The Encourager

The Encourager

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Reasonable Service

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Reasonable Service

by Jeff Curtis

     As my life’s careers have taken me through several arenas of places to work, I have come to appreciate Romans 12:1-2 more and more. People who work a public job would ask me, how I could justify working around people in the public sector who didn’t seem to have much faith. In my response I would often recite this particular verse and tell them, “I have to live in this world, but I don’t have to live like this world.” I had to work to provide for my family. This passage has me thinking quite a bit. Now that we are in “Livestream” mode, I hope and pray Christians to get too comfortable not being at the services of our Lord. Paul writes here: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

     Whatever we do for the Lord should involve thinking. We must never serve Him in a ritualistic, automatic way. When I worked for Cook’s Pest Control, I would, at times have several miles of nothing but driving. On more than one occasion, I would find myself realizing that I couldn’t remember the last several miles. It is dangerous to drive when you are in a daze. It is also dangerous to serve God in a daze. When we worship God, our minds need to be focused on Him and on what we are doing. The same is true of all our service to Him.

     Writers have gone to extremes interpreting the word “service.” Some have insisted that the Greek word only refers to general “service” to God and doesn’t mean “worship.” To exclude any element of worship from the Greek word latreia in Romans 12:1 seems extreme. In this verse, Paul was talking about presenting our bodies as a sacrifice to God; he was using worship language.

     Others suppose that Romans 12:1 teaches that “all of life is worship” and have reached unwarranted conclusions about “worship services.” For example, some have decided that, if “all of life is worship,” there is no need to assemble together for worship. That conclusion contradicts Hebrews 10:25. We have some brethren (not here, I hope), that view the “Livestream” as a good alternative to assembling with the saints.

     A few insist that if a certain activity is all right for a Christian in his everyday life, it acceptable to it when “the whole church assembles together” (1Corinthians 14:23) for worship. This assumption is truly false. For instance, there is nothing wrong with women talking and teaching in a day-to-day setting, but they “are to keep silent in the churches [assemblies]… because it is improper for a woman to speak in the assembly” (1Corthians 14:34-35). Again, an individual might have both coffee and grape juice as a beverage during a common meal, but to include coffee with the fruit of the vine while observing the Lord’s Supper would desecrate that memorial feast. Some distinction must be made between what we might call “corporate worship” (the church coming together for worship) and our individual, personal, private service to God.

     The message of Romans 12:1 lies somewhere between the two extremes mentioned. What should we learn from Paul’s statement that offering our bodies as living sacrifices is our “spiritual [or reasonable] service worship?” Probably, we should learn many things, including the following:

 

  1. We shouldn’t make too fine a distinction between “the sacred” and “the secular.” Bring up children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) is as sacred task as preparing a sermon. Being conscientious about a weekly job, doing it “heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col. 3:23) is as sacred as writing a religious article.
  2. Whatever we do, we need to be aware that we are always in the presence of God- and we must act accordingly. If an individual is a different person on Monday through Saturday than they are on Sunday, they cannot worship God “in spirit and truth” on Sunday.
  3. We should make a conscientious effort to glorify God in everything we do. It does matter whether we are rearing our children, preparing a sermon, working a daily job, writing a bulletin, or doing something else. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1Corinthians 10:31).

A Plea for Plain Talk

Saturday, December 12, 2020

A Plea For "Plain Talk"

Robert F. Turner

Once Jesus told his disciples, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world and go to the Father." And his disciples said, "Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb." (Jn. 16:28-29)

Again (in 2 Cor. 3:12) Paul, having contrasted the Old and New Testament, and having shown the greater glory of the later, wrote: "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech."

The days of "hidden wisdom" and the "mystery of the gospel" are past. (1 Cor. 2:7, 10, Eph. 3:3-7) The "Mystic Knights of the Sea" may keep their pagan rites and child-like secrets but God's children love the light, and rejoice unashamedly in the truth. It is with such a spirit as this that Plain Talk is introduced.

POLITICS AND RELIGION

These subjects are "taboo" in social circles, we are told. Why is it so? Is it better to repeat the latest gossip, or feed the ego with stories of yesterday's deeds? Or do we simply admit we know so little about these vital life subjects we cannot carry on an intelligent discussion without becoming obnoxious?

"A Weaving Way"

Some preachers, and politicians, cannot discuss their subjects calmly and factually. They must build up steam so that the stale cliches, flag waving, and stomping can take the place of substantiated truth. Maybe some reluctance to discuss religion results from such displays. You say, "If this is religion, deliver me."

And so-- Plain Talk

Let's not throw out the baby with the wash water. Our subject needs discussion, and we feel Plain Talk is one answer. Not abusive -- we write with malice toward none; nor with careless abandon -- our subject demands the best in us. Rather, we hope to "get to the point" with the plainness and directness warranted by the urgency of our message. "Plain Talk" seeks conscientious readers. And you?

Stuff About Things

Robert F. Turner

When a California church bought a building from a denomination that was moving to different quarters, they gained two new members in the process. It seems two Methodist joined the Church of Christ rather than leave the building they loved. The Methodist didn’t lose any one, and the church of the Lord did not gain any one. The two were converted to the building, and they remained true to their first love.

It happens quite often with varied details. People are bound to external forms, places or other people, and these material ties are stronger by far than their convictions concerning the worship and service of God. They do not love the Lord; they like the suit He chanced to wear. We would surely be startled if we could borrow Gods X-Ray and see why people maintain their various religious affiliations. Or see our own heart — One says, I put hard-earned money into this building and they are not about to run me off. Another, I was married in this building, and I’ll have my funeral here. Family and social ties account for many. Some have been Church of Christers or Baptist for many generations, and consider it a sort of family obligation, at least while they are at home. When they move to another state, they have no ties whatsoever.

Within a community when differences arise among brethren, such folk are left without chart or compass. It is so sad to hear people who we sup­posed to have scriptural convictions say, I just don’t know what to do— I like people on both sides. Having never really been converted to Christ the teachings of Christ on the issues move them not. So, they usually, stay with the building.

Later they may become disgusted by the antics of their brethren, but by now they have been so prejudiced against the anti's or the liberals that they would cease all pretense of worship rather than change buildings.

I do not believe the situation would be measurably helped by aban­doning all buildings and meeting under a tree. It is the heart that must be changed— in each individual, in each generation. Can’t you just hear some old fellow say, my pappy worshipped under this oak, and I ain’t about to change to some modernistic fruitless mulberry.

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