Transformation through Community and Worship

Transformation through Community and Worship
Romans 12:1-8
February 5, 2017

For the past 4 weeks we’ve been talking about community.  We know it’s important, but we often struggle with community.  We get confused about how to cultivate real relationships, we struggle once we’re in them, and sometimes when 2 or 3 are gathered, we make community something which is not to be desired.

So, what do we do?  We find community in other places.  We may go to the bar.   We may join a community organization, we may volunteer somewhere hoping to find what we long for.  We may get involved in the church, we may even do nothing . . . or we can do what so many other people have done . . .

Get involved in cyber-communities.  Yup, cyber-communities are communities you find on the internet.  There was Cy-World in South Korea.  Cy-World was proclaimed to be a “parallel universe unto itself.  It combines aspects of ‘simulated reality’ computer games … with massive multiplayer online games that have thousands of players facing off simultaneously in what’s known as a ‘persistent world.’

Cyworld wasn’t a game; the goal wasn’t to slay dragons or accumulate points but to socialize with ‘cybuddies.'”  The website said, Cyworld “emphasizes relationships between relatives, neighborhood friends, and co-workers — people who have already met in real life but yearn to also hang out online.”

Don’t we have that as well?  We had MySpace, anyone remember that?  Then we moved on to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and whatever is next.

When you think about it, our world is becoming more and more impersonal.  It’s easier to hang out with friends in an online virtual world, than to have face-to-face interaction.  We’ve become less interactive with family and friends.  We’d rather talk to someone via texting, than to actually talk to them.

When you think about the younger generation, consider the difficulties I believe they will have communicating when all they do is text, and don’t really talk to one another.  For those who grew up before the texting age, do you remember having a boy or girl friend.  You spoke to them on the phone, as weird as it was, and as exhilirating as it was . ..  You communicated and they heard your voice, and understand your humor.  OK!  Rant over!

I once heard a story about a family where each person had a computer in his or her own bedroom, and the kids would talk to each other and to their parents using chat, instead of sitting in a room talking face-to-face.  I wonder if the church has followed the ways of this world and become more virtual than real?  And how can we reclaim true community and worship in the church?

In Romans 12:1-8, the apostle Paul offers some practical steps for us to truly grow as a community of brothers and sisters in Christ.

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  
   Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,
   but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,

5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;

7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;

8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. — Romans 12:1-8

We may look around the sanctuary and say, “That person is not like me.  We don’t look alike.  We don’t have the same interests.”  But God says we are one body through our common faith in Jesus Christ.  No family is perfect, but we do belong to each other.

Most people love their families.  Let’s start with parents.  We love our parents, but as we all know, our parents can drive us crazy.  They know exactly what to do and say that will “push our buttons.”  There are times we’ve said hurtful things to them, and we’ve embarrassed them.  Yet, at the end of the day, the common trait that binds us together is that we share the same blood.  For this very reason, we love them no matter how much they frustrate us and drive us crazy.

The same holds true for those of us who have brothers and sisters.  Growing up, I had two older sisters.  They fought like crazy.  My older sister and I were inseparable.  She taught me to play sports and we went everywhere together.  My other sister didn’t like me.  She wanted a girl and didn’t like the fact I was a boy.  Yet, there were times my older sister and I got into fights and arguments.  Yet, in the end, as we matured and grew up, we were always there to support one another and love one another.  We would do anything for one another.  Why?  They’re my sisters and we share the same blood!

I want you to take a look around the room.  What I just shared with you about my family is the same for us in this room.  We are family.  No matter how much we may think the person next to us has nothing to do with us, we are family because we share the same blood, the blood of Christ.

We are family because we said yes to Jesus and God adopted us as His children.  Now we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We share the same blood, the blood of Christ, shed for you and I for the forgiveness of our sins.  It’s about what we just celebrated in communion.

I want us to rethink what it means to be a church.  Rather than thinking that we’re non-related people from all walks of life, I’d like us to think of ourselves as one big family of God.  Despite the fact that we may not see eye to eye with other people in this room, we still share the same blood, making us family.  We’re to love our family members, for each person is significant and important.

In verse 1, Paul said ~ 1 Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship.

In the days of the Old Testament, in order to be cleansed from sin, people needed to sacrifice animals without defect.  The Jews gave a sin offering to God and sacrificed animals on behalf of their sin.  The sin would be transferred to that animal, and that would take away the sin of the people.

In order to learn and grow as a community, it’s time that we earnestly contribute to the work of the body of Christ.  Being “living sacrifices” means we get out of the comfortable mode of “feed me” and “serve me.”   A few weeks ago I mentioned the Latin phrase “INCURAVTUS IN SE” meaning curved in on itself.  We have to get away from the me, me, me mentality to “I’ll feed others and serve others.”  It’s one of the ways we move from focusing on ourselves to looking at others, and it’s one of the ways we worship God.

Serving one another and serving God is good for our hearts.  It is for our benefit that we serve God and one another.  And we have this great opportunity to please God by the way we live our lives.

In any community, the group functions most effectively when every person contributes.  The same is true in the church.  The church can function at its best when everyone is involved in ministry.  Church experts say 20% of the people do 80 % of the work.  According to George Gallup, only 10 percent of all people in church are active in a ministry.

God equips each person with spiritual gifts.  Paul gives a short list of spiritual gifts in verses 6-8.  We’ll get more into gifts later in this series.  In order to become a healthy learning and growing community, we need to become a family of God and learn about our gifts and use them as living sacrifices offered to God.

Here’s a quick test for you!

Who’s the QB for the Colts?
Andrew Luck           $122,970,000    $87,000,000
Who’s the WR for the Colts?
TY Hilton            $65,000,000    $28,000,000
Who’s the K for the Colts?
Adam Vinatari        $6,000,000        $1,000,000
Who’s the LT for the Colts?
Anthony Castonzo    $43,812,000    $35,000,000

Why does it matter?  If you take away the LT, the blocking is even worse for Luck.  Even those who are obscure are vitally important to the work of the team.  This is what forms the community.  Nobody does it on their own.  We all need one another.  Each person is vitally important to the team!  Each person is vitally important to the community of the church.  Nobody is exempt.

Paul then adds ~ 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  

For many of us, it means we need to unlearn the negative and harmful patterns of the way we are seeking the American dream.  In order to live in true community, to have true and proper worship, we need to let go of the patterns of this world.

We live in a me first world.  If it’s not what we want . . . we complain, we kick and scream and we make a scene, then we blame others for what happened.  Sometimes, we need to step back and take a good look in the mirror at who we are and our motivations for what we do.

Are we seeking to build the community or sabotage it?  Do we have a desire to worship the Lord, or are we looking to see if the music is right, if the sermon is right, if the heat or air conditioning is right?  More on that over the next weeks.

What is it we’re looking for when we come to worship?  Remember, from a few weeks ago, I’ve been talking about the public vs. private idea we have about church, especially regarding community and worship.  The world tells us it’s about me, I need to be pleased and satisfied.  You need to cater everything to my likes and wants, and if you don’t, then I’m leaving and making a fuss in the process.

But that’s not the way the church is supposed to work.  You see, we’ve bought into the private sphere of thinking.  It’s all about my likes and dislikes.  That’s not what the church is about.  It’s about having everything in common, it’s about sharing life together.  It’s about sharing our struggles, our grief, our sadness, our trials; and at the same time, it’s sharing our triumphs, our successes, our joys together with one another.

Church is really a private matter, but church is also a public matter.  It’s about community as we come together.  This afternoon, think about how many people will get together to watch the Bears play the Colts.  Oh, I’m thinking 2007!  People will gather with friends and family to watch the Patriots and Falcons.  It’s one of the largest social events of the year.  People come together ready to cheer on their favorite team, and ready to cheer for their favorite commercials.

But what do we do in the church world?  We generally wake up sleepy, make it to church, say a few quick hellos, yawn a little, wonder if the music will be good, will the sermon keep my attention, or be too long.  Will my neighbors be quiet so I can listen.  Ugh, they’ll want money again, will it be too hot again.  And the list goes on.  We come prepared for the worst.

But the reason we’re here is to worship!  We’re here to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords.  This should be the highlight of the week.  We should be offering our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord.  We should come here excited about what’s going to happen, not rating anything.  We come here giving 100% of ourselves to God in this wonderful, powerful time of worship.

So, the call from Paul for you and I is to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  What’s interesting is that our mind is kind of neutral!  That sounds really strange, but if our mind takes in no information, our mind remains neutral.

When informed by evil, it becomes an instrument of evil; when informed by the Spirit of God, our mind becomes an instrument of good.  Our mind learns the difference between good and evil.

So, Paul is referring to our mind which differentiates between good and evil.  When we follow that which is good, our minds, our thinking process focuses on the good.  That’s what Paul is after in this passage.  Remember, we’re fallen, we’re sinners, so our minds are open to the evil around us.

So, to be transformed we need the Holy Spirit to do something amazing within us.  We need to be changed, transformed.  What the Holy Spirit can do for us comes in two directions.  It’s really pretty cool if you stop and think about it. . .

The Spirit works from the outside in and from the inside out.  The Holy Spirit brings the truth into our minds by opening our mind to the fact that we are sinners in need of the truth of Jesus Christ.  So, we hear the call of Christ.

Then the Spirit works from the inside out.  The Spirit breaks the hard heart that blinds us.  So, the Spirit works from the outside in to bring us the truth of Christ, and works at the same time from the inside out bringing humility to us.

Our job is to have an openness to listen and learn and love.  We listen, learn and love through one another and through the work of the Holy Spirit.  We find our way when we embrace Christ, not just with head knowledge, because we need our heart and mind transformed.

So, friends, I know this has been more academic then normal.  Yet, this so important for us to get.  As we seek to grow in Christ, we grow in community and as we grow in community, we grow in worship; and as we grow in worship, we grow in community.  And this my friends, changes the world, because we become the difference makers in the world.

As you prepare for the week ahead, and as you prepare for next Sunday, open your heart, open your spirit, open your mind.  Use the power of Christ to change your entire being, from the outside in and from the inside out.  Show the world who Jesus is by the way you worship Him, the Christ, the Savior, your Savior, my Savior . . . our Savior!

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