Five Keys to Spiritual Growth: Worship

January 19, 2020 ()

Bible Text: Romans 12:1-2 |


Five Keys to Spiritual Growth: Worship | Romans 12:1-2
Brian Hedges | January 19, 2020

"The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." You and I were created for worship; there’s nothing more important that we ever do than worship our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ, worshipping our triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit. This morning we’re going to talk about worship. This is part of our series, “Five Keys to Spiritual Growth,” and so far we’ve looked at prayer, we’ve looked at Scripture, last week we talked about watchfulness; and today we’re going to talk about worship, worship especially as a spiritual practice that is a part, it’s one of the tools that God uses in our ongoing transformation.

Now, I just have to say—I feel this way every time I talk about worship—that this is such a huge, broad topic that I always feel a little bit overwhelmed trying to get my mind around how to present it in any given time. I have a large library and I catalog my books online, and I tag books so that I can know what books I have and what topics they address. When I checked this week to see my books on worship, I had 60 books that were tagged with worship! That covers just about everything. It covers a biblical theology of worship, it covers worship in the Old Testament, worship in the New Testament, it covers the whole spectrum of styles of worship and philosophies of worship in ministry; it includes hymnbooks and books full of benedictions. It includes a seven-volume series on the reading and the preaching and teaching of the word in the church that gives an entire history of worship in that aspect; and more besides.

I haven’t read all of those books, but I’ve enjoyed digging into some of them this week. I want to just focus on one particular aspect. I can’t cover nearly everything. One of these days, Lord willing, I want to do a ten-week series just on worship. But today I just want to talk about really what worship its at its core, at its heart.

Let me just say this, that I think this applies to whatever type of worship you’re thinking about. We may think about public worship, what we’ve been doing together this morning, when we gather with the people of God for public worship. That’s a spiritual practice. Now, it is only transforming if what happens in that spiritual practice are the things we’re going to talk about this morning.

That’s also true for our private worship. You might think about your own private relationship with the Lord, when it’s just you and him, and you are worshipping him, you are loving him, adoring him, praying and praising. What needs to happen in those moments? The same things we’re going to talk about this morning. This is true in private, it’s true in public, it’s true in family worship, if you’re gathering with your family for periods of worship. Those are three different aspects of the practice of worship; we need all of those.

This is also important for us regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of worship. So, if you really love old hymns (we sang a couple of really rich ones this morning), that’s great; I love old hymns too, and when we sing old hymns it can be a powerful experience as we’re reminded of truth from God’s word, if we are responding to it in the way we’re going to talk about this morning. But it’s very possible to love hymns for sentimental reasons, where we’re not really engaging with the truth of the gospel in the hymn, we just like the tune, we like it because it was Grandma’s song or because it’s what we grew up with or whatever.

If you like contemporary music (and I like contemporary music, and I like some of the contemporary songs that we sang this morning), if you like those you can engage with God in contemporary music if you do what we’re going to talk about this morning. But if the main thing you’re thinking about in contemporary music is the high energy and the emotion and the feels and all of that, and you’re not really thinking about what you’re singing and what you’re doing and how you’re engaging God; again, it falls short of true worship.

So, wherever you are on the worship spectrum, whatever aspect of the practice of worship we may be thinking about, certain things need to be true of our worship for it to actually be worship and not just going through motions, not just a form. Okay?

Here’s what I want to do. I want to dig into a familiar passage of Scripture, Romans 12:1-2. I’ll bring a few other texts to bear in the course of the message, but I want to start by reading that passage, and then I want to make four points about worship. We could call these the inevitability of worship, the reorientation of worship, the essence of worship, and the power of worship.  I’ll also give those to you in more propositional form, actually stating what I mean by each one of those. I’m going to ground almost all of this in Romans 12:1-2. Let me just read that passage, Romans 12:1-2. The apostle Paul is writing.

He says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

This is God’s word.

So, four points that I want to make this morning.

1. The Inevitability of Worship: Everybody worships 

Here’s the first point: everybody worships. This is the inevitability of worship. What I mean by that is that every human being on the planet worships. Whether they’re worshipping our triune God, God the Father revealed through the work of his Son, Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit; whether they’re worshipping him, or they’re worshipping some other God (Allah or one of the thousands upon thousands of Hindu gods), or whether they’re not worshipping any deity per se, but they are still serving something.

You remember that old song Bob Dylan sang?

“You may be an ambassador to England or France;
You may like to gamble, you may like to dance;
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world;
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls;
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

Right? You’re going to have to serve somebody. He says,

“It may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

You remember what John Calvin wrote in the Institutes? “Our hearts are factories of idols.” You have to serve somebody; our hearts are idol factories. I think if John Calvin and Bob Dylan agree on that, it must be true. We’re all worshippers. We’re all worshipping something, we’re all serving something, we’re all giving ourselves to something or someone that’s defining our lives, it’s characterizing our lives. Everybody worships.

You see this in the book of Romans, and I’m going to actually back up now to Romans 1 for just a minute, because Romans 12 is not the first place in the book of Romans where you have a description of worship. It begins in Romans 1, and it’s all about the problems in the worship of the world. It’s about the idolatry of the world as Paul mentions this dark exchange, where people traded the glory of God for created things. Listen to what Paul says (this is Romans 1:21-25).

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, animals, and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and—” get this “—worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

This is what we might call the disorder of worship. In fact, I have a book in my library called Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, by Ed Welch. It’s a really great book on addictions. Ed Welch calls addictions “worship disorders.” “What? You mean the alcoholic is a worshipper?” Absolutely he is. Addiction is a worship disorder, and all of us are worshippers. We’re either worshipping the true and the living God or we’re worshipping something else.

I think one of the most powerful illustrations of this is a quotation from a novelist, kind of a literary figure in the early 21st century, named David Foster Wallace. He’s now famous for this quote. This comes from his commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005. Wallace was not a Christian, and tragically a couple of years after he delivered this speech he took his own life. But I want you to listen to what he says about worship. This is profound.

“Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. The compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god to worship is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you’ll never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you’ll always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing you will die a million deaths. Worship power and you will end up feeling weak and afraid. You will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart; you’ll end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”

What a powerful statement about the inevitability of worship! The truth is that every single one of us is worshipping something or someone, and it may be that even us Christians, we worship the true God, but not with all of our hearts. It may be that our hearts are divided and that there are little pieces that are still serving other things.

I know you’re not bowing down before some image in your living room, but are you worshipping success? Are you worshipping having a good family? The approval of others? Comfort? Are you constantly gauging your life and trying to make decisions and manipulate your circumstances and manage people in order to maximize the most comfort, the least inconvenience, in your life? Are you worshipping pleasure, always looking for that high, that thrill, that escape from the pressures of life?

We’re all worshipping something, and the first thing for us to do this morning is just to take inventory of our hearts and to ask, “What do I worship? What do I serve?” “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” You’re serving something. You’re worshipping something or someone this morning. Everybody worships; that’s first.

2. The Reorientation of Worship: The gospel reorients our hearts to worship the true God 

The gospel reorients our hearts to worship the true God. In some ways, the whole story of the Bible is the story of the recovery of worship, the reorientation of worship, the rescue of idolaters. In some ways, that’s the whole story of the Bible.

The gospel is the key to it, the gospel being the story of how God through Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection, and then through the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit, rescues us from our sin and our idolatry and turns our hearts back to God. The gospel reorients our hearts to worship the true God.

You see this in Romans 12:1. Look at that verse again. Notice how Paul says this. He says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

If you read any commentary on Romans, they’re probably going to point out how this is kind of a turning point in the book of Romans. In the book of Romans, there’s almost no exhortation, almost no commands, for the first 11 chapters of the book. There are a few exceptions to that in Romans 6, but there’s not much. There’s not a lot of exhortation, there’s not a lot of commands, there are not a lot (if you want to use the verbal forms) of imperatives telling you what to do. Instead, there are a lot of indicatives telling you what God has done.

Now, in Romans 12, Paul begins to turn a corner, and Romans 12-16 are some of the most practical, pastoral, straightforward teaching anywhere in Scripture. It all begins with this, where Paul appeals to us to worship, to present your bodies a living a sacrifice to God. “This is your spiritual worship,” he says. We’ll look at that in a minute.

But notice the basis of the appeal. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by…” what? “...the mercies of God.” I love that it’s plural. It’s not just the mercy of God, it’s the mercies of God. What are the mercies of God? The mercies of God cover everything that God has done for us as recorded so far in the book of Romans.

It includes God’s righteousness revealed through the cross of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-26). It includes the redemption that we have through Christ’s death on the cross, through God’s grace (Romans 3:24). It includes peace with God through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Having been justified by faith, we now have peace with God…” (Romans 5:1). It includes this grace in which we stand (Romans 5:2), it includes justification, it includes hope, what Paul describes as “the hope of glory” (Romans 5:4-5). It includes the love of God being poured out into our hearts through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

It includes union with Jesus Christ. Remember how Paul says you have been “baptized into Christ’s death and raised to walk in newness of life” (Romans 6). It includes freedom from sin (also chapter 6), freedom from the law (chapter 7), eternal life (Romans 6:22), “no condemnation” (Romans 8:1), the work of the Holy Spirit (almost all of Romans 8), sonship—you are adopted as sons and you’ve received the “Spirit of adoption into your hearts, by whom you cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:14-16).

It includes the hope of the future redemption of our bodies, it includes the Spirit interceding for us and all things working together for good for those who love God. It includes conformity to Jesus Christ; you’re predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. It includes our calling, our glorification. It’s just pure gospel! Those are the mercies of God!

Then, when you get into Romans 9-11 (we just looked at that last fall, just a few months ago), what are those about? Well, God’s purpose for Israel, yes, but supremely they’re about how God demonstrates his glory by showing mercy! You remember this? Romans 9:14-16: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ So then,” Paul says, “it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy.”

So when Paul wants to call us to worship, what does he start with? He starts with mercy, the mercies of God, because it’s only by the mercy of God that we can worship, and because when we see the mercies of God given to us through Christ, when we understand the gospel, when we embrace that, the only rational, reasonable, appropriate response is to worship!

“Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Worship is our response to the gospel. The gospel reorients our hearts, recalibrates our hearts, so that we will worship God.

3. The Essence of Worship: Worship is self-surrender

That leads us to point number three: worship is self-surrender. This is the essence of worship.

Now, you have to be careful here in talking about the essence of worship, because the Bible has so much to say about it. I’m conscious now of the danger of reducing worship to just one little aspect.

For example, worship is about ascribing worth and praise to God. We ascribe praise to God. God is really at the center of worship. Worship is not mainly about our experience; worship is mainly about God. Right? It’s about praising him. We read it this morning in the call to worship: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” That’s all about God; that’s not about our experience, that’s about God.

We could also say that worship includes the dimensions of mind and heart, the truth of God’s word engaging our minds and the Spirit of God filling our hearts. Do you remember how Jesus says in John 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth”?

Worship is reflected in the posture of our bodies. Psalm 95:6, “O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”

Worship requires certain attitudes. One of our elders, Andy Lindgren, preached a wonderful message a few months ago on Hebrews 12, "The Presence of the Holy." Do you remember the end of Hebrews 12? “Let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe,” or some versions say, “with godly fear.” Why? “For our God is a consuming fire.”

So we have to be careful that we don’t so reduce our definition of worship that we squeeze out those other aspects. All of those things are included in worship. But we all know that it’s possible to go through the motions. We all know it’s possible to say things with our mouths, to honor God with our lips, while our hearts are far from him. It’s possible to bow your head, to bend your knee, to have the right posture. It’s possible to recite the creed, to read Scripture, to hear Scripture, to have the truth component. It’s even possible to have your emotions engaged, and it not be real worship if it’s missing this one thing. This is the irreducible core to worship.

What is it? Self-surrender. Giving yourself to God. Look at what Paul says. It’s right there, Romans 12:1. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to” do what? “ present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This is your worship, he says. This is your worship: to present your body to God.

It’s all sacrificial language he’s using here. Paul is taking language from the Old Testament temple worship. Think of the book of Leviticus. The book of Leviticus is a manual for worship in the old covenant; that’s what it is. Paul’s taking that language, the language of sacrifice and offering and the qualifications, and worship; he’s taking that language and he’s applying it now to us, and he’s saying, “I want you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God.”

Here’s the interesting thing. Did you know that when Paul uses that language of worship (theologians call this a cultic language of the Bible because it has to do with the temple cult, the temple religion; the cultic language), did you know that Paul never uses that language when describing the gatherings of believers in the worship service?

He says things about the gatherings. He talks about speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and he talks about teaching and preaching the word, he talks about prayers, public prayers, and “lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy), right? He says a lot about the public gathering, but he never uses this language to talk about that.

When he uses this language, the language of worship, he pierces right to the heart of what worship is, and it’s not about the particular songs we sing, it’s not about the particular forms we observe; it’s not about that. It’s about what goes on in your heart in that moment. Are you giving yourself to God? That’s what it is. Worship is self-surrender. It is, “Lord, I give you my heart; Lord, I give you my soul; I live for you alone.” “Take my life and let it be / Consecrated, Lord, to thee.” That’s the heart of worship.

We express that in our songs, but the question is, do we actually do it in our hearts and lives? Are we yielding ourselves to God? The very heart of worship is for us to respond to God in self-surrender, in self-giving love, and what we’re doing in those moments is we are responding to the self-giving love of God for us.

There’s a wonderful book on worship by a guy named Harold Best. He taught at Wheaton Seminary for years. He wrote a wonderful book called Unceasing Worship. That’s his basic definition. It’s unceasing worship, its unceasing pouring out of ourselves to God. He says God ceaselessly pours himself out to us, and for God it’s called lordship, and we in response ceaselessly pour ourselves out to him, and for us it’s called worship.

That’s the heart of it. So when you and I gather, or when you do private devotions, or when you’re reading Scripture and praying with your family, this is what we’re aiming for, this is what we want to happen. We want there to be a fresh consecration, a fresh giving of ourselves, a surrender of ourselves to God.

Notice how comprehensive this is. He says, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Paul actually want us to give our bodies to God, to use our bodies in the service of God. He’s not an ascetic here, he’s not advocating extreme bodily self-denial, but rather the consecration of our physical bodies to the Lord. But there are characteristics to this sacrifice. It’s a living sacrifice; it’s also holy and acceptable to God. It’s devoted to God. It’s holy, it’s pure, acceptable to God, a pleasing offering, like the sweet-smelling aromas of the Old Testament. That’s the language that he’s using here.

But notice this. He says, “...which is your spiritual worship.” That word “spiritual” is a word that scholars debate what it means. It could carry the idea of that which is reasonable, the reasonable response. The Greek word here is the word from which we get our word logic. It could carry the idea of that which is rational. It could carry the idea of that which is spiritual and mental rather than physical.

Now, whichever thing Paul means, what becomes really clear is that his view of worship here is comprehensively the surrender of the self to God in all aspects, body and spirit. It’s presenting your bodies to God, and this is your spiritual worship, your rational worship, so your mind is engaged as well. It’s the whole soul devoted to God. Worship is giving oneself to God.

Once again, you’re already giving yourself somewhere. You’re either giving yourself to the true God or you’re giving yourself to another, lesser god, or you are giving parts of yourself to multiple gods; but we’re all giving ourselves away constantly to something else.

4. The Power of Worship: Worship leads to transformation 

When we give ourselves to the true God, it leads to transformation. That’s the last thing, number four, the power of worship. Worship leads to transformation.

You see this in verse 2. Verse 2 follows, it’s the next command; not only present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God, but Paul says in verse 2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

That word “transformed” is a wonderful word, a very powerful word. It’s essentially the word metamorphosis. That’s the Greek word, the Greek word from which we get the word metamorphosis. You know what a metamorphosis is. That’s what happens when a caterpillar goes into a cocoon, right, and then a few months later it bursts out as a butterfly. Do you remember that old children’s song, “Bullfrogs and butterflies, they’ve both been born again”? Right? There’s a change. It’s a change, a transformation. That’s the word that Paul uses.

It’s also the word that’s used of Jesus when he was transfigured on the mount of transfiguration. The inner radiance of his glory began to shine through his physical body. His majesty was displayed. Peter says, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” He was transfigured before them. That’s the word Paul uses here.

It is a transfiguration, a transformation, a metamorphosis of the Christian, an inside-out change. It is a change that involves repentance as we turn from idols to serve the true and the living God, but it’s also a change that involves real transformation in character as we become more and more like Jesus Christ, we begin to image his glory.

Here’s a principle of worship that you find throughout Scripture: we become like whatever we worship. You remember how the psalmists and the prophets will sometimes denounce the idols that Israel or the nations have begun to turn to? They’re serving these gods. They have mouths but they don’t speak, they have eyes but they don’t see, they have ears but they don’t hear. They’re vain, and the psalmist will say, “And so are all those who worship them.” They become just like their idols.

Well, you either become like the things you worship or you become more and more like Jesus Christ if you worship him. That’s the transformation that takes place.

Now, how does this work? What’s the psychology here, the psychology of worship? What does this experience look like for it to be transforming? That’s the point of this series. The series is spiritual disciplines, its “Five Keys for Spiritual Growth.” How can you be transformed?

What I’m saying here is that worship, the practice of worship, when you get the inner essence of worship, of surrendering yourself to God in response to the mercies of God, when you do that it changes you. It changes you. But how does that work?

I want to show you one more passage. I’m almost done. Let me show you one more passage that I think describes how this works, 2 Corinthians 3:18. This, again, is Paul writing, and he says that “we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed” (same word as Romans 12:2) “into the same image, from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit,” or that could read, “comes from the Spirit of the Lord.”

Here it is. Here’s the psychology of worship. This is what happens. It starts with seeing something. What do you see? You see the glory of the Lord. Paul’s not talking here about a physical manifestation of light. That’s not what he means. When you read 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 it becomes really clear what he means; he means the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He means the light of the glory of God, the radiance of God shining forth in the gospel. He means seeing the beauty of Jesus and the beauty of what God has done through Jesus, and you see it and you gaze on it until it begins to feel sweet and precious. You see it and it begins to change you, and Paul says that when we do this, when we behold the beauty or the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from one degree of glory to the next. We’re being transformed. We’re being transformed.

In other words, when you see the beauty of Christ, when you see the glory of God in the face of Christ, when you taste that beauty, when you taste and see that he is good, when you see and savor Jesus in Scripture and the word and at the table—prayer at the word and at the table, as our core values states it—when you do that, Paul says it changes you. Right there on the spot, it changes you.

Here’s an interesting thing. I had to look this up to remember where it was, but Tim Keller has mentioned this, and he got it from Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It was a discussion about Jonathan Edwards and his preaching. Jonathan Edwards was that New England Puritan preacher.

Edwards said the most important thing in preaching was not the information that was imparted to people, it was the impression (that’s his word); it was the impressions that were made on their minds and hearts in the moment of hearing the word. He said that’s what changed people; it was the impressions.

Lloyd-Jones kind of extrapolated from that, and he said that he didn’t really mind people taking notes, but he hoped that by the end of the sermon they weren’t taking notes anymore, they were so caught up with what they were seeing, what they were feeling, what they were experiencing. He said it’s not as important that you remember all the points of the sermon, but that you’ve experienced God. That’s what we want in worship. We want to so see him that it changes us.

So it’s beholding the glory of the Lord. “Beholding,” someone has said, “is the key to becoming.” But then there’s one more piece, and I do not want to miss this, because I think this is maybe the most important thing of all. Paul says, this comes from “the Lord, who is the Spirit,” or from the Spirit of the Lord.

This is not something you can just work up. This is not something that if I just get the outline right and preach with enough charisma it’ll happen. This isn’t something that if the worship team will just rehearse well enough that there’s polish it will happen. This isn’t simply a matter of you come and you come energetic and engaged and it happens. It’s something more. There’s something more required. What is it? The Spirit of the Lord.

So what we need to experience the power of worship is we need the Lord outpouring himself to us, pouring out his Spirit to us. In every worship gathering, in every experience of private, personal worship, every time we worship God. Now, there’s a sense in which worship is all of life, right, all of life lived for the glory of God; but with these points of practice, these points of focused worship of God. Every single time, what we need is the Spirit poured out on us so that we are then changed and transformed, and in return we are offering ourselves up to God.

When that happens in individuals it changes them, when it happens in a community, in a church, it changes the church.

Have you grasped the urgency of worship, the importance of worship? It’s urgent, because you are being shaped by whatever you worship.

I want to end with this quotation. This is from Harold Best’s book, Unceasing Worship, that I mentioned a few minutes ago. This paragraph encapsulates almost everything that I wanted to say this morning, so let me read it as we close.

“We begin,” he says, “with one fundamental fact about worship. At this very moment and for as long as this world endures, everybody inhabiting it is bowing down and serving something or someone: an artifact, a person, an institution, an idea, a spirit, or God through Christ. Everyone is being shaped thereby and is growing up toward some measure of fullness...” Now get this. “...whether of righteousness or evil. No one is exempt. We are every one of us unceasing worshipers, and will remain so forever, for eternity is an infinite extrapolation of one of two conditions: a surrender to the sinfulness of sin, unto infinite loss; or the commitment of personal righteousness, unto infinite gain. This is the central fact of our existence, and it drives every other fact. Within it lies the story of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation or final loss.”

Everybody worships. We’re all worshipping all the time; we’re worshipping something. Whatever you worship changes you. Only the gospel can reorient your heart so that you worship the true God. The essence of this worship is self-surrender, it’s giving yourself to God. Forget about the forms! Forget about the style! It’s about giving yourself to God! If you do that, because of the mercies of God and because you see his glory, the Spirit of the Lord will change you. Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we bow before you once again now in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, and we confess that we are idolaters. We have worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator. We pray that you would forgive us, we pray that you would open our eyes to see how we do that, and we pray that you would especially illuminate our minds and our hearts to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, revealed in the gospel; that we would see the beauty that is in Christ in a fresh way, that our hearts would be changed, and that we would gladly surrender our all to you; that we would give you everything, that we would consecrate ourselves body and soul, everything we are given to you, to your service and to your glory. Father, we can’t do it apart from your Spirit! But you have pledged to give the Spirit to those who ask, so we pray that you would send your Spirit.

We believe that you’ve done that in a definitive way at Pentecost. For every Christian, we have received the Spirit of God into our hearts and lives. We pray that you would grant us greater measures of your Spirit and of your grace and your mercy, and that you would change us through it.

As we gather for the Lord’s table now, we pray that you would help us to taste and see that Christ is good, and that in these moments we would continue in worship, giving ourselves to the Lord, who has given himself for us. So help us, Lord, we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.