Sunday, April 12, 2015

What I’ve Been Trying to Say: Worship God!

(A sermon based on Psalm 8 for Sunday, April 12, 2015. First in a series of my final three sermons as Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald, GA)

Psalm 8 addresses these words to God: “When I consider the works of your hands …”

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

The Apostle Paul encouraged the Roman Christians, “I appeal to you … brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

When you put those three biblical passages together you pretty much get what I’ve been trying to say about God during these last six years: (1) consider God, (2) love God, and (3) serve God.

All three passages presume, as the entire Bible presumes, that God is. We Christians presume that, too. But do we move beyond presuming to actually thinking about God? How much attention do we actually pay to God? How much do we take God into account in our thinking and in our acting?

How much do we marvel over the reality of God? Do we consider the moon and the stars and all the works of God’s hands? Do we stand in awe of God as seen in the majesty of creation? Do we marvel at the image of God that is present in the people that we meet? Do we marvel over that image in ourselves?

How much do we marvel over the revelation of God? “What are human beings that you are mindful of them?” is the question very reasonably posed to God by the Psalmist. Yet God in God’s grace has chosen to reveal God’s self to us. Were it not for that grace we would not know God. God has revealed God’s self to us in nature, in history, and in various ways in our own lives. The greatest, clearest, and most helpful revelation of God to us is in God’s Son Jesus Christ. God came to us in the flesh; God walked around in our world with people just like us; God in Christ died on the cross for our sins. God in Christ rose from the grave and God in the Holy Spirit still comes to us to be with us and to dwell in and among us.

How much do we marvel over the love of God? How much do we marvel over the fact that when God thinks of us, God loves us? That love is seen most fully in Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In God’s love God wants to be known by us and so God comes to us in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit and in other ways. God’s love is a giving, humble, and sacrificial love. Do we give much thought to God’s love? And when we do, are we amazed that God’s love led to God giving up so much of God’s self for us? Are we amazed that God lovingly, willingly, and graciously entered into our pain and death so as to share in it with us and so as to defeat it for us?

I have for the last six years been encouraging us all to give more thought to God. I have been encouraging us to remember constantly that God is our God and that God is to have our ultimate allegiance and our total dedication. Jesus said that we are to love the Lord our God with our entire being, with everything that we are. As we draw ever closer to God and as we get to know God better and better we will come to be more and more taken possession of by God’s life and by God’s love. And so we will grow in love and will show that love more and more consistently, willingly, and sacrificially.

We gather Sunday after Sunday to worship God; we gather to praise God for the wonder, majesty, and power that characterize God. But mainly we gather to praise God for God’s great love, a love that is seen most clearly in the life, death, and resurrection of God’s Son Jesus Christ. We worship God because God has lavished God’s love on us and because God has poured God’s love into us.That is why I have encouraged us to focus the attention of our worship where it belongs: on God. Worship is our offering to God; it is our praise of God for who God is. Worship is not about us, it is about God. When we worship, God is the audience and we are not.

We do benefit from our participation in our worship services, though; we benefit because in here we practice for our lives out there. Jesus tells us that we are to love the Lord our God with everything we are and Paul tells us that we are to present our bodies to God as our “spiritual worship.” That is what we do all day long every day of our lives; we worship God by serving God all the time.

How do we worship God? We worship God by serving God. And how do we serve God? We serve God by serving others. How do we demonstrate our love for God? We demonstrate it by loving other people.

And that’s what I’ve been trying to say for the last 6+ years: let’s think about God. Let’s worship God. Let’s love God. Let’s serve God by serving others …

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