Monday, December 03, 2007

Going Beyond Admiring Worship

Admiring Jesus seems to be a great pastime of practically everyone.

Mahatma Ghandi, who through peacful protest and hunger strikes changed the face of India and the world, admired Jesus, and claimed to gear his methods after the Lord’s sacrificial life.

Then Martin Luther King, Jr. patterned his movement after Ghandi’s.

Mohammed admired Jesus, and considered Him a prophet. To this day, Muslims call Jesus a prophet.

In fact, I’ve never met a person who would not say that they admired Jesus, at least until His gospel rips open their heart and separates the real admirers from those who admire from ignorance.

But my real point in this message is not to cast stones at those who are outside the church of Jesus Christ, who are outside the body of Christ, yet claim to admire Jesus.

To The Unbeliever

If you are not a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ, if you have not believed in Him as Savior and Lord, I urge you to do so. I urge you to believe the truth that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, to be crucified to pay for our sins. And that He rose again from the dead. So that if you believe in Him, you will be saved from Hell, and given eternal life even now, and when you die, you will go to be with the Lord in heaven forever.

That’s the Good News, the Gospel, and if you will believe in Him now, He will indeed save you and make you His child.

To The Believer

But the admiration of the unbeliever is not my real subject here. My subject is the believer, the Christian whose Christian life is stifled by limiting it to admiration and even worship for the Lord.

Within the Body of Christ there is a normal and good thing that we call worship. Worship has been described as giving God His due, to ascribe worthiness to Him, to bow down and recognize and praise Him for all that He is.

And this is right and good and biblical. And at least to some extent, it is incorporated into most meetings of the Church, and rightly so. We sing worship songs, we pray things like, “We worship you, Lord. You are worthy of our worship and so we praise you.”

And this is as it should be.

But sometimes our worship is more of a calculated admiration for the Lord, than love for Him.

And so my real point is to encourage those IN the Body of Christ, to not only admire Him, and worship Him, but to go beyond admiring worship of Jesus, to a new level of loving Him.

There are those believers who have been born again, basically love the Lord, basically know their Bibles, and know for a fact that Jesus is God, that He is good, that He is righteous, that He sacrificially gave His life for our sins, that He rose again, that He is Lord over all, and that He deserves all the glory and honor that He could ever receive.

But with all that born-again admiration, with their cries of “we must glorify God in all we do”, with their exhortations of obedience, obedience, obedience…with all that, I often see a lack of loving intimacy with this admired Savior.

Why is that? I think it’s for two reasons.

1. Many travel in theological circles that are Law-oriented.

They see the Christian life, not primarily as a relationship or fellowship with our Friend and Brother and Savior Jesus, but as a life of rules and regulations. They know Jesus loves them, but somehow think that the degree of that love is dependent on our performance. You will find them emphasizing the verse, “If you love me you will obey my commandments.” But you won’t often see them quoting the verse, “...[nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God which Is in Jesus our Lord.”

So some lack this intimate loving relationship with Christ, just because it is considered sort of selfish and distasteful in their theological circles. Sort of mystical, sort of anti-good-doctrine. They use derogatory terms such as “touchy-feely” or “kum-ba-ya around the campfire emotionalism".

If you are one of these, please keep listening.

2. Many are scarred by a perceived lack of love in earlier times of their lives.

Now, don’t think I’m getting all "psychological" here.

And particularly, if you belong to Category 1, the Law-oriented type, I know the hairs are standing up on the back of your neck at the very mention of our past lives affecting our walk with Christ.

But here is the simple fact: We are fearfully and wonderfully made, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. And when we are born again, and come to Christ, and we become new creations in our spirits…we sometimes still have a lot of renewing of our minds that are needed.

Many times a perceived lack of love, or perceived rejection of some kind by parents, or peers, or a teacher, for example, can make us instinctively feel that we can’t really be loved. And that carries over into our feelings about whether God can really love us. And that can keep us from really having the intimate and loving fellowship with Jesus that we may want to have.

And then sometimes a mis-guided kind of cold-steel theology is piled on to make it even worse. Maybe well-intentioned folks say things like, “You don’t just feel unworthy, you are unworthy. Get over it. You’re a Sinner. You’re a worm and a jerk. Don’t let these Dr. Feelgood softies make you think you’re loveable. Just pull up your bootstraps and start obeying. Bring glory to God. It’s all about Him, it’s not about you, you selfish pig. Start performing, and see if you can bring your level of performance up to where it should be -– in the power of the Spirit, of course.”

And the implication is that if you perform well enough, THEN you might be loveable, at least a little.

But of course it’s all hogwash. If you feel unloved, you feel unloved.

Now please get this:

The only way you will ever feel loved by God, is through understanding from His Word, through the Spirit, that you were loved by Him long before you were “loveable”. And He loves you because He chooses to love you. And there is nothing you could ever do to make Him love you more, and there is nothing you could ever do to make Him love you less.

And it’s because of one thing...Grace.

There is a rest for the people of God, the Bible says, wherin they rest from their works! That doesn’t mean we don’t do works. We will, as God works them in us, and we walk by His Spirit. It means we rest from our works as means of gaining love and acceptance and fellowship with God, with Jesus.

Look at these verses from Romans Chapter 8:

Verse 10, “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.”

Verse 15-16, “ have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father! The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God...”

Verses 18-19, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

Verses 28-30, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

Here Paul adds a little logic: Verse 32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

Verses 35-39, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?.... For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Continue to admire Jesus for all this, of course. And worship Him for all that He has done and all that He is.

But I want to encourage you to go beyond admiring worship to a love for Him that grabs you by the heart and shakes you, and makes you see the whole world through love-colored glasses, because you love Him more.

And how do you love Him more? Simple. Not easy, necessarily, but simple.

To love Him more, you must see more and more how He loves you. See, it’s very personal. You don’t merely admire Him as One Who loves. You love Him because He first loved you. And He still loves you, with a love that never quits, that is never affected by circumstances, that is never diminished by your failures. A love that, when you really grasp it, makes your love for Him threaten to burst your heart. A love that when you really grasp it, makes you say, “How could I NOT overflow with love for this Jesus, and His Father...and my brethren...and even my enemies?”

To love Him more, bask in His love for you. Think on it, meditate on it, marvel at it, accept it.

500 years before Martin Luther’s great meeting known as the Diet of Worms, a poem was written in Worms, Germany, in 1050 A.D. Frederick Lehman was deeply moved by this poem, and it led him to write a hymn in 1917, in Pasadena, California, part of which goes like this:

Could we with ink the oceans fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above,
Would drain the oceans dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Friends, He wants to share that love with you today.

Don’t just admire Jesus.

Don’t even just worship Him.

He wants you to be in close, intimate loving fellowship and communion with Him. There is nothing standing in the way. Not even your sins. They are paid for. They are forgiven.

“It is finished.”

1 comment:

Aida said...

Terry, I found your blog by following links from Joel Brueseke's blog.

This post was phenomenal. You really spoke to my heart. Right now, my understanding of God's love is really an intellectual understanding. My understanding has really been that God loves me because, after all, he's love and he has to love me. It's kind of like he's gritting his teeth but he's forcing himself to love me.

Your statement that he loves me because he chooses to love me has really connected with me. Thanks for sharing this.

I wasn't going to listen to your audio message because mp3 player is already filled with various messages but after reading your post, I know I need to listen to the message.