“Who is Jesus to you?”
Billy Lansdale, one of our KidsMin leaders, posed that question to a room full of 6th graders on Sunday morning. We heard some serious, funny, and maybe slightly heretical answers come from them. But this question really got me thinking. Who is Jesus to you? Who is Jesus to me? And why does it matter?
If you had asked me that question before Sunday, “prophet” would’ve taken me a while to get to. It’s just not one of the words that people (or at least that I) use to describe Jesus very often. But, as we saw Sunday, the role of prophet is one that has a huge impact on the way we see Jesus. In the Old Testament, prophets typically weren’t very welcomed people. They were whistle blowers. They were the ones who would call out God’s people on turning away from him. And no one really enjoys being called out on sin. They brought God’s word of wrath and destruction unless there was repentance.
Jesus filled this role in a different way. He still brought God’s word to his people, but it was a different word. It wasn’t a word of wrath. It wasn’t a word of destruction. It wasn’t a word of suffering. It was a word of grace, forgiveness and life. It was a word welcoming all who would receive it to a life of hope.
Today, reach out and take hold of that message of life. May it be a message that leads you and me to live a life that speaks of God’s love for us.
When we think about prophets from Old Testament times, we usually think about people who spoke for God. In those days, prophecies were often about God’s wrath about the people’s sin, and the need for repentance. Jesus was also a prophet — but a very different kind. Like Old Testament prophets, he spoke for God and stated, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me,” (John 7:16) but he was more than previous prophets. John wrote, referring to Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Jesus was God himself.
At Christmastime, we celebrate this different kind of prophet, Jesus, coming into the world. Selflessly, Jesus left heaven, and went to the cross, taking on the burden of God’s wrath for us who believe, and giving us freedom and abundant life. (John 10:10) In his gospel, John declares, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) When Jesus came to us, he expressed God’s most important message: God loves the world. God loves us. God loves you.
This Christmas season, as we enjoy the gifts, lights and parties, let’s also listen to Jesus’ message from God, and live like it’s true. Even for Christians, it can be so easy to get caught up in the worldly trappings of Christmas, and forget that it’s all about love. I hear about people fighting over parking spaces or the hottest toys, and I wonder what that has to do with Jesus. Would Jesus want us to spend ourselves into the poorhouse just to have the newest gadget or biggest TV? Let’s let Jesus’ words and actions breathe life into us this Christmas season. Like Jesus, let’s selflessly share the gift of service and shine light into this dark world. Let’s live in continuous celebration of Jesus coming into the world, the ultimate prophet, with the ultimate message of love.
The word “worship” has, over time, become more directly associated with singing and music than with anything else. Of course, there are many ways to worship, such as praying and reading the Word. For this devotional though, we will look at singing.
This past Sunday, we examined three of the many reasons we have to worship our God. We worship because he is good to us, he saved us, and he will return for us. We sang songs and lifted praises in response to the Word, and it was a great Sunday. But if singing and music aren’t really your thing, you may wonder why we would do something like that. Or you may be asking yourself, “Why do we sing in church at all?” Well, we sing because God is good to us, he saved us, and he will return for us.
He has been so good to you. Everyone has a different story, and some are in tougher spots than others, but if you really look at your life, it isn’t hard to see where he as been good to you. Are you healthy? Is your family healthy? Look at what you have around you. Has he taken care of you in hard times and brought you through? Are you alive? There are so many ways we can see how he is good to us.
He saved us. God saw us and knew we needed a savior. He loves us so much that he gave his only Son to die an awful, gruesome death for us. It’s a death we deserved, but Jesus took our sin and shame upon himself and gave his life for us. Take some time to think about what that means. Think about how much love it must take to do that for someone.
He will return for us. He has promised an eternity for us who have placed our faith in him and accepted Jesus Christ as our savior. Eternity in a place where we will see his glory. There will be no more pain or grief. We will not be surrounded by this broken world but, instead, by eternal joy and celebration.
But you may still ask, “Why sing to worship? Can’t I do all this a different way?” Well, of course you can. But we sing because we are commanded to sing. There are over 50 times in the Bible where we are commanded to sing — mostly in Psalms, but also twice in the New Testament.
… be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…
— Ephesians 5:18-19
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
— Colossians 3:16
People offer all sorts of reasons why they don’t sing in worship, including:
“I don’t really enjoy singing. I’m just not the singing type.”
“I can’t sing! The person next to me might hear me, and that would be embarrassing because I’m so bad!”
“This isn’t my style. Where are the hymns?”
I’m sure it sounds like I’m poking fun here, but these are legit reasons for not singing that people have expressed. And you know what? We get it. We understand how uneasy it can feel to step outside of your comfort zone. But we hope that you will be able to push past your personal feelings and see that singing is an act of obedience. We sing in obedience, with thankfulness in our hearts, because of who God is and what he has done. We sing to be filled with the Spirit. We sing for others around us to be filled with the Spirit.
I love how the people of c|Life sing and worship. If you’ve been kinda hanging out on the fringe of that, or not participating at all, I encourage you to just go for it. Jump in with both feet because, if you are at c|Life, the odds are good that everyone around you already has, too!
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself — Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
— John 4:23-24 (The Message)
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
— Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV)
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
— Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV)
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
— Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV)
Worship is the outpouring of our heart’s affection and adoration in action. Worship can look like many things. It can be an expression of praise in verbal conversation or lifted hearts and voices in song. Worship can also be the most silent and still time of attention and reverence. Worship is our hearts overflowing with gratitude and praise, lived out in life steps, walking in spirit and truth with God.
God alone is worthy of our praise, because He is God. He is our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Father. He meets us where we are and transforms us to be made new in him, giving us life in him. He restores us to right standing with him. He loves us without condition. This is only the beginning, and all because of who he is! We don’t have to struggle to find reasons to praise God.
A life of worship should be second nature. God is the giver of life. He is the maker of all things. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end. So why is it then, that our every thought, step or spoken word fails to be worshipful 100 percent of the time? We get in the way. We allow our paths, our hearts, our sight to be distracted away from God.
Seek him. Call on him. Cling to him. Draw near to him. Live a life that is pleasing to him. Allow the meditations of our hearts to bring him praise. Worship him.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
— Psalm 145:3 (ESV)
For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
— Psalm 86:10 (ESV)
God can do anything, you know — far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
— Ephesians 3:20 (The Message)
Worship. A word we hear and use all the time, but most of us do not fully understand. Just what does it mean to worship? We so quickly say that we go to church on Sunday to worship God, but what does it really mean to worship God? If we are not really sure what it means to worship God, then how can we know for sure that we are actually worshiping on Sundays? If we are to make sure that we are truly worshiping God, we must start by defining worship. Here is how theopedia.com defines worship:
Worship is an active response to the character, words and actions of God, initiated by His revelation and enabled by His redemption, whereby the mind is transformed (e.g. belief, repentance), the heart is renewed (e.g. love, trust), and actions are surrendered (e.g. obedience, service), all in accordance with His will and in order to declare His infinite worthiness.
This definition is a lot to process at one time, so let’s break it down and look at it in five parts, so that we can make sure that we fully understand what is being said.
“Worship is an active response to the character, words and actions of God,…”
Worship is an active behavior, not a passive one. Just because you are at a place of worship, surrounded by people who are worshiping God, that does not mean that you are worshiping God. Worship may happen in a group setting, but it is an individual activity in the sense that each individual in the group must be actively worshiping God. Not only is worship active, but it is also a response. Someone once said that God has spoken, and every man lives his life in response to God. God has initiated a relationship with us. Worship is the appropriate response. Worship is our appropriate response to who God is and what he has done. I’m not just referring to the things you like about God and the things he has done that you approve of. God deserves worship for all that he is and all that he has done, no matter how you feel about it. Everything he is and everything he has done is perfect, and if you could see things from his perspective, you would know that to be true.
“…initiated by His revelation and enabled by His redemption,…”
Your response of worship is not possible apart from God revealing himself to you and giving you the freedom to respond. God could have created mankind without ever letting us know that he existed, but he did not choose to do that. God created us to be in relationship with him. He created us so that he could love us and we could love him in return. For this to happen, he had to reveal himself to us. Thus, God has revealed himself to us through both general revelation — through creation and placing a knowledge of his existence in our hearts (see Romans 1) — and through special revelation — scripture and his son, Jesus.
Revelation alone is not sufficient for us to respond to God in worship. We must be able to see and understand what he has revealed to us in order to respond appropriately in worship. Having been born into sin, you were blinded to spiritual truth from the day you were born. You had the ability to know about God, but you were unable to truly know God. God opened your eyes and enabled you to see spiritual truth and to truly know him when he redeemed you. At the moment of salvation, God removed the sin that caused your spiritual blindness and gave you eyes to see, ears to hear and a responsive heart so that, for the first time in your life, you were able to understand his revelation and respond in worship.
“…whereby the mind is transformed (e.g. belief, repentance), the heart is renewed (e.g. love, trust), and actions are surrendered (e.g. obedience, service),…”
As you spend time in the presence of God, letting your heart and mind respond to all that God is and all that he has done, you grow to love him more and more. And as you grow to love God more, you find him working within you, making you more and more like him. You begin to love the things he loves and to hate the things he hates. And as your heart and mind are transformed through spending time with God worshiping him, your behavior starts to change also. Your behavior is an outward expression of who you are on the inside. When your heart and mind begin to align with God, your behavior will align with him also. If you want to become more like God, then stop focusing on your behavior and start focusing on God. It is only through worshiping God that you will ever become like him.
“…all in accordance with His will…”
I’m sure you have heard people say that they worship God in their own way. Well, worshiping God either happens in accordance with his will or it does not happen at all. John 4:24 says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” When you stand before God, you must stand before him as one completely exposed and humbled. You deserve nothing from him, and you have nothing to offer him — you must be fully aware of those facts. You are allowed in his presence, not because you deserve it (for you deserve nothing less than an eternity in hell for all your sin and rebellion), but because, by his grace alone, you have been redeemed and brought into his presence because of his love for you. And worship only takes place in this context. If you stand before him with pride, you stand before him with no worship in you, for you must worship him in truth, and truth purges pride and elicits worship.
“…and in order to declare His infinite worthiness.”
Finally, we must look at the purpose of worship, and that purpose is to declare God’s infinite worthiness. He deserves nothing less that to have his infinite worth proclaimed throughout every part of his creation. There is no better way for this to happen than for those who know him to go to the ends of the earth worshiping him and proclaiming the glory of all that he is and all he has done.