Monthly Archives: September 2013

Worship – How Do You Present Yourself?

Peninsula Community Church

Worship – How Do You Present Yourself?

September 29, 2013

Romans 12:1-2 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. 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.

As we look at this study so far, what have we learned? We have learned that worship means to ascribe worth to something or someone. It means that we tend to worship what we value and what we worship will control us. We have also learned from last week’s message that all of life is worship and all worship is about life. We cannot and must not separate the sacred from the secular. There is no dichotomy here, or least we need to attempt to avoid one.

Paul has instructed us that real worship is defined as a presentation of our bodies as “living sacrifices.”As living sacrifices, our worship is not restricted to a specific location or place. As living sacrifices, we realize that true worship is a matter of the heart. As living sacrifices, we seek to honor God with our lives. To be living sacrifices is a lifestyle. It is a way of living. To be living sacrifices means that our actions, our language or speech, and our responses to life and to life’s circumstances conform to God’s word and his ways. Since worship is what we are, we cannot put on and take off worship as we would a garment. True worship is a lifestyle of living for God. Our desire to honor God must impact everything we do: our jobs, our personal life, our interactions with others, our thoughts, our will, and our emotions.

As living sacrifices, we exemplify Christ to those around us and to those we come in contact with. To say this in the vernacular “Do we walk the talk in everything we do?” Do we live as passionate followers of Christ? Do we consider everything we do as an act of worship? Is it a way of life for us? When worship becomes a way of life, everything we do will be shaped and viewed through the perspective that everything is a function of worship and an act of honoring God. Look at what the Bible says about this. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17). Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strengths that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:11).

We mentioned this briefly last week, but I want to remind us that we are empowered to live as living sacrifices because of the work already achieved for us by the work of the cross. We can present our bodies as living sacrifices because of God’s mercy. Because of His mercy, we have the power, the freedom, and the motivation to do so. The question that bears being asked here is “What mercies is Paul talking about?” Let’s review this. Paul uses the term “therefore” here. This was a common term in Paul’s writings. When the term is used, it means that we must consider what comes before the “therefore.” What precedes the “therefore” is critical and must be considered to fully understand what follows the “therefore.” Someone has said that when we see the word “therefore” we must ask what is “therefore” there for.

What is presented prior to Romans 12 is critical to our understanding of how to present ourselves as living sacrifices. I see several truths at play. First, let us consider that if we reject the truth or attempt to create our own truth, our hearts can become hardened and calloused. We begin to worship the creation and fail to worship the creator, as Paul warned in Romans 1-2. It is this false worship and change of focus that leads us to futile thinking and missed opportunities of living life to the fullest.

One of the observations I have made about today’s world is that how people present themselves is critical to their self esteem and and how they want others to view them. The problem here is that this act is often based on a presentation of what we want people to think of us rather than who we really are. Someone has said that this is the difference between one’s personality and one’s character. One’s personality is presented as to how we want people to view us while character is who we really are. Two weeks ago, we discovered that true worship is focused on the truth and is based on honesty. What does this mean for us? It means we do not try to present ourselves as something we are not. We have an honest appraisal of who we are and what we are about.

What mercies have we received? Paul continues to lay out the argument that we are saved, justified, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Spirit because of Christ’s mercy. Because we recognize the work of Christ, we can feel secure and trust that presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is the way to go. Why? Because Paul dealt with the issues of security in Christ as he stated nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39). Because of these actions, on the part of God on our behalf, we can live as spiritual worshippers and as living sacrifices. What keeps us focused is the mercies of God, and the ongoing reminder of what has been bestowed upon us and given to us by God.

While the work done for us is by way of the mercies of God, a second point must be made. Presenting our bodies as living sacrifices is a choice. Paul tells us that we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices. We can’t blame someone else or excuse ourselves from taking this step or action. The fact is once we understand and comprehend the mercies of God, we will find that the choice to be a living sacrifice is much easier and is not cumbersome at all. In fact, understanding the mercies of God will assist us in making right decisions as worshippers of God. It is noteworthy that God provides the means but we must make the choice to be living sacrifices. This means we must avail ourselves of the mercies of God described in Romans 1-11.

The Greek word for “present” literally means “to place beside.” In this case, we are to place our actions and who we are next to and along side God’s word and his truth to determine wether or not we are living as living sacrifices. It is interesting to note that the Greek verb used here specifically “to present” carries the idea of presenting but keep on presenting. It is an ongoing process.

Let me explain it this way. If we were building a house, we would, or at least we should, look at the plans that have been drawn up by a qualified architect. Because he is qualified two things are at play. One, we can trust him and we must trust that if we follow his plans we will be successful in erecting a quality home. In other words, we must place the work we are doing along side the plans drawn up by the architect to be sure that what we are building is according to the plans we have been given. To do otherwise invites chaos and major complications.

Look at the following verses in Romans. As we read them, look at the idea of “presenting” ones self in these passages.  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:16-18).

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness (Romans 6:13).

Will you place yourself along side of righteousness or unrighteousness as your guide? This is critical because as we have already stated, what we present ourselves to we will become. If we present ourselves to living out righteousness in our lives then we will be righteous. If we give ourselves as slaves to sin then we will become slaves to sin, but if we give ourselves to righteousness we become righteousness.

Because the act of presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is an ongoing act, to present our bodies as living sacrifices, we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The point to be made here is that presenting ourselves as living sacrifices is not a passive act but is both active and it is also proactive. It is active in that it requires an ongoing process of commitment and the presentation of ourselves to God. It is proactive in that we renew our minds with a goal of transformation even when we don’t feel like it or sense the purpose for doing so. We don’t wait until an issue arises; we are always in the process of renewal and transformation.

You see true worship requires a commitment of the head and the heart. It is the introduction of truth into the mind which finds its way into the heart that brings about a transformation of worldview and concepts about living life as a passionate follower of Christ. This must be an active response. This word transformation is an interesting word. It is the Greek word “metamorpha.” It means to change. It is the same word we get the word “metamorphous” from. Metamorphous means a change of form. Like the caterpillar that is changed into a butterfly we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

How does this occur. It is by way of the truth that comes from God’s word. We need the truth that sets us free. It is also truth that leads us to faith. Truth alone in the sense of intellectual prowess falls short of God’s purpose and His plan for our lives. The key for truth to be effective is that it must find root in our hearts so that the truth received is applied in order to bring transformation to who we are and how we act.

Let me illustrate this in this way. When you get angry what is the first reaction you have. Is it to curse? Is it to throw things? Is it to scream? Is it to clam up? In this case, how you respond has been a result of the conditioning of you heart, your emotions, and your will. If you have presented yourselves as living sacrifices and your heart has been transformed, then your actions and reactions will be different than a person who has not been transformed. How we respond will be an act of worship and a living as living sacrifices.

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Worship – What Is It?

Peninsula Community Church

September 15, 2013

Worship Series – What is It?

John 4:20-26 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Over the next several weeks we will work through a series on worship. The goal in this series is to understand what worship is, and why worship is important to us as passionate followers of Christ. We will also look at the attitude of worship, and even the mechanics of corporate worship to help us to appreciate the concepts and ideas of worship more fully.

As we begin this study, the first thing we must do is to define worship. For the purpose of this study, we will define worship as giving value or honor to something. This is critical because what we value we will worship and what we worship will begin to control us. The Greek word for worship literally means “to come forward to kiss.” It carries the idea of one coming before royalty and bowing to kiss their ring. It is this word picture that gives us the idea of giving honor and value. The English word for “worship” also carries with it the idea of having worth or placing worth on something or someone.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson summarized this idea of what we worship controls us when he said, “The gods we worship write their names on our faces, be sure of that. And a man will worship something —have no doubt about that, either. He may think that his tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of his heart—but it will out. That which dominates will determine his life and character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.” These are powerful words from one who would not be considered a strong believer but he hit the nail on the head.

Gordon Dahl put it more succinctly when he said, “Most [people] tend to worship their work, work at their play, and play at their worship.” But what they do not understand is that worship is more than a Sunday activity.

Greg Beale titled his landmark book We Become What We Worship. His thesis is simple: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.” He traces the theme throughout Scripture to show that we are worshippers, and that our worship exposes us and changes us. We either revere the world and are conformed to the sinful patterns of the world, or we revere God and are progressively conformed into his likeness. It is your choice.

While the story has many themes we will concentrate on that the one theme of worship. In this story we experience Christ’s teaching on the idea that what we worship is an issue of value. Let me relate this story in this way. We find here that Jesus has an intentional encounter with a Samaritan woman at the local well. This was an ordained encounter and not one of chance. This action on the part of Jesus was remarkable and was counter to the culture of his day. For one, the Jews and the Samaritans did not like each other. They in fact were at odds with one another. You see during the Assyrian captivity the Jews were taken away and were placed into captivity. There was a group of Jews who were left behind who compromised their religious beliefs by taking on the religious culture of the Assyrians and by building their own temple to worship God. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem they reacted negatively to this new found group of people, the Samaritans and their way of worship. 

The Samaritans were a pagan secular religion which was an integration of Jewish and pagan worship. The whole religion was begun as an act of rebellion and was fortified by the Assyrian captivity where the Assyrians purposely intermingled pagans with the Jews who remained in Samaria. Jereboam’s actions caused the kingdom to be split into. He set up two places of worship beside Jerusalem. This was the beginning of their downfall.

Notice as well that they move from a discussion of her spiritual condition to a discussion about worship. You see this was important to both sects: the Jew and the Samaritan alike. In the discussion, Jesus makes some claims about worship that we need to consider.

First, worship is an issue of the heart. It is not a place. The Samaritans perceived they were worshippers because of the location of their temple. The Jews assumed they were worshippers as they worshipped in Jerusalem. But Jesus countered the location mentality by stating that worship was not about a place but it is all about the heart.

Second, true worship is of the heart as we must worship in truth. You see it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks and it is out of he heart that our worship is manifested. The condition of our heart will determine the quality and the focus of our worship. As we will see in future studies, worship is not as much about outward expression as it is inward direction.

Third, our worship is in the spirit. It is alive and has life or at least it should. The spirit guides, informs, and transforms our worship. You see if our focus is only on a building or a place we can believe that we cannot truly worship unless we are in the building or a specific place. But if the spirit of God is in us, which He is, and we are people of God, then our worship is distinct in that it is not place but it is an attitude. All we do is in fact worship. How we live! How we represent Christ to others! What I do when no one is looking is a qualifier of my worship!

It is interesting to note that one of the passages of Scripture that comes to mind here is that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). One of the definitions of glory is “manifestation” or “revelation” of God. Listen to this. If that is true then if I am a passionate follower of Christ, then all I do must reflect His glory and illustrate to the world who He is and what He is.  When I fail to do this then I am in essence committing a sin and a falling short of manifesting God in my life and to others.

Let’s look at this way. What I value I will worship and what I worship I will value. If I worship money then my life will be focused on making money and obtaining things. If I worship fame, then I will focus on being famous. If I worship intellect, then I will focus on education and the gaining of knowledge. But if I worship God, then I will focus on obedience to His word, His ways, and His purposes for my life which will bring about God’s blessings.

The fourth and final thought in his passage is that Jesus was dealing with traditions. Too often our worship is stagnated because we are in a box. We believe that the parameters of worship are so narrow that anything outside our structure is not viable. Tradition binds us and puts the emphasis on the the things of worship rather than the person of worship. Notice the debate Jesus was having. You worship on this mountain but the Jew worships in Jerusalem. But Jesus states that the time is coming that you will not worship in a place but a person. From the Old Testament, the Jews had received specific instruction on how worship should be carried out. It was a system that  was about to be outdated as Christ would fulfill the requirements of the law. 

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James – Rescuing the Wanderer

Peninsula Community Church

James – Rescuing the Wanderer

James 5:19-20

James 5:19-20 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

We have finally come to the end of our study of the Book of James. As we close this study, I trust that you will continue to read through the Book of James, study the principles of Christian living proposed here, and make application of these principles into your life. It is my belief and I believe that it is God’s purpose, as well, that we apply the truths of this book so that our lives are transformed and forever changed.   

As we look at this passage before us, we are once again presented with a vital and pointed message. In classic James form, he does not give much fanfare or introduction for the point he is making in the passage. He just puts it out there. Notice what James says. If anyone wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, that person will be saved and a multitude of sins will be covered. It is noteworthy that James does not issue this as a command to be obeyed as much as it is a reward achieved for the kingdom of God, the health of the Body of Christ, and the individual. 

In many ways it is an appropriate end to this text, as James has presented an effective argument on how we are to live this Christian life and how we are to live this life with one another. He recognizes that wandering from God’s truth and His ways is a threat to every believer. We get our eyes off of the prize and the goal of what we have been called to be and to do. We look to other things to satisfy our soul and we desire things that have no eternal value. The writer of Ecclesiastes had it right when he stated “Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after the wind.” Rather than an appetite for God we develop an appetite for junk food and the things that do not satisfy. Junk food is just that junk. It provides little nutrition but usually has a high fat, sugar, and salt content. Spiritually, we too can have a junk food diet with little benefit for the body.

Because we are all subject to having wandering hearts and wandering spirits, let me give you a couple of reasons that cause people to err from the ways of God and thus find themselves in need of being rescued. First, we need a genuine Christian conversion experience. This may come in many shapes and in various ways but we will all have one. It could be a response to an evangelistic message. It could be a crossroads in your life where you had to choose Christ or another way. The only way to experience Christ in His fullness is to have had a conversion experience. Without this experience we will always be tempted to go off course and to follow other gods and other ways of living life. Let me be clear that I am not advocating for many ways to get heaven, I am simply saying that God uses different means and paths to get us to accept Him. The first key to effective Christian living is to have a personal relationship with Christ.

Second, we need to avoid habitual sin patterns and lifestyles that leave us open to distraction and deception. We know we are in this place when we attempt to justify our wrong by accusing others or pointing out another’s faults when we are guilty of the same sin or even greater sin. We also can find ourselves in this place when we try to minimize our sin. We say things like “don’t worry everybody is doing it.” “I am not effecting anyone else.” When we fall into habitual sin we are easily drawn away from the source of strength and nourishment that we need. The reason for this is that we begin to trust ourselves, our ways, and we try to effect outcomes that are contrary to God’s will, His ways, and His will.

Third, we need to guard our friendships not just in the world but in the church as well. While we certainly need to guard our hearts with friends who do not follow after Christ, we must also guard our hearts against those in the church who can be negative, critical, constant complainers, and those who like to stir up strife and trouble. There is a tendency for them to cause others to veer from the path that God has intended. The reason for this is that they effect those who are not as mature and begin to feel conflicted about their walk with Christ and their faith as a whole.

Fourth, this is not a new topic but the fact is we must be grounded in the word. We must read the word, make application of the word into our hearts, and then allow the word to bring transformational change to our lives. The application of the word provides the channel through which the Holy Spirit can work.

Fifth, we must guard our hearts against offense and bitterness. When we are hurt we can begin to find offense with others. When we are hurt we can become discouraged and disheartened. Much sin and falling away occurs when we become offended and bitter. I am impacted by what people say but I can never let that become an offense or lead to bitterness of heart or soul. I am destined to wander from God when that happens because I can easily impose my view of others upon God.

While we have talked about being a wanderer let’s talk about the other side of the coin and that is that the one who brings the wanderer back from being led astray is a champion for Christ. They help to save that one from destruction and from potential future issues. One thing that is clear here is that two things occur. First the one being brought back is saved from spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental destruction. They are re-redeemed in essence. James praises this action as it is healthy for the wanderer, the one doing the rescuing, and for the body of Christ at large.

Secondly, by being brought back a multitude of sin has been covered. By this we mean that rather than the person being free to continue to sin, they are free to live in righteousness again. The verb to “cover’ is a Greek word that refers to the charity of covering the sins of others before men. Not only are the sins covered before men but they are covered before God as well because of God’s forgiveness and love. In Proverbs 10:12 notice that Hatred stirs up strife but love covers all offenses. Another passage that speaks to this is Psalm 85:1. Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. Psalm 32:1 states Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is covered. It is a blessing to see another’s sin covered and others rescued. One final thought in this regard. No one else my know what you have done but God will and He will bless and honor you.

As we close this message let me make a couple of final comments. First, in this passage notice that the pastor is not commanded to do this but it is the Christian community as a whole. Too often we relegate such matters to the pastor or to the elders but in reality this is a communal task. Second, this is not an easy task as people who have strayed away are often conflicted and emotionally charged. They can feel hurt and disconnected. Third, we must be sure that we understand that just because a person decided to attend another church does not make them a sinner or in danger of sin. God sometimes moves people to new situations to change and heal them.

Do you know someone that has strayed from the truth. What can you do? You can pray for them as the Holy Spirit can do more in moments than we ever could by ourselves. You can be there for them to encourage them to return to the faith. Too often we treat people who have strayed as if they were lepers. You can welcome them when they return. You can celebrate their successes. If you don’t know someone, would you pray and consider asking God to place someone in your heart?

 

 

 

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