It was the secret to the victorious life of Jonathan Edwards.
It is a secret our own Chris shared two weeks ago.
It is a secret hidden in Galatians 5 and clearly proclaimed in Romans 12:1.
What if you approached everything:
eating, shopping, sex, forgiving, home-making…
not as denial, duty, or drudgery –
not as a means to satisfy your soul (for it won’t),
but as an act of worship to the One who laid down His life for you?
What will rise, after the initial pain of a little death, is a glorious resurrection:
the fruit of the Spirit expressed in Galatians 5.
Our own Chris expressed this secret so beautifully in regard to food:
I have grown in recognizing that taking care of my body is a responsible act of worship.
I can enjoy delicious things (real food in reasonable amounts when I am hungry)
as an act of worship.
When I am indulging the flesh I don’t get the satisfaction that my craving promises,
it is a bottomless pit with an insatiable me at the center.
I am quicker now to see when I am thinking that stupid pit looks like a good idea.
God isn’t in that pit.
Galatians 5 puts the same two choices that Chris expressed,
showing how they reap joy or sorrow, freedom or chains.
Romans 8 teaches the same.
But in Romans 12:1 we are told how to be led by the Spirit:
This could be a life-changing week for us, so let’s go!
Monday: Jonathan Edward’s Approach To Life
Tim Keller says his two main mentors have been C. S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards, which was enough to intrigue me to learn more about Edwards. I knew Edwards fell in love with his wife, Sarah, because of her continual delight in God. Edwards wrote of her:
They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that almighty being…who comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him…
Sarah had been seized by the power of a great affection, and so Jonathan knew he had found the one to be his life’s companion. Edwards looked at everything through the eyes of a worshipper. His writings are challenging, but I’ve been helped by this little book:
It contains a brief but fascinating biography, and then paraphrases some of his most famous writings into easier prose. Though made famous by his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” most of his writings are on the excellencies of Christ. He reminds me a lot of Spurgeon in his love for the Lord, his verbosity, and his word pictures. In nature he saw a typology of God — something Scripture does as well — but he took it further. For example, he saw a message in the growth of a rose, for proceeding the lush flower are many thorns. He loved nature, family, food, sex, ministry…but didn’t worship any of them — but instead, allowed these good gifts to lead him to worship God. That worship was expressed in thanksgiving, but also, in receiving these gifts according to the boundaries the Word and the Spirit impressed on his heart.
To apply this, let me give you a few illustrations.
Because I struggle with over-eating, I loved Chris’s words two weeks ago. She talked about how just the sheer variety of beautiful food (not just manna) can lead her to praise God.
When she eats to satisfy her hunger instead of to try to satisfy her soul, it is an act of worship. The result? Joy!
But if she eats to try to satisfy her soul, she falls into a pit — and God is not there. Only slavery.
3. What stands out to you from the above and why?
4. Are you familiar with Jonathan Edwards? If so, how has he impacted you?
Tuesday: It is for Freedom that you have been Set Free
5. Meditate on Galatians 5:1
A. For what purpose did Christ set us free?
B. Why does Paul tell us to stand firm?
C. If we apply this not just to being set free from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin,
can you give an illustration from your life on how doing it your way leads to bondage, but God’s
way sets you free?
6. Read Galatians 5:2-12
A. Read it slowly and summarize Paul’s main point.
B. Does anything jump out at you from this passage, and if so, why?
Wednesday: An Application to Sex
When sex is used according to His Word and Spirit, it can bring great joy. Edwards understood The Song of Songs, and saw the earthly marriage bed as a greater pointer to the joy we can have through oneness with God. Keller, drawing upon Edwards, said that the primary purpose of sex is to renew our marriage vows, to give us a fresh start. When sex is used as God intended, within marriage, and to serve the other person, it is like a beautiful river that refreshes, renews, Outside of those bounds, like a flood, it brings death.
Recently I counseled a young woman who wished her husband did not want to make love quite so frequently, for she is weary with work and little children. And though I do think there are times to abstain and to speak the truth in love, I also think there can be great joy in “laying down your life” as an act of worship. After the pain of a little death, comes joy! Sex within marriage is like a beautiful river that refreshes, renews, and brings life. When we can serve our husbands in love this way, we are worshipping God. This young woman told me later: “It’s true. It means so much to him. After a night when we made love, he wakes with a confidence and joy in his step, and that gives me joy!”
For those of us who are single, our abstinence is a way to worship God — and that does lead to joy and peace. Philips paraphrases 2 Corin. 4:17 as: These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain.
7. What stands out to you from the above? Is there an application for your life?
8. Read Galatians 5:13
A. What does Paul tell us not to do?
B. What does he tell us to do?
C. How is serving one another an act of worship?
D. How could you apply this in your life?
Thursday: The Entire Law Summed Up
The law does not have the power to save us, but it does have the power to drive us to Christ, For remember, we are caterpillars in a ring of fire. We can’t do it, but the gospel and His Spirit have power. If we melt our hard hearts with the gospel, and live by the Spirit, we will experience the power to obey.
9. Read Galatians 5:14
A. What single command sums up the whole law?
B. How do you show love for yourself?
C. How could you show this kind of love to the people in your path today as an act of worship?
10. Read Galatians 5:15
A. When we give into the flesh, it may seem like an answer, but it leads to destruction. How is this
expressed in this verse?
B. How is it an act of worship to forgive and to love the one who has hurt you?
Friday: The Expulsive Power of A New Affection
Because idols cannot be removed, but only replaced, it is vital that we follow Romans 12:1 with Romans 12:2.
The main ways I renew my mind are through Scripture, music, reading good books, listening to good sermons and fellowship. It truly has been good for me to read the thoughts of saints who have gone before, and to see their common thread of living a life of worship. We’ve looked at many saints during this journey, and we are not done.
11. We’ve looked at Luther’s preface to Galatians, Oswald Chambers, Eugene Peterson, Francis Schaeffer, and Jonathan Edwards. Share one thought from one that you found very helpful.
12. How do you renew your mind? How could you do better?
13. What is your take-a-way and why?
On a personal note I’m filming The Jesus Who Surprises Monday and Tuesday in Columbus, Georgia. Speaking at their church Wednesday night. Please pray for:
- Anointing for all of us: me, the cameraman, the 21 women giving testimonies
- Protection from the enemy
- That we would truly glorify God
- If it pleases Him, so good weather for outdoor filming along the Chattahoochee river.
- Traveling mercies home
I’m writing this in the Atlanta airport, waiting for flight to Columbus! I am thankful for you!