Celebrating The Tenth Anniversary Of The Consecration Of Our Church
1. July 4th, 1993. The first service was given [unto the Lord] at the new sanctuary built in Okamachi, [Osaka, Japan]. Since that day ten years have gone by, and now on this first Lord's Day in July, we are offering up to the Lord a service of remembrance for the tenth anniversary of the consecration of our church. That day, during the first worship service in that place, the words that we read were from chapter twelve of The Epistle To The Roman Disciples. Now today ten years later we have read those same words aloud again in this service. The majority of you assembled here in this service were not in this place that day. So I would like to have you share in with us the message that was given at that first service, and for you who were there that day I would like to rekindle in your minds what the Lord gave us back then.
Dedicate Your Bodies [To God]
2. Well, as is expressed through the [Japanese] word, "kendoh [assembly hall of dedication], this place is a place dedicated to the Lord. It is a place dedicated unto the worship and service of the Lord.
3. Up till ten years ago, this congregation held Sunday services at the Hattori Funeral Home just a short way from here. Normally that place is used for funeral services. During the mornings, even on Sundays, if funerals were going on, we had to move thing around. That's how the place was. Come Sunday mornings, we would get the place ready, line up chairs, place the table for the Lord's Supper, set out the pulpit, and make our place of worship. (Today, the style of our Lord's Supper table that's in our sanctuary is a holdover from back then. This communion table, which we once used as a communion table in the Hattori Home, is made after the pattern of a steel conference table.) And when our service was over, it had to go right back right away to the place it was originally. For a small congregation a lot of hard work was involved to do all that. But, nobody in the church was afraid of hard work. This congregation was not one to shun hard work for offering up a proper worship service.
4. The reason this sanctuary was built and consecrated as a church was due to the passion [of its people] for worship. They didn't build it just to stop having to line up all those chairs one after the other. They didn't do it just to take the easy way out. The sanctuary was built through just a genuine humility, through the mind set of wanting to offer up proper worship to God. In all reality, the building of our meeting place was a tough job that involved great toil and sacrifice. Everybody, to be specific, presented gifts of money, they dedicated time, they dedicated manpower, they all took part in the building plans for the sanctuary. That's how this sanctuary was presented up to the Lord. This congregation was not afraid of hard work in order to present to the Lord a proper worship. I don't believe we're any different today either.
5. In the passage of scripture read for today, Paul says that the worship we're supposed to have is defined as "presenting our bodies as a holy and living sacrifice pleasing unto God." Worship is defined as "presenting, dedicating, offering up." Worship means making an offering of oneself to God. What goes on here every week is not some Christian lecture hall with praise music tacked on. Our main focus is the offering of ourselves up to God. It is not some simple cliche that the ushers pray when they say over the money collection that, "This is a sign of the offering of ourselves up to God." As is symbolized in the monetary offerings, the offering up of the body, the offering up of our hearts is different from that because offering our bodies means to offer up our very specific way of living in our day to day lives in which our bodies are involved.
6. As a matter of fact, it is not possible to keep on offering up worship each week without also offering up our daily lives in a specific way. Unless we put our lives in order for the Lord, make the time for worship, and dedicate that time [through out the day], we cannot keep on offering up worship. Also, unless we sanctify each of our hours as the Lord's and offer them to him in a real sense [through out the whole week], we can't really gather here according to the scheduled times and not be late [and expect that to be acceptable worship unto the Lord]. Putting it in opposite terms, worship like that is not just Sunday, but leads us to make an offering of ourselves that spans our entire daily life.
7. It is in this way that being a worshipper of God and presenting our bodies up to him is really the same as living and believing in God. To live and believe in God is not just believing that "God exists." If that were so, the demons even believe at that level, (James 2:19). Believing in God and living your daily life accordingly does not mean we open our Bibles at our favorite hour, pray, and are soaked in a devout frame of mind. It is to live by presenting our bodies to God, by worshipping God. This place has been dedicated to God for that kind of worship of self dedication [on a daily basis] to God.
By The Mercies Of God
8. However, there is one other important thing that we must remember. It is that that which makes for our worship as a dedication of the self unto God does not derive from our "sacrificial thoughts," nor from our "passion for worship," nor from "the right preparations for worship."
9. Upon what basis is the exhortation to "present your bodies ..." being made? Paul says that "I exhort you by the mercies of God." True worship comes into being, not by anything from our side of things, but comes just from God's mercies towards us. It is even possible for this exhortation of Paul to be given because of God's mercies. Don't forget that.
10. Going a bit further on this, when we ask what does the mercies of God mean, we find in the text with that phrase the words "Therefore." What is the "therefore" there for? As one would expect, it points to what is written in the Bible just before. What is written in the text there is about God's salvation being given through Jesus Christ and his crucifixion and resurrection. Whether one is a Jew or a Greek, [the text] says "therefore" after pointing to the work of God's salvation, that he will make all believers righteous, give them new life, and let them live in the hope of sharing in the glory of God.
11. We should say that it is pointing to the love of God, which he has expressed through Jesus Christ. In chapter eight and beginning with verse thirty-eight, Paul's conviction, which has been put into an exhortation as I have been describing, has been written in the text as follows: "I have this conviction. Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things future, nor the powerful, nor those in high places, nor those in low places, nor any other created thing, can separate us from the love of God which has been shown through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Romans 8:38-39). Worship comes into being through God's love, through the work of God's love by which he saved us.
12. As a matter of fact, this very sanctuary shows that truth. There is a communion table at the front. Through the pastor's standing behind it, we surround the communion table and worship. The communion table is for the eucharist, the bread and the wine. The eucharist is the same as Christ's body and blood. It points to the atonement for sin that comes through Christ's cross. When worship is held by surrounding the communion table, that shows that worship does not come into being unless there is the atonement for sin through Christ.
13. We must not forget that we always surround and keep the Lord's Supper table and [then] worship. If we don't, we become arrogant even in the things that have to do with worship. Without realizing it, we end up thinking arrogantly to the point as if the things we offer up are always supposed to be accepted by God.
14. Isn't that how it gets? Whenever we offer our monetary offerings, we expect it to be accepted. We think like that even more so when it is money that we have worked hard for and saved up, or it is money that we have sacrificed by giving up something in our lives. Whenever we offer up praise we expect it to be accepted. We might think like that even more so like those in the choir as they practice with everything they've got and get ready. We expect any ministry to be accepted. When we take the time to do ministry and work hard at it, we'll think like that even more so. If [our offering] is not accepted, we might get boiling mad like Cain in the Old Testament and turn our face down (Genesis 4:5). But, we mustn't forget. Our worship, our offering of ourselves to God first comes into effect by having the communion table. That is, by having Christ and his cross and resurrection, by having God's love which is manifest in Christ, [our worship] first comes into being as true and acceptable.
15. We need to take quite seriously and even literally the words that Paul has given here to "present our bodies as a holy and living sacrifice pleasing unto God." It says that "Because we are making an offering to God, we should offer up the highest possible thing for us." That kind of heart is important. While making an offering to God, we should not offer up any thing lukewarm. But, then again, whenever we offer the highest possible we can do, and we think that that alone by itself is a "holy" sacrifice and "pleasing to God," that is an incredible conceitedness. In a true sense, it is Christ's sacrifice alone that can bear the designation of "pleasing to God" and "holy." The sinless One has offered up his body, he is the only sacrifice.
16. We are not Jesus Christ, but if our bodies and all the business that our body has to do with can be offered up "as a holy living sacrifice pleasing unto God," that would be because God has accepted us as such through his mercies and for no other reason. That would come from God's forgiveness alone. We are connected to Christ the one who offered the perfect sacrifice; we become one; we get forgiven by God; [then] we receive his acceptance of us.
17. But, the truth is we have right here in this the greatest joy in the day to day life of worship. We have the greatest of joys that is given to a life, when we live [for God] with our bodies included. We, just as we are, our bodies just as they are, our lives lived along with these bodies included have received acceptance from God as "a holy living sacrifice pleasing to God!" We are not meaningless beings before God at all. We are not just beings on our way to being destroyed under the judgment of God. We are living sacrifices holy and pleasing unto God. We no longer belong to ourselves, but to God. When we sing the doxology and we give the benediction here, we go out again into the world as sacrifices accepted by God, as God's. This place has been offered up to God for that kind of worship, for blessed and joyful worship.