Agents, Heralds and Stewards

Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning.

N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, 237

Real Life

What is this one life, so brief, given to me by God for? I tell you, my dear friends, it’s for Him. It’s for Him, and you will never really discover yourself or your destiny until you’ve discovered that: that’s for Him, and so that you might offer your life to Him to be a means of bringing Him glory and honor.

—Eric Alexander, “Worship God! (Rev. 19:10)” (sermon)

The Main Thing

Why has God designed and purposed that our great destiny is to know Him? What is the knowledge of God for? Why does God mean us to know Him and to grow in the knowledge of God? And there is only one answer that Scripture gives us to that: and that is that we might worship Him. Everything will disappear as we enter His presence and glory, except this. It is the chief business of the church of Jesus Christ in this world, because it is the permanent occupation of the church of Jesus Christ in the world to come, that we should worship God. So says Jesus to the woman of Samaria: The Father is seeking worshipers. When God began to seek you and then find you in Jesus Christ, and drew you to Himself, He was seeking worshipers. The Apostle Paul tells us that it is the mark of the people of God, one of the great marks of those who are His true circumcision in Philippians 3:3f.: we are the circumcision, that is the true people of God, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. It is [the] ultimate activity of the people of God: to worship God.

—Eric Alexander, “Worship God! (Rev. 19:10)” (sermon)

 

The Root of the Fall 3

The ugly and ghastly distortion of Satan’s whole appearance in Scripture is that he who was formed to honor and glorify and praise and worship God has begun to rob God of His worship and seek to deflect it to himself. Isn’t that what happens in the temptation of Jesus? “Now,” he says, “I will give you the kingdoms of this world if You will fall down and worship me.” Have you ever thought how extraordinary and horrendous that here an angel, created to worship this holy Being who created Himself the heavens and the earth, now comes and says to Him and says, “You come and bow down and worship me.” I tell you, there is something utterly grotesque about this, both in the Garden of Eden and in the temptation in Matthew 4.

But, my dear friends, there is something equally grotesque about a man or woman who devotes the faculties God has given them and the gifts God has bestowed upon them to bring worship to any other creature or object in the universe except to the living God.

—Eric Alexander, “Worship God! (Revelation 19:10)” (sermon)

The Root of the Fall 2

What poor Adam could not see was that he already was as like God as ever a creature could be. . . .      In his vain search to rise above his God-appointed station he succeeded only in bringing down the human race into sin. . . . Adam’s folly lay in believing he could ever rise higher than his human station. There is no higher station open to any creature.

—Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Complete in Christ, 110-111

The Root of the Fall

The idea behind the command not to eat from one tree in the garden was really all about this question: Who will be at the center of the human creature’s world? Who is in charge? When Eve eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she decides that the human creature will be at the center—will be in charge. And in that sense the serpent had told a half-truth: she did become like God, knowing good and evil as God knows it, insofar as the creature has assumed the right to apprehend and legislate morality as a god. In that sense, Genesis’ point is that we end up worshiping the creature rather than the Creator. This is the autonomy that manifests itself so clearly in a desire to be one’s own god.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 140

A Covenantal God

It’s not just in a few doctrines here or there where biblical faith differs from its rivals; rather, biblical faith springs from a radically different paradigm. In addition to providing a different understanding of God and the God-world relationship generally, a covenantal paradigm grounds a fundamentally different view of human personhood. We do not meet God in the inner realm of our spirit or at sacred rivers, trees, or mountains. Rather, God hallows common places as historical venues of His discourse. Places are special (holy) in biblical faith because God met with His people there and spoke to His covenant word.

—Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples, 123-24

Voicing Creation’s Praise

What, then, are we to say about our own place within this design? We begin by recalling the frequent declaration of the Psalmists that creation, in a myriad of ways, is endlessly praising its Creator. In all its colour, movement, subtlety, richness, diversity and splendour, it brings glory to God: ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.’ (Ps. 19:1) Our calling, I would suggest, is to articulate and extend that praise in ever fresh ways, to be ‘priests of creation’. In humankind, creation finds a voice; to use George Herbert’s word, each of us is invited to be a ‘secretary’ of praise. Through the human creature, the inarticulate (though never silent) creation becomes articulate. As Douglas John Hall puts it, “In this creature the speaking God, Deus loquens, locates a counterpart within the saeculum, a speaking animal. Here the creation gathers itself and addresses the One whose glorious Word brought it into being, word answering Word.”

—Jeremy Begbie, Voicing Creation’s Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts, 177

“Homo adorans”

The first, the basic definition of man is that he is the priest. He stands in the center of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God—and by filling the world with this eucharist, he transforms his life, the one that he receives from the world, into life in God, into communion with Him. The world was created as the “matter,” the material of one all-embracing eucharist, and man was created as the priest of this cosmic sacrament.

—Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World, 15

Worship in Romans (28)

Thankful self-offering to the true God in response to His mercies is reasonable, right-minded worship [Romans 12:1], in contrast to the topsy-turvy mentality that withholds thanksgiving and trades truth for a lie (1:21,25).

—Michael B. Thompson, “Romans 12.1–2 and Paul’s Vision for Worship” in A Vision for the Church, 125

Worship in Romans (24)

Worship terminology is reintroduced at this key point in Paul’s argument [Romans 12:1] to demonstrate how the problems created by humanity’s failure to worship and serve God appropriately (Romans 1–2) have been dealt with by God himself.

—David Peterson, “Worship and Ethics in Romans 12,” Tyndale Bulletin 44.2 (1993):278

Worship in Romans (23)

Foundational to the apostle’s thinking about worship is his teaching about humanity’s refusal to glorify and serve God acceptably (1:18–2:29). Here Paul reflects the OT perspective that the knowledge of God should lead to appropriate worship (1:25). Associated with the failure to acknowledge and glorify God is a futility of thinking and a darkening of ‘their foolish hearts’ [1:21]. Humanity is fundamentally impaired at the level of understanding and judgement because of the rejection of the true knowledge of God. It is significant, therefore, that Paul later links the renewing of the mind with the notion of right worship being restored through the work of Christ (12:1-2; cf. 1:28; 2:18).

—David Peterson, “Worship and Ethics in Romans 12,” Tyndale Bulletin 44.2 (1993):276

Worship in Romans (21)

In Revelation 14:7 the sum of the eternal gospel is described: “And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”’ The language in the first part of this verse reminds us of Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they did not honour [glorify] Him as God or give thanks to Him,” on which we have commented previously. Human sin is fundamentally a refusal to glorify God, a rejection of our created vocation to worship Him. 

—Noel Due, Created For Worship:  From Genesis to Revelation to You, 223

Worship in Romans (19)

Worshiping God by affirming God’s worthiness flies in the face of the Fall. In the Fall, humans got hung up on our “self-worth.” We wanted the status God had. [Romans 1:21; Genesis 3:5] We failed to perceive our proper place in the created order, and so we threw that order out of alignment.

In the first book of the Bible, Adam and Eve say to God, “We are worthy.” In the last book of the Bible, the elders say to God, “You are worthy.” God is back in God’s appropriate place, we are in ours, and the cosmos is right again. In a way, our public worship each week is an exercise in this eternal act of putting God in God’s proper place. Michael Lindvall describes worship as “weekly practice at not being God.”

—Nathan Bierma, “Worshipful Service,” Perspectives Journal June 2006

Worship in Romans (18)

Paul said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Sinning is a “falling short” of the glory of God. But the Greek word for “falling short” (husterountai) means “lack.” The idea is not that you shot an arrow at God’s glory and the arrow fell short, but that you could have had it as a treasure, but you don’t. You have chosen something else instead. This is confirmed in Romans 1:23 where people “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image.” That is the deepest problem with sin: it is a suicidal exchange of infinite value and beauty for some fleeting, inferior substitute. This the great insult.

—John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory, 36

Worship in Romans (17)

The Gospel of the Glory of God is always very near to mankind, and yet always very far from them: near, because the divine image is in mankind and the Gospel is the true meaning of man; far, because it is heard only by a faith and a repentance which overthrow all man’s glorying in himself and his works. [Romans 1:21]

—Arthur Michael Ramsey, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, 100