Tag Archives: worship

Christ Must become Greater, I Must Become Less

In the Gospel of John, chapter 3, John the Baptist makes a stunning statement regarding Jesus, to the chagrin of his own disciples: “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). This is the attitude that all Christ-followers have, but the question of how we let Jesus become greater and us less in our lives is not always easily answered. And as we do that, does it mean we will lose our own unique identities?

We need three things in order to live lives in which Christ will become greater, and we will become less: The first is humility. The second is obedience to Jesus. And the third is gratitude.

1. Humility

As someone else has said “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”

Humility is seeing and appraising ourselves accurately – our worth, our abilities, our strengths and weaknesses, our moral, social, and spiritual states, our sins – as much as we can, to both see and have neither an inflated or deflated of the different aspects of our lives. This of course takes work, times of hard self-reflection, and often the help of trusted friends to help us see our blind spots.

For some, this can be a painful process; we are not as gifted as we thought we were, or as strong, or as upright. For others, it can be a difficult process for the opposite reason: we are more loved than we are comfortable with, more capable than we give ourselves credit for.

As the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:3, humility is also “valuing others above yourselves.” He doesn’t mean it in an objective sense, or in a comparative sense, but rather to think about the ways we can help, encourage, strengthen, or better others. Paul says this is what Jesus did when He gave up the riches of Heaven, the glory of divinity, and came to earth as a human, and died on the cross – Jesus did it out of His great love for us (Philippians 2:6-8). Ideally, as we follow Christ, we are all doing this for each other, so even though I am ‘valuing others as above myself,’ others are doing that for me. However, we know that in this broken world that won’t always be the case, and we will be hurt, but in that hurt we will be identifying with and connecting with Jesus in a deeper way than we could otherwise.

2. Obedience to Jesus

This is the call to all who would follow Jesus, to all who would find new life and forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God the Father. Obedience to Jesus is not optional: throughout Scripture we see a link between loving Jesus and obeying Him, as He loves and obeys His Father (see John 15:10). And the commands of Jesus overwhelmingly have to do with how we view, treat, and love others – even including our enemies. That’s why when Jesus is asked what the greatest command is, He doesn’t just give it, but connects it to another command, which He says is the second greatest: Love God with all your heart, strength, soul, and mind, and “the second is like it: ‘love your neighbour as yourself'” (Matthew 22:39).

By obeying Jesus, we come to look more and more like Him ourselves, doing the things He did but in our own contexts, our own workplaces and homes and churches and schools. It is “living as if Jesus were living His life through our own.”

 3. Gratitude

Gratitude is the magic ingredient of this recipe. If we value others as better than ourselves but don’t have gratitude, we will quickly become bitter and resentful towards them. If we are obedient to Jesus but don’t have gratitude we will become self-righteous and legalistic. Gratitude – especially for the salvation and work of Jesus in our lives – will prevent both of those from happening.

Gratitude may actually be the hardest of these three, however, as we tend to want to take credit for all the goodness in our lives, and for everything we have (both tangible and non-tangible). It can also be hard to have gratitude when things don’t go the way we want, or when life is a struggle (This has been the case for me in my life). We easily forget, or don’t see at all, the great amount of things to be grateful for. But when we have humility, seeing ourselves accurately, we will see that all of what we have is gift from God – the good things as from Him, and the evil as those things which God will work out for our good (Romans 8:28).

Paul tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18),” and elsewhere tells us to present our requests to God, by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).

What happens to our Identity?

But if Jesus becomes greater and we become less, does that mean we lose our identities and become robot-clones of Jesus?

No. Paul affirms this when he uses the imagery the Church being the body of Christ. He says each one of us is a part of it, and talks about how each part are not the same, and how each part need each other (1 Corinthians 12). This is the same chapter in which Paul talks about the different gifts the Holy Spirit gives to the Church: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:4-7).

God created you with a unique set of strengths, weaknesses, personality traits, and temperament. And He gave you a unique set of spiritual gifts with which to build up the church and use for His Kingdom and glory.

Conclusion

When we are growing in the three qualities of humility, obedience, and gratitude, we will find that Jesus will become greater in our lives, both in our esteem and love for Him, and in the glory He receives through us. We’ll find that we actually become more ourselves as we become more like Christ; The part of our identity that is formed and molded by sinful brokenness will be healed.

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Worship is War

“Worship is War.” That’s the tagline I saw on an ad in my Twitter feed for a new TV show coming out, about the Greek, Norse, etc. gods living in modern day U.S.

When I saw it, my first thought was “how little do they know exactly how right they are.”

Worship is powerful. Not in itself, and not because of who we are, but because of who God is. When we worship we admit that on our own we are weak, we are powerless to change much in this world, and we are dependent on Him.

Worship doesn’t make God more powerful, as some video games and shows/movies portray other gods – He is already omnipotent, perfect, omniscient, omnipresent; what could we possibly add to Him? And worship isn’t like putting a coin in a vending machine – it doesn’t “activate” God or obligate Him to do something for us; but when we worship rightly (with humility, and in Spirit and truth) we put ourselves in a place where we will see God working in and through and around us.

An interesting, literal, example of worship as war is found in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.  I wonder if we would see this happening in similar ways, if we were to march through our neighbourhoods and streets worshiping, similar to prayer walks?

When we worship, we proclaim who God is – and that’s a powerful reminder to us, and to the spiritual forces of darkness around us. Because scripture is clear our enemy is never people, it’s Satan, and the world, and our sinful natures (Eph. 6:12). When people appear to be our enemies, we can be sure it’s one of those three things behind them.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

By our worship we submit to God, draw near to Him, and simultaneously we resist the devil (James 4:7-8).

Of course, worship doesn’t just occur on Sunday mornings at a church service.

Worship happens when we pray prayers of thanksgiving. It happens when we pray prayers of supplication (because He is God and we are not).

Worship happens when we sacrifice our time, resources, or talents for Him, in service to others (thereby living out the command to love God with all our heart/soul/strength and love our neighbour as ourselves).

Worship happens when we say “Not my will, but Yours be done” even when we don’t feel like it, see the logic behind it, or have to go it alone.

If prayer is necessary like the air we breathe, and the Bible necessary like the food we eat, then worship is like the water we drink – it blesses God but it also refreshes our soul.

Worship orients our hearts away from this world and the things of it, to the only One who truly matters, and to His agenda and work on the earth, and that must royally tick off the (temporary) rulers of this world.

Worship is war.

Make time to worship Jesus daily. You’ll see the difference it makes.

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The Main Thing: Worshiping and Serving God Only

Recently as I was reading Psalm 2, I noticed something I found quite interesting. In this Psalm David prophetically speaks about the Messiah, Jesus:

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession (Ps. 2:7-8).

God the Father promises Jesus the nations, even to the ends of the earth, as His possession. This idea is echoed throughout Scripture, and culminates in Revelation 19:11-16 where Jesus is depicted as a victorious warrior riding a white horse, with the title “King of kings and Lord of lords” written on His robe.

For some reason after reading these verses in Psalm 2 my mind immediately jumped to the three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. The third and final of these temptations finds Satan taking Jesus to a very high mountain, and showing Him “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” He tells Jesus ‘just bow to me, and all this will be yours.’

ImageIf Jesus bows to Satan, Satan will give Him every kingdom in the world. Every people, every tribe, every nation.

Now, Jesus knows the Scriptures. He’s been quoting them to Satan in response to the first two temptations. So we’d expect Jesus to quote them again this time (which He does), but He doesn’t quote the one we might expect Him to. Jesus could’ve easily said “As it is written, all the nations are already promised to me” and He would have been completely right. But, as we see, He didn’t. He said “it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matt. 4:10).

ImageWhy does He do this? Why doesn’t He just tell Satan “those will one day be mine already”? I think the reason is that Jesus is modelling something important here; whatever promises we’ve received from God, whatever gifts, whatever assurances, whatever inheritance, the main thing is: worshiping God and serving Him only.

As humans we have a propensity to worship and serve things that are not God, such as money and power, and even His gifts and promises. And God knows that anything we worship that is not Him is to our detriment. So Jesus lives and models what will bring God most glory, and us most joy; worshiping God and serving Him alone.

May we not focus so much on what we’ve been both given and promised that we forget to keep God first, and serve Him only!

 

 

*images taken from The Brick Testament.

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