Welcome to week number 3 of our series Worshiper: How to Worship with Your Whole Life. We’ve been looking at excerpts from the movie Hillsong: Let Hope Rise to discover some truths about worship and how God has called us to worship him with all that we are.
Our theme Scripture comes from Mark 12.28-31, where Jesus was talking with one of the religious leaders who asked this all-important question: “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus response is the big idea behind this series. And so let’s read it together.
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." NIV
Jesus response was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” In part 1 we talked about how worship is love expressed in such a way that as we worship we’re essentially loving God. And then in the second week we talked about what it means to love God with all of our soul and we discovered that our soul is the real us and the Spirit should have dominion over the soul so that our decisions, thoughts, feelings, and emotions can all be expressed through the grid of loving God. Now this week we’re going to look at the third command Jesus gave us as he said, “Love the Lord your God… with all your mind.” Let’s look at this video.
Of course there’s so much more to see then we get to see on a video clip, but what I love about this is that they described the challenges facing them with God right in the center. So what do you do when things don’t go the way you thought they would? What do you do when the pressures of life or the circumstances you’ve been handed are seemingly too much to bear?
Great questions, because I know we’ve all been there to one degree or another. Whether our debt is rising and our bank account is shrinking. Or questioning how we are going to get it done with 3 kids in diapers? What if it’s a bad report from a doctor, a relationship that’s ripped apart, the loss of a loved one? These and others are all circumstances that find their way into our life experience. So how do we handle it? What do we do? What if one of us gets sick? What’s going to happen? How do we get past it?
And honestly this is part of the human experience, there was a moment like this when Jesus looked ahead to the pain that he would endure when he became sin for us and the Bible says in Mark 14:33, “He began to be deeply distressed and troubled. And he said, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." It was there in the garden at that moment of time that Jesus wrestled with the thoughts, fears, and anxieties of humanity and committed himself fully to the will of the Father.
For us today, when we’re confused, angry, upset, and don’t understand God, when we can’t understand why this is happening, I think the answer lies in part in our mind, because the mind is the place where the pressures of life are initially felt. The mind is a battleground, and if the enemy can take hold of you there he can overcome you everywhere else. You see, your mind is an extension of your soul, and it’s the place where choices and decisions are made.
As we consider worshiping God with all our mind, there’s a story in the Bible that can give us some insight on how to make the right decisions when everything around us is going wrong. It’s the story of a couple of guys named Paul and Silas. If you have your Bible turn to Acts chapter 16 and verse 16.
“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her. “
“When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice."
“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. “
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"
“The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
“They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God — he and his whole family.” NIV
So what do you do when everything around you is going wrong? Well, I think there are several things that we can learn from the story of Paul and Silas in Acts chapter 16. This is an incredible story is in it? Paul and Silas are wrongly accused, beaten, whipped, and put in chains and stocks. This was punishment reserved for the most dangerous criminals to make sure that they would not escape; measures totally unnecessary for Paul and Silas, but this is where they found themselves… after doing what the Holy Spirit had led them to do. Now some of you might have missed that, this may make you uncomfortable, but let me say it again.
You know, sometimes God has plans for us, but we don’t always get the full picture. We often think of God’s purposes as favor and blessing for our lives and certainly that is true, but in the context of difficulty and heartache, God is not so much concerned about our comfort, as he is concerned about our character… about who we’re becoming.
Look at Acts 16:6-10
“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
Here the Holy Spirit prevented them from preaching in the province of Asia and sent them to Macedonia where they were beaten, whipped, and thrown in jail. Now I wonder how many of us would pray those dangerous prayers like “Use me, or “Not my will, but your will be done” if God told us that in order to accomplish his will that we would be beaten, whipped, and thrown in jail?
If God told us we were going to go through the loss of a loved one, but on the other side of that he would use it for his good purposes. Or if he said your child was going to have open heart surgery, but in the end it would be to his glory… I just don’t know that I would be on board with that, but Paul and Silas were so sold out they were willing to press through anything to see the Kingdom of God advance.
We get a glimpse of this when Paul talks about pressing forward in Philippians 3:13-14.
“Brothers, 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” He’s pressing on for a heavenly prize. He tells us what this is in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
The heavenly prize is “knowing” Christ! That word know in the Greek means “absolute” and so when Paul says he wants to know Christ, it’s a complete knowing, a confidence, an assurance of knowing, and therefore even though we won’t always understand, we can be assured that one day we will fully know. Sometimes you can’t know it all now, so you willingly walk through it tomorrow, and so that you can see it all later!
Paul and Silas didn’t know everything at that point, but they knew enough to put their trust in God through the most difficult circumstances and trust him with the outcome. The Bible says that around midnight they began praying and singing psalms and hymns to God. That is a powerful statement of trust given their circumstances at that moment. They didn’t complain. They didn’t sit there in silence wondering how they were going to get out of that mess. They didn’t fight and argue like most of us do when things get difficult. What they did is what we should do when stress rises and pressures mount, they prayed and worshiped together singing psalms and hymns to God.
Well just like we talked about last week, our soul should be subject to our spirit, and in the same way our mind should be subject to our spirit. Let’s look together at Romans chapter 8, verse 5 and following.
Romans 8:5-6, 9
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace… You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”
Here are a couple points that I want to pull out of this passage that we can take home with us today.
A. The mind can and will be dominated.
The big question is which part of us will dominate our minds? Will we be dominated by the sinful nature or by the Spirit? You know, I think a lot of times we feel like our minds are our own little playgrounds where we can do pretty much anything we want without getting caught, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Look at Jesus words in Luke 8:17,
“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”
And you can be sure that Potiphar’s wife thought no one would ever know that she tried to seduce Joseph. When she told her husband that Joseph attacked her, she never would have dreamed that we’d be talking about it 3000 years later. That certainly is a solemn reminder that all of our faults will at some point be on display and therefore we should live accordingly.
B. Permission has to be given.
The key word in Romans chapter 8, verse 6 is “controlled.” Whom will you allow to have control? The sinful nature or the Spirit? The old phrase, “the devil made me do it,” just is not true. We have a mind with which we make choices, and with the help of the Holy Spirit we can make the right decisions even when things are going terribly wrong. Romans 8:9 says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” Now that doesn’t make it easy, but it’s worth it. And so as we close, here are a few thoughts from the story of Paul and Silas in Acts chapter 16 about how we can worship God with all of our mind.
I find that I can spend lots of time worrying, planning, processing things, and even questioning myself and questioning God, but when I actually open my mouth and speak to God, I reveal all these emotions and intentions, and it’s like they become real once I’ve spoken them out loud. And honestly, sometimes it’s difficult to admit to God what I’m really thinking or what I really feel about something or someone, but I need to remind myself that he already knows all my thoughts, nothing I say shocks him, and so I’m not speaking out loud to inform him, but I’m speaking out loud to make it real to myself. And then every single time, I feel a wave of conviction, and it’s then that I’m able to ask God for forgiveness and thank him that his grace flows freely to me no matter how many times I’ve asked. This is where true repentance lives and where a submitted mind finds its peace.
This takes a deliberate intention, because when our thoughts begin to dwell on bitterness, unforgiveness, envy, greed, or even those lesser sins, like worry, stress, or fear, they’re all symptoms of a mind and will no longer submitted to God, and we’re no longer loving him “with all our mind.” It’s important that we treat our thoughts just as we would our words if they were said out loud in that moment.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
You see, when we fight in the Spirit, we win in the natural! The wonderful reality is that when we take these thoughts captive, meaning that we take them prisoner, they don’t have any freedom, they have no voice or influence, and we’re making a deliberate decision to submit them to God. We’re allowing our mind the room to love our God and those around us in freedom and without guilt or condemnation. This is the freedom that God has for us when we worship him with all of our mind!
In Acts 16:28, the jailer was ready to kill himself because he thought all of the prisoners had escaped, but Paul shouted out, “Don’t harm yourself! We’re all here!” Now Paul and Silas could have escaped at that moment assuming that God had supernaturally freed them from that prison. And I know I probably would’ve run out of that jail as fast as I could, but they didn’t, they stayed, and because they stayed, salvation came to the jailer and his entire family. Now you’ve got to wonder why they stayed, but here’s what I think, I believe it was because they’d made a decision ahead of time that whatever challenge or difficulty that came along they were going to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow what he said. And so they were waiting for directions.
This morning, what is it that you’re ready to give up on? What is it that you might be running out on or escaping from? You see, God may have a miracle waiting for you on the other side if you will just make the decision ahead of time to trust Him no matter what. And this is a decision that’s easy to make when things are going great, but that’s exactly why you make the decision ahead of time, because if you wait until things are challenging to decide what you’re going to do, you’ll likely end up making the wrong decision.
What a beautiful gift that God has given us in that we can choose. And he wants us to choose him over every other thing. Our privilege is getting to say “Yes, God, I will submit my mind to you. I will love you fully and I desire to worship you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Let’s pray. Amen.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
April 17, 2016