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The Year Long Celebration of God is about learning to better know, love, and obey our Creator and Savior.
That means that we own Him our submission and honor every moment of every day, and since we’re all sinful, finite human beings, this task is much harder that we would like it to be.
But today we’re going to start a series that should help simplify the process.
Now, I’m not saying it’s going to make the process easier. We’ll still be sinful and finite, but it will remove a lot of the mystery and complexity we often imagine is part of the process of change.
And that’s what this series is all about. It’s about change.
Most specifically, it’s about growing our daily worship of God, but what we’re going to learn can be applied to absolutely every area of our lives where change is needed.
On a more personal note, I’ve been studying these biblical realities for twenty years, and they have affected me more than I can put into words.
The truths we’ll uncover over the next few episodes rocked my world in the early 2000’s. Since then they’ve had a significant affect on my family and ministry. I’ve presented this material multiple times and in various forms over the past decades, but this is the first time I’ve specifically formulated it for disciples of Christ who want to follow Him better.
But please understand that this is not some man-made idea. This is more than a tactic that worked for me and that I hope will work for you. What I stumbled upon so many years ago is something that — in many ways — has been known by God’s people since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, with the help of Satan and our own sinful, forgetful hearts, we either misunderstood it or completely ignored it.
But time and time again men of God have brought this doctrine back to the forefront of their teaching and preaching. For example, Martin Luther dealt extensively with this discussion in His 5 Solas.
Then between 1941 and 1944 C.S. Lewis, famous former-atheist, beloved Inkling, and philosopher extraordinaire did a number of radio talks for the BBC. Those talks were later collected, transcribed, and edited down in the volume we all know and love called Mere Christianity.
If you haven’t read it, I would strongly urge you to get a copy. Lewis had a great way of simplifying many of the same truths for which Martin Luther fought and making them accessible. Of course, his work was much broader than Luther’s Five Solas, but as it was biblically founded, many of the Solas were included in Lewis’ talks.
Obviously, many other Bible-believing men and women have spoken on, counseled with, and written about these truths. But for me, these realities hit me the hardest not long after reading Mere Christianity. And — as I said — this lesson completely revolutionized my life.
To be fair, all of the Truth claims of Scripture can and will revolutionize your life if you let them. However, I believe the Truth we’re going to unpack in this series is the single greatest lesson we can ever learn. It affects everything we think and do. It’s the answer to our deepest heart yearnings and struggles. It’s something I like to call The Merest Christianity.
Unlike Luther and Lewis, my goal isn’t to discuss all of the essentials for mere Christianity, I want to talk about the one-and-only, most essential Truth of the Bible.
So, we’re gong to spend the next few episodes walking through this Truth carefully and clearly so that all of us can truly understand this most beautiful of doctrines and this merest of divine realities.
But, before we start, let me give you a glimpse into the issues we’ll address in this study: We’re going to talk about why you do what you do and say what you say. We’re going to look at why you feel what you feel. We’re going to discuss why you think how you think and why you want what you want. We’re even going to study why you believe what you believe, nd so much more.
But today I want to lay a foundation and invite you to embark on this journey with me.
And — as always — you can access our episode notes, transcripts, and other worship resources at CelebrationOfGod.com.
First, I want to invite you to this study for your sake. This Truth had to rock my heart before I could even think about leading my fellow disciples in it. We need to see to the log in our own eyes before addressing the speck in our community’s.
If nothing else, I pray this study will jar you and enlighten you and draw you closer to your Lord. If that occurs, it will all have been worth it even if none of our disciples ever change.
To that end, I’d like you to consider these questions: How can I make every decision an act of worship to God? How can I gain increasing victory over sin? And more generally, How can I live my entire life to the honor and glory of God?
By understanding the answers to these questions and putting them into practice in our lives we’ll be able to become better disciples of Christ and, therein, experience spiritual victory. And — only then — will we have the necessary understanding to guide our fellow disciples in these Truths — whether they be our kids, church members, small group, students, counselees, or whoever else God brings into our lives.
Second, I’d like to suggest we use an inductive approach to this study. I could tell you right now what I think “The Merest Christianity” is, but I believe it will be important for our journey through this material if we force ourselves to grapple with the hard questions.
According to the Thorndike Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary, deduction is “A logical inference from a general rule or principle,” whereas induction is “Reasoning from particular facts to a general rule or principle.”
Most of the education you’ve received is deductive. Even the Sciences — subjects born from induction — are handled in a deductive way at school. Teachers tell their students that gravity is a law of nature and then they proceed to demonstrate it by using preplanned “experiments.” This is the show-and-tell side of education. “Gravity exists. Watch the apple fall. See, I proved it! And by the way, the man who discovered it was named Newton.” Deductive education fills a basic need to disseminate many facts in a short period of time, but it falls painfully short of experiential learning. Students taught by deduction may be good test takers, but their true understanding of the subject is often shallow.
On the other hand, induction without deduction isn’t good either. What if every doctor had to learn by trial and error? What if they were not instructed in the findings of doctors that went before them? Each practitioner would be required to start from scratch, and they would barely break the surface of their study before they died. With learning like that, there wouldn’t be a civilization on earth that didn’t still have medieval medical practices. Induction alone is a grueling process that creates many specialists with only a cursory understanding of the subject.
But the marriage of induction and deduction is invaluable. Requiring an individual to personally accumulate the facts allows for deeper investment and a better understanding of the subject. Then by supplementing those findings with the research of those who’ve gone before, the student can synchronize the information and come to personal conclusions. All the while, the knowledge they’re gaining becomes nigh impossible to forget and the whole experience helps root the truths deep in the student’s heart and mind.
So, when it comes to the Christian life can we afford to be merely head-knowledge Christians? Can we be Christians at all if we merely posses facts about Christianity? The spiritual life is not a dry subject to be memorized for a test. The Bible is not a textbook we study to earn a grade. Christianity is not merely a set of religious behaviors, it’s a vibrant relationship.
A religion can be taught, but a relationship cannot be. There’s nothing more inductive than relationships. My relationship with my wife would have failed long before we ever got married if all I did was discuss with my brother-in-law all the ways to have a successful relationship with his sister. Instead, I needed to personally get to know her if I wanted to have a marriage that would work.
In the same way, if we want to have victory in our spiritual lives, and if our spiritual lives are all about celebrating God, we have to go about it a little inductively. We can’t hope to be victorious if Scriptural truths are nothing more than factoids. So, like any other relationship, it’s going to require involvement, personal investment, and sweat.
So, for the first few episodes we’re going to collectively attempt to discover The Merest Christianity together. Then we will spend the remaining time learning from others how we can put this foundational truth into practice on a daily basis, keep it vibrant and real in our lives and the lives of our disciplees, and protect it from the attacks of Satan.
And third, as we take this personal journey of discovery and growth, we need to acknowledge that there is hope for growth.
Think of the words “victory,” “success,” and “accomplishment.” Imagine the implications of those words. Do they define your life? Do they define you at 2:45 in the afternoon when you seem to hit that brick wall in your work day? Do your children have “This child is a spiritual victory of his parents” written on their backs? Is your devotional life a success? Are you victorious when the Office Flirt finds his or her way to your cubical? What about when you stretch your fingers to the World Wide Web?
God deserves our worship in each of those situations and more, and I understand that in our human condition we will never be perfect, but can it be said of us that we are victorious Christians?
Even though we’re sinners, we can have victory in our worship. Let’s look quickly at what God has to say about Spiritual Victory.
First of all, God presents the model of victory through His Son. Matthew 3:17 “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” We know Jesus made God-honoring choices. Jesus didn’t sin. Jesus celebrated God the Father in every area of His life. In His totality, Jesus exemplified spiritual victory.
But — you say — “Yeah, well that’s Jesus.”
But we must accept that God commands us to be like Christ. I Peter 1:15-16 says, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.”’ And Ephesians 1:4 tells us, “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
It’s clear that Christ was spiritually victorious. He was holy; He was blameless. It’s also clear that the Father expects us to follow the model He illustrated in His Son. We too are to be holy and blameless. And I believe this is pretty good definition of victory in worship.
Of course, the very best news is that God also promises that we will one day be like our sinless Savior. This promise will be completed through our glorification. I John 3:2 tells us, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is,” and Romans 8:17-30 beautifully paints the deeper realities of glorification. Verse thirty says, “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” I love that’s stated in the past tense. It’s so powerful.
But in order to have hope for our spiritual transformation on this earth, we must acknowledge that we have more than a future glorification to which to look forward. Though we’ll always be plagued by our sin nature, the Word of God is clear that it is possible to make right decisions, gain ever growing victory over sin, and glorify God in this body. That’s true for us and our families because God promises earthly victory through sanctification. II Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
God expects for us to grow in our worship of Him. But not only that, He also empowers us to grow in our worship of Him. And one day He will make it possible for us to perfectly worship Him for all eternity.
But we have a lot of work to do before then.
So, that’s the hope for change, but where do we start?
I think we need to answer a very important question. “Why we do what we do and say what we say?”
Of course, there’s so much biblical data to answer this question, so I want to reduce our study to a beautiful metaphor found all throughout the Scriptures — the picture of a tree and its fruit.
In the Bible, fruit is repeatedly used to represent those things we say and do. Fruit represents our worship — whether of God or of self.
Fruit is also used to picture our accomplishments, character, souls we won to Christ, and it occasionally represents our children as in Psalm 127:3 and Luke 1:42. But let me share just a sampling of the more familiar Scriptures that deal with Fruit.
Psalm 1:3 “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
I think about the Parable of the Soils in Mathew 13:8. At the end Christ explains how the Soft Hearted person produces fruit “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Matthew 3:8 and 10 says “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance . . . . Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Matthew 7:16, “You will recognize them by their fruits.”
Matthew 12:33 says, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.”
John 15:8, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Romans 7:5, “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.”
II Corinthians 9:10 reads, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest [or fruit] of your righteousness.”
Of course, Galatians 5:22 talks about “the fruit of the Spirit.”
Hebrews 12:11 tells us, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Hebrews 13:15 adds to that, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” I love the imagery of the sacrifice that was made in formal worship of Yahweh.
And James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom from above is . . . full of . . . good fruits.”
And there are many more passages that detail from where this fruit comes, the differences between good and bad fruit, how to purge the bad fruit, and so on. And though we’ll consider some of these questions later on in this study, for now let’s focus in on one kind of fruit, two kinds of people, and end our time by answering the question “why do we and our fellow disciples do what we do and say what we say?”
When we discover the answer to that question, we’ve taken our first step in being able to change what we do and say to be a more acceptable act of worship to God.
1. Let’s consider one very important fruit.
In John 14:15 Jesus, Himself says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” James discusses in great detail the necessity of living out what we say we believe. And though it’s true that people can fake righteousness for a while, true love for God will always evidence itself in the way we and our disciplees live.
That’s right. The fruit we’re going to discuss is love.
I really enjoy using John 14:15 with my whole family. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Keeping God’s commands in what we say and do is directly tied to our love for God. Of course, this isn’t surprising since Jesus also told us that the greatest command is to love the Lord our God. Therefore, we know that love is at least part of the equation for why we do what we do.
But moving on . . .
2. Let’s use consider two very important passages.
Psalm 1 and Matthew 7 are going to help us understand that there are only two types of people in the world. First, let me read each passage.
Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Matthew 7:17-20 says, “Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
These two passages separate the entire human race into those who have a good relationship with God and those who don’t — those who worship God and those who worship self.
Psalm 1 refers to an individual who worships God as a righteous person, and they’re described as a healthy, productive tree. Matthew 7 also refers to them as a healthy tree and tells us they bear good fruit.
On the other side, we have those who do not worship God. Psalm 1 calls them ungodly and compares them to dead chaff. Matthew 7 calls them a diseased tree that bears bad fruit.
Most of you should know what chaff is. I like to compare it to that papery husk you find on a peanut after taking it out of its shell. It’s completely worthless to us in every aspect. It doesn’t taste good, feel good in our mouths, or provide any health benefits. It’s completely worthless. That’s why — in Bible times — farmers would throw their grain in the air during a strong wind. The weighty grain would fall back to earth and the papery, worthless chaff would be blown away.
That’s how God — through the pen of David — describes people who do not worship God. And we should all know from our What is Worship? Series that we all worship self throughout our day.
So, we’ve seen that our fruit is related to our love for God and the consistency of our celebration of Him, and I think we all agree that makes sense. But I believe there’s more to this point.
Let’s fill out our tree metaphor a bit.
We all know that trees nourish themselves in a few ways. They utilize photosynthesis, and they also soak up nutrients and water through their roots. For right now, I don’t want to overcomplicate the metaphor, so we’re going to ignore the photosynthesis and focus on the roots.
Without a good root system, the tree can’t even grow leaves, let alone fruit anyway.
So the fruit grows, but how does it grow? Well, again, to be simplistic, it grows — in part —because of the nutrients that come through the roots, up the trunk, and into the branches. So, the fruit doesn’t magically appear in and of itself. There’s a cause. Therefore, in the same way we want to figure out what causes the fruit in our lives. From where does it come? When we discover the root of our fruit, we’ll be that much closer to knowing how to change our behavior and our conversation in order to better worship God.
Of course, please understand that there’s no one Bible passage that says “you do what you do and say what you say because you (fill in the blank).” But we will be able to see from multiple passages that there is a spiritual and logical flow to our worship, and there’s at least one passage in particular that gets really specific about our worship.
Please consider the following questions as we inductively determine why we do what we do. Why do you eat chocolate ice cream? Why do you like roller coasters? Why do you cheat? Why do you love your friends? Why do you speak unkindly to your spouse? Why do you play the sports you do? Why did you sign up for that class? Why do you eat food? Why do you watch movies? Why do you take things that don’t belong to you?
Choose any one of those and think about it.
Why do like or dislike roller coasters? Why do you eat ice cream?
Have you figured it out?
I know, this format makes it impossible to interact, so let’s discuss one of the best passages that illustrates this concept. Let’s look at Genesis 3.
In this passage Eve has just been tempted by Satan to eat the forbidden fruit, and verse six says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
Let’s move backward through the passage. What was Eve’s fruit — her behavior? Well, she took the forbidden fruit, ate it, and gave some to her husband.
So, let’s ask the question “Why did she do it?”
Well, the verse gives us three reasons: First, we learn that she thought the tree was good for food. Second, we see that it was a delight to her eyes. And third, Eve thought it could make her wise.
Now, some of you may be thinking she did what she did because of what she would get out of it. Maybe you think she did it because how it would make her feel. And I think those influences play into her self-worship. But I believe the most seminal answer is this . . . Eve ate the fruit because she wanted to eat the fruit.
Look at what it says, “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.”
Eve took the fruit because she desired it. It was pretty, it looked yummy, it would make her wise, and she wanted it.
My dad says all the time, “Everything you do, you do because you want to.” That goes for you, your spouse, your kids, the neighbors, the president, me, and everyone else.
In fact, this truth is so important, I can categorically say that you’ve never done anything you didn’t want to do.
Now, the moment I say that everyone driving his car to work nearly drove off the road.
“What are you talking about, Aaron? Are you crazy? I do things I don’t want to do all the time!! For example, I don’t want to be driving to work right now. I’d rather be on vacation!”
Well, hold on a minute. Take a breath. Engage your mind, and follow this illustration.
Let’s say I put a gun to your head and said, kick your dog or die. So, you weigh it out in your mind. And I believe most of us would choose to kick our dogs. We understand that what we sacrifice to stay alive isn’t worth as much as what we gain by staying alive. Now, I know this is a ridiculous, sick, and twisted illustration, but bear with me.
All of us could say, “I didn’t want to kick my dog, but I had to.” But unfortunately, that wouldn’t be true. You didn’t have to kick your dog. You could have chosen not to kick your dog. You kicked your dog because you wanted to kick your dog more than you wanted to die.
In situations like that, it’s a question of degrees. You may be driving to that job you despise because you want to work more than you want to be homeless.
None of us like giving consequences to our children, but we really do want to give them consequences because we know what will happen if we don’t.
You do what you do because you want to. You say what you say because you want to. Period.
And this is so important to acknowledge because it strips us of the ability to say things like, “I’m just a good person who makes mistakes,” or “He’s a good kid; he’s just in a phase,” or “He has a good heart.”
My friends, biblically speaking, none of that is true.
We overeat because we want to. We lie because we want to. We worry because we want to. We yell at our kids because we want to. We flirt with people who aren’t our spouses because we want to. We turn down our spouses advances because we want to. We get aggravated when our home doesn’t run the way we want it to because we want to. We worship self . . . because we want to.
We can’t say, “The devil made me do it!” We made ourselves do it because we are not good people. Seriously, no one who actually desires to be unkind can be called a good person.
My friends, sin is not a disease. It’s not an accident. It’s not something that controls us against our will. Sin is a willful act against God. Sin is deserving of death because it’s a choice to steal the worship our Creator deserves.
Listen, there was only one good person Who ever lived, and His name is Jesus. And that one good person came to this earth to bear the penalty of our sin. Any goodness we have, we have through Him, because even our best attempts are selfish and vile.
Now, it’s not too hard to agree that other people — especially kids — do what they do and say what they say because they want what they want. But we have to start with us if we hope to be able to help fellow disciples see this in themselves . . . and our fellow disciples definitely need to see this. But so do we.
Consider again Matthew 7:17-20. “Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” If there is bad fruit in your life, it’s there because there’s something wrong with your tree. When I have bad fruit in my life it’s because I’m a bad tree.
My tree is bad because it wants to bear bad fruit. And the same is true for you and your students, friends, family, and counselees.
The first sin occurred because Eve wanted to do it, and every sin that has come after it was born from the same thing . . . our desires.
If you’re still unconvinced, consider James 4. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? [That’s what we do and say] Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
According to James we desire, covet, and have passions that bear the fruit in our lives.
Now we’re very much over time, but we have to ask, “Is that it? Have we found the root of why we worship the way we do?”
That’s a good question.
By way of a partial answer, we can say that “we do what we do and say what we say because we want what we want.”
But I believe — in order to be good spiritual scientists, in order to think theo-logically — we still need to ask another question, “If I worship myself because I want to, then I need to change what I want. But in order to change what I want, I need to figure out why I want the things I want?” Why do I want to worship self over God?
When it’s asked that way, the question almost doesn’t make sense. We know so much about God, al lof His children have experienced His mercy and grace and love and power and life. So, why do we want to lean on our own understanding and worship ourselves instead of submitting to His will?
That is a very important question, but I think we’ve experienced a watershed moment today.
I think it’s important for me to really meditate on the fact that I worship myself instead of God because I want to. It wasn’t an accident. No one made me do it. It didn’t happen because of anything outside of me. It wasn’t the fault of my tempters. I wanted to worship myself instead of God.
And you need to recognize the same thing about yourself.
So, let’s stop for now by making full circle. Jesus said we don’t obey because we don’t love Him. That’s true. But why don’t we love Him? Because we don’t want to love Him. We’d rather love ourselves. We’d rather celebrate ourselves. And the same goes for our counselees, church members, children, and students.
Again, if you’d like to review these passages and ideas, please check out our episode notes at CelebrationOfGod.com.
And join us next time as we consider why do we feel what we feel?
I know I just said that our next step will be to answer “why do we want what we want?” But we first need to figure out where our emotions play into this whole doing-saying-desiring spectrum.
Too many people believe that everything we do comes from what we feel. Well, that’s biblically, logically, and scientifically untrue.
So, next time it’s our plan to talk about what our emotions are and how they play into our worship. And then we can look into the Scripture to understand why we want to worship self over God.
And don’t forget to share this opening episode on your favorite social media outlets so other followers of Christ can learn why they worship the way they do. Let’s not keep the secret to change all to ourselves!
I’ll see you then!
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.