Sermon Series: The Way of the Disciple
1. Introduction: Worship is a Lifestyle
The most important mission of the church is the disciple-making. When you hear the disciple-making, you might simply think about evangelism, inviting unbelievers to the church community. Certainly, evangelism, inviting our family, friends, and neighbors to the church community, is the one of the important ways to make disciples. However, for this main mission, there is more fundamental task we should focus on. That is, we, the church members, should be the disciples of Jesus Christ, followers of Jesus first. That is why this question is very important for our spiritual journey: how can we be a disciple of Jesus Christ? In order to answer to this question, I have prepared the sermon series, ‘The Way of the Disciple.” Since we are all created in a different way with different talent and background, I could not say there is only one way to be disciples of Jesus Christ. However, there are some important and general guidelines every Christians should follow to be disciples of Jesus Christ. They are worship, fellowship, spiritual disciplines, evangelism, and mission. These five things are repeatedly appeared on the Bible and emphasized to be sincere disciples of Jesus Christ. Through this sermon series, we will explore one by one.
Last Sunday, we talked about worship. As Jesus said to Samaritan woman in the book of John, God is looking for the true worshipper. Being a true worshipper is the basic thing to be the true disciple of Jesus Christ. How can we be true worshippers? What is the true worship? There are a lot of things we need to know about worship. However, due to the limited time, I picked up two important characteristics of worship many Christian should know. Last Sunday, I only explained the first characteristics. Do you remember what it was. Yes, worship should be a lifestyle. One of the big misunderstandings of worship is that worship is the worship service. When people think about worship, they come up with prayer, sermon, communion, praise, some rituals and so on. Certainly, they are important, but worship is much more than that. Also, worship is the much broader concept. Worship is a lifestyle. That means that worshipping God should be done in every moment of our life, not only in Sunday worship services. Please remember how Apostle Paul emphasizes this characteristic of worship in the Bible.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
– 1 Corinthians 10:31
2. Worship is Surrender
Today, we will explore the second characteristics of worship. In fact, this second characteristic of worship could be seen as the heart of the worship. That is the following. Please repeat after me. Worship is surrender. To whom? Yes, to God. Worship is the surrender to God. Surrender has some negative connotations in it, such as losing, giving up, defeating and so on. Thus, this word, surrender, is almost always used in the negative context like the criminals surrendered themselves to the police. When you hear this word, surrender, you might think negative situations, having negative feelings. However, in spite of these negative connotations, surrender is the best word to describe the heart of worship. The center of the worship is to humble ourselves before God and give up our will. Then, surrender ourselves to the will of God. That is the heart of the worship. Without surrendering to God, we could not worship God. Let’s look at today’s Bible passage one more time.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In this Bible passage, Apostle Paul, urges us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. What does a living sacrifice mean? What does this expression imply? I found two meanings in relation to worship. One is that worship is a lifestyle. Our bodies, our lives, should be a living sacrifice. This shows that every moment of our life should be worship. The second one is the second characteristic of worship, surrendering to God. Sacrifice in the Jewish tradition indicates some animals which are killed to be offered to God. Certainly, these animals do not want to be killed. But for the glory of God, for the worship of God, they are killed against their will. They are killed for the holy purpose, even being against their will to live on, which is basic and fundamental instinct for them. Likewise, Apostle Paul urges us to give up our will daily to our death. Due to our human limitations and human sinfulness, we have a lot of desires we shouldn’t pursue, such as greed, sloth, anger, envy, pride and so on. In order to follow the way of Jesus Christ, we need to give up our desire. We need to surrender to God. Then we can see the will of God and follow it. Certainly it is not easy. That is why death-related word, sacrifice, is used to describe the worship. In another Paul’s letter, he expresses this life-surrendering worship through his life in one simple phrase.
“I die daily” – 1 Corinthians 15:31
From this simply phrase, we can see how Apostle Paul tried to surrender himself to God in every moment of his lives. This confession should be ours. This life-surrendering worship should be our worship. As today’s Bible passage says, this life-surrendering worship is the true and spiritual worship.
The best example of this life-surrendering worship is Jesus. From the very beginning of his public ministry, Jesus knew he should die on the cross for saving all of us. However, he did not want to be killed in this humiliating way. Who wants that kind of death? That is why he was tortured by the upcoming death on the cross. In his anguish, he prayed to God earnestly to the point that his sweat became drops of blood falling down on the ground at the Mount of Olive, right before his death. According to the Bible, Jesus asked God like this: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” However, he finally surrender himself to God, saying, “yet, not my will, but yours be done.” Then, he gave himself up for us on the cross. This is the way of disciple. This is the way of worshipping God. Clearly, we are not Jesus. We cannot live like Jesus. However, if we really want to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we, at least, try to live like him. At least, mimic his life.
From different perspective, surrendering to God can be understood as the image that places God in the center of our life as our Lord and King. Then, we obey to God as our King. In this sense, surrendering to God is obeying to God. Obedience could be synonym to surrender. The importance of obedience to God is emphasized in the Bible constantly.
Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, (1 Samuel 15:22)
‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
Obedience, surrender, is not the best way to God, but the only way to worship God. Without obedience to God, without surrender to God, our worship is useless. From this understanding of surrender, King image of God, and obedience, you can easily see that worship is not about me, not about us, but about God. However, in this world we live in, it is very hard for us to surrender to God, to obey to God, even to focus on God.
3. Surrender in Our Lives.
While the Bible teaches us that all our lives is about God, the world keep teaching us that all our lives is about ourselves. Look at all commercials, advertisement, products, messages, school, job places and cultures surrounding us. It is all about ourselves. In this situation, we ask the wrong questions about our lives again and again. They are, “what do I like?” “what do I want to be?”, “what do I want to do?”, “what do I enjoy?” and so on. With those questions, unconsciously we believe that life is all about me. We place ourselves in the center of our life and obey to ourselves as King and Lord. Yes, in this world, “me’, become idol for ourselves. Some people might say that they are not. I believe so. However, for checking our spiritual situation, we need to check this. I believe almost all people have their plan for the future. If you have one, do you consider God in the process of making your plan? Or you consider only you and your loving ones? If you consider only you and your loving ones, God is not your King. You are serving yourselves. Your way of using the money is the good indicator where you are spiritually. When you spend your money, do you think of God? When you are budgeting, do you think about God?
If we really want to be the true worshippers and true disciples of Jesus Christ, we should restore the important questions for our lives. They are “What does God like?”, “What does God want me to be?”, “What does God want me to do?”, “What does God enjoy?” and so on. Then we give up what we desire and surrender to what God desires for us. We need to place God in the center of our lives again as our King and Lord and serve Him. That is the real surrender, real obedience, and real worship.
For this real worship, the worship service is needed. From a certain perspective, worship service could be seen as the training section of surrendering to God for our life-surrendering worship in our daily lives. However, the worldly-culture, all about me, has affected the church, even worship service. That is why many Christians nowadays understand them as customers and join the worship service some professional religious people has prepared and provided for them. They understand pastors and clergies are those who prepare and provide worship service for them. If you think in this way, you have a big misunderstanding about worship service as well as pastor. The main job of pastor is not to prepare worship service for you, but equip you as disciples of Jesus Christ. That is my main job. Also, worship service is not only prepared by me, but also prepared by all of you. Worship service is not about me, not about pastor, but about God. We are here to worship God together as disciples of Jesus Christ, not to watch the worship service as customers. Thus, I prefer the expression, “participating the worship service”, to “joining the worship service.” We should remember that God is the master of worship service and we are here to worship God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.
When we try to surrender to God even in a small thing, when we try to obey God even in a small commandment, when we try to serve God in a little occasion, you can start feeling the presence of God in your life vividly. Also you will start witnessing God’s work through your life-surrendering worship. I hope all of our church members to be real worshippers and to be real disciples of Jesus Christ by surrendering to the will of God. I hope our church members experience the presence of God and witness his mighty works through their life-surrendering worship. Amen.