Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Let’s tackle another auto-pilot verse. This is one of the ones we learn early in the Christian life, whether it’s in Sunday School, VBS, or a new believer’s discipleship class.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

(1Jo 1:9 NASB)

I carried this verse around with me for most of my Christian life, thinking that this meant, “When I sin, I’ll just pray a little confession prayer, and my sin is gone. Nobody else ever has to know, and it’s as if I’d never sinned.” If someone questioned me about my sin, I could lie my way out of it. Now that’s another sin, but of course it’s again easily remedied by my little confession prayer.

Reading it in context provides a different perspective on John’s meaning in this verse:

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

(1Jo 1:5-10 NASB)

Notice the “one another” buried in the middle of that passage. I am beginning to realize that the confession that John is talking about may mean more than confessing in a private prayer to God. The fellowship spoken of here is both with God and with His church. The more I meditate on this passage, the more I am convinced that John is prescribing the antidote to the masks that we wear in the church. An earlier letter to the church says:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

(Jam 5:16 NASB)

Fellowship comes from walking in the light together. If we withhold our sins from one another, we lose fellowship, and we lose the opportunity for healing. Perhaps fellowship is the instrument that God uses to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It’s a scary thought, living in that sort of transparency. But the steps I have begun to take in this direction have helped me to look at this as more of an invitation than a command.

In any case, it’s not what I learned in Sunday School. Your thoughts?

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Spiritual Worship Service

As long as we’re on the subject of going on auto-pilot with familiar passages, I’d like to continue in this thread. Romans 12:1-2 gets a lot of coverage:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

(Rom 12:1-2 NASB)

What a rich passage! It seems I could camp out in there for an eternity, considering what it means to offer my body as a sacrifice to God. And being transformed, renewing my mind, proving God’s good, acceptable and perfect will; these are amazing commands and promises for the believer. That’s what I want for my life!

But wait. Let’s see what follows:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

(Rom 12:3-5 NASB)

You mean, once I have this sacrificed body, this transformed mind, knowing the will of God, I’m supposed to be humble? I thought this was supposed to make me better than those other people! You mean I’m stuck here? What is that supposed to do for my self-esteem?

Paul goes on to describe how we use the gifts we have in the body of Christ. Each one does according to his gift: prophesying, teaching, exhorting, giving, aiding, being merciful, and so on. This is the spiritual act of worship, the living sacrifice Paul is talking about. It happens in the body of Christ, the church. It’s not solitaire.

Paul loves to talk about the living, breathing connection we have with one another as the body of Christ. Because it’s so obviously filled with love! Listen:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

(Rom 12:9-13 NASB)

What a beautiful place the church is when this happens! It has little to do with what music is being sung, how cool the sanctuary looks, or the worship leader’s haircut. Those who live out the fullness of this passage in authenticity are true worshipers.

Unity in Worship

Have you ever found yourself, while reading scripture, going on auto-pilot when you come to a passage that is familiar to you? Perhaps it’s one of those verses you learned early in your life, or one you’ve memorized as part of a study.

It’s easy to forget the context, and even the full meaning, of those scriptures as we read them. In my case, here is a passage that I love:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(Phi 2:5-11 NASB)

What a great study this is on the character of Jesus Christ! I have studied this, incorporated it into song, sung many other songs based upon it, and committed it to memory. What I often do as I am reading in Philippians 2 is skim right past this:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

(Phi 2:1-4 NASB)

In other words, if there is anything to this gospel at all, we must have the same mind, love, spirit, and purpose! And we must do this out of humility! Needless to say, I have not found many songs about this. And I certainly haven’t (yet) written any!

But notice what amazing power is there as we consider this. As we humble ourselves, as we empty ourselves, as we unite ourselves in spirit and purpose, we will see the encouragement of Christ, the consolation of love and the fellowship of the Spirit. We will see affection and compassion grow in our lives and in our churches.

The only way for us to be of one mind is to take the example of our Lord in humility. This is the only way to heal division in the church. This is the only way to present the gospel to the world. This is the only way that we can truly worship together.