Sunday, 10 June 2018

Do Battle in Worship - 2 Chronicles 20 and Acts 16

Today is all about a fundamental decision that our 2 baptism candidates have taken - a decision about who (or what) is no. 1 in their lives. We all have our no. 1 (often ourselves!), we all worship something. Today 2 young people are saying 'Because of Jesus God is their no. 1'.

They are not doing this because we have told them to, or because they ought to. They are responding to God reaching into their lives through Jesus. You see if you were lost and didn't even know it, God will still come looking for you. Even if God found a huge chasm between Himself and you He would then attempt to cross it ... even if in the crossing God would fall to His death. Yet incredibly God would defeat death and appear the other side, to meet with us and call us home. That is what God does in Jesus through the cross and resurrection, that is what our candidates have discovered! Today is their response to His rescue for them.

That doesn't make them perfect overnight, it doesn't remove all hardship or struggle. Yet when we make God in Jesus our no. 1, and start living a life of worship - things change in us and around us. When we worship His priorities become our priorities, and so we also worship not just with singing but through practical action. That's why as a church we are moved by social injustices, and take part in Ely Foodbank, CAP Debt centre, and why we come alongside people e.g. at parent & toddler. We have the slogan Seeking to Worship - Seeking to Serve because we want to worship God (upwards), but that compels us to help others (outwards). Yet in serving we face situations and need resources, which forces us again back on God (upwards again) - so our worship and service are intimately linked together. All the while as we do that God works in us (inwards).

What kind of person do you want to be? The one who tries to look cool, to fit in, or with bravado, or who asserts yourself against others? In responding to Jesus you don't have to be any of these, because Jesus enables you to realise who you are in Him. With Jesus as no. 1 you don't have to respond like with like to others, but can face situations differently.

That is what we see in our two Bible stories today. The first has a big nasty army coming to attack, making the king and his people quake in their boots. Yet the king remembers to set God as no. 1, that his people should be a people of worship, depending on God for rescue. So the king goes out to face the army, but does so not with organised lines of soldiers but with organised musical worship! They see God fight for them - the enemy gets confused and they start killing each other!

The second story is after Jesus has died and then seen alive again. Paul and friends have Jesus as their no. 1 and love telling everyone about him. Yet that gets them into trouble, with a mob throwing them into prison. Beaten up and bound in the dungeon you or I of course would be miserable by now - but not Paul! He organises a singing competition, singing praise through the night. As they worship there is an earthquake and the prison falls apart. Naturally all the convicts could escape and so the jailer thinks he will be executed for losing all the prisoners. Yet Paul and everyone have stayed! He tells the jailer how he too can be included in the great rescue of Jesus - the jailer responds by being baptised that very same day.

These are stories from ancient times, but now a story from the last 5 years. In South Africa Christians run a special village for aids orphans. There is housing, schooling, medical facilities. But this is enough to make local bandits jealous and the bandits come to steal their food and money. Being out in the sticks there is nowhere to run to, so the Christians round up the children to their central meeting hall and encourage them to just start worshipping. As the bandits close in, they hear the sound of singing - boys & girls worshipping Jesus. Incredibly they turn around and leave the camp with minimal damage.

In each of these 3 stories who has the greater guts? The attacking army or the king, the mob or Paul & friends, the bandits or the Christians? Making Jesus no. 1 is not a wimpy option, but requires courage. In this series aimed at men we want blokes to work out what they are made of and have guts for the tough choices. To work out in the difficult scenarios what does it mean to make God no. 1 and live a life of worship. Such a life will likely attract outright up front opposition - will they then have the mettle to remain a worshipper?

Curiously in the moment of direct opposition an extraordinary thing happens. If you have resolved to be a worshipper, then God will give you the supernatural strength to face down the enemy - it won't actually come from you! All you supply is the decision to keep God as no. 1. This can apply to everyone, and so this can apply to you. Will you have the guts to respond to Jesus and make Him your no. 1 right now?

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