True Worship – Part 2

By Jeff Willis

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

Let’s start this week by focusing on the phrase “[D]o not be conformed to the world….”

First, do not be conformed to the world’s understanding of emotions. Last week’s article included this statement: ‘We renew our minds daily by cleansing them of the world’s “wisdom” and replacing it with true wisdom that comes from God.’ We worship Him with our renewed and cleansed minds, not just with our emotions. Emotions are wonderful things, but unless they are shaped by a mind saturated in Truth, they can be destructive, out-of-control forces. Where the mind goes, the will follows, and so do the emotions. 1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have “the mind of Christ,” not the emotions of Christ.

Second, do not be conformed to the world’s understanding of worship. The word worship means “to ascribe worth.” Our world ascribes worth to all sorts of thing. But Jesus-followers are to be different. Worship is reserved only for God. Only He is worthy. Not even His servants are to be worshipped. (Revelation 19:10). This means we are not to worship saints, prophets, gifted pastors, statues, angels, or even Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Lastly, the world often engages in worship for what it gets from it. However, as Christians, we should not be worshiping for the expectation of something in return. Worship is done for God, because He deserves it. It is for His pleasure alone. Worship can be public praise to God in a congregational setting, but ultimately, true worship is from the heart and then is expressed through our actions, regardless of where we are or who is looking. “Worshiping” out of obligation is displeasing to God and is completely in vain. He can see through our hypocrisy, and He hates it. Just a few weeks ago, Pastor Erin spoke about an example of this very thing found in the story of Cain and Abel, the first sons of Adam and Eve. They both brought gift offerings to the Lord, but God was only pleased with Abel’s. Cain brought the gift out of obligation; Abel brought his finest lambs from his flock. He brought out of faith and admiration for God.

In conclusion, worship is not confined to what we do in church or open praise (although these things are both good, and we are told in the Bible to do them). True worship is the acknowledgment of God and all His power and glory in everything we do. The highest form of praise and worship is obedience to Him and His Word. To do this, we must know God and not be ignorant of Him (Acts 17:23 – “the “Altar of an Unknown God”).

True worship is to glorify and exalt God—to show our loyalty and admiration to our Heavenly Father.
Isaiah 29:13 says, “And so the Lord says, ‘These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips. But their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.’” (NLT)

Lord, help us to live a life of worship in our everyday walk so that our actions, words, attitudes and all that we are and have bring you the glory and honor due Your name.

Elijah, Elisha, & Jesus

 

by Erin Bird

Ever been walking somewhere like a city park, happily bouncing along, and find some money, like a $20 bill? And when you look around, and see no one in sight, you realize the money is now yours. That’s a nice moment!

It’s fun discovering things. I imagine there is a rush of excitement for an archaeologist or a miner when he or she comes across some ancient artifact or precious jewel trapped in the rock.

In my own life, I have had a few fun moments of discovering some “gems” in the Bible. Like a miner, I have stumbled onto something that leaves me breathless at the way God has woven the Scriptures together, particularly when it points to Jesus.

The story of Elijah and Elisha is one such “gem.”

I remember years ago reading about the transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17. In the story, Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus, while Peter, James, and John watch. After the event, as Jesus is walking down the mountain with his guys, these three disciples ask Jesus why the experts in Jewish law say that Elijah must come before the Messiah can appear.

And Jesus tells them that Elijah had already come. The prophecy about the coming of “Elijah” was fulfilled through John the Baptist.

Elijah Elisha Jesus2 350x196 - Elijah, Elisha, & JesusThis got me thinking – if the prophet Elijah from 1 Kings chapters 17-19 pointed to John the Baptist, then did Elijah’s apprentice, Elisha, point to Jesus?

In 2 Kings 2, Elijah asks Elisha what he would like before Elijah’s time on earth ends. Elisha has the guts to say, “I want a double portion of your spirit.” (Really! He said that. Go look it up in 2 Kings 2:9.)

And God gives Elisha his heart’s desire. As you compare Elijah and Elisha’s lives, you see Elisha do similar and even greater miracles than Elijah. In fact, in the three chapters of 1 Kings that tell about Elijah’s ministry, we see him involved in fourteen miracles. But in the stories about Elisha, we see him involved in twenty-eight miracles. He truly seemed to receive a double portion!

But one of those miracles in Elisha’s life happens after his death. It is recorded in 2 Kings 13:20-21. And it points to Jesus incredibly clearly.

At the time of 2 Kings, the Moabites were enemies of Israel. They would invade Israel almost every spring. One spring day, a group of Israelites were conducting a funeral service when a band of Moabites came rushing by. The small group who gathered for the funeral panicked, so they threw the dead man’s body in the grave and rushed off in search of safety.

But the tomb was the grave of Elisha. Even though the prophet was dead and gone, his bones were in the grave. And when the dead man’s body touched the bones, he suddenly sprang back to life!

Which means there was a resurrection. A dead man came out of Elisha’s grave alive.

I remember sitting on my couch, reading this story for what felt like the first time, in awe of this two-sentence story. In one short paragraph, written a couple thousand years before Jesus walked on the earth, is a story that vividly points to his resurrection. Just as a dead man came out of Elisha’s grave alive, Jesus came out of the tomb alive. Elisha, even in death, pointed to Jesus, the one who truly had a double portion, the one who did far more miracles than Elisha and Elijah combined.

So when you read the Bible, don’t just read it like a self-help manual or an historical textbook. Realize that the Bible continually points to Jesus, that it truly is His Story.

True Worship – Part 1

by Jeff Willis

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

This passage from Romans 12 contains all the elements of true worship. Let’s look at these elements this week and next.

Motivation

First, there is the why, the motivation to worship: “the mercies of God.”

true worship innerimage 350x196 - True Worship - Part 1God’s mercies are everything He has given us that we don’t deserve: eternal love, eternal grace, the Holy Spirit, everlasting peace, eternal joy, saving faith, comfort, strength, wisdom, hope, patience, kindness, honor, glory, righteousness, security, eternal life, forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, sanctification, freedom, intercession and much more. The knowledge and understanding of these incredible gifts motivate us to give all praise and thanksgiving – in other words, worship!

Manner

Also in the passage is a description of the how, the manner of our worship: “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.”

Presenting our bodies means giving to God all of ourselves. The reference to our bodies here means all of our humanness—our hearts, minds, hands, thoughts, attitudes, etc.– are to be presented to God. We must give up control of these things and turn them over to Him, just as a literal sacrifice was given totally to God on the altar.

But how? …“by the renewing of your mind.” We renew our minds daily by cleansing them of the world’s “wisdom” and replacing it with true wisdom that comes from God.

True worship is God-centered worship. Like the woman at the well in John 4, we can get caught up with where we should worship, what music we should sing in worship, and how our worship looks to other people. Focusing on these things misses the point. Jesus tells the woman and us that “true worshipers” worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). This means we worship from the heart! Worship can include praying, reading God’s Word, singing, participating in communion, and serving others. It is not limited to one act, but when the heart and attitude of the person are in the right place with regards to their relationship with the Father, God is honored, glorified and pleased.

Worship is not an event. It is a lifestyle!

Father, help us to go deeper in our everyday walk with You and that our worship is just a natural overflow and outpouring of Who You are in us and through us.

I Do

by Jeff Willis

I recently had the privilege of officiating a wedding in Illinois. As I led premarital counseling and prepared for the wedding, I realized Christian marriage is more than a contract; it’s a covenant relationship. In this second part of our “Going Deeper in Worship” series, let’s look at some symbolic parallels to the covenant God made with Abraham (and essentially makes with us). My prayer is that our relationship with the Groom of all grooms will lead us to go deeper in worship and surrender.

THE COVENANT CEREMONY

Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains that the Hebrew word for covenant is berith, which comes from the root meaning “to cut.” A blood covenant was a formal, solemn, and binding agreement—a vow or pledge—between two parties made by “cutting” or dividing of animals into two parts.

In Genesis 15:9-10 , the blood covenant began with the sacrifice of animals. After splitting them precisely in half, the animal halves were arranged opposite each other on the ground, leaving a pathway between them. The two parties making the covenant would walk from either end of the path, meeting in the middle.

The meeting ground between the animal pieces was regarded as holy ground. There the two individuals would cut the palms of their right hands and then join these hands together as they mutually pledged a vow, promising all of their rights, possessions, and benefits to the other. Next, the two would exchange their belt and outer coat, and in so doing, take some part of the other person’s name.

SEATING OF THE FAMILY ON OPPOSITE SIDES

Family and friends of the bride and groom are seated on opposite sides of the church to symbolize the cutting of the blood covenant. These witnesses—the family, friends, and invited guests—are all participants in the wedding covenant, and many of them have made sacrifices to help prepare the couple for marriage and to support them in their holy union.

CENTER AISLE AND WHITE RUNNER

The center aisle represents the meeting ground, or the pathway between the animal pieces where the blood covenant is established. The white runner symbolizes holy ground where two lives are joined as one by God. (Exodus 3:5 , Matthew 19:6 )

GROOM ENTERS FIRST

Ephesians 5:23-32 reveals that earthly marriages are a picture of the church’s union with Christ. God initiated the relationship through Jesus, who called and came for his bride, the Church. Christ is the Groom, who established the blood covenant first initiated by God. For this reason, the groom enters the church auditorium first.

EXCHANGING OF THE RINGS

While the wedding ring is an outward symbol of the couple’s inward bond, illustrating with an unending circle the eternal quality of love, it signifies so much more in light of the blood covenant.

A ring was used as a seal of authority. When pressed into hot wax, the impression of the ring left an official seal on legal documents. Therefore, when the couple wears a wedding ring, they demonstrate their submission to God’s authority over their marriage. The couple recognizes that God brought them together and that He is intricately involved in every part of their covenant relationship.

A ring also represents resources. When the couple exchanges wedding rings, it symbolizes the giving of all their resources—their wealth, possessions, talents, and emotions—to the other in marriage. Remember, in the blood covenant, the two parties exchanged belts, which form a circle when worn. Thus, the exchanging of the rings is another sign of their covenant relationship. Similarly, God chose a rainbow, which forms a circle, as a sign of his covenant with Noah. (Genesis 9:12-16 )

PRONOUNCEMENT OF HUSBAND AND WIFE

The pronouncement officially declares that the bride and groom are now husband and wife. This moment establishes the exact beginning of their covenant. The two are now one in the eyes of God.

PRESENTATION OF THE COUPLE

When the minister introduces the couple to the wedding guests, he is drawing attention to their new identity and the name change brought about through the marriage. Similarly, in the blood covenant, the two parties would exchange some part of their names. In Genesis 15, God gave Abram a new name, Abraham, by adding letters from his own name, Yahweh.

How does this relate to you?

We have been given a free invitation to enter a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. The big difference here is that we did not have to do anything to “cut” this covenant. Our covenant with God exists because God loves us and sent Jesus to us and for us. Jesus willingly laid down His life so you and I could have peace, joy, and the promise of fellowship with Him for all eternity.

If you want to go deeper in your worship, you must fall in love with the Groom and say “I Do” to His invitation. Without a relationship with Christ, we just go through the motions of doing church and never really experience BEING the church, the bride of Christ, for whom He will one day return.

Say ‘I Do’ to Jesus and go deeper today.