I am constantly amazed at all the fuss made over those whose faces fill the screen on the evening news, Nightline, and the endless news magazine shows. The lists of names are endless, the crimes committed are horrible in nature, and the impact on the lives of the victims are far reaching. It seems like almost a daily routine for us to hear the reports of the hideous crimes committed by our fellow human beings and we are shocked that rational, modern-day men and women could exhibit such unthinkable behavior. There is a phenomenon which takes place every time one of these horrific crimes is committed. The crime is detailed with a thoroughness which we really do not need to hear about, but nonetheless, each minute part of the crime is chronicled for the consumers to feast upon. After the crime is detailed the scene shifts to family and friends who knew the offender. Most of the time the friends and family express their disbelief that their loved one could have behaved in such a way. When we hear the testimonies of the people who knew the villain best, we are stunned that someone could completely hook wink and bamboozle those who knew them best.
The veil of deceit is heavy in our nation today, not just on the television screen and in the penitentiaries, but on each and every street, in every hall, house, hamlet, school, and sanctuary in America. The veil of deceit which I am talking about begins in every human heart and invades every corner of society in our nation.
I am amazed at the stories of crime which are told day-in and day-out by our media, not because of the crime, but because of our response. I am convinced of the utter depravity of the human heart. I have been around long enough to know that there is no limit to the depths of depravity in the human heart apart from Christ. Our response to these heinous crimes amuses me. We watch the stories like piranhas waiting for their next meal, then we tell all of our friends that we don?t understand how someone could live such disconnected, contradictory lives — lives of respectability around one crowd and a life of crime around others. I am amazed at all of this talk because the same fragmentation which we see reported on the screen is the same fragmentation which each and every one of us lives with every day of our lives.
The jury may still be out on who took the life of Natalie Holloway, but the evidence is overwhelming and the jury has reached a verdict on the followers of Jesus — The followers of Jesus are by and large frauds. I know that verdict may catch many of us off guard. It just sounds too harsh. How could it be? It might do us some good to stop and think for a moment.
On any given Sunday morning, ?Joe and Jane Christian? hear the alarm go off to wake them up so they can get themselves and their children ready for Sunday school. Instead of bounding out of bed, they hit the snooze bar, they hit the snooze bar, they hit the snooze bar…and before you know it Sunday school is half over and they decide they will just go to church. They slowly roll out of bed, eat breakfast, get dressed, and pile into the car. When they arrive at the house of worship, they take a bulletin, and a seat. They sing the songs of faith proclaiming the glories of God, the blessings of salvation, and the new life in Christ. They bow their heads and pray along with the pastor. They open their Bible, which hasn?t been opened since last Sunday, and follow along with the sermon. They stand to their feet and sing the invitation hymn, and could possibly even muster an ?Amen? if someone accepts Christ at the end of the service. When the final prayer is uttered they leave glad they came to church.
You say, ?Well what?s wrong with that picture?? Nothing, other than the fact that they didn?t make it to Sunday morning Bible study. They came to worship and listened attentively, sang the songs of faith with proper pitch and clarity, and prayed with fervent determination. All well and good. The problem arises when they leave the sanctuary and go back into their everyday life. When they leave the house of the Lord, supposedly transformed by God?s love, mercy, and grace, they leave behind everything they?ve learned from God?s Word as well. They leave the same narrow, petty, prejudiced, hate-filled, unforgiving, and selfish people they were before they arrived. The fragmentation is evident to those who live on their block, sit next to them in class, work in their offices, are their clients in business, or work next to them on the assembly line. Their wife, husband, children, and business associates look at them like they are aliens if they ever talk to them about the Lord because their lives show so little evidence of having ever been in His presence.
I have a feeling that you and I are not unlike ?Joe and Jane Christian.? We crowd out cars on the freeway just like unbelievers, we cuss a bad shot on the golf course just like unbelievers, we show disrespect to our parents just like unbelievers, we gossip about our neighbors just like unbelievers, we destroy God?s temple with drugs and booze just like unbelievers, we harbor ill-feelings and refuse to forgive others just like unbelievers, we look out for number one just like unbelievers, we make fun of the kids in class just like unbelievers, we demand our own way just like unbelievers, we yell at our wives, husbands, and children just like unbelievers, we seek revenge rather than reconciliation just like unbelievers — what difference has being in the presence of God made in our lives? What has changed? The fragmentation of our lives does not just frustrate the plans of God for our life, but it should also frustrate each of us when we consider how disjointed our lives have become.
God is not looking for fragmentation in the lives of His followers — He is looking for integration in your life and mine. God wants us to proclaim His glories in the check-out lines and cafeteria at school with the same fervor that we proclaim His glories in the stained glass sanctuary. God desires that our language be as pure in the heat of disagreement as it is in the throes of passionate worship. God desires that our lives reflect His character, His integrity, and His perfect nature each moment of our life — on Friday night as well as Sunday morning!
I have come to see worship as the key to an integrated life. Without daily worship, focusing on God?s holiness and my dire need for Him, my life is best characterized by blatant, unfeigned fraud. Without daily worship my walk is totally and completely different than my talk. Without worship my mind is a battlefield rather than a sanctuary. Without worship my tongue inflicts pain rather than healing. Being a pastor doesn?t make a person any less prone to live a fraudulent, fragmented lifestyle than being a doctor makes one less likely to become ill.
Since the Lord has heightened my awareness of my daily need for experiencing His presence I have come to be totally disgusted with my fraudulent ways. For myself, I have arrived at a conclusion — I now reject living as a fraud. I will not be comfortable with the fragmentation of my life. I refuse to explain away my ungodly behavior. I want to live as a child of God. I want the light of Christ to shine through me clearly and convincingly. I want to glory in His presence.
My rejection of the fraudulent lifestyle has nothing to do with ?New Year?s resolutions,? a mid-life crisis, or a new diet, but rather it is based upon God?s Word. In Jeremiah 7. God spoke clearly and forcefully to His people about their dualistic lifestyles. Take a look.
1This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2?Stand at the gate of the LORD?S house and there proclaim this message: ??Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. 3This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ?This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!? 5If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. 8But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. 9??Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ?We are safe??safe to do all these detestable things? 11Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 7:1-11 NIV)
?I?m watching you and I don?t like what I see.? Pretty strong words? You better believe it! God is playing for keeps my friend. God is seeking men, women, boys, and girls who are willing to offer up their lives as a sacrifice of worship to His Holy name. People who will live passionately for the Kingdom! People, who, at the end of their life can echo the passionate words of the Apostle Paul,
6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:6-7 NCV)
The fragmentation of our lives has convinced us that we can compartmentalize our walk with the Lord, confine it to a few moments on Sunday morning, but God?s desire is that we walk in worship, moment to moment, day by day! If we refuse to do so, to surrender to His will on a moment-by-moment basis, He lets us know that He?s on to our game. He knows that we will cry out to Him for help when we are in need, but we really don?t want Him interfering in our daily lives. Our lives are to be a service of worship to our King!
All throughout God?s Word we find this theme repeated over and over again. The same Paul who at the end of his life said, ?I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,? earlier said in Romans 12,
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God?s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God?this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God?s will is?his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)
God does not want us to allocate to Him a line in our Day Timer. He wants every moment of our existence, every breath we breathe, every move we make, to be a holy offering of worship to our King!
The problem that we see increasingly on the rise in our nation is a religious schizophrenia which enables us to profess one thing while living a totally different reality. The important thing we fail to realize is that true worship in the sanctuary leads to a life overflowing with worship of our King, bringing glory to God, in every area of life. Jesus stated this truth very succinctly when He said, 46?Why do you call me, ?Lord, Lord,? and do not do what I say?? (Luke 6:46 NIV)
When we worship God in the sanctuary, we, as followers of Jesus, come together to honor and magnify our King. When we live a life of worship, allowing each moment of our day to be an offering of glory to our King, we see God glorified in every way. Peter stated it this way, 12 ?Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.? (1 Peter 2:12 NIV)
There are three things which take place when a person decides to make each day an offering of worship to God.
First of all, God is glorified. It is impossible for us to bring glory to God when our lives are so unlike His character. If we live lives of fraud, we will be exposed as fakes, and God will be robbed of His glory. We read in Jeremiah that God is watching us, but God is not the only one watching us my friend. Those around us are watching us all the time. They want to see how we will respond when things don?t go our way, when we are wronged by those around us, and when we are away from our Christian friends, and when hardships come into our lives. If we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us, to make our lives a service of worship to God, then they will not be disappointed. Once again, Peter wrote,
11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:11-12 NIV)
Wouldn?t it be wonderful if someone saw the good of God shine through our lives and gave God the glory! I will make you a promise: If we will surrender our lives in daily heartfelt worship, God will be glorified. You may not be aware of it, you may never even know about it, but God will receive glory and honor.
The key to God receiving glory through the living of our lives is for us to die to ourselves. Paul wrote in Galatians,
20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NIV)
There is no way that you or I can simply decide to make some changes and live a ?better life.? The greatest changes we can bring about by our own will and determination are but filthy rags in God?s sight. Isaiah wrote,
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NIV)
We need to die to ourselves and allow Jesus to live through us each and every day.
Secondly, others are impacted because of our offering our lives to God as a service of worship. One of my favorite speakers is Dr. Tony Campolo. Tony is a professor of Sociology at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. Along with teaching sociology, Tony heads up a super ministry which works in urban areas as well as in Haiti. Tony tells the story of when he traveled to Haiti to check on one of the schools he sponsors there. As he was preparing to leave the school and make his way to the Holiday Inn where he was staying, he was approached by three girls. The oldest of the girls was not more than fifteen years old. One of the girls said, ?Sir, for ten dollars I will do whatever you want me to do, and I?ll do it all night long. Do you know what I mean?? Tony said, ?Yea, I know what you mean.? Then he turned to one of the other girls and said, ?How about you? Can I have you for ten dollars too?? She said, ?Yes.? Then he turned to the third girl and said, ?How about you? Can I also have you for ten dollars?? The little girl said, ?Yes, for ten dollars I?ll do whatever you want me to do.? Tony said, ?All right, I?ve got thirty dollars. I want all three of you girls for tonight. Meet me at my hotel room in thirty minutes and don?t be late.? Tony then rushed back to the hotel and called the man at the front desk. Tony said, ?I want you to get me every Disney video you have in stock and bring it to my room as soon as you can.? Then Tony called the man in the hotel?s restaurant and said, ?I want you to fix me some banana splits — lots of ice cream, lots of whipped cream, and all the syrup you can put on them. And I want four of them.?
Shortly after everything at Tony?s room arrived the girls knocked at the door. Tony opened the door and welcomed them into his room. They took a seat and watched Disney movies and ate ice cream well into the night. Tony in his broken Creole and the girls with their broken English talked as best they could and had fun watching movies and sharing a fun evening together. Tony says that finally around 2:00 am the last of the little girls fell asleep across the bed and he sat in an overstuffed chair and watched them. He thought to himself, ?Tony, nothing has changed. You haven?t changed a thing. Tomorrow night those little girls will be right back out on the street being abused by some dirty John. There will always be dirty ?Johns? to abuse little girls and there?s nothing you can do about it.? Then that voice that speaks to us from the depths of our soul, not that brash, boisterous voice that shouts in the mighty wind, or the rumbling thunder, but the still small voice of God whispered to Tony–?Yes, but for one night, for one night you let them be little girls.? For one night you let them be little girls. That?s it! We can?t change the world, but we can change the moment for some soul who is struggling under the weight of sorrow, sin, or sickness. Folks, when we daily lay down our lives and offer ourselves as a sacrifice of worship to Almighty God — He will touch those around us. I promise you He will touch them. You may never know about it, you may never hear about it, you may never see the fruits of your labor, but I assure you that He will impact the lives of those around you.
We miss out on those important moments of worship during our everyday life because we are too pressed for time. Let?s face it, there are other things Tony Campolo could have been doing other than watching Disney movies and eating a banana split on his last night in Port Au Prince, but Tony was aware of God?s presence and the opportunity to offer a few moments of his time to worship the Father by serving the young girls. God offers us opportunities to worship each and every day but we must prepare the sanctuary of our heart to be receptive to God?s invitation to worship by serving those He leads into our path.
The key to offering our lives as a sacrifice of worship to Almighty God is found in the book of Philippians as Paul wrote, 5 ?Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:? (Philippians 2:5 NIV) There is no way possible for us to think and act like Christ without Christ living and abiding in our hearts. There is no self-help program which can produce Christ-like actions and thoughts in your life and mine. You can read every Dr. Phil book on the market and it can?t transform your life or mine into a sweet and fragrant offering to our King. Only Christ can produce within us a mind which thinks Kingdom thoughts and a heart which produces Kingdom acts of compassion, love, and mercy.
The third thing that happens when we offer our lives as a sacrifice of worship to God is that He fills the deadness of our life with passion. There is a pervasive problem in our society today which alarms me. It has invaded both young and old alike, male and female, rich and poor — the problem is a deep, ubiquitous deadness which has paralyzed our people. Have you stopped to try and carry on a conversation with someone about what makes them tick in life? Next time you get the chance, ask a young high school student, or a person in their first or second year of college what they want to do with their life. The typical answer you will get is, ?I don?t know.? It?s not just the young who have been afflicted with this insidious disease; the young have learned their deadness from us, their elders. What excites you, what presses you so firmly so that no matter what happens in your life, you will never turn back, let loose, or turn around? I love what Paul had to say to the folks in Philippi,
10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14 NIV)
?I want to know Christ?? Not just the power of His resurrection, but also the fellowship of His sufferings! What passion! What power! What is it in your life that could cause you to say such convicting, convincing words? Your favorite ball team? Come on. Your favorite car? Get real. Your favorite t.v. show? Give me a break. If the only time you rush anywhere is to get in front of the television to watch your favorite television show or to hustle to the local sports arena then you may be alive physically, but your soul has already been deposited in a body bag!
God?s desire is to fill your life with passion! He wants to heat up your soul so that you might be freed from a life of apathy and deadness, and born again to a new life of passionate worship of the King. I get so burdened by the hollowness I see staring back at me as I look into the eyes of my brothers and sisters in the faith. I am burdened because the greatest reality the world has ever known has broken through time and space to impact the lives of everything on the planet, but we respond with a shrug of the shoulders.
Come alive my friend! Let Christ come into your life and animate your dead soul so that you might truly live. Our worship must move from the sanctuary into the streets if the world is ever going to truly see that the Gospel is more than a set of theories to be studied. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Won?t you allow Jesus to come into your heart this morning and give you the life you?ve been missing. The easy life? No way! The abundant life? You better believe it! The passionate life? Absolutely! The life that only comes through an intimate day-in and day-out walk with the Master. Invite Him in today.