We live in a public age. We live in a connected age of social media, of public emotion and public presence. Just a few years ago it was quite possible to grow up in England and know the people in your village or town you were surrounded in, a few friends know your personal life, and your family be the people you turned to in a crisis.
What does it mean to believe something so deep in your heart that the deepest, quietest, secretive parts of your life are transformed - transforming your public life?
Worship, the reverence and adoration for something or someone, is not, at it’s heart, something that is done - it is something you are - something has so transformed you worship - you are a worshipper.
Worship that is simply done is an act - it’s where we get acts of worship from but being a worshipper is something you are - someone or something has so profoundly changed your life that you choose to give your life to worship.
The apostle Paul got this. His life was one of acts of worship. He was a religious zealot - he believed passionately in his religion and it caused him to act in worship. But on the road to Damascus, Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, writes how Paul converts from religion to Christ, Paul meets Jesus and is transformed so deeply that he ceases to act, he becomes a worshipper.
Paul, years later, writes eleven chapters describing God's grace, God’s unconditional gift of life to those who deserve death and then he writes a therefore (wherever there’s a ‘therefore’, ask what it’s therefore!)
Romans 12:1 - Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Firstly, God has shown mercy to you. Mercy, the greek word here is Oiktirmos, meaning compassion and pity - he has shown compassion - He the Lord of the universe has shown, declared and poured out upon you compassion - he sees you and his heart breaks - so much so he acts.
And Secondly, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. Now, Paul's history was in the Jewish synagogue - he would have understood animal sacrifice as a means to receive mercy. He then goes on to spend 11 chapters in Romans declaring that animal sacrifices are no longer needed to provide mercy because God has sent his son to be the sacrifice so that mercy is available all the time to anyone who chooses. Then…he brings it all together - sacrifice is still needed - but not in order to achieve mercy but in response to it.
The mercy is so great, the compassion so deep that it warrants not an act but a life - sacrificial lives given to God to be used by him - that is true and proper worship. So..it’s not a sing a long or a liturgical service. It's a sacrifice, it’s an offering of your life.
Sundays, public worship, joining with God's people in corporate worship is the outward, overflow of a secret life of worship, of devotion, of sacrifice.
The secret life of worship requires the awareness of the holiness and magnificence of God
The secret life of worship requires the receipt of mercy for it to be true worship
The secret life of worship requires the life of the receiver to be given in the secret
Matthew 6:16-18 - “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
The secret life of worship requires the life of the receiver to be given in the public. So how do we develop that kind of life?
Developing a habit - often described as a discipline - a means of receiving God's grace, is how we dig wells of life in our life.
Developing a habit of Regularity
Taking regular time to be with God. Recognising and receiving His mercy
Developing a habit of Thanks
Making a decision to be the first to say thanks. Developing a habit of thanks all of the time brings perspective and helps you recognise your need of others, most of all your need of God- at the heart of worship is thanks - practice it everywhere
Developing a habit of Confession
Choosing to recognise God's kingship and his mercy over your self ability and then choosing to share with those you trust your struggles so the power of sin is removed and fruit grows - sin's power is broken when it is shared!
Developing a habit of Humility
Choosing to be honest with God about who you are. Choosing to not be seen, to let others get the praise and to be the one lifts others up. Choosing to not talk about yourself but others.
Developing a habit of Privacy
Choosing to build a private place of worship with God - your place of intimacy with Him. Not a secret place of sin but a private place of worship that overflows into the public space.
In view of God’s extravagant mercy to you, offer yourself, your whole self, as a living offering to Him - develop the secret life of a worshipper.
Questions for Discussion:
1. Do you believe God's mercy is for you, is complete and is forever?
2. What is your response? What does it mean to give your life?
3. How are you cultivating a private place of worship?
4. What does your public worship life in response to your private?