Focal Passage: Ezra 3:1-7;10-11; 6:19-22
Corporate worship is a vital part of a believer’s life. Most all of us gather every Sunday to worship God for who He is and what He has done for us. The Jewish nation in Ezra chapter 3 is no different, however, they lacked the dedicated place and items that defined their worship of God. Rebuilding the altar and the temple are monumental acts of devotion and dedication.
In this week’s Sunday School lesson do not miss the actions of the Jews in preparing for worship. In Ezra 3:3 they build an altar equipped to handle whole animal sacrifices. Then in verse 4 they sacrifice the prescribed way, which was a great sacrifice for the small group. Notice also in verse 5, they continued to give through freewill offerings.
The passages continue to describe how building, worship, and sacrifice are unified in the actions of Israel. That is a great picture of corporate worship. It involves a unified effort of providing what is needed through gifts, sacrifice, and service. In his book, I Am A Church Member, Thom Rainer warns against a church adopting a country club attitude.
If we are not careful, we will take for granted the church building, classrooms, and facilities we have. Much of what we have was built because of the sacrifice and service of church members that may be in glory now. If your church is like mine, you are reaping the benefit of someone else’s sacrifice. The question to ask is, will future generations continue to worship Jesus because of my sacrifice?
Additionally, we can deceive ourselves into thinking that just showing up qualifies as worship that pleases God. Often-times we speak of “going to church” when in reality “we are the church” and called to “do church.” The actions of obedience, perseverance, and sacrifice permeate the heart of God honoring worship. The prophet Micah sums up the worship God desires when he writes, “what does God require of you, but to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” To act, love, and walk like that require obedience, sacrifice, and perseverance.
One of my favorite theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, began his book, The Cost of Discipleship with the statement, “The enemy of the church is cheap grace.” We cheapen the grace of Christ, when we accept the precious forgiveness of Christ and yet refuse to obey, serve, or sacrifice. It is the height of arrogance to say that we want Jesus to die for us, but we won’t live a holy life for Him.
We cannot expect to show up a couple of hours at church and expect to get all that we need to live a holy separated life. Holiness is found in discipline. Because of the time you spend in Bible study you will live differently at work. Because of the time you spend in prayer you will live differently at home. Because of your dedication to tithe, you will become a better steward with the things God has given you. Because of your discipline in other areas, the time you spend at church will become richer and more meaningful. Holiness is rooted in the spiritual disciplines.
In Romans 12:1 Paul writes, “Therefore, my brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” This Sunday, don’t “go to church,” rather “be the church” through worship that involves obedience, sacrifice, perseverance, and service. And as part of your worship, will you look around and thank God for what someone else helped to build?
— Davis is senior pastor of Dublin Baptist Church, Dublin, Ohio.