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Feb 03, 2019 | Rob Culler

Made to Worship

Mark 12:30
I Am the Church – Part 4

February 3, 2019 ~ Made to Worship God

 Good morning! We’re in the series “I am the Church.” With this series, we are reading Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. If you didn’t get a copy last week, you can pick one up in the foyer after the service. Please remember that we have one copy per family. I trust that you’re finding it helpful. I heard some positive feedback last week from folks who enjoy when we read books together as a church family. I hope you’re one of those people.

Now, onto the message. Last week, we looked at the five reasons God created us. Today we’re going to look more in depth at the first one, worship.

One day Jesus was having a conversation with a group of Jewish leaders known as the Sadducees. They had questions about Scripture. Really, they were trying to paint Jesus into a scriptural corner so they could use it against him. It didn’t work because that tactic never worked against Jesus.

After he amazed the crowd with his teaching and silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees decided to take a shot at him. One of them asked him a question you’ve heard me reference many times, most recently in the first message of this series. “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

The Law he was referring to is what we know as the first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Jesus answered with, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” (Mark 12:30, NIV). Putting this into practice is what we call worship.

Something Paul wrote to the Romans may be the best definition of worship we have: “Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him,” (Romans 12:1, NLT). I want you to notice two things from this verse.

One, God takes the first step. Notice that the verse says, “because of all he has done for you,” God takes the initiative. He makes the first move. It’s always that way. God never asks us to make the first move. Think about it: he creates us, he saves us, he forgives us, he blesses us, he protects us.  Because of these, and many more things, we worship him. 

Two, we respond to what God has done. Note the verse again when it says, “give your bodies to God.” When we respond to what God has done, that is worship. We respond to God by giving to God. He gives to us, and we give back to Him. Whenever we do that, it’s called worship.

When it says “give,” what are we supposed to give?  What do we give God when he owns everything?  He made the world; He made us, He made the universe.  What can we give Him? 

We give him our love…and he’s very specific about how we give it. I already referenced Mark 12:30, but let’s look at it together. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  I’d like you to memorize that verse this week.

Let’s consider three things here…

  • One: God wants us to love him thoughtfullywith our mind. We don’t love God; we don’t serve God on autopilot without thinking. God gave us minds for a reason. We need to use them. And the first place we need to engage our minds is in our worship of God. He wants us to worship him thoughtfully.
    Professor and author JP Moreland highlights this need in his book, Love Your God with All Your Mind: Because the world we live in is full influences the would shape the way we think—and consequently how we act and live—we need more rigorous discipline to be Christians and thinking people….[1]
  • Two: God wants us to love him passionatelywith all our heart and soul. We love him because he first loved us. And he loves us passionately. That’s why Jesus took the penalty for our sin.
    Those of us who are parents know what’s it’s like when our children are sick, and we think, I wish it could be me instead of them.
    When we were sick with the disease of sin, God did more than wish it could be him. Jesus, God the Son, took our sin upon himself and paid the price so we wouldn’t have to. As a result, we should love him passionately.
  • Three: God wants us to love him practically—with all our strength. We need to love God with our abilities.
    When we come to know Christ as savior, we are saved to serve. Every member is a minister. We need to ask ourselves, “What am I doing beyond showing up on Sunday and sitting through a service?” We are not saved simply to be consumers; we are saved to be contributors.

God created everything, and he owns everything, but there are three things he does not have unless we give them to Him. 

  • He doesn’t have our attention unless we give it to Him. That’s loving God with our mind
  • He doesn’t have our affection unless we give it to Him. That’s loving God with our heart and soul
  • He doesn’t have our abilities unless we give them to Him. That’s loving God with our strength.

Whenever we take the things God has given us and give them back to Him, that is the heart of worship. Let’s take a closer look at giving God our attention, affection, and abilities.

Worship is focusing my attention on God

God is always focused on us and He wants to teach us to focus our hearts and attention on Him. However, we must choose to focus.

How do we do that?  First, we must realize that we can be easily distracted.  There are two things that distract us from focusing our attention on God: we’re self-centered by nature, and we live in self-centered culture

Romans 8:7 says, “Focusing on yourself is the opposite of focusing on God.  Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God and ends up thinking more about self than God,” (The Message). We must choose to focus on God.

Romans 12:2 admonishes us, “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.”  We must choose to stop thinking about some things and start thinking about God. How can we do that?

We can focus on God by establishing a daily time with him.  It doesn’t matter when we do it—at the beginning of the day, in the middle of the day, or at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter when. Choose to take some time to stop everything else and focus on God—to talk to him and read His word. Matthew records these words from Jesus, “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.  The focus will shift from you to God, and you’ll begin to sense His grace,” (Matthew 6:6, The Message).

We can focus on God by developing a constant conversation with him. Think about him and talk to him throughout the day. Paul put it this way, “Never stop praying,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NLT). Whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re going, whatever you’re facing, develop a constant conversation with God.

Not only is worship focusing my attention on God…

Worship is also expressing my affection to God.

This may be difficult for some of us because we grew up in families that weren’t really affectionate or expressive. Some of us may have grown up in families that didn’t say, “I love you,” a lot.

The cool thing about God is that he’s taken away the risk. He said, “I love you” first. I’ve already referenced 1 John 4:19, but it bears repeating, “We love because He first loved us.”

In many religious belief systems, God is an angry tyrant who must be appeased, and avoided, and feared. That’s not the God of scripture. The Bible tells us that God wants to be loved. Have you ever said I love you to God?  He wants to hear that from us. 

In Hosea 6, God says, “I want faithful love more than I want…sacrifices. I want people to know me more than I want…offerings,” (Hosea 6:6, NCV). That is the first purpose of life – to know and love God, to worship him.  If we get that done, we’ve accomplished the most important thing in life.

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep in mind that knowing and loving God is the most important thing. But listen, it doesn’t matter what we get done in a day.  If we knock out our entire To Do List, if we accomplish great things, if we achieve amazing goals, but we don’t know God a little bit better, and we don’t love him a little bit more, then the day was wasted. We weren’t put on this earth to just to check things off a To Do List. We were put here to know God and love him back! We were put here to worship him!

Again, this may be hard for some of us because we’re not naturally expressive people.  So, how can we express affection to God?  If we’ve never done it before, we can start by saying, “Thank You.”

Some of us think the only way we can worship God is by singing. Singing is a wonderful way to worship God.  But if we’re not particularly musical people, then there are a lot of other ways to worship God.  We need to learn to express our affection in many different ways, in ways that fit with our personality and make up.

The greatest way to express affection to God is by giving Him our lives.  When we attend a wedding and see two people stand with each other and recite vows, what were they doing?  They were saying, “I give you my life. I’m committing myself to you.”  Why?  Because that’s the essence of love. 

We can give without loving, but we cannot love without givingWhen we say, “God, I want to express my love to You…I give You my heart, I give You my soul, I want You to take my life,”  that’s the greatest way to express our love to God.

What holds us back?  What keeps us from giving our lives completely to God?  Fear—fear of losing control, fear of losing face, fear of… You can fill in the blank with all kinds of things, but in the end, it’s fear.

Some of you may be familiar with author and conference speaker, Liz Curtis Higgs. I love her testimony. She was a disk jockey in a lot of different locations.  She lived quite a wild life. It was so wild that while working at a rock station in Detroit where Howard Stern was the morning show and she was the afternoon show, Howard told her she needed to clean up her act. Just let that sink in for a minute! He wasn’t talking about her radio show, but her off-air life.

In the fall of 1981, she was in Louisville, Kentucky, playing oldies at an AM station and playing dangerous games with marijuana, speed, cocaine, alcohol, and a promiscuous lifestyle. A husband-and-wife radio team who’d just arrived to do the morning show at her station talked to her about Jesus and liked and accepted her as she was.

They invited her to church. Reluctantly, she accepted the invitation. Because she’d been burned by so many men and had her heart broken so many times, she was a militant feminist. That’s how she found herself when the pastor preached from Ephesians 5, “Wives, submit to your husbands.” 

She got a little uptight and angry.  But she kept listening and focused on the next part of the passage, which it seems nobody ever remembers. That part says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” 

When Liz heard that, she leaned over to her friend and said, “I’d gladly give myself to any man if I knew He’d die for me.” Her friend leaned over and said, “There is a Man who loves you enough to die for you.  His name is Jesus Christ.  That’s how much He loves you.”

          Liz describes her response in her devotional, Rise and Shine: I remember February 21, 1982, like it was yesterday. It was my seventh Sunday to visit my friends’ church, and by then I was singing in the choir. When we closed the service singing, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” I walked out of the choir loft and down to the baptistry, ready to make my confession of faith. The whole alto section gasped. “We thought she was one of us!” Finally, I was.[2]

          I love that story! When we take a step of faith past the fear, we find God to be loving, accepting, forgiving, and worthy of being trusted with every part of our lives!

Not only is worship focusing my attention on God and expressing my affection to God…

Worship is using my abilities for God.

God wants us to serve him with our strength.

Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as though you were working for the Lord and not for people.” If we could really understand this verse, it could revolutionize our lives. Whatever you do – that means anything – work at it with all your heart as though you were working for the Lord and not for people

We don’t have to join a monastery to worship more. We don’t have to spend five hours a day alone with God. We don’t need to come to church every day of the week. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with those things, it’s not about that kind of stuff.

Instead of always feeling like we need to do more, what if we just change who we’re working for? When we do that, our work becomes worship.

Some people think life is like a pie. You’ve got your

  • career life
  • social life
  • marriage life
  • sex life
  • retirement life
  • spiritual life

But that’s not right! God wants us to invite him into every area of life. He wants the whole pie! 

In life, it’s not what we do that matters.  It’s who we do it for. If we give it all to God, then all our work can be turned to worship. Whatever we do, we can do it for God. Whether you’re a bus driver, or an attorney, or a nurse, or a business owner, or a teacher, or a manager, or a carpenter, or a plumber, or a mason, or a police officer, or a janitor, or a salesperson, or a truck driver, or a receptionist, or an administrator, or a stay-at-home-mom raising her children… It really doesn’t matter what we do. It’s who we do it for.

You see, God doesn’t want worship to be just a church thing.  He wants us to worship him in every aspect of our lives. Worship isn’t just 20 minutes or an hour at church. It’s a lifestyle!

This is where the rubber meets the road. Most of the time, being the church doesn’t happen in a church.  Let me say it again, most of the time, being the church doesn’t happen in a church. It doesn’t happen in our personal time with God. It happens in the ordinary, routine, mundane parts of everyday life. We can take out the trash, make beds, do the dishes, clean out our garages, and do our homework to the glory of God.  Everything can be turned in to an act of worship if we practice Paul’s words, “Whatever you do work at it with all your heart as though you are working for the Lord.”

God loves the kind of worship that says, “Whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it for You.”  When we do that, our lives become acts of worship because real worship is a lifestyle, not an event.

The truth is, everybody worships something.  God wired us to worship.  He put it in our DNA.  We couldn’t stop worshipping if we wanted to.  It’s part of being a human.  Everybody worships something.  That’s why we can go to any culture in the world and find people worshipping.  If we don’t worship God, we’ll find a substitute…even if it’s ourselves.

What are you worshipping?  I’ll tell you what it might be.  It might be whatever gets the primary share of your attention.  It might be whatever gets the primary share of your affection. It might be whatever gets the primary share of your abilities.

This means that some people worship their careers. Some worship their families. Some worship their possessions. Some worship money. Some worship retirement. Some worship their hobbies. Some worship sex. Some worship another person.

The biggest temptation in life is always going to be to worship something or someone else other than God—to give our attention, affection, and abilities to something or someone else.

However, if we could understand just how passionate God is about us, how much He loves us, how much He cares about every detail of our lives, we couldn’t help but love and worship him.

We were made to know and love God, so I challenge you this morning to make the number one goal of your life to know and love God, to worship him. If we can’t do that, then we’ll never be able to say, “I am the church.”

PRAYER


[1] Moreland, JP, Love Your God With All Your Mind, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), p. 16.

[2] Liz Curtis Higgs, “Liz’s Journey of Faith,” https://www.lizcurtishiggs.com/about-liz/lizs-journey-of-faith/.

Series Information

As a building, a church is just a mass of steel, concrete, and wood. It’s just a building, nothing more, nothing less. What a building a church is the people who choose to show up and “be the church.” 

If I am the church, then I love God, love people, and I am a disciple who is making disciples.