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September 2009

What is worship?

There are a lot of different teachings on the concept of worship. I want to talk about worship at a very fundamental level. Sometimes I hear people say that they can't understand why God would "need" worship. Is he conceited? Have a godlike ego? The reality is true worship has nothing to do with conceit or ego. It has everything to do with relationship. A living relationship where life is flowing between us and God.

Let's look at a passage from Ephesians 6.

 10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

So we have our armor on. In the course of our daily life we struggle against spiritual things coming against us. So an adversary comes at us with a sword and we put up a shield, or block the adversary's sword with the word of God. We stand firm. And we get used to fighting. After a while fighting and resisting things can become habitual. Then one day an adversary with a big sword comes against us and when we look at him we see that it's our heavenly father. What do we do?

We throw down our shield and sword and take off all the armor. We completely expose ourselves to him and allow him to use his sword on us in any way he wants. We do this because we worship him. We have a relationship where God can speak in our lives, change us, do whatever is needed to form us into the image of Jesus. His sword does not come at us to destroy anything except our flesh and our own will. God's sword imparts strength. It gives life. When we don't expose ourselves to his sword it cost us strength. It cost us life.

It is important to understand that worship is for God alone. There are men we submit to but never worship. It is extremely unhealthy for one person to worship another person. But when we worship God it results in life and health and peace.

Set your heart to stand firm in the armor of God. And set your heart to remove anything that might "protect" you when God comes with his sword. That's worship.

When I "got saved."

When I was 14 a guy invited me to a church youth camp. During services at the camp I saw kids going to the alter, praying and crying, and then being happy. I asked what was going on and was told that they had given their lives to Jesus. It seemed like a good thing to do so during the next invitation I went to the alter, asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and accepted his forgiveness. I told the pastor what I did and he said that I was saved. So I joined the church and for the next two years attended every church service I could, sang in the youth choir, and believed that I was saved.

The problem for me was that mine was a mental conversion. I was converted but could have just as easily been converted to any religion. Some of my behaviors changed because of what I now believed, and in a sense that fits the general definition of repentance. I went to church, prayed, read my Bible, etc. But spiritually I was no different. And repentance for salvation changes thing spiritually.

Then one summer I experienced a sort of personal crisis. During this time I went to the alter during a church service and realized for the first time that I was wrong. Before I had asked for forgiveness for my sins and tried to be "good". This time I just realized that I was wrong and Jesus was right. So I gave myself to him. A faith emerged from within me that I now belonged to Jesus. Stand or fall, I'm his. I have nothing in myself, he has everything. And my life changed dramatically.

My whole way of thinking changed, and everything was centered on Jesus. A lot of my behaviors still looked like they did before. I went to church, read the bible, prayed, etc. But I was different. I belonged to Jesus and I knew it. I had laid everything in my life down at his feet and I knew that as well.

One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is about the rich young man. He was a very devout and religious man who wanted to know what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. In the account in Mark it says he fell on his knees before Jesus. When Jesus told him what things he needed to do he replied that he had been doing them all his life. And Jesus looked at him and loved him. Then Jesus told him that he lacked one thing. Sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Then follow him. (Mark 10:17-22)

Being a Christian isn't about being devout. It isn't about bowing before Jesus. It is about honestly laying your life at his feet and realizing that you belong to him. That your life now follows him.

Let that faith and commitment live in you.

Man in Field

Man in field thumbnail

Best when printed on glossy photographic paper.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." John 12:24

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"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

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What is baptism?

The Greek word "baptizo" basically means to immerse or plunge or dip. You could also think of it as being united. There are several baptisms mentioned in the Bible, so basically these are different types of immersions into something (this is not an all inclusive list).

1 Corinthians 12:13
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Mark 1:4
And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Acts 11:16
Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'

Romans 6:3-4
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

This last one is sort of the central baptism in Christianity; being immersed or united in the death of Jesus so that we may live a new life. This is what water baptism represents, an acknowledgment that the power of his death and resurrection is now working in us.

The Old Testament Law recognizes death but does not recognize resurrection. According to the Law a woman who marries a man while being married to another man is in sin. But if her husband dies then she is free to marry again. As far as the Law is concerned once someone dies they are no longer under the Law. Water baptism represents our death and burial in Jesus as well as our resurrection into a new life. We are no longer under the Law but united with grace.

Which is kind of amazing.