a worshiping people

NOTE: Following is a copy of a discussion guide that could be used in a small group setting, such as MoSt Church‘s LIFE groups. These discussion guides work the same subjects and primary texts as the Sunday morning sermon. You’ll find these guides categorized each week under the category title LIFE group guides.

Aim

People who belong to God are people who worship God in all they do.

Scripture

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. (Romans 12:1 TNIV)

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:26-27 TNIV)

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (1 Corinthians 14:26 TNIV)

Open
Icebreaker questions are intended to simply get us all talking. Choose one of the following to discuss as a group.

1. Tell us of a funny happening “in church” that made you think, “Well, I hadn’t ever thought about that happening in worship before!”

2. Tell us of one specific moment when you sensed that you were deeply worshiping God.

Dig
These questions are meant to help us grapple directly with the sermon’s primary Scripture texts.

1. What words and/or phrases in Rom. 12:1 echo descriptions of worship in the Old Testament?

2. According to James 1:26-27, what three dimensions of life are engaged when you’re “doing religion right?”

3. What false narrative(s) about worship do you see directly challenged by 1 Cor. 14:26?

Reflect
These questions facilitate our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us through his word.

1. Which is easier for you to grasp and express, worshiping God with your body or your spirit? Why?

2. What are some of the biggest misunderstandings about what it means to worship God and to practice true religion that you have had to overcome in your life thus far?

3. William Law, author of the Christian classic A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728), wrote in that work: “It is very observable that there is not one command in all the gospel for public worship … Whereas that religion or devotion which is to govern the ordinary actions of our life is to be found in almost every verse of Scripture.” Engage this quote.

4. What aspect(s) of gathered worship (i.e. – worship with other believers) do you find yourself most frequently coming back to, building upon, or just generally carrying with you into your worship of God when you’re not together with other believers (or not on Sunday “in the church house”)?

5. Have you ever encountered someone who claimed to be very religious, but who refused to worship with other believers? What did you say to them? What would you say to them now?

6. Two specific false narratives about gathered worship were discussed in the sermon. Name them and tell of how Scripture overthrows these bits of “bad code” in our thinking. Can you think of other false narratives about worship, whether individual or corporate, that Scripture challenges?

7. What is most striking or powerful to you about the Scripture’s teaching that worship encompasses your whole life and not just your life “at church on Sundays?” How does it affect the way you see God? Others? Yourself?

the Roman Empire & the NT (5)

… parts of the New Testament writings instruct followers of Jesus to pray for the emperor and to submit to governing authorities. Christians have often appealed to this instruction as though it were the only stance followers of Jesus are to exhibit toward a government. Come what may, so the argument goes, Christians must obey. This view encourages a willing submission, a quick trust, and an unquestioning acceptance of government policies and decisions. Often Romans 13 is understood to mean that God ordained whatever the government does and so it is to be accepted, not resisted. One consequence of this is that maintaining the social order or cooperation with it is seen to be the most important thing.

There is no denying that Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 are part of the Christian scriptures. Whether Romans 13 offers such an all-embracing and compliant approach to political matters is debatable … But one thing is not debatable. The New Testament writings do not offer only one strategy of compliance and submission to define how Christians might engage political matters. They do not endorse the current societal structure as unassailable. They do not make it sacred and untouchable as God-ordained. They do not endorse the status quo regardless of its wrongs. Some Christians have wrongly tried to assert such claims in the face of sinful relaities such as slavery, or misogyny, or racism. … early Christian writers willingly evaluated the Roman Empire and were not reluctant to declare it generally inconsistent with God’s purposes. They do not urge blind submission to it. Instead … they frequently urged strategies of opposition and challenge, of contesting and subversion. Our New testament writings challenge a “default position” of unswerving submission.

The issue, of course, is to know when to employ which strategy. When is compliance and when is resistance appropriate? That process of discernment is difficult. It involves, I would suggest, much prayer, study, thought, and debate.

The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide by Warren Carter (Abingdon Press, 2006), pp.139-140

I want

“… I want you to be wise about what’s good, and innocent about what’s evil.” (Romans 16:19b CEB)

This sentiment conveys the biggest part of what keeps God-honoring shepherds doing what they do all the time, laying down their lives for God’s sheep.

This thought echoes the thoughts of every Christ-like husband or wife for their mate and every Spirit-led parent for their children every hour.

This sentence mirrors the mind of every holy teacher for those in their charge as to how they sift the things they hear and see each day in the name of Christ.

This declaration reveals the prompt for countless prayers every day within a church family.

This remark paints the picture that every godly preacher seeks to hold up to their church family every week by means of their sermons and behavior.

“… I want you to be wise about what’s good, and innocent about what’s evil.” (Romans 16:19b CEB)

Amen.

why I repeat myself

“I’ve written to you … partly to remind you of what you already know.” (Romans 15:15 CEB)

We live in a culture bent on hearing what is new or what we think has not been known before. In this way, we’re no different from some of the ancients (Acts 17:21). But I need to be reminded regularly of things I’m already aware of for any of a number of reasons. Here are seven.

  1. Because as I continually learn new things, there is a tendency in me to wrongly perceive “old” knowledge as something less valuable or even less credible.
  2. Because my life sometimes becomes so full or busy that my recall of important matters is impaired.
  3. Because my emotional life at times is such that some of the knowledge I have I can’t seem to access on my own.
  4. Because the sin in my life always threatens to desensitize me to what I know of God’s will.
  5. Because sometimes it’s not the hearing of something new I truly need most of all, but the stirring up of something that is already settled within my mind.
  6. Because having a refreshed sense of what I’ve already learned helps me to have a stronger sense of grounding or rootedness in life.
  7. Because even though I have a great rememberer, my forgetter works even better.

So the next time your preacher seems to be stuck on a certain track or is telling you what you’ve already known for a long time, don’t nod off thinking they’re just filling time or on their way to Alzheimer’s. Instead, smile and thank God. Who is to say that God in his providence is not involved, arranging for us all to hear what we need to hear most of all at this moment in our lives, whether we think we need it or not?

Father in heaven, in Christ’s name, thank you for those who, through the years, have repeated to me again and again what I think I know well enough already. I know without them I would be worse off. Thank you for not always expecting me to catch something only upon my first contact with it, but for exposing me over and over to things I need to encounter. Amen.

getting it

Read Romans 14 and then come back here. Go ahead; I’ll wait for you right here.

I understand this passage better now than I did at one time. Lord knows I didn’t understand it at all for years after I became a Christian and for years more after I started preaching. Back then, somehow, someway, I managed to read this chapter over and over and still miss three things Paul takes as givens in the life of faith together, namely:

1. Contrary to what seemed to be being drilled into me over and over again, agreeing on everything in the name of Christ is not job one.

2. No matter how hard we preach it, how consistent we teach it, how passionately we pray for it, or how obviously we try to exemplify it, we’ll never even get close to the point where all Christians agree on everything.

3. How you love God with all of our your, heart, mind, and strength is revealed best not by having all of the right convictions, but by truly loving others more than yourself.

You see, while I was taught that if we’ll all just focus on God there will be no variation in our beliefs, Romans 14 says radical variation is inevitable. While I was taught that Christians back in the day we are all perfectly united, can be now, and must be always, Romans 14 says they weren’t back then and agreeing on everything is not where it’s at. And while I was taught that the way we showed real love for God was by perfectly holding and expressing one right set of beliefs, Romans 14 says loving people who differ with me is far more important than the uninhibited expression of my beliefs.

What disturbs me most of all, though is not just that I could have misunderstood exceedingly clear Scripture for so long, but the fact that I taught my mistaken understandings to others and I know I’m anything but alone in this experience. And that leads me to want to unteach some of what I know I taught and calls for me to try to help others to see what I know they have yet to see. Let me just try to parrot what Paul says here, but in other words.

  • There are a number of matters that come under the heading of religion that are not only not worth arguing about, but mustn’t be argued about (vs. 1).
  • Don’t look down on those who hold to a different set of beliefs (vs. 2-3).
  • Always remember: God alone is judge and so, you’re not (vs. 4).
  • Everyone has a right to their own convictions and we should respect such (vs. 5-6).
  • Whatever we believe and do should be done not for ourselves or others, but with God in view (vs.7-9).
  • We will all answer to God for our convictions, not for the convictions of others (vs. 10-12).
  • If you’re headed down Judge Others Road, do a U-turn and take the first exit (vs. 13a).
  • Determine to make life easier, not more difficult, for others by respecting people’s convictions (vs. 13b).
  • What’s right for one person can be wrong for another because our conscience and convictions differ (vs. 14).
  • If you are truly about doing the loving thing you will seek to be sensitive to the convictions of others (vs. 15).
  • Being humble with your convictions doesn’t mean becoming a doormat; give respect and expect respect (vs. 16).
  • Don’t frustrate, rather, facilitate the establishment of God’s rule in the community of faith (vs. 17).
  • Look for the ways that God and people both applaud and go after them (vs. 18).
  • If you can’t make accommodations for people with your positions, your positions are wrong (vs. 19-21).
  • Refuse to flaunt your convictions; keep what can be kept private, private (vs. 22).
  • Follow your conscience informed by Christ, not the crowd (vs. 23).

I don’t live under any illusion that I understand everything in Scripture, particularly this Scripture, completely. I have much, much, much yet to learn, no doubt. But, here’s to the learning of it.

What have I missed? What have I got right? What can we learn together?

Heavenly Father, give me insight into the practical living out of your will in my life with others. I pray in the name of him in whom I believe and who has brought me into the fellowship of all who belong to him, Jesus Christ. Amen.