Participating in Bodily Worship

For human beings, worship is both a physical and a spiritual activity.

When the Apostle Paul tells us to “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper (‘logikos‘) worship,” I think the first application pertains to what Christians do when they assemble on Sunday morning.

The place of worship has moved from the temple in Jerusalem to the assembly of the faithful. Instead of offering a ram or a bull, the congregation unites itself to Christ’s offering of himself on the cross. All who are united to Christ a members of his royal priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5). But Christian worship is still a bodily, physical activity.

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I Will Build My Church

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.  (Matthew 16:13-20)

Jesus Takes Responsibility for Building the Church

“I will build my church.” These are the most important five words in Matthew 16:13-20. This passage announces the good news that Jesus is going to build a church that even the power of death (“the gates of hades”) cannot defeat. That’s the gospel in this passage.

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What’s (Not) New in Peter’s Confession at Caesarea Philippi?

Peter’s confession at Caesarea in Matthew 16:13-20 seems like an important turning point in Matthew’s gospel. So what’s new in this passage?

Jesus Didn’t Give Peter a New Name

First, it’s not the name “Peter”.  Jesus didn’t give Simon a new name at Caesarea Philippi.

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The Victory Worth the Sacrifice

What is the most important thing about the victory in WWII at the cost of a million allied combatant lives?

  1. The fact that so many allied soldiers gave their lives touches my heart. It’s a very powerful thing to contemplate.
  2. The tenacity and skill of the allied soldiers show me how to succeed in the face of great difficulties. There are lots of life lessons to be learned.
  3. The allies produced a number of scientific and technological advances that provided the world with many practical advantages, which make my life better. (This computer is the evolution of one of them!)
  4. The allied victory made it possible for me to live in Europe and Korea, which was really cool! I loved the food, the drink and all the sights! Lots of good shopping, too! Yea, allies!
  5. The allied victory freed large parts of the world from brutal dictatorships and deadly oppression, restoring hope for millions. The whole world benefits from their victory.

All are true. Only one is the reason that so many allied service members shed their blood. Only one is commensurate with the scale of the sacrifice.

Now the most important thing about Christ’s victory over sin, death and the devil is ….

A Sower went out to Sow

Matthew 13:1-9

Jesus sat in the boat and looked at the large crowd gathered along the shore. His heart was elated and broken at the same time. The people assembled here were evidence of the Father’s powerful work and the coming of the kingdom Jesus proclaimed. They had seen Jesus’ mighty deeds and heard him teach about the coming kingdom. Now they were moved to follow Jesus – well, at least as far as the edge of town.

Still, Jesus knew that some would really not understand. Some would fall away when persecution raised its ugly head. Still others would be drawn away by the lure of the world’s supposed treasures.

Some of Jesus’ opponents may have even asked Jesus, “Tell us about this kingdom you preach about. If it is so great, why isn’t everyone getting on board? Some of your own disciples are abandoning you!”

Thankfully, Jesus also knew that many of those who followed him would also persevere in faith to inherit the kingdom. It was to this end that Jesus came. Sometimes, Jesus’ message bore fruit in the most unlikely places.

So Jesus told a parable about a farmer who sowed his seeds, knowing that not every seed would produce fruit for the coming harvest. Some seed would be eaten by birds. Some would fall on rocky ground. Some would fall where it would be choked out by weeds. But some would produce a harvest that would bring joy to the farmer’s heart.

Now God isn’t exactly like a farmer sowing seeds. You can only take the analogy so far.

Farmers aren’t invested emotionally in every seed that doesn’t bear fruit. If farmers get a good return on their time, money and effort, that’s certainly enough. But God is not growing soybeans and people aren’t dirt. Every person for whom Jesus died is precious to him, including those who don’t understand him, those who deny him and those who leave him for apparently greener pastures. Every person matters, including those who ultimately fail to enter the kingdom.

To the people on the shore, Jesus’ message was a challenge. What will you do with this Jesus whom you have followed to the shoreline? Will you let his word take root in you and grow?  Unlike soil, human beings are not passive recipients of the sower’s seed.

Surely the kingdom will come whether you or I or the individuals gathered on the shore to hear Jesus speak are there to be a part of it. Jesus’ parable is both a word of warning and encouragement. The kingdom is coming, and those who remain united to Jesus will inherit it. Don’t let the evil one’s threats or the world’s empty promises draw you away.

Related: The Parable of the Sower