Christianity 201

November 12, 2017

Sunday Worship

And so, 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

“The problem with a living sacrifice is that it tends to crawl off the altar.”

Today we return to a recurring theme verse here at Sunday Worship. It reminds us that worship is something we do, but rather worship is something we are. Years ago, Christian musician Chris Christian wrote,

We lift our voices
We lift our hands
We lift our lives up to You
We are an offering1

I really try to eschew pithy illustrations and stories here at C201, but I find this one most appropriate:

A chicken and a pig were discussing how they could do something for the farmer. Finally the chicken said, “He loves a good breakfast; why don’t we give him bacon and eggs?”

To this the pig replied, “That’s easy for you. All it demands of you is an offering, but for me it demands total sacrifice.” 2

Here are some things I think will help us remember what it means to live our lives as a living sacrifice. Each starts with the letter ‘s’ followed by a different vowel.

Sacrifice

If we are to judge it, the measure of a sacrifice is not the size of what is given, but the size of what is left over.

A sacrifice will cost us and it will be consumed. There is no taking back the investment of our energies, gifts or material possessions given up in the service and pleasing of God. The last distinction is important. In service we see tangible results. But God is sometimes pleased by our giving up of things. Ask yourself: How much cash would you put on the offering plate if, as it was in Old Testament times, what was giving was then burned? That’s what our Old Testament predecessors did with the best of their grain and animals.

Set-Apartness

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

In a world that values conformity, no one wants to be the odd duck. Yet the book of Leviticus is essentially God wanting to insure that his people could maintain a distinct identity. It was all about showing yourself to be different.3

Sinlessness

Jerry Bridges has written,

Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must honestly face the question, “Am I willing to give up a certain practice or habit that is keeping me from holiness?” It is at this point of commitment that most of us fail. We prefer to dally with sin, to try to play with it a little without getting too deeply involved. 4

Sovereignty

“There is a God. You are not Him,”

Jesus himself deferred to his Father on many occasions; providing us a reminder of who is in charge.

Surrender

When Abraham is asked to sacrifice is only son, we have the advantage that Abraham and Sarah didn’t; we know how the story ends. They did not, and yet Abraham is willing to do whatever it takes to obey God.5

Although we speak very different languages, two symbols are universal throughout the worldwide church. One is the word “Hallelujah” which I’m told is rendered the same in most languages. The other is lifted hands as a sign of surrender.

A writer at Charisma points out that our fingers, hands and arms are also most associated with human strength, power, creativity; both in a human sense and if we examine the Biblical record of God’s actions presented in a way we can best understand them. 6

 


1 Full video at YouTube.

2 This story is often used by leadership coaches as well. Here’s a longer version with the punchline contrasting contribution and commitment.

3 We looked at maintaining a distinct identity in this March, 2017 article.

4 We included more quotes from Jerry Bridges on this topic in this article.

5 This is excerpted from a fuller look at Abraham’s trip up the mountain with Isaac at this link.

6 See the full article about lifting hands at this link.

June 9, 2011

Extreme Makeover Home Edition Begins with Demolition

Cynthia lives in the northeast United States and has been reading my other blog for as long as I can remember.  Although she’s not presently writing herself, yesterday I paged through some of her 2009 posts, and decided to share this one here.   It originally appeared under the title I Want to Die.

“I die every day. I really mean that, brothers and sisters”
The Apostle Paul
1 Corinthians 15:31 (NIV)

It has occured to me over the past few days that I may have been praying the wrong prayer. For years I have been asking God to “Make me more like Jesus”. But in doing this have I been requesting a renovation rather than a demolition, a makeover rather than a crucifixion?

In my quest for Christ likeness, have I flattered myself into thinking that there are parts of me that are alight? Perhaps I could be spruced up with a coat of fresh paint or maybe a double glazed window would stop the draft in the front room. My wiring might need tweeking to bring it up to code but all in all, I have the makings of a good person, don’t I?

As I have thought about Paul’s words, that he died daily, I have also thought of the implications of our modern gospel message.  We have grown fond of presenting Christ as a wonderful addition to our lives, as a friend and a companion, a guide and a source of strength when we are weak. Because we have not been taught the  need for the crucifixion of self, we cannot fathom what Paul is talking about in Corinthians when he says that he dies every day? I like this analogy presented by Dr. Bill Gillham (lifetime.org)

“The King is Dead! Long Live the King!” When I was a kid, I heard a Shakespearean actor in a film make such a statement and was thoroughly confused. How could the king be dead but alive at the same time? Little did I know that he was talking about two different people! Indeed, the former king had died and was no longer king…he had ceased to exist! But the new king, who could never have emerged as king had the old king not died, lives indeed! So long as the old king remained alive, the new king could not be “born.” But after the one’s “birth” as the new king, the old king could never again resurrect himself because he had no capability for self-resurrection! The very existence of the one precludes the existence of the other and vice versa!

So if one nature is killed in order to make a place for the new nature that has been promised by Christ, why then must we “die daily”?

In Ephesians 4, Paul puts it another way. Rather than a makeover (which appeals to our natural pride), he required the new believers to “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires…and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”. We are not told to wash our old self or tidy it up or to renovate our exisiting structure, but to remove it, demolish it, crucify it.

By faith we know that we have been redeemed and reclaimed by the shedding of Christ’s blood. Within each believer, Christs Spirit takes up residence as King and we are new creatures from the moment we confess our belief in Jesus and repent of our sins. Yet this declaration is a war cry and from the first moment on, Satan will use every angle he knows to get a foothold and reclaim the throne. But we are Christ’s and the Word tells us that nothing can snatch us from His hands.  Even so, by God’s design, we are the ones who decide how much of ourselves will be crucified , how many of our desires will be set aside and how much of our energy will be committed to living out what the Spirit requires of us.

If we cling to our egocentric belief that our own efforts and talents are good enough, than we hamper our ability to be fully used by God. But when we commit ourselves to the daily crucifixion of self , it is then that we can rise to the incredible heights He has planned for us.

For this reason I lift my voice this day and cry out to God …”I want to die”

He must increase, but I must decrease.
John the Baptist
 John 3:3o

May 8, 2011

Make My Life a Prayer to You — Keith Green

It’s hard to believe a new generation of Christians is emerging who are unfamiliar with Keith Green, a singer who perhaps was a little ahead of his time in terms of the modern worship movement, but who sadly also left us before his time.  This song is familiar to many of us, but I post it here for those for whom this is something entirely new…

Make my life a prayer to You,
I want to do what you want me to,
No empty words and no white lies,
No token prayers, no compromise,

I want to shine the light you gave,
Through Your Son, you sent to save us,
From ourselves and our despair,
It comforts me to know you’re really there.

Oh, I want to thank you now, for being patient with me,
Oh, it’s so hard to see, when my eyes are on me,
I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say,
Oh, you’re coming again, coming to take me away,

I want to die, and let you give,
Your life to me, so I might live,
And share the hope you gave to me,
The love that set me free,

I want to tell the world out there,
You’re not some fable or fairy tale,
That I made up inside my head,
You’re God, The Son, You’ve risen from the dead.

Oh, I want to thank you now,
For being patient with me,
Oh, it’s so hard to see,
When my eyes are on me,

I guess I’ll have to trust,
and just believe what you say,
Oh, you’re coming again,
Coming to take me away.

I want to die, and let you give,
Your life to me, so I might give,
And share the hope you gave to me,
I want to share the love that set me free.

 NLT Romans 12:1 And so, 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.

For more info about Keith and Last Days Ministries, go to KeithGreen.com

July 10, 2010

I Will Offer Up My Life

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One of my all-time favorite worship songs from England’s Matt Redman.

I will offer up my life
In spirit and truth,
Pouring out the oil of love
As my worship to You.

In surrender I must give my every part;
Lord, receive the sacrifice
Of a broken heart.

Jesus, what can I give, what can I bring
To so faithful a friend, to so loving a King?
Savior, what can be said, what can be sung
As a praise of Your name
For the things You have done?

Oh my words could not tell, not even in part
Of the debt of love that is owed
By this thankful heart.

You deserve my every breath
For You’ve paid the great cost;
Giving up Your life to death,
Even death on a cross.

You took all my shame away,
There defeated my sin
Opened up the gates of heaven
And have beckoned me in.

Jesus, what can I give, what can I bring
To so faithful a friend, to so loving a King?
Savior, what can be said, what can be sung
As a praise of Your name
For the things You have done?

Oh my words could not tell, not even in part
Of the debt of love that is owed
By this thankful heart.