Are our lives pleasing to the Lord?

A sermon based on Psalm 113 and 1 Peter 1:13-16 delivered in Kenmare 9/8/2015

We are going to explore what that means this morning and in our own hearts answer that question…

Is my life pleasing to the Lord?

We are going to use two things to do this – the readings we heard earlier. Psalm 113 and the small piece from 1st Peter. That’s the first thing. The second thing we are going to use is the six questions we were taught at school.

Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

In the psalm we read this morning, the first five verses present us with the God who is infinitely high and the last four as the God who is intimately nigh, he is with us.

  • It tells us who should praise the Lord – His servants. Us. We are to praise the Lord.

So that is the first question Who should praise the Lord? Me and you, believers worldwide are to praise the Lord.

  • It tells us when – all the time … now and evermore, so that is morning afternoon evening and night.

No matter what we are doing, saying or thinking it should be in praise of the Lord. Not just on a Sunday from eleven to twelve – but every hour of every day.

  • It tells us where

Everywhere—from lands of sunrise to lands of sunset. Whether we are working or have time off, whether we are walking or driving or washing the dishes or on holiday. We are to praise the Lord everywhere we go.

  • It tells us what we are to praise Him for…

For His greatness – he is high above all the nations,

For his matchlessness. No one can be compared to him

For his limitless vision.  There is nothing in heaven or earth that he cannot see.

So we have got the what, the who, the where, the why and the when.

But the psalm doesn’t stop there. We have the basics here but there is more. Because we don’t just worship a God who is all up there. Someplace, unreachable, We worship the living God who lives within us.

And the psalmist gets personal and intimate.

  • The Lord is with us.

The poor can know this – he raises them from the dust, the needy can know this he lifts them from the ash heap,

This morning, here and now, we know this to be true, don’t we?

We were poor, but through faith in Christ we have become fantastically wealthy in spiritual things.

We were needy, but the Lord Jesus took us beggars from the dunghill and gave us wonderful Christian brothers and sisters, a fellowship that beats anything the world has to offer.

We were barren, with no fruit in our lives for God. But He has delivered us from that empty, wasteful existence to meaningful, productive life.

No wonder we sing with the psalmist: Praise the Lord

We have five of the six questions answered. And now we turn to our reading from the letter of Peter. It is a short reading so I will read it again so it is fresh in our minds. Maybe you would like to close your eyes and imagine that this letter is a real letter delivered to you this morning. Fresh and new.

Be holy

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.

14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;

16 for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’

Be holy because I am holy…

That comes from three verses in Leviticus and you can look them up later in chapters 11 and 19. All say similar things to the theme of

“Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”

In the common English bible verse 15 says you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy (1 Peter 1:15 CEB)

Another version says be holy in all your behaviour, another says in every detail of your life.

And if that isn’t clear enough for us in 1st Peter chapter 2 from verse 11

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (ESV)

And Paul when writing to Timothy says in 1st Timothy chapter 4

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (ESV)

So we are to be set apart, away from the world and be honourable in all we do. We must act socially just, looking out for those who for this time can’t look out for themselves, that is the doing. Do social justice.

Jesus made it real simple for us…

He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”[a]; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

The loving our neighbour as ourselves – that is social justice. And it is social justice in every aspect of our lives: visiting the sick and imprisoned, feeding and clothing those in need, living simply – being good stewards of what we have been given, earning, saving and giving.

It is the fruit of the spirit in our lives all the time. Being kind, being faithful, being loving, being joyful, having self control.

And we are to balance that with being holy.

Being holy.

What does that mean?

And what does Paul mean when he says “train yourself”

And Peter telling us to have sober minds,

How can we “train” our minds and hearts in holiness?

Coming together on a Sunday is a part of that growing in holiness. This week sees the return of the Wednesday morning bible study, another opportunity to come together to be community.

The 1st century church. The church that we see in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters. Where did that start? What were the followers of Jesus doing after his death? And after his resurrection?

They were gathered together praying. Community praying together.

Prayer and the reading of scripture are vital to our on going journey with the Lord.

Saturday mornings across this land there are people who are tearing up sermons and starting again and yesterday was no different. What had seemed acceptable on Monday was no longer the message to be delivered this morning.

Saturday mornings is also when other people in the same boat ring, to encourage and to get encouragement and we might pray together.

Yesterday was no exception, a preacher rang me and during our conversation they threw out this comment, “I perhaps wouldn’t be so diligent at reading scripture if I wasn’t preaching.”

That phrase resonated through me as I was thinking about this time.

And the individual spiritual disciplines were dancing in my head. Prayer and reading scripture.

And I stopped the doing, and went out for a walk and talked with God.

Prayer is crucial. It is vital.

Prayer is communication, communing with the Lord, spending time with Him.

And communication is two way. So we need to listen, we need to shut up long enough for God to speak. And He speaks in many ways,

through other people,

through creation,

through rainbows,

we might grasp a thought or an image whilst in prayer,

and we might just get a real sense of God’s presence as we spend time in prayer.

I asked at the beginning

Are our lives pleasing to the Lord? And we have spent some time exploring that word pleasing and more time on how to be pleasing.

Learning how to balance holiness and social justice. Learning how to balance community and individual holiness. These are all part of our journey, as unique individuals and as a community of believers. And it is a process, a working out.

Something supernatural, something happens to us as we walk with the Lord praying and searching the Scriptures.

As we move into this sphere of being pleasing to the Lord, we start to live differently, not like the way we start a diet on New Year’s Day, but in an organic holistic way, from the inside out.

Because we are following Jesus and following what he did. Going off on his own to speak to his father – prayer and reading scripture – which he did frequently in his teaching and preaching.

We move into the realm of being set aside. With Jesus as our focus, we are pursuing intimacy with Christ and we conform inwardly and outwardly to his way. We get to gaze upon who Jesus is and what he has done, we begin to crave more and more to be with Jesus and be like Jesus. We begin to breathe and move in Jesus’ rhythm of life.

We become servants, having a servant heart, our compassion increases, we seek further ways to give service to others.

There is a rhythm of life that pulses through the biblical vision of what it means to be human. A kind of breathing in and out. Breathing in and out, we do this about twenty thousand times every day. The rhythm of our breath is the rhythm of our life.

Inhaling and exhaling. The breathing in is our participation in a holy life, the breathing out our participation in the divine mission. The breathing in is intimately connected to our experience of God’s personal presence. It is life lived with God. The breathing out involves our involvement in God’s just reign. It is life lived for the sake of the world.

Throughout Jesus’  life he modelled what it looks like to live in intimate connection with the Father and dependence on the Spirit.

We participate in that life, thanks to His grace and mercy, we participate in the divine life and filled with the indwelling Spirit, God’s empowering  presence.

We are on a journey, we are pilgrims and we in our worship, in our praise, in our offering, in our lives are a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Onward, my friends, onward.