Romans 11:33 - 12:8
Paul wrote this letter at a pause on his ministry. He had been planting churches for 25 years across 3 missionary journeys and was ready for a fresh challenge, taking the gospel to Spain. He was in a transition season, waiting for the next piece of his calling to play out. Transition seasons cause us to deeply reflect and that is what this writing suggests - the weight of thought and doctrine in this letter has 25 years of reflection and experience behind it.
What strikes me in Paul’s doxology in Romans 11:33-36 is that there is a depth of theological humility. A paraphrase for this passage could be ‘in all my time in knowing Christ i have realised that he is too big, too amazing for me to know fully, he is mysterious and I cannot box him. He is everything.’
Heidi Baker and Mother Teresa are two people who speak in a way that shows they have lived a life reflecting on the most important thing, the essence of what it means to be in Christ.
Paul says that the essence of being Christ’s and responding to what he has done is to worship.
1. Worship that is everything
The readers of this letter would have been really familiar with the concept of animal sacrifice. It would have been everywhere not just in the Jewish temple but in the pagan religions too. The animals would have been ignorant in the walk to the temple being prepared for sacrifice. Completely unaware of what their fate held.
In contrast Paul is urging us to being willing in our sacrifice of our lives before God, the term ‘spiritual worship’ in Greek implies our rational and logical response to God based on who he is to Worship. So Paul has described after 25 years experience who God is and then says what else could you do? What other way is there but to live out your life as worship?
Worship in the Old Testament where sacrifices were offered was like our Sunday worship - the corporate act of praise and thanksgiving. However, in the New Testament we are told we are the temple. Our lives are the sacrifice, worship becomes everything we do. There is no secular and sacred divide in the New covenant walk. Our every day choices and decisions, what we do with our money both what we give and what is left in our bank account, how we love our spouse and children, how we talk, the language we use, how we speak about others, the posture of our hearts is all worship.
2. Worship that brings transformation
This journey of daily choices and renewing of the mind causes transformation in us. When we change the way we think we change the way we live. Our thought life, what we think, what we meditate on has a direct effect on our ‘Worship’.
We have to ask ourselves this question: are we secular or Christian in our thinking? What is the predominate voice that forms our thinking and therefore our worship? What do we spend the majority of our time receiving as the world view? What do we do when we are offended? This can be a real indicator for whether the world or God is forming our mind.
We are to be formed by thinking on God’s ways, character and truth. Is it the world or is it Gods word and His spirit that is forming us?
Paul in 2 Corinthians talks about how we changed and transformed from one degree of glory to another and as such our expectation needs to be continual transformation. Our testimony should be not that we were transformed for the first couple of years after knowing Jesus but that our lives are ever increasing in the reflection of Christ. Transformation is not automatic. We don’t become different thinkers when we come to Christ but as we worship, in time, in process, our thinking does change and become completely different.
How do we know if our worship is pleasing to God? If we are being transformed? How do we love others, especially those who differ to us? The answer i gave to what i have learnt about God in the last 40 years is this - God is not interested in my success, the size of my church or the numbers of people that came to faith but when I meet him he will ask me Did I love? Did i love Him with all my heart soul mind and strength and did i love others?
As such the key outworking of our worship is one another ness, Transformation is lived out in community.
Having a sober judgement of yourself like Paul is suggesting requires an honest hard look at yourself. Being aware of your strengths and gifts but also your weaknesses and areas of vulnerability to sin.
It is pride that believes we do not need each other, that we’re happy to go it alone, that church isn’t necessary but that isn’t biblical and does not reflect what Jesus modelled. We are one body whether we like it or not. It’s the spiritual reality. This body, our church, is supposed to love us and form us into more of the likeness of Jesus. It happens through acting in love to someone in your community and to your friends who need your support, but in my experience it’s most especially worked out in loving those who offend and hurt you.
Our worship will be our witness if we allow every area of our lives to be on the altar.
Written by Annwen Stone
Each blog is written by our Sunday speaker as a follow up to their talk.