This week we tackle the presumption of convenience, how we all want to worship God on our own terms, doing what is right in our own eyes.
In Deuteronomy 12, Moses articulates what it means to worship God in a series of simple but powerful steps:
‘Your presence is requested.’ Worship is spatial (i.e., not virtual; Deuteronomy 12:1). There is an actual physical place to gather that is on the “ground.”
‘Time to take out the sledge hammer’ (Deuteronomy 12:2-3). Preparation for worship is also a decision to do some house cleaning and get ride of any idol that stands in the way of our worship. Idolatry is condemned throughout the Scripture for the simple reason that it is the one BIG PROBLEM in both the Old and the New Testament (see Romans 1 that views idolatry as the primary sin from which others derive). God tells His people to deal with the problem decisively.
‘My house, my place, my rules.’ Deuteronomy 12:4-5 speaks of a place the Lord will choose when His people will gather to worship according to His ways. In the OT it ends up being in Jerusalem and the temple. Attendance was actually a minimum of three times a year (see Deuteronomy 16).
5. It’s costly because it’s a place of sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12:6; Deuteronomy 12:12). To worship is to offer sacrifices and this gets really elaborate in the Old Testament. 1 Chronicles gives us quite the picture of many people involved.
Deuteronomy 12 also confronts the presumption convenience in the way we approach God in worship: “whatever is right in his [our] own eyes” (Deuteronomy 12:8). The phrase itself is picked up later on (e.g.,Judges 21:25) and describes essentially the proverbial path of least resistance. Whatever the culture around them did, the Israelites simply followed suit so that their worship patterns looked more like what the Canaanites did than what God had prescribed for them. This becomes a major issue throughout the rest of the Old Testament. Many have recognized this phenomenon and have observed the pluralistic nature of Israelite worship. There is even a name for that: “canaanization.”
Worshiping God Now
So when we look at what it means to worship God by faith in Jesus, we turn to another Chapter 12, (Romans 12:1-2). Now, worship is through Christ and His one-time sacrifice (Romans 3-5). But in this new way, we recognize the foundations of worship from the Old Testament. If a person had to worship at least three times a year under the old way, now worship is a constant of our lives. It’s still connected to a place: the cross (Galatians 2:20). It’s also our own physical self/bodies. It’s no longer an episodic event, but rather a constant one. When Paul says, “offer your bodies as al living sacrifice,” he is saying 100% all the time (Romans 14:8). It’s like the story of who contributed the most for the steak and egg breakfast, the chicken or the cow? This calls for total commitment!
Romans 12:2 also addresses the presumption of convenience head on: Paul says, “do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The conforming is like a pattern, or a mold into which the world is squeezing you and me. The pressures to conform is peer pressure; it’s adopting a worldview that is contrary to the will of God (His Word); it’s taking the path of least resistance (basically another form of ‘canaanization’). Instead, be “transformed” (which is the same word used to describe Jesus’ transfiguration in the gospels). It’s actually becoming a different person! We live by faith in Jesus because He is the one “transforming” us from “one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is done through the “renewing of the mind”, yet another supernatural intervention on our behalf. Renewing is something ultimately that God does, not ourselves (Titus 3:5). David in Psalm 51 talks about the same thing: “create” (as in an act of creation, cf. Gen. 1) “in me a clean heart” (Psalm 51:10).
The result? True ‘thoughtful service’ (ESV “spiritual worship”). We now are able to test and discern what the will of God is (His Word), His good, acceptable and perfect will. True worship, then involves the body (100% of it) and it involves the renewed mind. We have a new identity in Christ, no longer ‘unwanted,’ or ‘incompetent’ or any other labels the ‘world’ slaps upon us. Now we are needed and wanted. So our presence is missed when we don’t show up. We are wanted and needed not only by others around us, but especially by the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. Worship is participating and experiencing the Love of God. Why would we ever want to miss out on that!
Questions for the week:
What is it in your life right now that’s getting in the way of your physical presence to worship? What is vying for your attention away from His Word and His presence?
Join our team on Saturday, November 16th (9:30-Noon) for Big Serve, a morning of outreach to those in need in our community. All are invited to help rake/bag leaves and other tasks. We will gather at CFA for lunch afterwards!
Please RSVP to let us know how to organize our work groups. If you have leave cleanup tools (rakes, brooms, bags, etc.) please indicate on the form.Signup Here!
In case you missed it, here’s a video of “Why Medical Missions?” with Dr. Rick Sacra.
Haiti’s capital city of Port-Au-Prince is disintegrating.
Have you ever tried to summarize a passage of scripture in your own words? It can be difficult! How does each verse fit with the ones around it? What is the flow of the writer’s argument? Sometimes it helps to write it out…
In Deuteronomy 10:12-22, Moses summarizes the commands of God in the law. A paraphrased summary might look like this:
His requirements are that you fear him, follow him, love him, serve him and keep his commands. They are for your good. Don’t question God’s authority on this. The entire world belongs to him! Therefore recognize just how particular his love is for you, that in all the world, he chose you. Based on that unique love, and grounded in his awesome authority, he commands you: Pledge your allegiance to him at the heart level. Renew your commitment to him in a way that truly matters. Stop resisting his guidance. Stop being so stubborn.
Again, God is the supreme authority! And he isn’t budging on his requirements of you. His particular love for you doesn’t mean that you get a free pass on true discipleship. He is impartial in judging humanity. We see this because of the way he cares for those who have nothing to offer, namely the orphan, widow and refugee. And you should especially love and care for the refugee, because once you yourselves were refugees.
So remember: fear God, serve him, cling to him and revere him. He is worth celebrating. You witnessed the miracles he did in Egypt and in the desert. And he has multiplied your number just as he had promised Abraham.
What a powerful message! Our Father’s special love for his people is unparalleled. But God also knew the limitations of Israel. He knew their selfishness. And so even though he would not lower the requirements for their obedience, he did know what it would take to truly transform his people. So he grounds the call of Deuteronomy 10 in his own promise in Deuteronomy 30. His promise is that after his people have tried to live faithfully yet rebel and experience the judgment they deserve based on their covenant, Moses says, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has transformed the hearts of his people by grace through faith. May we love God and love others, especially the vulnerable.