Sunday, July 17, 2011

As We Worship Today, Do You Consider Yourself A Spectator Or A Participant?

It's Sunday! I love Sunday's. A time of gathering, of celebration, of praising God for being God, of fellowship with fellow lovers of Jesus. It is great to set aside the time to sing the praises of our God, to be taught from the Word and to spend time with the family of God. I hope you practice fellowship. I hope Church is not a one hour affair for you. I hope you value the time that we have together, giving most of the day in dedication to God and his family. I also hope that you walk in your responsibility today.

Unfortunately most of us have the mistaken notion that we are under no other obligation than to show up and pay our tithes on Sunday. Normally we do at least one of the two and feel pretty good about it. That wouldn't be bad if the Church was a spectator sport or a thing of entertaining the masses, but it's not. The Church isn't even a community; we are a family. That is an important distinction here. We are family and family acts differently than community. We have a family obligation to each other and the older siblings must always watch out for the younger ones.

David wrote something that is worth pondering today. In Psalm  41 David wrote:

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; 
   the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. (v. 1)

It seems that this regard for the weak provokes great blessings from our God, which we should not be surprised at:

The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; 
   he will bless him in the land 
   and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 
The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed 
   and restore him from his bed of illness. (vv. 2-3)

This shouldn't surprise us because Jesus told us that if we look to the affairs of the Kingdom our Father would look after our needs. Let me tell you, the greatest affair in the Kingdom is looking after the weak and vulnerable. Stick with me here for a moment, this is important for us to understand today as we go to worship. In fact it could change how we worship.

Jesus came to set the captives free and in doing so he showed the Father's heart to us. Jesus was the stronger coming to rescue the weak. He came to give birth to the new creation, to open the doors so that whoever wanted to be re-created could be and become part of the family of God. He became the first-born, our big brother. This is the Father's heart, that the strong would always regard the needs of the weak.

Some people limit this interpretation to the socially and economically challenged of our day, and I am not saying these needs can be ignored. However, the Kingdom is about eternal matters, so how can we get away with only considering the financially weak while ignoring the spiritually weak? In this family of God we have those who are mature in their relationship with Jesus and in their service to him, and we have those who are young and immature in these same areas. The strong have a responsibility for the weak:

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. (Romans 14:1)

Yes, we are a very judgmental people. Instead of understanding our position as mature people in Christ, we often destroy the young, the weak, the vulnerable. This does not please our Father who is patient and forgiving with us every day. To the weak we look strong but to the Lord we aren't that much better; we still need him every day. Paul writes:

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. (Romans 14:13)

The Word also tells us that it is better to deny ourselves the freedom we have in Jesus than to allow that freedom to destroy a weaker brother or sister. It is all about protecting and supporting the weaker ones in the family. Just a quick example I have to share:

We have friends who live directly behind our home who have a pool. They are very kind in allowing our children to go swimming with them. The older children are quite capable of hoping over the fence by using a couple of chairs but I have asked them not to. I know they are mature enough not to go in the pool without permission and supervision but we have smaller children who do not have that maturity. If they see how it is possible to climb the fence they will do so and get into the pool and drown. The older children have been asked to give up their freedom in order to protect the younger children. This is what family responsibility looks like.

As we gather for worship today I encourage you to remember your responsibility as the mature in Jesus. Perhaps you do not consider yourself mature but you will soon discover that there is always someone younger than yourself looking up to you, as there will always be people of greater maturity that you look up to. Remember today that we also gather to minister to one another and in remembering this consider these verses:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself. (Romans 15:1-3)

Don't take offense by the actions of the young and immature today. Instead, forgive them and befriend them. Invite them into your life so you can model the maturity of Christ for them. Sacrifice your life for them as others have done for you. Set aside your wants and desires. Set aside you Sunday afternoon nap. Invite people over for the day. Invite another family for a picnic. Tolerate their lack of knowledge and understanding as an older sibling would do for a younger one. Take on the mentor-ship of a couple of young people who need to see the reality of Jesus in the lives of the mature. They need plenty of practical guidance. Make this Sunday the beginning of a wonderful ministry as we minister to one another.

You aren't just going to church to be a spectator today, you have God-given responsibilities. Don't sit back and criticize, losing the blessing God has intended for you today. Jump in there and love others as we have been instructed to do. Allow the love of Jesus to overwhelm you so that it is the source that compels you to action. Someone needs the love and tolerance of an older sibling. Be that for someone in the family of God today and see how it changes your heart.

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