Sunday, April 17, 2005

Forty Days of Purpose: Worshiping God, The First Purpose of Our Lives

Romans 12:1-2
Mark 12:28-30
(shared with the people of Friendship Church, April 17, 2005)

You’ve probably heard the story of the young guy, trying hard to impress his girlfriend, who decided to write a tribute and send it to her in an email. “For my love,” he wrote, “I’d scale the highest mountain. I’d cross the deepest ocean. I’d brave combat with the fiercest enemy. I’d give my very life just to be with you.” He signed it, “Love, Joe” and then appended this PS: “I’ll be over tonight unless there’s a ball game on TV.”

When you love someone, you want to be with them, to spend time with them, to hear their voice, and to do what’s best for them. Love is rarely measured in words alone. Even liars can come up with nice words that sound loving. Love is seen in what we do for the ones we love.

This is a lesson I learned early in our marriage. Ann would come home from work and I, still a student with one year of college left, would sit there amid dishes I hadn't cleaned and messes I hadn't cleared. "Why is this place such a mess?" she'd ask. And I'd reply, "I don't know. But I love you." If you love me, Ann was saying, then clear away this squalor!

Jesus once was asked what the greatest commandment is. He gave a two-part answer. In the first part, He said that we are to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. Giving love to God is the appropriate response for us to make to the God Who loves us completely and Who accepts us in spite of all our faults and flaws.

Loving God is really what the Bible calls worship. Our worship is to happen not just on one morning of one day of the week. Worship is meant to be our life style. God loves us. He wants to spend every moment of every day with us. And He is desperate for us to spend time getting to know Him better. This then, is the first purpose of every human life: to completely love and offer our whole selves to the God Who completely loves us and Who, through Jesus Christ, has already given Himself completely to us!

How do we do that? The first century preacher and evangelist, Paul, tells us how in one of our Bible lessons for this morning, taken from the New Testament book of Romans. Paul writes:
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, 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 renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect."
In these few words, Paul shows us how to love God completely, how to intimately worship God twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

First: We need to remind ourselves often of how much God loves us. When we remember that, we’ll want to love and please God and be with Him all the time. Paul appeals to us to pay heed to the words he writes to the Romans because of “the mercies of God.”

It’s interesting to me that as he lay dying in his Vatican apartment a few weeks ago, Pope John Paul II asked that someone read aloud to him. He didn’t ask to be read some fairy tale, something to "take his mind off his troubles." He asked instead, that the story of Jesus’ crucifixion be read to him. There is nothing more consoling to us as we face the sometimes grim realities of life than a God Who has refused to remain standoffish in heaven while we go through the pains of earth, but has instead entered into our troubles with us. God became human. God suffered. God died. God rose again. He did this all for the love of us. When we remember this, we want to give ourselves to God!

Next, we worship God when we offer our bodies as our living sacrifices to God. We offer our bodies because, as Rick Warren points out in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, if we offer our bodies to God, everything else--our minds, our spirits, our wills--wil come along for the ride.

Living sacrifices don’t hold anything back from God. I once heard a man named Robert Coleman, a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, tell the story of a little boy whose twin brother was very sick. I’ve shared it with you before. Without a transfusion, the brother would die. The situation was explained to the little guy and he readily volunteered to have his blood drawn. Laying on a hospital bed some moments after the IV had been put in his arm, the boy turned to the doctor and asked softly, “Doctor, how much longer before I die?” It was then that the doctor realized that the boy thought that giving life to his twin brother would cause his own death. The doctor asked him, “If you thought that you were going to die, why did you say it was okay for us to draw your blood?” The boy said, “Because he’s my brother and I love him.”

Jesus Christ gave His blood–and His body–to give us life. He did it because He loves us. And in the face of such overwhelming, sacrificial love, it’s fitting that we should make ourselves living sacrifices to Him, committing ourselves to the self-giving service like His.

We also worship when we refuse to be conformed to this world and let Christ renew our minds. We need to let the God we know through Jesus Christ step into our minds and change the ways we think.

I confess that God still has a long way to go in transforming my mind. Too many of my thoughts are occupied with selfishness and sin. That’s why I keep asking God to make war on my ego and to give me a holy lobotomy so that my mind is no longer captive to wrong, but free to live as human beings were created to live. I hope to one day be like the boy from whom Jesus cast out demons, in my right mind, my God mind.

For this to happen, we need to submit to the God we know through Jesus Christ. The disciplines we’re undertaking during this Forty Days of Purpose campaign of spiritual renewal--prayer, study of God’s Word, small group discussions, opportunities for service in Jesus’ Name which will come our ways in a few weeks--all can be the means by which the renewal of our minds and lives can happen.

The first purpose of our lives is to worship God. And worship is more than just what we offer on Sunday mornings. Worship is the offering of our whole selves to God through all the moments of our lives. Worship is our response to the God Who loves us and gives new life to all who follow Jesus Christ. Worship, is how we use our lives to declare God’s greatness and goodness.

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