Do You Worship Out of a Sense of Duty or Thankfulness?

In Psalm 50, Asaph confronts Israel regarding their worship and living. What they were doing isn’t much different from what many do today. Their worship was formulaic. In other words, they were going through the motions. Sure, they brought the appropriate sacrifices, but it was done more out of a sense of duty instead of thanksgiving.

Many Do the Same Today

To our shame, many today view the Sunday worship service as nothing more than another box to check off on their spiritual checklist right alongside their morning prayer and devotion. Thinking that way, we drag ourselves to the Sunday Service, sing a few songs, bow for the pastoral prayer, greet our neighbors, place some money in the offering plate, listen to the sermon, and then we are on our way, patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. Why do we do this?

Why Do We Worship Out of Duty?

We worship out of duty because we think that is what God wants or needs. But that is far from the truth. God doesn’t need us, our provisions, or our worship. He owns everything, and He is satisfied in and of Himself. The truth is, we need God. We need His provisions and care.

The Gospel Changes Our Perspective

Instead of faking it, what we need to do is change our perspective. The way we do that is by meditating on the gospel.

The gospel tells us we are sinners, who have rebelled against and offended a holy God. As a result, we are destined to suffer His wrath. However, Jesus came, lived a perfect life, and, even though He didn’t deserve God’s wrath, He faced it on our behalf. He took the wrath we deserve on Himself. All those who repent of their sins and believe Jesus suffered the punishment we deserve, can experience a restored relationship with the Father free from the fear of judgment.

For Jesus’ sacrifice, we should be thankful. For God’s provision and care in our life, we should be thankful. Our thankfulness should drive us to worship God. So when we begin to go through the motions in worship, what we need to do is stop, meditate on the gospel, and remember God’s provisions.

We need to reset our heart, so we see that it’s not God who needs us, but we who need Him.

When we truly see our need for God and how He has provided for us, we should be driven to worship out of a sense of thankfulness instead of duty. When we worship from a right heart, we end up glorifying God. For He says in Psalm 50:23

“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” (Ps. 50:23)

Question for Reflection

  1. Does thankfulness or duty drive your worship?

Resource

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“Of Whom I am the Worst”, John Newton and Amazing Grace

John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace” was written from personal experience, for Newton himself was among the worst of sinners. At the age of eleven, he took to the sea, where he had many adventures: he was press-ganged into the navy; he was captured and flogged for desertion; he despaired almost to the point of suicide. Eventually, Newton became a slave-trader, a hard and wretched man. But he was shown mercy. As he feared for his life in stormy seas, he threw himself on the grace of God, which he found in abundance. Later he testified, “How wonderful is the love of God in giving his Son to die for such wretches!”

Even after he was saved, Newton continued to confess his need of God’s amazing grace. He wrote in one of his letters, “In defiance of my best judgment and best wishes, I find something within me which cherishes and cleaves to those evils, from which I ought to start and flee, as I should if a toad or a serpent was put in my food or in my bed. Ah! how vile must the heart (at least my heart) be.” Newton did not despair, however. Before closing the letter, he quoted Paul’s words to Timothy: “I embrace it as a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

Every Christian knows how to complete Newton’s quotation in the quietness of a believing heart: “of whom I am the worst.”

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you see yourself as the worst of sinners?

Resources

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This post is an extended quote by Philip Graham Ryken, 1 Timothy, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Daniel M. Doriani, and Philip Graham Ryken, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 29.

Learning the Art of Waiting is Worth It

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” (Ps 40:1–3)

Gone are the days when we have to take a trip to the local store for groceries, clothes, movies, or other goods. In our always connected digital world, we can have them delivered to our house the same day or watch on demand. There are advantages to be sure. We can get more done, relax longer, and play more with our kids.

Our Patience is Growing Thin

However, there are also disadvantages. One is that our patience grows thin. You know what I am talking about, if our movie buffers or our item isn’t delivered in a couple of hours, we feel slighted, and we take to social media to instantly complain about our mistreatment.

A Thin Patience Affects Our Relationship with God

But a diminished patience not only leads us to complain more about companies online, it also leads us to complain more about God.

We think God must work like the companies we both admire and complain about. He must cater to our needs instantly. The benefits of waiting are lost on us.

This negatively affects our spiritual growth and leads to diminished worship. Instead of praising the Lord when He comes through, we say, “Finally, what took you so long.” Instead of leading others to worship God for His faithfulness, we complain, drawing others away instead of towards God.

Learning the Art of Waiting is Worth It

Waiting for the Lord to deliver or answer us is difficult, but it is worth it. God’s plan is greater than ours. His timing is perfect. Recognizing that helps us to see that this world isn’t all about us, our wants, and our desires. Instead, it’s about God, His plan, His will, and His purposes for this world and our life.

While it is hard for us to wait, there is a lot we can learn during that time, so may we learn to wait on the Lord, and may we praise Him even more when He answers us.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe our instant society is affecting your relationship with God?

Resource

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How to Worship the Lord Daily in 2016 – Part 2

In my last post, we learned that we can worship the Lord daily by living according to His Word. Doing that, however, takes us sacrificing our will and desires for God’s. Sacrifice is where we run into a problem because as my father-in-law likes to say, “Living sacrifices have a habit of crawling off the altar”.

How Can We Die to Self, Giving Ourselves fully to God?

(1) We can and should be motivated to die to self and give ourselves fully to God because of the gospel (the mercies of God). 

The gospel tells us that we are all sinners who want nothing to do with God. We will remain in the state, until God works in our lives, creating in us a new heart with new desires. Until God works, we won’t give ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice because our inward affections, desires, and way of thinking won’t have changed. But once God renews our inward man, we are given the power to live for Him because our affections, desires, and way of thinking are brought in line with His.

Along with having the power to live for God, we should also be motivated to live for Him. Armed with the knowledge that God created a new heart in us and saved us from His wrath should spur us on to live for Him instead of self. We don’t do that in an effort to pay Him back because we never could. Instead, we live for God out of gratitude for what He has done for us.

As one author puts its,

“All Christian living and ethics are ultimately rooted in a deep gratitude for what God has done for us… [so that our] [e]very decision and every action…[is] a response to His mercy.”

(2) We can die to self and give ourselves fully to God by purposing to no longer be conformed to the world. 

In Romans 12:2 Paul writes,

Do not be conformed to this world…” (Rom 12:2a)

The idea behind the word conform is that of a mold. Thinking about that reminds me of my son Camden’s play-doh set. Not only does it come with several containers of play-doh, but it also comes with a bunch of molds that help him make some really cool things like alligators, dolphins, monkeys, and dogs out of the play-doh.

The molds are easy to use, so easy that even Camden can use them. All he has to do is roll out the play-doh, push the molds through, and wa-la he has one of the animals.

Just like it’s easy for Camden to mold his play-doh into one of the sets many shapes, it is easy for the world to roll us out and mold us into itself. Christians, however, are  to avoid being conformed to the world because its values and goals are antithetical to God’s.

While conforming to the world is something we must avoid, it is also something we have to be careful with. On the one hand, we are naturally nonconformists who don’t conform for nonconformities sake. But we can’t just be blanket nonconformists so that if the world wears lipstick, we don’t. Or if the world goes to the movies, we don’t. Or if the world plays sports, we don’t. And so on and so forth.

But on the other hand, because we are conformists by nature we must be careful we are not conforming to the world’s sinful patterns. So then, we must not run to either extreme. Instead, we must balance on the beam between conformity and nonconformity, which we do by purposing to no longer be conformed to the world, and by being transformed by the renewal of our minds so that we know the will of God.

(3) We can die to self and give ourselves fully to God by being transformed by the renewal of minds.

Starting in the middle of Romans 12:2, Paul says,

“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.” (Rom 12:2b-c)

Paul is explicit. He tells us that our minds must be renewed so that we can know and test what is the will of God. There is only one problem. We can’t renew our minds on our own. We first need God to work in our lives because our minds are fallen. They have a spirit all their own — a viewpoint, a mindset, a bent. Thankfully God doesn’t leave us in that state. He works in our lives renewing our minds through the work of the Holy Spirit, who both changes us from the outside-in and the inside-out.

From the outside-in He changes us by presenting God’s Word to us. By drawing us into prayer, and into relationships with other godly Christians. As well as by leading us to hear the Word preached and to meditate on Christ.

He also changes us from the inside-out, which is necessary because without this type of change we wouldn’t accept the truth of God.

You ever wonder why someone can grow up in a Christian home, attend church every week, have godly mentors, and even read the Bible cover to cover, but then reject God as soon as they move off to college? It’s because their hearts haven’t been changed by the Holy Spirit to accept the things of God. If our hearts aren’t changed, we can hear all the preaching we want, meet with godly people, and read God’s Word cover to cover, but we won’t accept God’s truth, nor will we apply it to our lives, which is why it is so crucial we be changed first from the inside-out.

Once the Holy Spirit has wrought a change in our heart, we should work as well.  We work alongside the Spirit by reading God’s Word, attending weekly worship services, going to the Lord is prayer, meeting with godly Christians, memorizing Scripture, and reading Christian books and commentaries that help us understand and apply God’s Word. In these ways and others, we work alongside the Spirit to renew our minds, which means we must put a premium on doing these things.

As we do all these things our minds are renewed so that we are able to discern what the will of God is and live by it. Living by the will of God means that we are giving ourselves as living sacrifices, and we are worshipping God.

Conclusion

So if we want to worship God every day, we need to purpose to give ourselves as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God, which we do by:

  • Meditating on the gospel, preaching it to ourselves daily.
  • Purposing not to be conformed to the world around us.
  • Working alongside the Spirit so that we are transformed by the renewal of our mind and are able to test what is the will of God.

So now that you know how, I challenge you to be resolved to worship God daily. To give yourselves “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Question for Reflection

  1. How are you doing living as a living sacrifice so far this year?

Resources

Post developed from the sermon How Can You Worship God Daily In 2016?

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How to Worship the Lord Daily in 2016 – Part 1

If there is one thing we all share in common, it is that we all make New Year’s resolutions. We make these resolutions as a way to motivate ourselves to start working out, eating better, spending more time with family, take a vacation, read a book or whatever else you may come up with.

Many of us make resolutions every year. If we are honest, almost every year we fail to keep them. Of course, we have good intentions, but by about March our intentions are thrown out the window and we settle back into life as usual. This year, however, I want you to try and do something different. Instead of settling back into life, as usual, I want you to try to keep one New Year’s Resolution. The resolution I want you to try to keep is to worship the Lord daily in 2016.

Hearing me ask you to do that, probably leads some of you to think, “Does this mean that I have to go to church every day now?” No, you don’t have to attend church every day. In fact, you don’t need to come to church at all in order to worship God daily. Now, that doesn’t mean you can stop showing up to your church on Sundays. While we don’t need a daily church service to worship God, it is still a necessary and commanded part of our life together.

However, for those who do attend church weekly, we must recognize there is still 6 days and 23 hours left in which we are to worship God. How are we going to worship God during that time? In order to worship God the rest of the week, we have to change our idea of what worship is. It has to change from what takes place inside the four walls of a church building once or twice week, to what we do all day every day. But how do we do that?

How do we get to a place where we are worshipping God every day?

I believe the answer is found in Romans 12:1

There Paul says,

“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1b-c)

It’s here that Paul tells us that we must die to self in order to worship God daily. We are to die to self, giving our lives to God because He has given His life for us. Notice in what Paul grounds his appeal. He says, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,” (Rom. 12:1a)

As many of you know, when you see a “therefore” you are supposed to ask what is it there for? In this case, it is there to point us back to all that Paul has written so far. We don’t have time to explore all of Romans but suffice me to say that prior to chapter 12, Paul expounds for us the gospel in detail.

The gospel, or good news, as presented to us in Romans tells us that we all are sinners who have rebelled against God. Because of our rebellion God has given us over to our sin, as well as He is planning to visit His wrath on us one day. There is nothing we can do on our own to escape that day. Because we are incapable, God does the unimaginable, He sends His Son to be our substitute, to take our punishment for us. Then, because we won’t turn to Him on our own, God gives us the faith we need to believe in Jesus. Those who believe experience salvation —Freedom from sin, satan, death, and God’s wrath. As well as they have the promise of eternal life. That’s the gospel — the mercies of God — as it is presented to us in Romans.

In light of the gospel, we must offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. That is what Paul tells us next. Right there in the middle of verse 1, Paul tells us “to present [ourself] as a living sacrifice,” (Rom. 12:1b). His word choice — “sacrifice” — is significant. It not only tells us what we are to do, but it paints a picture of what is expected of us. What God expects is for us to be wholeheartedly devoted to Him. Think about a sacrifice, say a lamb. Half the lamb isn’t brought, chopped in half, and burnt on the altar. Instead, the entire lamb is brought, killed, and offered to God as a sacrifice. Once it is given to the priest to be sacrificed it can’t be taken back. That is what must happen with us. We must purpose to give our ourselves over to God in wholehearted devotion. We can’t just give ourselves one day and take it back the next so that we are living for God on, say Sunday, and for self the rest of the week. We must give ourselves completely and fully to God each and every day.

Giving ourselves fully to God means that we turn our actions, thoughts, and plans over to Him. Literally everything about us must be given over to God so that we are allowing Him to guide and lead us in every aspect of our lives. Commenting on the idea of giving ourselves fully to God, R. C. Sproul says,

“God does not ask us to bring in our livestock and burn it on the altar; he asks us to give ourselves, to put ourselves alive on the altar. To be a Christian means to live a life of sacrifice, a life of presentation, making a gift of ourselves to God. Some people think that all it takes to be a Christian is to scribble a cheque or to give a few hours of service here and there on special projects for the church. But that’s not what believers are called to. My life is to be set apart and consecrated to God. That is what is acceptable to him; that is what delights him; that is what pleases him; that is the appropriate response to him and for him.” –  R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 195.

When we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, we are worshipping God. Look at what Paul says in the last part of the verse, “Which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1d). Paul’s last phrase tells us that by allowing God to direct our entire lives, we are worshipping Him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Question for Reflection

  1. Have you given your entire life over to God or are you still holding part of it from Him?

Resources

Post developed from the sermon How Can You Worship God Daily In 2016?

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