Saturday, October 14, 2006

IBC Session 4: Mark Dever "Worship in the New Testament"

Mark introduced 9Marks ministries.

One of the longest sustained treatments of worship is in Romans 12 and following. This presents the gospel in action… practical issues of living the Christian life.

The key issue of worship is not drums or stained glass, etc. [Mark read Romans 12]

To worship God correctly is what starts off this chapter. The nature of worship is offering your whole self to God as a living sacrifice. That may be the most important point in this message – the offering of your self. When we restrict worship to church buildings and singing songs then we miss the point. The NT does not use the word worship the way we do in English. You can avoid a lot of trouble in your church if you define worship for your people the way the bible does – offering yourself as a sacrifice.

It is our “self” that is to be offered. The whole of us being offered always and continually. We are called to gather publicly – and we can call that worship (although the NT never does). Our public worship (in this sense) includes all kinds of things like singing, giving, preaching, etc.

Worship as it is described in the NT is the whole of life. You cannot limit worship to one event on one day of the week. It encompasses everywhere we are, every day of the week, everything we do with everyone we know. That is the nature of worship.

Why do we worship? “Therefore,” said Paul, “in view of God’s mercies…” chapters 1-11 are about divine initiative and human response. Worship should be a delightful activity because we delight in the God that we worship! Consider how this God has loved us! Consider the songs we have sung today!

There can be some worship that is not holy and pleasing to God – otherwise Paul’s instruction is pointless. Cain’s offering was not acceptable. The Golden Calf was an idol of YHWH – a visual image of the real God. They did not worship God as He had revealed they should.

How do we know we are worshiping God correctly?

Do you worship God?

Let’s look at these features in Romans 12 as a test of our worship.

Ten questions to test for true NT worship of God:

1. Are you being transformed?

12:2 – Paul specifically cautions Christians from being conformed to the pattern of this world because we are no longer of this age. “Be transformed.” To reflect more and more the Lord’s glory and likeness. It happens by mind-renewal – God’s supernatural work through the Word of God as worked by the Holy Spirit. True worship is the furthest thing from being a mindless activity. Every part of us is to be affected, so that we may know how to please God. We need humility in discerning God’s will… not just what we feel is right. Preachers – teach your congregation that humility is a fundamental part of following God!

2. Are you thinking about yourself soberly?

12:3 – Paul exhorts us to not think too highly of ourselves. We have a tendency to think too highly of ourselves. Do not be greater than you are – a Christian. It recognizes what you have in common and what is the special gifting of you – God gets all the credit for both. There is nothing to boast of. “What do you have that you did not receive?”

Peg our value by God’s own standard – the gift given us in Christ. Your status in Christ is so much more important than any status in this world. The world will never tell you that!

Like the Iraqi information minister during the American invasion – we deny what is real and around us. It is not our wisdom and diligence that brought about blessing in yoru life!

3. Are you using your gifts?

12:4-8 – If you have a singing-only concept of worship, this will sound strange to you. True biblical worship is not demanding to have gifts that you do not already have. You fail to worship God biblically if you fail to use the gifts God gave you to build up His body.

:4-6 – There is an analogy of the one body with many different contributing members. Paul assumes the people he is writing to are converted. When some people’s preferences are violated, they go their own way, not God’s. Yet God, in His incredible love, He took on flesh, lived a perfect life, died the death we deserved, and God raised Him from the dead to show to all that His sacrifice was accepted. God calls on all men to call on this Jesus to be saved. People who have done this are converted. That is to whom paul writes.

For example, there is teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, showing mercy, etc.

And these things in God’s way – we are not to be mercy-martyrs… “this is costing me something!” – rather, generously! It all goes back to the gospel.

The best way to identify your gifts is to serve in your church in a way to meet needs. Gifts are so you can bless others, not so you can experience release! 1 Corinthians 13 makes clear that the gifts from the Spirit are all about love and the building up the body.

“The worship was good today” – do you mean you were tickled or do you mean you were inconvenienced by loving another.

Your gifts are not a heavenly identity card – they are to serve others.

4. Are you loving others?

12:9-10 – So many conversations about worship are so Satanically-ironic. The talk is all about me and what I want. Do not mistake that I am saying intense personal godliness is bad. I am saying that true worship necessarily includes love for others. The quality, direction and nature of love.

Quality – real and sincere. From the heart. A community of mutual love is the goal. Folks have come to CHBC and been converted by seeing love in action there. The love of the church is strange in this world and is a powerful call to God.

Direction – a love for the good, not evil. Do people around you think of you as being attached to what is good? Are you inseparable from good?

Practice – by a devotion to honour others more than yourself. 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 is not a rhetorical trick. Paul is identifying evidences of God’s grace in their church – then came a lot of chapters of blistering correction! But the love he shows there is genuine, not fake. I pray we would become better students of God’s grace in each others lives. Let it be your strategy to find good in your fellow church members.

5. Are you persevering?

12:11 – the kind of Christian life that only includes occasional prayer and assumes a pass on suffering is really no Christian life at all. It is not that you have a higher Christian life and normal Christian life. You have Christians and not-Christians. God brings us to the boiling point spiritually. It is a steady boiling enthusiasm.

We need to persevere in joy and hope (:12).

We persevere in tribulation. You cannot endure around suffering – you must endure through suffering.

We may hear stirring stories of God’s grace, but they do not eliminate the need of any one of us from having to suffer.

We persevere in faithfulness in prayer. Perseverance is the grand mark of real believing. It is not just about having our emotional senses pleased.

6. Are you sharing?

12:13 – This is not hard theology. If you want to be a Christian this basic impulse to share should be typical of you. Why would you not share when God has given you so much? Share with God’s people who are needy (1 John 3). We have a special obligation to one another in Christ. You share the burdens of others in your church.

We are also to share with strangers – to pursue loving strangers.

7. Are you blessing?

12:14 – Bless those who persecutor you. God’s charity is to be reflected in our blessing of those who are our enemies. We pray for and say good things of them. This is not a natural response. Isn’t this what Jesus said? Isn’t it the way God has treated us in Christ?

8. Are you sympathizing?

12:15 – We are to care about the success and trials of others.

9. Are you being humble?

12:16 – No pride or conceit. Be of the same mind toward one another. (Philippians 2). It is not so much me agreeing with you as us agreeing with Christ. That brings harmony. Have you ever noticed how much harmony comes from humility.

We are not to be proudfully standoffish. The Roman church had members of Caesar’s household and slaves in it. But this is profound! It means, don’t stick with those that you feel most comfortable with.

The whole concept of a Saddleback Sam goes against this. It may be okay as an in-between evangelism strategy, but that cannot be the goal of the church.

God associates with the humble – so must we.

What kind of Christianity is it that befriends people on a worldly status. Canadians have a kind of genetic humility, I know. But apply this to your own hearts. “Do not be conceited.” Twice he has said essentially this.

10. Are you overcoming evil with good?

12:17 – Taking revenge is being overcome by evil. As far as it is possible and as far as you can, make peace. We live in a moral universe and justice can be left for God. Deuteronomy 32 says God will take care of revenge. Besides this, there are benefits of not taking revenge. This quotes Proverbs 25 – treat your enemy as someone in need. Cause your enemy to blush, shame him by giving him food and drink.

The summary command: Overcome evil with good. Do not be overcome by evil.

There is worship.

It is a lot more than getting into a song or two. Living sacrifices have one problem – they often crawl off the altar. There is no passivity in the Christian life. You cannot claim inaction as the golden key to living the Christian life and pietize it by calling it “abiding in Christ.”

Isn’t this chapter a great prayer list for you yourself and for other members of your congregation? We are worshippers by nature – who are you worshipping this evening? Have you been shown that you worship your comfort, your ideas, yourself? Or are you worshiping the God of the Bible?

I pray we all worship Him in a way that truly brings Him pleasure.