Welcome to week 5 of our series called Worshiper. We’ve been looking at the topic of worship and today as we wrap up this series we’re going to look at worshiping with your whole life. I believe this message has the potential to change all of our lives in an incredibly profound way, because we’re going to examine how our lives would be different if we recognized the truth and admitted that our time is very limited. As a matter of fact, last January the USA Today (January 23, 2016) published an article entitled, “When will you die? ‘Death Clock’ says it knows.” Out of curiosity, I went on the internet and found “The Death Clock” which asked your date of birth, whether you’re male or female, your outlook on life, your Body Mass Index, whether you smoke, and then it tells you based upon that information when you’re going to die. Now in case you’re wondering, I’m sorry, but I didn’t do it… because I believe it would be wrong in God’s eyes to entertain such things, kind of like when King David numbered the troops (1 Chronicles 21:17), or like going to the doctor every 6 months to check to see if you have cancer, but the Death Clock is certainly a reminder of just how short life is.
This morning as we consider how to worship with our whole life we really need to begin laying the foundation of those things that are important, things which should be a priority, and those things that really don’t matter that much. You know, it’s like if you lived your life as if you only had weeks to live. Listen to what the psalmist said in chapter 39 verse 4 and 5, "Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath.” As we consider worshiping with our whole life we need to recognize that life is very brief.
So what is your life? Well, James tells us in chapter 4, verse 14, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Your life is incredibly brief, like the mist that vanishes so quickly, and so as we consider worshiping with our whole life we don’t want to miss out on God’s best. I pray that the Spirit of God speaks clearly to us today, because the problem is that too many people are just giving a portion of their life to Jesus. You know, it’s kind of like getting the flu shot, where the doctor pokes you and gives you just a little bit of the flu, a little bit, just enough to make you resistant to that virus. And so what we’ve got going on today, in many churches around the world, are people who’ve gotten a little bit of Jesus. You know, just a little bit, where it’s our own life, we can do our own thing, and we’re just going to pursue the things we want. And so everything is good and every now and then we’ll take a little bit of Jesus and maybe give a little bit in return. You know, we’ll go to church, we’ll give Jesus an hour, and we’ll give him a wave, a dollar… just a little bit in return. And so we acknowledge him, but we’re going to do our own thing, we’re going to do life our way, with just a little bit of Jesus.
That’s the story that we’ve been reading from Mark chapter 12. Jesus was having a conversation with these guys and they wanted to know how much was enough. You know, they had their What Would Jesus Do bracelets on, they’ve got the T-shirt, they might watch a little bit of Christian TV, maybe listen to some Christian songs, you know just enough, and when things get tough they might pray. And so these guys are going through life, everything’s okay, they’ve got a little bit of God, just enough to comfort their soul, but not really knowing him.
And so the point is that life is brief, you’re a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes, and that’s why you’re here right now, there’s nothing better that we could do with this moment than to say to Jesus, “I don’t want to be away from you, I don’t want to do my own thing, I don’t want to continue in this sin that’s destroying me, I want to know you, your truth, your power, your love, your grace, your mercy, and your forgiveness. Jesus, I want to turn my whole heart to you. Not just a little bit, but all of it.
And so as I was saying, Jesus was having this conversation and one of these guys asked him in Mark chapter 12, verse 28, "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." "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." Then Jesus said some words to him that have always disturbed me. Look at what verse 34 says, “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Jesus said, “You’re close but you’re not quite there.” And those are some scary words, some tragic words, considering the brevity of life. It’s always my greatest fear that there are some of you here that are not far from the kingdom of God. It’s like, you’re in church, you understand some things about Jesus, you’re close but you’re not quite there. You’re not far from the kingdom of God, but you don’t know the glory, the power, the truth, and the majesty of who Jesus really is. You don’t know him personally, you haven’t given him the time, you know just a little bit, you’re close, but you’re not quite there. You’re not far from the kingdom of God. You have a little bit of Jesus, but not all of him. That’s why you need to turn your whole life to Jesus and you need to do it now, because life is a mist that’s here for little while and then vanishes.
In this series we’ve been looking at Jesus commands in verse 30 and what it means to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And so today, as we wrap things up, we’re going to talk about loving our neighbor and how loving them really is worshiping God with our whole life. As we find out let’s look at this video clip from Hillsong: Let Hope Rise.
They’re having fun, they’re doing life together, and he said, “We’re the biggest band you’ve never heard of!” And so they’re having a blast, they’re riding around on a bus together, laughing, joking, giving high-fives to construction workers and having a great time together. Isn’t that a picture of what most of us want for our relationships? You know, the ability to be yourself with others, to be in community where they get you and you get them. A place where you don’t have to put on a show but where you can be confident and secure.
Honestly it takes years of shared experiences to develop relationships like we saw in that clip. But I think that when Jesus was giving his answer to that guy in Mark 12:31 and he said “Love your neighbor as yourself” he was building a bridge between the relationships that we saw with these guys in that video clip and the relationship that we should have with the people who live next door. You see Jesus knew that this commandment would test all the other ones. And so he was basically telling this guy that the only way he could prove whether or not he loved God was by whether or not he was loving his neighbor.
And so, number 1, who is your neighbor? Well the first thing we discover is that the Greek word translated neighbor in this passage means “one who is close by.” So your neighbor is anyone who is close by, anyone whom you have the opportunity to love. And so this morning, we need to understand that life is all about relationships and it’s too short to live without being connected to other people, because God created us for relationships. Deep in the core of our DNA, God has designed us to connect with other people, and to do life at an intimate level that very few people understand or have experienced. However, my guess is that right now we all have a few relationships in our lives that are not what they should be. You know, we all struggle with speaking life into other people, with consistently encouraging and affirming others, and very few of us can look people in the eyes and have a love for them like Jesus, a love that’s so deep. As a matter of fact, some of you here this morning have relationships that are broken and torn apart, maybe it’s a family relationship, maybe it’s a friendship, but here’s what God thinks. He tells us in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” In other words, we’re to make every effort, striving, and working wholeheartedly to have peace with those who are close by. God is calling us, as far as it depends upon us, to make every effort to keep the peace.
In the remainder of our time together, I want to dig in and look at some of the things that keep us from loving our neighbor as ourselves and therefore keep us from worshiping God with our whole life. We find many of them listed in Colossians 3:7-9, where the Holy Spirit tells us, “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.” And so the first thing we need to understand is that these actions are part of the world, part of our old life, and they’re not in line with what Jesus would teach, what he would have for us today, and they’re actually contrary to the idea of loving our neighbor. So how can we live lives that are complete where we’re loving our neighbor and in doing so expressing our love for God with our whole life? I think it really begins by putting off or getting rid of the old self with its practices and focusing on others instead of ourselves. So what does it take to be the kind of person who builds relationships that are strong and healthy? Number 2, let’s look at what it takes to be a worshiper through how we treat others. I think we see some of the answers here in this video clip.
Again looking at Colossians, the Holy Spirit gives us some good stuff to work on to demonstrate how we worship God through how we treat others. Let’s look together at Colossians 3:10-14: “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
This passage of Scripture demonstrates how worshiping God with our whole life specifically relates to our relationships with others. In the video clip, they were visiting children that they had sponsored through Compassion International in Manila and therefore demonstrating how to love your neighbor. And yet for many of us, we’re struggling with relationship’s right here and not halfway around the world. Many of us need healing in a relationship with a father or mother, a brother or sister, or maybe a friend who was once as close as a brother or sister. And so Colossians tells us first in verse 12, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” But here’s what we need to understand, for God to bring peace and healing into our relationships, their first needs to be a confrontation. That’s why compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience are required and then verse 14 tells us, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” The Holy Spirit says over all these virtues put on love. When it comes to loving our neighbor, when it comes to reconciliation, we can’t refuse to talk to each other or to be around one another, but there needs to be a conversation. God tells us in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply.” Above everything, above your self-centeredness, above your feelings, your pride, and your comfort, love others deeply. The Holy Spirit is saying stretch yourself towards other people, push yourself past the point of comfort, and love deeply with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
My question to you, number 3, is who do you need to love? Who do you need to call? Who do you need to encourage? Let’s stretch ourselves this morning, because we’ve got to become people who love like we’ve never loved before. And I know that’s hard, you may have already drawn the line, but the Holy Spirit is erasing that line, and he may be bringing a name to you right now, and you need to write it down. You need to hear what the Holy Spirit says in verse 13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” The Spirit says, “Forgive whatever.” Whatever! I know that’s tough, because there are some of you here who’ve been hurt, you’ve been abused, and you’ve gone through a painful situation, and maybe you’re asking yourself “How do I forgive?” You know, how do we forgive those that have beat us, abused us, and slandered us? How do you get yourself to a place where you can look at someone that has hurt you and say “I forgive you of whatever.”
Well in the last half of verse 13, God pops up with an answer! He says “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” And as the Lord forgave you requires that we take a journey down memory lane. What has God forgiven? Well, He’s forgiven us of anger, he’s forgiven us for stealing, for lust, for addictions, and even for trying to manipulate him and lying when we cry out, “Forgive me. I’ll never do it again.” And so he forgives us and the next day we do it again. And over and over and over again God forgives. And because he’s forgiven us, we have to forgive. We can’t live in hypocrisy, we’ve got to forgive, because we can’t accept his forgiveness if we can’t forgive others. We have to forgive!
I am reminded of the last days and hours of Jesus’ life. You know he was arrested, betrayed by his friends, taken to court, judged guilty for crimes he never committed, whipped and beaten beyond recognition, made to carry his own cross to the place of his crucifixion, where they beat the spikes into his hands, hung him up for all to see as they laughed, spit, and made fun of him. Yet Luke 23:34 tells us, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…”
Who is your neighbor? This morning who do you need to forgive? Or maybe who is it that you need to ask for their forgiveness? Maybe you’re the perpetrator, you put them in a difficult situation, who do you need to ask for forgiveness? Do it today.
What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Don’t let another minute go by without asking for forgiveness. Worshiping God with all of our lives is all about relationships. It’s about loving your neighbor as yourself. What matters most today is that we become a church that is obedient. Will you be obedient?
In closing, we see that how we live our lives everyday can be worship to God. Our heart and actions toward others have the potential to convey God’s love in a very real way. When we do we become the tangible hands and feet of Christ to our neighbors, our lives point to God and He is glorified. So you see, worship is not just something we do. A worshiper is who we are.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
May 01, 2016