Matthew 4:8-10 Each and Every Day June 19, 2011
This is the final in a series of three sermons that Christine and I wanted to devote to the subject of worship.
In case you missed one or both of the previous two, I thought I’d recap the main points to kind of set the stage for this morning.
In the first sermon, I preached about worship being more like a prophetic call than an emotional feeling. I suggested that worship is more of a reality we live into than it is a mere choice of activity.
That first Sunday, we looked at the story of the Isaiah’s call to prophetic ministry, and we found there a model for worship that begins with the simple recognition that God is.
Once we see God for who He is, we move into seeing ourselves for who we are.
I argued that the only appropriate response in that setting is repentance…declaring “Woe is me, for I have unclean lips and I have seen the Living God!”
But like Isaiah’s call, Christian worship moves us into active service; embracing the ministry God has in mind for us.
Then last week, Christine challenged us, in no uncertain terms, to put God square in the center of our worship.
She distinguished between the Wal-mart attitude of worship, where we come to have our miscellaneous wants and needs satisfied for the lowest possible cost,
and God-centered worship, which costs us everything with no guarantees. She said that God-centered worship requires sacrifice…not burnout…but sacrifice. (those are two very different things).
Christine challenged us to consider how we’re engaging Sunday morning worship, and how each of us might make some changes to how much or how little we are involved.
So those were the last two Sundays.
You might wonder what there could possibly be left to say for a third Sunday on this topic.
Well, last Sunday, Christine referenced a passage from John chapter 4, where Jesus tells the woman at the well that a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
It’s a verse we like to ignore, because it implies that God is actually seeking a certain kind of worshiper.
We’d prefer if that wasn’t the case.
We’d prefer a God who left us alone. A God who lets us live and think as if our actions and beliefs don’t really matter, as long as we’re not a public threat.
Such a God is an idol.
A time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
I’d like to suggest this morning that the kind of worship God desires does not happen here.
I mean, coming here is part of it, for sure, the kind of equipping and fellowship and encouragement and the community that we find when we gather together cannot be replaced.
What we do on Sunday morning is a vital part of life for anyone seeking to model their life after Jesus…but it’s nowhere near enough!
If it was, the gospel could have ended after Jesus put Satan behind him in the gospel story we heard today.
As it is, this final temptation in Matthew marks the beginning of Jesus’ preaching ministry!
He goes from that interaction with Satan, saying “Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”, and in the very next section, He begins to preach!
God-centered worship; that is, the kind of worship that God desires; it calls us into ministry.
It calls us into active participation in a very different kingdom.
That’s what’s at stake in worship; nothing less than your citizenship!
There’s a reason this third temptation connects all the kingdoms of the world to an object of worship.
Jesus sees the offer for what it is; a trade-off; one kingdom for another. The Kingdom of God for all the kingdoms of this world in all their splendor!
It’s not a trade worth making!
We’re fooling ourselves to think that Sunday morning is enough!
Worship; that is, giving worth to God; making God valuable in your life;
These are things that take a lifetime of trying in order to even begin doing!
True Worship doesn’t just happen. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide that suddenly God is going to be the most valuable thing in your life.
It’s a process.
In other words, the decisions we make concerning value, or worth during the rest of the week are just as important -if not even more important- than the decision we make on Sunday morning.
Worship is a reality into which we live.
I find it helpful to compare worship to something like marriage.
When two people choose to marry each other, the actual wedding ceremony can feel like the biggest, most wonderful transformation that a person has ever hoped for.
One day you’re single, the next day you’re suddenly married.
The ceremony itself is like a light switch; something that happens in a moment in time that changes your station in life.
But you know, (and I’ll back this up in any conversation I’ll ever have with anybody who’s thinking about getting married)…the ceremony itself is one of the least significant parts of the marriage.
It’s a big part, and an important part; but the wedding is only the beginning.
Marriage is a lifestyle that consists of a hundred decisions every day from the point of the wedding onward.
It’s the same way with worship.
Our baptism is our wedding ceremony; it’s the reference to which we point when we talk about when our life took a different direction.
It’s an important landmark in our faith, for it’s when we acknowledge before the people we are in relationship with; the people we care about; the people who have taught us and been with us through life’s ups and downs; baptism is the point when we take the chance to stand up before them and declare that we are committing ourselves both, to them, and to the way of Christ which they have shown us.
And as in marriage, sometimes we live out that commitment well well and sometimes poorly.
What matters more than that one day; or even every Sunday after that, is how that commitment gets lived out from that point on.
At it’s best, our Sunday morning gathering equips us for the rest of the week, to live lives in which God and his kingdom are the objects of increasing value. All else diminishes in importance and worth.
In that way, Sunday morning worship itself is an act of subversion. Our proclamation is that God and God alone is of ultimate value in the world!!
But saying that isn’t enough if it’s only being said once a week!
When you commit to Jesus, you’re committing way more than your soul for the future.
You’re committing your whole life to an alternative reality right here and now; the kingdom of God that has already been established!
The church is nothing if it’s not all-consuming.
Worship is nothing if it’s not all-consuming.
And since I know so many of you so well, I’ll just emphasize that I’m NOT talking about all-consuming in a burn-out kind of way.
If you’re out of gas, do what you need to re-fuel!
It really is that simple (I didn’t say easy; I said simple)!
The mystery of the Kingdom of God is that just in the same way that sacrificial love is ultimate power, in the same way that death equals life, that weakness is strength, so in the same way, being consumed by worship leads not to burn-out, but to an abundance of life!
A couple of weeks ago, I took out the trash right around dusk. It was just getting dark, but it was still light enough to see. As I started walking up our driveway, I looked up at one of my favorite views of our place.
The weather was nice and warm, I had just cut the grass so that fresh-cut smell was still in the air, everything was green and I had a line of sight that just made me smile.
I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience, when you look at something you’ve done; a project you’ve built, or a lawn you’ve mowed, a flowerbed you’ve mulched…you look at it and just smile, because it seems so good.
It’s times like that when we feel close to God. It’s times like that when it’s easy to understand what it means to join God in the work of creation, to worship through our work and look upon it and rejoice with God in the recognition that…it’s…good.
Can you identify with that feeling?
It doesn’t mean there aren’t times when we’re running late and rush out the door still chewing, avoiding God in that moment because of our haste.
Every day we make decisions regarding what’s important. Every day we worship, every day we assign worth, or value to people, places, and things.
Each and Every day, we choose between kingdoms.
Are we choosing things that give worth to God?
And our choices are an act of worship.
It’s not just a Sunday thing.
It’s an everyday thing.
Worship isn’t an activity we partake in as much as a reality we live in.
Notice, I didn’t say it’s a reality we create.
It’s a reality we live in.
It’s a reality we’re given!
It’s hard to see with our eyes, for sure, but faith is being sure of what we hope for, not of what we see.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them!”
What an incredible vision!
What a fantastic hope!
What’s it worth to you?