life together

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians.” A life with Christ is not meant to be lived alone, rather together with a community of Christ followers. This requires intentionality and vulnerability. Togetherness encourages focusing our eyes on what matters most—Jesus. Bonhoeffer continues, “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this”

Here four actions to focus our minds and encourage togetherness.

Set your hope on future grace

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 1:13, ESV

The mind is a battle ground. While there are many pressures from outside, it is in the mind that one is most often tempted to fear, lose hope, or skirt holiness. Alone we are prone to distraction and disillusionment from the grace that is ours in Jesus Christ. If your hope is in anything, but Jesus you will be disappointed. It is a gift of God’s grace that we are together in this fight of faith and that we will be together around the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

Pursue holiness

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” – 1 Peter 1:14-16, ESV

Above any other attribute of God, his holiness is mentioned the most in the Bible. God is holy, meaning he is “set apart” and there is none like him. If God is holy he wants his children to be holy too. God is not a militant nor a mongrel demanding perfection, but he is a loving father who wants his children to pursue holiness everyday. Encourage one another to be holy in an unholy world.

Have a healthy fear of God

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,” – 1 Peter 1:17, ESV

Peter tells us that God is a Father and we should have a healthy fear of him because he judges his children fairly. While we aren’t perfect kids, he is a perfect daddy. Sometimes we are tempted to view God through the lens of what our earthly father was or is like. While this can be helpful, not everyone had a father who was loving, caring, or taught them right and wrong. God is a good Father.

Look to Christ our example

“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” – 1 Peter 1:18-21, ESV

Christ came to earth. He lived a holy life and obeyed his Father in everything. He even obeyed God by going to the cross becoming the sacrificial lamb for our sins. Through Jesus we can have faith and hope because in Jesus we see what God looks like with skin on. Jesus also helps us to see what holiness looks like as a human. Follow in his steps.

Life together is primarily about keeping our minds on Jesus Christ until Jesus Christ comes again and makes us completely like him. Walking in grace, holiness, and a fear of God is impossible alone, but together it is a lot more encouraging and doable.

 

Questions for Reflection:

  • What does holiness mean? What does it look like to be holy? What is the opposite of holiness?
  • How does the illustration and reality that God is Father and you are his children encourage you? Why do God and parents ask their children to do good things not evil things?
  • What does it mean to obey? Are there any rules or standards from the Bible or your home that you don’t think are fair or right? Why? What rules or standards are difficult for you to obey? Why?
  • How is God a Judge? Why is it good that God judges?
  • How does the world make fun of Christians for being holy or different? How does knowing that at the end of our life God will reward us for holy life?
  • What is the meaning of the word redeem? How did Jesus redeem mankind?
  • How do thinking on these verses help guard your mind from temptation?
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God Is

Part 1 of 3 Why Worship Matters

We live in a culture [as others before us] willing to worship anyone and anything. We will pack arena’s to sing our favorite songs from our favorite band. We will be first in line at the movie theatre to see the next biggest summer blockbuster. We will pack sports stadiums and worship teams and players with loud cheers and waving our banners. Last December Sarah and I went to our first fridged Packer game at Lambeau Field. There was some worship going on that day! Later we thought, as great as the game was, “Heaven is going to be awesome!”

We are about all worship. It is not easy to define real worship in a culture that readily worships anyone or anything. Worship is about what we live for [who we are]. Every day, all day, everywhere you go, you worship. It’s what you do. It’s who you are. You can’t stop it or live without it. Worship is a way of life. It is a whole-life response to God’s greatness and glory. You are a worshipper before you are a father, mother, sister, brother, boss, employee or student. Worship is simply about value. Worship is our response to what we value most.

Why does worship matter? Why must worship matter to me? Why is it so important? Worship matters because GOD IS and His character demands my worship [Isaiah 6:1-3].

God is alive.

Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord.” Uzziah is dead, but God still lives. “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God” [Psalm 90:2]. God has no beginning or end. He does not depend anything or anyone to exist. God was alive when this universe banged into existence. He was alive when the Buddha and Muhammad walked the earth. He was alive when JFK was shot. He was alive when a tsunami sweep away Indonesia, and earthquakes rocked Haiti and Chile. He will be alive ten trillion ages from now when all the puny people in power are long forgotten. But not God, He always has been and always will be alive.

God is authoritative.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.” He is the Supreme Court, the Legislature, and the Chief Executive. Heaven is not coming apart at the seams. He holds it together. He sits on a throne. He rules with peace and control. He has authority over our lives even though we may never acknowledge Him.

God is omnipotent.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up.” God’s throne is higher than every other throne signifies God’s superior power to exercise His authority. No opposing authority can nullify the decrees of God. What He purposes, He accomplishes. “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” [Isaiah 46:10].

God is majestic.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and the train his robe filled the temple.” You have seen pictures of brides whose dresses are gathered around them covering the steps and the platform. What would the meaning be if the train filled the aisles and covered the seats and the stage, woven all of one piece? That God’s robe fills the entire heavenly temple means that he is a God of incomparable splendor and honor. His creative fullness spills over in excessive beauty. God loves to wow us.

God is revered.

“Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” No one knows what these strange six-winged creatures are [not some chubby winged angel babies], and they never appear again in the Bible. When one of them speaks, the foundations of the temple shake [v.4]. These are magnificent creature that most of us would be wowed by, but God wows them.

God is holy.

“And one called to another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” God is in a class by Himself. When asked for His name in Exodus 3:14, He said, “I am who I am.” What is God’s holiness? [Hebrew Qadesh, Greek Hagios, separate/different] 1 Samuel 2:2, “There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides You.” Isaiah 40:25, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” Hosea 11:9, “I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.” And repeated throughout the Scripture is the theme: “YHWH alone is God” [Ex.22:20; 34:14; 20:5].

God is incomparable, unfathomable. It determines all that He is and does and His ways are not determined by anyone. His holiness is what He is as God, which no one else is or ever will be. Getting a glimpse of God’s holiness will rock your world to the core. There is no way to scale mountain and heights of God’s holiness [not even in this message or our lifetime]. “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” [Habakkuk 2:20].

God is glorious.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” The glory of God is the seen of God’s holiness. God’s holiness has gone public in His glory. When God shows himself to be holy, what we see is glory. In Leviticus 10:3 God says, “I will show Myself holy among those who are near Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

Worship matters because GOD IS. His character demands my worship.

you are a worshiper

What is worship? What is a worshiper? Worship is about God, to God and for God. Worship is about what you love. You love something or someone. What you love you give time, talents and treasures to without thinking. Worship comes natural to us because that is how God wired us. We are wired to worship.

The Bible is chalked full of men and women who followed God with an unquenchable thirst. Followers of Christ are worshipers. Followership is another word for worship. One such follower is Habakkuk. Even in bleak circumstances battered by extreme doubts he praises God [3:17-18]. Then there is the Paul who is imprisoned for his faith [Acts 16], but still finds a way to share the good news.

Over a hundred years ago there was a songwriter by the name of Fanny Crosby. As a baby she experience a traumatic life-altering situation. This is how she describes it,

“When I was six weeks old I was taken sick and my eyes grew very weak and those who had charge of me poulticed my eyes. Their lack of knowledge and skill destroyed my sight forever. As I grew older they told me I should never see the faces of my friends, the flowers of the field, the blue of the skies, or the golden beauty of the stars…Soon I learned what other children possessed, but I made up my mind to store away a little jewel in my heart which I called content.”[1]

When she was only 8 years old she penned this song:

O what a happy soul am I! Although I cannot see,

I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy, that other people don’t.

To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot, and I wont.[2]

I wonder what my response would be like if I were in the same situation as these saints who have gone before? Would I have complained or become calloused? Or would I be content, compassionate and worshiping God? Though blind, Fanny could not wait to see Jesus’ face. She has an eye for worship. She didn’t see an end in blindness, but viewed endless opportunities to praise God.

Once you get a glimpse of God you are never the same, even in a world that does not acknowledge His presence or purposes [Isaiah 6:1-13; 29:13]. What we learn from Isaiah in the divine throne room is that God is full of wonder, awe and mystery. He is Qadesh [Holy]. His name is Holy One. There is nothing or anyone like Him ever. He is set apart, therefore, He is worthy of our fear, reverence and life. Once you have seen God you become a worshipful follower. On this side of heaven we have only get to see a drop of His glory in the ocean of His splendor.

Here is both a comforting and convicting fact of the Bible: You become like what you worship. What you follow you worship. Who you follow is who you worship. You will become like the object of your worship either for your ruin or restoration.[3] You will either be blind, deaf and lifeless like idols or full of life like God. Worship must be about God, to God and for God. Worship is about what you love. You love something or someone. What you love you give time, talents and treasures to without thinking. Worship comes natural to us because that is how God wired us. We are wired to worship.


[1] Fanny Crosby, quoted in S. Trevena Jackson, This is my story, This is my Song, Emerald House, n.p.

[2] Ibid.

[3] G.K Beale, We become what we Worship, IVP, 2008.

a consuming fire

Getting a glimpse of God

I remember as a young whipper-snapper that a group of us went to Green Bay to see the Packers practice. As a little boy this was a big deal, a real cheeseheads dream. You could see the big stars practice. The players would ride in on their bikes, high five the kids, stop for autographs. I got to meet actual players. I still haven’t washed my right hand!? Thousands of people would flock around the practice field just to get a glimpse of their favorite football player. We are all excited to get a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous, get a sneak peak at the summers hot new blockbuster, and more.

I wonder what would your response be to getting a glimpse of God?

1. Fear God’s Holiness (Hebrews 12:18-21)

Modern people are not accustomed to fearing God. Fearing God is something primitive people do—along with bowing down to the sun and sacrificing virgins to volcanoes.

Even Christian people are not used to fearing God. You might say, “That sounds way too Old Testament. What about the love and grace of God? After all, John says: “Perfect love casts out fear.” Fear is for the spiritually immature, right?”

There’s a tendency for modern folk to think in terms of God offering man a contract—agreement between equals. “You’re ok, I’m ok. Every thing is ok.” NOT!! Ancients did not make that mistake. The 10 Commands were like terms of a treaty—the kind made between the conqueror and the conquered. No complaining or bargaining. Accept the terms unconditionally.

SHOULD WE FEAR THE LORD?

Let’s look at what the Bible says:

  • “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov.1:7; 5:21; 8:13; 9:10).
  • “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecc.12:13)
  • “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, Him you shall regard as holy. Let him be your fear, and let Him be your dread” (Isa. 8:12-13)

You say, “That’s all from the OT!” What about Phil.2:1? “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”

The meaning of fearing God comes into clearer focus if we can imagine what it would be like to actually see God. This hasn’t happened too many times, but it is awesome to have an unfiltered experience with the living God! Isaiah said, “woe is me. I am a man of unclean lips,” (6:1-5) and when John saw the awesomeness of Christ and fell at His feet as a dead man (Rev.1:9-18).

When I was a kid I randomly bumped into things. My mom finally realized after multiple bruising that I needed glasses. I where glasses to see and protect me from potential danger. Fearing the Lord protects me from destruction. Sin makes me dumb. Following God is so smart.

The Bible clearly commands us to fear the Lord. It is a mixture of terror and awe, not just reverence and respect. Fear of the Lord is an appropriate response to the practical awareness of who I am before God. John Piper says, “To fear God is to view God as so powerful and awesome that I would not dare run from Him, but to Him.”

copper 1copper 2When I was in high school I took a ski-trip with my step-dad out West. We skied a lot. I have one memory that sticks out in my mind. On our last day we went to Copper Mountain (12,300ft.) We decided to take a trip to the summit. The ski lift got us close, but we still had about a half-mile climb to get to the peak. I thought I was going to die. When we got to the summit it was an amazing experience (“This is the sanctuary of God”). You could see for miles, the air was brisk, and God’s glory was awesome. I remember crying out to God. Then it dawned on me we had to go down this mountain. The only way down was to jump about a 20-foot cliff to the powdery slope. I had the feeling of terror mixed with wonder was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. This must have been something like the Israelites’ experience with the living God–terror mixed with wonder. It was something God did not want Israel to forget.

Who is your God? Is He feared? One day you will appear before this God. Every person who has ever lived will appear before Him. You think you will tell Him how you’ve been a good boy or girl; or give Him a piece of your mind for how your live went on earth. No, you will approach Him in fear and trembling. You will be there, we will all be there. This is the God we will meet. The story doesn’t end there. Ready for some good news? There is this holy God “but…”

2. Gratitude for God’s Grace (12:22-24)

The amazing grace showered on you when you come to the God:

  • to Mount Zion—we may come to a literal mountain in Jerusalem that represented the heavenly Zion
  • to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem—but we come to the dwelling of God.
  • to innumerable angels in festal gathering—we come backed by a 10,000 x 10,0000=100,000,000 (minimum) member choir of angels in their party clothes.
  • and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven—the believers, church (ecclesia), any firstborns here today? All receive a special rank and privilege. We will be “enrolled in the Book of Life (Rev.3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15) If you are not enrolled you are not there!
  • and to God, the judge of all—God is there.
  • to the spirits of the righteous made perfect—we will be like Christ! All that things that bug me about you, and you about me will not be there!!
  • and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant—HE IS THE CENTERPIECE OF HEAVEN. We come to see the One and Only, the Supreme, who gave us the New Covenant. We come to our Savior and Redeemer.
  • and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel—we come through the Atoning blood of Christ through which we have forgiveness of sins. Christ’s sacrifice was better than Abel’s (cf. Gen.4:10). Though Abel’s sacrifice (and ours) is acceptable to God because of faith—it has no atoning power (it represented judgment and vengeance). Jesus’ is (Col.1:20).

Whoohoo! That will be the day!! Are you grateful for the work of Christ? Do you know the God of Mount Zion? (1 Jn. “These things were written that you might know you have eternal life through Jesus Christ”) Do you know that you know that you know Him. Forgiveness and repentance in Christ!

How should I respond to this holiness and grace of God?

3. Worship by Total Submission (12:25-29)

My Response (v.25): I will do what He says. When He says jump, “I will say how high?”

My Response (vs.26-29): I will worship. I give my best to God, I give my first to God, I reserve the most to God. I honor Him, respect Him, awe Him. I do not walk through life casually, placing a checkmark on my fridge that I went to church today. I totally submit to Him and worship for our God is a consuming fire.

Getting a glimpse of God means…
I fear God’s holiness: Do you fear God? Does it show up in your actions?
I have gratitude for God’s grace: Are you thankful for His mercy?
I worship by total submission: Do you worship Him as a living sacrifice?