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Discipleship in a Crowd

“Helping People Trust & Follow Jesus”

That was one of our main lessons from last week and it was based on the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20.

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

We summed up the main ideas in this passage and ended up with this easy-to-remember statement about what discipleship is all about: helping people trust and follow Jesus.

And we brought up this whole topic of discipleship, not because this is some crazy, new idea that we should make disciples. I think most of us are well aware that Jesus has commanded us to go and make disciples. That’s one of our main purposes in this life as Christians. To be a disciple of Jesus, and to make disciples of Jesus – or as we’ve defined discipleship here, to help people trust and follow Jesus.

And so we’re not bringing this up because we didn’t know that we’re supposed to make disciples. But rather, we’re bring this up because I think a lot of us don’t know how to make disciples. I think we want to make disciples – we want to help people trust and follow Jesus – but we’re just not sure how.

Obviously being a disciple of Jesus means doing what Jesus did – but we can’t replicate everything that Jesus did. We can’t walk on water, we can’t give sight to the blind or bring people back to life. And even if we leave out the miracles, I’m not sure we’re in a position where we can have 12 grown men following us around everywhere – living life with us. All that stuff seemed to work really well for Jesus as he made disciples, but I don’t think that’s what he expects of us today.

So somehow, we’ve got to learn the principles behind what Jesus did so that we can live out those principles in our current context. We’ve got to find a discipleship model that fits.

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Worship in Song

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been trying to wrap our heads around the idea of worship. I think for most of us – if we’re sitting in church this morning – we understand that worshipping God is central to the Christian life, but we may not understand exactly what that means.

And so we’ve spent the last two weeks defining worship. We started off by looking the old english word for worship – “weorthscipe” – which basically means to declare the worth of something. So by simple definition, we worship God by declaring His worth. And we can do that both in word and deed – intentionally or without even thinking about it.

In fact, every person on earth worships something – although they may not ever realize it. We worship whatever it is that is most important to us. And we declare it’s worth by our actions. In fact, you can tell what people worship by their actions. It might be our own egos, the approval of others, money, relationships, career – but what we worship quickly become evident in the choices we make every day – that’s really how we declare the worth of these things.

How we spend our time, where we focus our energies, what consumes our thoughts, even how we spend our money – that all reveals what we truly worship. And if we truly do worship God – if we consider His worth to be above all else – we are actually worshipping God every time we choose to obey and honour Him. Our worship is evident in the choices we make.

Then last week we filled out that idea a little more as we looked at the Hebrew word for worship and found that the Hebrew word could be translated either as to worship or to serve. Worshipping God and serving God were basically the same thing to the Hebrews. And we talked about how we worship God by serving Him – by doing the things were were created to do.

We talked about how we need to have an on-going relationship with our Creator so that we can know what we are created to do – to know his will. And when we do that – when we are reading his Word and talking to God in prayer – listening to the prompts of the Holy Spirit throughout our day – then really, everything we do (no matter how big or how insignificant) can be an act of worship as we seek to obey God and bring Him glory through every little thing that we do.

But of course, all of that still doesn’t answer the question that we’ve been trying to answer. The whole reason we’re talking about worship right now is because for the last three months, we’ve been talking about spiritual disciplines.

And if you’ve been with us very often, you’ll know that these spiritual disciplines – or these Healthy Habits as we’ve called them – are the practices of Christians over the centuries that help us draw close to God – they help us stay connected to Him and to know Him more and to grow in our faith in Him.

We’ve based this whole series on the passage in John 15 where Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches and we need to stay connected to Him.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

And so we’ve been looking at the practices and the healthy habits that help us remain in Him. And worship is one of those practices.

But of course, in how we’ve defined worship so far, worship seems more like a way of life rather than a specific habit to develop. And that’s true – we need to live a life of worship – but at the same time, a regular habit of expressing worship is also very important in staying connected to God.

And maybe that’s a good distinction to make. There are acts of worship – and there are expressions of worship. And I realize those might seem like they could be the same thing, but let me see if I can clarify.

So far, we’ve really be talking about acts of worship. Acts of worship are the things we do, the choices we make in obedience to God, that show we want to honour and please God. This is worshipping God by serving God.

We mentioned last week how changing your baby’s diaper can be an act of worship. If that’s a job that God has given to you to do as caretaker of that little baby, then obeying God in doing that is an act of worship.

However, I probably wouldn’t say that changing a diaper is an expression of worship. We wouldn’t all gather together to change baby’s diapers to express our love and adoration for God.

And part of our difficulty in understanding the difference between acts of worship and expressions of worship is that in English, we have a limited vocabulary when it comes to worship.

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Changing Diapers for the Glory of God

It was an unusual service last week. We played “The Price Is Right” right in the middle of the message and we had a quick round of “Balderdash” – but it was all to help us understand what it means to worship.

Worship is the fifth spiritual discipline that we’ve looked at since we began this series on Healthy Habits, but its a little bit different from the other spiritual disciplines in that, while most spiritual disciplines are specific activities that Christians do in order to help us grow in our understanding and in our faith in God, worship is not necessarily a particular activity. We can worship in almost everything we do.

We learned that while you might envision worship as singing or bowing down or bringing an offering or sacrifice, worship is really much more than all those kinds of activities.

To help us define worship, we looked at the old English word “Weorthscipe” – which is where we get our modern word “Worship.” And weorthscipe means to declare the value or the worth of something.  It’s worth-ship.

So when we worship God, we can certainly declare God’s worth through singing for example – but really, we worship God (that is, we declare His worth through our actions) anytime we choose to honour and please Him above everything else. When knowing and pleasing God is more important to us than anything else, then we are worshiping God. And on the flip side of that, anytime anything else is more important to us than knowing and pleasing God – that becomes an idol to us and we worship that other thing rather than God.

So that, in a nutshell, was what we talked about last week. All of us worship something – the real question is “What do we worship? What do we value more than anything? Do we worship God or do we worship something else?” And I hope that’s a question that you’ve wrestled with over this past week.

Now this week, I want to build on our definition of worship. What we’ve looked at so far is what I’d call our “unintentional worship”. It’s not necessarily specific activities that we do, it’s more of an attitude. It’s simply what we value. Because like we said… What we value the most is what we worship. We don’t even have to put thought into it. If we worship money, for example, that just becomes evident in how we live our lives. We just automatically arrange our priorities so that money is given the greatest consideration in any circumstance.

It’s not like we go physically go and bow before our piggy banks or pray to our wallets. Not literally anyway…  So that’s why I would classify this kind of worship as “unintentional worship”. We just kinda do it automatically.

But when it comes to worshipping God, in addition to our unintentional worship, there should also be an element of intentional worship as well. There are things that we intentionally do to express our worship. And the Bible is full of statements and commands and examples of intentional acts of worship.

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Defining Worship

How many of you have ever played the game “Balderdash”? Its a simple game where the basic idea is that you get a word – a real word – but its a word that is so uncommon that no body really knows what it means. Maybe it’s a medical term or some old English word that’s gone out of use. But the idea is that everyone tries to come up with a plausible definition of that word. Then you read out all the definitions and everyone votes for the definition that they believe is the real one.

Well, we’re going to play that game today. Sort of. I’m going to give you a word and I want you to see if you can come up with a definition. It’s not actually a competition – just a fun little exercise to get your minds in gear this morning. Here is the word… Weorthscipe. Any guesses what that word means?

“Weorthscipe” is an old English word which really means to declare the worth of something. If you break it into two parts, you can start to see our modern english words hidden within the old….

The first part “Weorth” – means value or worth. You can see that – just drop the ‘e’ and the is the modern word “worth”. That’s pretty straight forward….

The second part is “scipe” and that means which means the condition of. We see this bit in modern english quite often today, although we spell it now SHIP.  It still means, the condition of… We add it to the end of word… as in friendship – the condition of being friends. Or leadership – the condition of being a leader.

Weorthscipe is the condition of having worth. 

That word is important to us today because it’s from this word “weorthscipe” that we get the modern idea of “worth-ship” or “worship” – and worship, of course, is absolutely central to everything we do as Christians…

As most of you know, through most of 2017 so far, we’ve been working our way through this series called Healthy Habits – A Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines. And basically, we’ve been talking through the practices of Christians that help us draw closer to God – they help us know Him more and they strengthen our faith in Him.

Worship is the next spiritual discipline that we want to look at. And I wanted to start with this old word – weorthscipe – because it really helps us understand exactly what we’re talking about when we’re talking about worship.

Because I think for a lot of us, when we hear the word worship, we often get incorrect or at least incomplete ideas of what worship is.

For a lot of us, perhaps based on what Hollywood has shown us, worship is bowing down before some person or idol. We envision these tribal or ancient people gathering around this big stone statue – all bowing low before it with their faces to the ground. Maybe we envision them chanting something or performing some strange ritual. Perhaps we even see them offering some kind of sacrifice to this god made of stone – in hopes that their god will accept their worship and bless their crops and their families.

And that’s not entirely foreign to what we see in the Bible – particularly in the Old Testament. In the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – we see the King commanding them to bow down before his giant golden statue of himself. In the story of Elisha, we see the prophets of Baal dancing around their sacrifice to their god – shouting and cutting themselves with knives and swords in hopes that their god would notice them. Even the Israelites – when they first came out of Egypt, molded a golden calf and made sacrifices and offerings to it.

But of course, that was thousands of years ago. That type of worship is completely foreign to us today – especially in our western culture. I mean, in places like India, they still have stone or wooden idols that they pray to or make offerings to – but for most of us here today – that kind of worship is totally foreign.

In fact, for us today, our image of worship – in Christian circles anyway – typically involves a certain type of music.

In our churches we might have a worship leader that leads us in singing. Sometimes we have a worship team that might get together for a worship practice as they go through their songs. If you go to the Christian bookstore, they have a whole genre of music classified as ‘worship music’. In fact, this very event that you’ve come to this morning is often referred to as a worship service. So it’s pretty easy to see why Christians today might equate worship with singing a certain type of songs.

But is that really worship? What does it really mean to worship God?

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The Invitation of Prayer

When I first decided that we would go through a sermon series on the spiritual disciplines, I had in mind a series of about six messages. One on the Bible, one on prayer, one on fasting, one one worship, and a couple other ones in there as well…. But it certainly seems that God had something more in mind.

As it is, this is now message #8 and we’ve really only talked so far primarily about the Bible and about prayer – just two of the many healthy habits that we want to look at. But I think it’s been good! At least, it has been for me anyway. Particularly when it comes to prayer. Prayer has never been something that I’ve felt has been one of my strong points. Of course, as Christians we know that prayer is important – and so I’ve certainly tried to integrate prayer into my personal life and my family’s life and our church life, but honestly, it’s never been something I just naturally do. I really have to make that effort.

And I think a big part of my struggle has come become of how I understood the purpose of prayer. I mentioned in last week’s message – why do we pray when God already knows what we need and has promised to provide it? Can’t we just trust Him? When you think about it that way, it almost seems like praying for three hours each day like Martin Luther is almost a lack of faith! Why must you pray so much – can’t you just trust God? And so for much of my life, I’ve convinced myself that I have more of an ‘attitude of prayer’. Maybe I don’t always put words to my prayers, but I have this attitude of just trusting God.

And it’s great to have that kind of trust in God, but I think that still misses the point of prayer! So these last few weeks have been really good for me as I’ve dug into the whole question of why do we pray? What’s the purpose of prayer?

And I know that I haven’t fully answered those questions yet in these messages, but I hope that as I’ve been sharing what I’ve been learning, I hope that God’s been stirring up a desire in you to learn more about the why and how of prayer in your own life.

So this morning, I want to share with you yet another aspect of prayer for you to think about this week. And for me, this is really what has helped me understand why God invites us to pray.

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The Purpose of the Disciplines

Healthy HabitsAs I grow older old, I’ve noticed that being healthy and fit is not my default state. If left alone, that’s not where I naturally end up. When I look back over my last 15 years, I can see my tendency to slide towards being unhealthy and unfit.

Of course, in my younger days, it certainly seemed like health and fitness was the default. When I was in my 20s, it didn’t seem to matter what I ate or didn’t eat. I didn’t have to go to the gym or really, pay any attention to my health or fitness. It seemed I was just naturally in pretty good shape.

But now, as the years have passed, I increasingly find that that is not the case! I can no longer do all those things that I once did. I can’t eat whatever I want without consequence. When I’m doing physical activity, I get tired quicker. My energy runs out sooner than I’d like. My body complains loudly after I do some of those strenuous activities. 

I used to spend a lot of time at camp and back then I had just as much endurance and energy as any of the kids. Of course, I was never the most athletic guy – I’ve never been super muscular or particularly skills at sports. But I certainly wasn’t out of shape. I loved the wide games at camp. I could run pretty quick, so I loved capture the flag or prisoner’s base or all those running games.

Well, I played floor hockey over at the Innisfail Baptist Church a few weeks ago – and after an hour of running around, (and certainly not at the intensity that I used to) I was pretty exhausted. And the next day, man, I was feeling it! 15 years ago, I could have done that with no problem. But not anymore.

And its not just a matter of getting older though… The guy in charge of the floor hockey was at least 10 years older than me and he was still quicker at the end of the night than most of the young guys! So it’s not simply an issue of age – it’s a matter of health and fitness.

So over this past year in particular, I’ve noticed more and more that being healthy and fit is not my default state. Unless I do something to stop this downward progression, I will increasingly grow less healthy and less fit. My energy levels will continue to drop.  My ability to run or play games with my kids or go for hikes or all those things – I’ll be less and less able to do those things. And that’s certainly a concern for me.

We just helped move my Grandma – who is 94 year old now – into a senior’s home just a few weeks ago. She has certainly slowed down, but for a 94 year old, she done a pretty good job over her lifetime of keeping healthy and fit. I hope when I’m 94 years old, I’m as healthy and fit as she is.

I was out for a walk a couple weeks ago and I stopped to chat with my neighbour who was out edging his lawn. He was mostly done by the time I came by – he had edged up and down the sidewalk in front of his house and had done most of the walkway up to his door. There was quite pile of sod that he had trimmed up – and as we were chatting, he told me that he was cerebrating his 80th birthday that week. Man! I hope when I’m 80 years old, that I’m healthy and fit enough to still do as much work as what he was doing.

But I’ll tell ya, if I don’t intentionally do something to change my natural direction, I won’t be. I’ve got to intentionally work at staying healthy. If I don’t want to be shuffling around with my walker when I’m 60, then I’ve got to start working at being healthy and fit today. If I still want to be able to play and run with my grandkids or my great grandkids when I’m 70, then I need to start working at it now.

And it does take work – that’s for sure. Recently, I’ve been experimenting – trying to find the best way for me to stay healthy and fit. And so there’s two specific things that I’ve been trying. One of them is just trying to eat a little more healthy. I found an app that I like for my phone that tracks what I eat. I find that just seeing how much I eat in a day helps me refrain from over-doing it on snacks and second helpings and such. But it’s hard… There are a lot of good things to eat in this world, so it’s work for me to exercise that self-discipline and make sure I don’t over do it.

The other thing I’ve been trying to do is just to exercise more. As a pastor, much of my day is spent sitting and having coffee with folks or reading and studying or working on my sermon in front of my computer. There’s not a lot of physical activity required. So I’ve had to make a particular effort to be more active in my recreation time. In the summer time, that meant lots of family bike rides or going for a walk around the block. Sometime when I can, I try to walk to the church instead of driving there. But again, it all takes work. It’s much easier to drive across town than to walk – but if I want the benefit of being healthy and fit – especially in my later years, then I’ve got to put the work in today and make the sacrifices today so that I can enjoy that later.

And I tell you all this this morning because I’ve found that my spiritual health and fitness works very much the same way. Just like how everyone wants to be physically fit and healthy, as Christians, I think we also want to be spiritual fit and healthy.

We want to enjoy a close relationship with God. We want to continually make right choices and honour God with how we live our lives. We want to be like those great heroes of the faith that we admire so much. We want to do our part in helping others come to know and love Jesus. We want to experience the full and abundant life that God has promised us.

But unfortunately, spiritual health and fitness isn’t our default state either. As people born with a sinful nature, our natural inclination is away from God – not towards him. And just like how, without intentional effort, we tend to grow physically unhealthy and out of shape, likewise, without intentional effort, we tend to grow spiritually unhealthy and out of shape.

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