Sunday, 9 June 2019

Worship Overflow - Romans 12:1 - 8

Two profound statements of Jesus stand out for me: Jn 4:34 'My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, to finish his work', and Jn 19:30 (on the cross) 'It is finished'. The whole life of Jesus was sacrifice - from beginning to end. Of course it climaxed on the cross, but his whole life was lived as a sacrifice, sent by the Father to do His work.

Paul's call to us is to be the same: 'Offer your lives as a living sacrifice'. Of course not as a carbon copy (we won't all be literally crucified'), but in the words of the Message translation: 'Take your everyday ordinary life, your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, walking-around life and place it before God as an offering'. That means everything you think/attempt/do becomes thought/attempted/done as worship, your whole life is worship. It means that when we gather we come worshipping, not that we 'come to worship'! It means that we come prepared, with our worship gathered together being an overflow of our worship lived through the week.

Be embraced by God and His grace, and respond to that. It is therefore all about Him and what He has done, not us doing for Him. Our lives are a response to God, to His initiative and enabling. Recall our identity is firstly in Christ, and what we do flows out from that rather than the other way round.

Yet that means that we cannot simply keep living as we used to - we are called to live different, to be a contrast society. Different translations put it well: 'Do not conform to the pattern of this world', 'Don't just fit right into culture without thinking', 'Don't let the world squeeze you into it's own mould'. The world will quite happily have you live without worship, it will quite easily distract us from worshipping - so we have to learn to live different, a life laid down, a life of worship.

This will require a change in our thinking - but for this God has given His Spirit.

The Spirit brings us together in Christ, uniting us. The first followers of Jesus had a common experience of literally walking with Him, and then seeing Him be executed, and then appearing to them alive. They then had another extraordinary experience together of the coming of the Spirit. Later followers had not been with Jesus and thus had not shared in those earlier experiences - but they did come to share in the common experience of the Holy Spirit. When people started believing in Samaria, Peter went to pray with them and they received the Spirit. When non-Jewish people started enquiring, it was the coming of the Spirit that convinced the existing followers that this was a unifying move of God.

Though the Spirit unites us, He doesn't make us all identical like clones. Paul uses the body image, with each of us being like different parts of the body. So we do not need to compare ourselves to one another, we just need to excel at who God has made us to be. We do that with others (Sharing the Walk), and together we form a body, together we are church - the Spirit unites us for this.

The Spirit also empowers us. It is the Spirit that enables us to live a life laid down, and the Spirit gives us enhanced and special abilities through which to do that. Paul lists several things - it is not a set list - but includes speaking what God would say, serving or helping, encouraging, teaching, giving, leading, giving aid or showing mercy.

All these we can do with the mantle of God on us. All these we can do as lives lived in worship. All these we can do to the best of our ability. All these can be done with us alert to what God is doing through us in myriad ways through the week ... so that when we gather on a Sunday it is the overflow of the 24-7 living for God that helps bring Kingdom Life across the City.

At Countess Free Church we want to be that people: empowered by the Spirit to live lives laid down, lives of worship! The deal for us is that Everyone, Everywhere, Everyday ... expresses their life in a way that leads others to life.

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