANYTHING. It’s in our nature to worship. Every culture the world over worships SOMETHING. But most people worship the wrong things. They settle for LESSER things. For UNDESERVING things. Rather than worshipping the one who DESERVES our adoration.
But we were designed to worship GOD. Because he’s the one who’s EARNED the right. Rev 4:11 says this about God
11 “You are WORTHY, our Lord and God, to RECEIVE GLORY AND HONOR AND POWER, (why?) for you CREATED all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
God CREATED us, and so he DESERVES our honour, and attention, and adoration. In fact, it’s that VERY THING that we were MADE for. To WORSHIP God.
Planned for God’s pleasure
Which is more than just for OUR good. OUR benefit.
The incredible truth of the Bible is that God is PLEASED when we worship him. When we focus our attention and adoration on him. It’s what we were CREATED for. Made for worship. Planned for God’s PLEASURE.
It shouldn’t REALLY surprise us. After all, WE love it when someone shows their affection to US. Like when you walk in the door after work, and the kids scream out “Daddy”, and come running down the hall to meet you, and give you a big hug.
Although as the kids get older, they might just GRUNT in your direction. But even when the DOG is happy to see you, it gives you pleasure.
And it’s the same with God. (Not that I’m saying that we’re like dogs). But God gets PLEASURE out of his children. ESPECIALLY when they WORSHIP him. When they respond to him in gratitude and adoration.
We saw it last week in Eph 1. Not sure whether you noticed it, or not. Have a look at it again with me. (p827) It’s soaked with talk of God’s pleasure. Eph 1 from v5.
5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with HIS PLEASURE AND WILL-
It PLEASED God to adopt us as his sons. And then jump down to v9.
9 And he made known to us THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL/ ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD PLEASURE, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
God’s WILL, his PLAN, what brings him pleasure/ is US. HIS children. And as we saw last week, it’s all tied up in bringing everything together under the kingship of Jesus.
But then look a bit FURTHER on, down to v12. It’s how WE fit into God’s plans. V 11, we were CHOSEN by God’s will , v12,
12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might BE FOR THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY.
That’s your purpose in life. God’s design for you is TO BE FOR THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY. To WORSHIP him. All of his plans have that goal in mind. To be for the praise of his glory. It’s what brings him PLEASURE.
What is worship?
Last week we saw that God made us to be in a relationship with him. And we focused on HIS side of that relationship. He made us to love us. To bring us back to himself through the work of Jesus.
This week the focus is on THE OTHER SIDE of that relationship. He made us to LOVE HIM. The most famous part of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is the first question. Q1. What is the chief end of man? (In other words, what’s humanity’s main purpose). And here’s the answer “The chief end of man is TO GLORIFY GOD AND ENJOY HIM FOREVER.”
To GLORIFY God, and enjoy him forever.
Which is MUCH more than simply what you do at church. The Bible’s view of worship is much bigger than that. Flip back a few pages to Roman Ch 12 v1. (p803). One of the best verses for showing us the wide sweep of what it means to WORSHIP. Answering the question “What is WORSHIP?”
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to OFFER YOUR BODIES AS LIVING SACRIFICES, HOLY AND PLEASING TO GOD — THIS is your SPIRITUAL ACT OF WORSHIP.”
What is worship? It’s offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
a. In view of God’s mercy
The first thing to notice is that worship is IN RESPONSE to something God has done.
Notice it there? “In view of God’s mercies”. Whatever we’re to do in worship, it’s to be IN RESPONSE to God’s mercies to us.
So, What are God’s mercies? Well, that’s what Paul’s just spent the previous eleven chapters explaining. Like near the end of Ch 11 it talks about God’s mercy. V30.
“You who were at one time disobedient to God have now received MERCY”
The incredible good news of Jesus is that God offers forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it. Jesus’ takes the punishment that WE deserved, and God offers us, instead, the forgiveness and mercy that JESUS deserved.
And it’s only in view of THAT TRUTH that people can worship God. In response to THAT reality. There’s no other way to offer your thanks and praise to God than on the basis of his mercy IN JESUS. THROUGH Jesus, if you like.
Anything good in life comes from God because of Jesus.
Any thanks you bring to God has to BEGIN with Jesus.
If your praise doesn’t come in view of God’s mercies expressed in Jesus, it’s not worship that’s pleasing to God.
If you want to live your life according to God’s purposes, then that’s the first step. Recognising God’s mercies expressed in the gift of his Son, and responding with repentance and thanks.
Is that something YOU’VE done? If you haven’t done that. You can do it TODAY. Recognise God’s mercies expressed in the gift of his Son, and respond with repentance and thanks That’s the first thing you need to do to be living a life PLEASING to God.
b. Offer yourselves
Second thing to notice about this verse is that worship is about OFFERING YOUR BODIES.
Notice that it doesn’t say worship is what you do when you come to church. It doesn’t say worship is about singing spiritual songs. It doesn’t say worship requires performing religious rituals.
It says our worship is offering ourselves to God. Being living sacrifices. Which is a contradiction. An oxymoron.
Because sacrifices are DEAD. But the truth of this verse is that God wants our WHOLE LIVES given to him, as a CONTINUAL response to his mercy.
A few chapters earlier, Rom 6:13, puts it like this;
13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, AS THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN BROUGHT FROM DEATH TO LIFE; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
You are to be a LIVING sacrifice. Because God has brought you from death to LIFE. You used to be DEAD – headed for judgment, and separation from God, living the HALF-LIFE of worshipping idols and STUFF. But God rescued you.
So we should offer the parts of our body to him as instruments of righteousness.
c. Pleasing to God
The third thing to say about Rom 12:1 is that a life lived like THAT, offered to God, in view of his mercies, PLEASES him.
What an incredible truth that is. That we can bring a smile to the face of the creator of the Universe when we do our little bit to serve him. When we commit whatever we think and say and do TO HIM. For his glory. For his praise. For his purposes. Which is WORSHIP.
God made us and saved us to be his children. His side of that is showering us with love. our response is Worship.
Let’s think a bit more about what that LOOKS like. What it looks like to offer our bodies to God, in worship, as living sacrifices. Jesus summed it up in our other Bible reading. Can you turn with me back to Mark 12:28-34? (p718)
This lawyer comes up to Jesus and asks him a very important question. He asks him which of God’s commandments is most important. Sum up how we should live God’s way. (In other words it’s the BIG QUESTION “What on earth am I here for?”)
Jesus answers by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Verses that even to this day, are repeated daily by devote Jews.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”
Here’s the number 1 priority of your life. Your primary objective. Your highest priority. Love God.
Here is how to respond to the one true God. Here is the essence of worship. Here is offering yourself as living sacrifice. Love God. With EVERYTHING YOU HAVE and EVERYTHING YOU ARE, love God. In response to his immeasurable love for you, love God.
I reckon there are THREE ASPECTS to this love for God.
First, God wants me to love him passionately. He says, “with all your heart and all your soul.” Your heart and your soul is about your complete being. With whatever it is that makes you you.
Love God with YOUR WILL. Make the conscious decision to CHOOSE to love God, to the neglect of OTHER things you might love.
Love God when nobody else is doing it. When it’s hard, or embarrassing. When it doesn’t make sense to. When it’s easier to give up.
Love him with all your heart and soul.
Second, God wants me to love Him thoughtfully. It says, “love Him with your mind.” In other words, he doesn’t want mindless religion.
Some people think worship means putting your mind in neutral. Letting the feelings take over. As if when you come to church you leave your brain at the door. That that is true worship.
But it’s not the worship God wants. He wants us to worship him THOUGHTFULLY. To FOCUS our attention on him.
And let’s face it, it’s hard for sinners like you and me to keep focusing our attention on God. We just get so easily distracted. Life is cluttered with noise and distractions. SMS’s, MP3s, DVDs and LCDs shouting out for our attention.
We just busy ourselves with whatever it is, and we think about God less and less. But He wants to teach us to focus our attention on Him. To BE STILL and know that he is God.
The best way to do that is to get into the regular habit of reading his word, and spending time in prayer. Every day. Engaging our minds on God. Struggling to understand what he is saying to us in his word. Grappling with context and style of writing and what it means here and now. Thinking through the difference that Jesus and the cross and resurrection makes.
God’s given each of us A MIND to wrestle with these things. And to think through our response. And God will REWARD that sort of effort. Your love for God will grow. And the fruitfulness of your ministry will grow.
You know, the further you go in the Christian life, the more study you do, the more you realise that you’re only beginning to scrape the surface of the depths of who God is, and what his purposes are.
He wants you to worship Him THOUGHTFULLY, know and love Him thoughtfully. To love him with all our MIND.
3. And finally, He says, I want you to love me practically. “love Me with all your STRENGTH”, with your abilities. With your mouth, or your hands, or your feet. Love me with your money, with your time. Love me when it’s hard. When your tired. Love me in your work. Love me at home with your family. Love me when you’re on your own, or when you’re in the middle of a crowd.
This is where it’s vital to grasp that worship isn’t just what we do in church. It’s our whole life.
Back to the description of true worship in Romans 12:1.
8 “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God”. Eugene Peterson paraphrases that in The Message,
“Take you everyday, ordinary life— your sleeping, your eating, your going to work, your walk-around life— and place it before God.” That captures it pretty well.
We are called to worship God in EVERYTHING we do. By doing whatever we do WITH HIM IN MIND. For his glory. Out of love for him.
What about Monday morning changing who you work for? I don’t mean changing jobs. I mean changing who you do you work FOR. Who you aim to please. Colossians 3:23 puts it like this.
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, AS WORKING FOR THE LORD, not for men.
Whether you’re PAID to work or not. Whether it’s working at making pizzas, or tidying your room. Whether it’s teaching kids about woodwork, or mowing the lawn. Whether it’s practising the piano, or practising LAW. Work at it with all your heart. Do it to PLEASE God.
That’s WORSHIP that pleases God.
You see, some people compartmentalize their life saying, “Okay, here’s my worship. I go to church once a week. Maybe I go to a small group once a week, and maybe I have a daily time where I’m reading his word and praying, and that’s my worship.
And then over HERE, I’ve got my career. And then over here I’ve got my social life.”
No, no. God says I want you to invite me into every area of your life. I want to be involved in all of it. Invite me into the whole thing.
Will you CHOOSE to do that?
You see, under the sovereign grace of God, the one who created the entire universe with a word, who is in total control of everything, and who needs for absolutely nothing. He chose to make the world in such a way that there are three things he doesn’t have unless you give them to Him.
1. He doesn’t have your affection, unless you give it to Him. That’s loving God with your heart and your soul.
2. He doesn’t have your attention unless you give it to Him. That’s loving God with your mind.
3. And he doesn’t have your ability, unless you give it to Him. That’s loving God with your strength.
All those things are gifts of God’s sovereign grace. He gave us heart, soul, mind and strength. But, by the work of his Spirit, we CHOOSE to turn those things towards him. In response to his mercies. As a spiritual act of worship.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.
Because that is the first purpose for which he made you. You were planned for God’s pleasure.