- May 20, 2020
Without intending to do so, it seems I’ve started a series of articles based on Matthew 9:17. In response to a confrontation Jesus had with the disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus said, “Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and
Without intending to do so, it seems I’ve started a series of articles based on Matthew 9:17. In response to a confrontation Jesus had with the disciples of John the Baptist, Jesus said, “Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved.” You can read two previous articles in this series by going to http://www.webbweekly.com.
For many years I have wondered about Christianity’s Sunday morning routine. We call it worship, but is that really a proper description? Worship is a powerful word that has been significantly watered down in our cultural context. Re-establishing a Biblical and lofty definition of worship may be a good way to open our hearts to new wine.
Romans 12:1 defines worship this way, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
A living sacrifice is a powerful word picture. Paul was writing to an audience very familiar with worship involving animal sacrifices. As they read his words, a bloody and deadly picture formed in their minds. They knew that sacrifice was never done half way; it always ended in death. So when Paul urged them to offer themselves as living sacrifices, they got the message: True and proper worship requires an ongoing death of self – a living sacrifice.
Paul continued his statement by saying, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” In the Greek, the word for transformed in metamorphoo. Our English word is metamorphosis. Paul was using another powerful word picture to describe worship: The death of the old resulting in the emergence of something completely new. In II Corinthians 5:17, Paul describes it this way, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old is gone, the new is here!”
In Galatians 2:20, Paul described his own living-sacrifice testimony this way, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Crucifixion is another powerful word picture.
Sacrifice. Metamorphosis. Crucifixion. I’m not sure our understanding of worship ascends to these lofty summits. If worship arises out of the ongoing death of self, then how is it that there is so much “I” involved in our Sunday mornings? I want a twenty minute sermon. I want the service to last one hour. I want jelly-filled doughnuts and specialty coffee. I want air conditioning and padded pews. I want pipe organs. I want guitars. I want stained glass. I want smoke and lasers. I want options, like a service at 8 AM and a service at 10 AM so I can enjoy my style of music and work my church times into my tee-times and brunch times. And by the way, I give my offering so I can have a say in how I want the church to operate.
Worship? It sounds more like a club membership. Is it possible our understanding of worship has devolved into a form of consumerism and entertainment that is actually self-serving?
Please don’t misunderstand. There’s nothing wrong with a church having air conditioning, padded pews, short sermons and various worship styles. The church lives and serves within its mission field and it is important to be relevant and welcoming. The problem isn’t in our methods, it’s in our hearts. Too often we do what we do because that’s the way we want to do it. Yes, we’re worshiping, but we’re not worshiping God.
Someone once said, “The biggest problem with living sacrifices is they tend to crawl off the altar.” Ouch. That may be our problem.
When King David was offered an easy way to worship, he declared, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” What is worship costing you?
Us old wineskins need to revisit our understanding of worship. What would worship look like if we crawled back up on the altar and once again died to self? I’m guessing that if we did, God would ask us to give up our self-serving routines so we could get off our backsides and go find people to love and serve. Doing so would cost us our old wineskins, but it would open us up to new wine — the new wine of worship.