Pastor’s note: The Presumption of Convenience

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:

  1. The very idea of worshiping God begins with of His will (Deuteronomy 12:1), His Law. It is a foundational dimension to worship of the Living God.

  2. ‘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.”

  3. ‘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.

  4. ‘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.

  1. Worship is a celebration with “eating” and “rejoicing” (Deuteronomy 12:7; Deuteronomy 12:12).  Worship is what the Westminster Shorter Catechism says right up front:  what is the chief end of man (and woman)? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever”

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?