Why Isn't My Christian Life More Dynamic? - John 11, 1 Corinthians 3
A service plan focused on the desire for greater strength, power and joy in the Christian life in a series addressing difficult questions of the faith.
Also in this Series
Knots of the Faith
This series of worship services explores seven tough questions and struggles that Christians often face.
Theme of the Service
This service aims to minister to a need similar to that of last week's service-the questions and struggles of those who wish they were "stronger Christians." Last week we dealt with questions about assurance of salvation. This week we focus on the desire for greater strength, power, and joy in the Christian life.
True, some professing Christians may not be concerned enough about the quality of their obedience. But more of them quietly ask themselves questions like "Why isn't my Christian life more dynamic?" The search for vitality is the theme for today.
WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Prelude: "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," Eggert [organ], David [piano], McChesney [handbells], or Bish [handbells]
The Call to Worship
*Song: "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (st. 1-2) PH 356, PsH 486, RL 449, TH 457, TWC 45, UMH 400
*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
*Response: "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (st. 3)
Anthem: "Alleluia," Coates
WE ARE RENEWED IN GOD'S GRACE
The Call to Confession
Our Prayer of Confession
(A time for silent/private confession, then:) O Lord, you have heard our private confessions.
You know fully the struggles of each life and the failures that mark us. We look to your Son to
forgive us, and your Spirit to heal us that we may be whole and obedient. In the name of Jesus
The Assurance of God's Pardon: 1 John 2:1-2
Response of Praise: "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High" RN 4, SNC 157
God's Call to Grateful Living: Romans 12:9-21
*Song of Response: "Not for Tongues of Heaven's Angels" SNC 275, TWC 597
or Anthem: "Not For Tongues of Heaven's Angels," Hopp
The Children's Moment
The Offering of Our Gifts
The Offering of Music: "Lord, Make Us Servants," Powell [organ], Carter [piano]
GOD SPEAKS TO US FROM HIS WORD
*Song: "Be Still and Know" RN 10, SFL 225, TWC 516
The Prayer for Illumination
Sermon: "Why Isn't My Christian Life More Dynamic?" (Knots of the Faith - #6)
The Prayer of Application
WE RESPOND TO GOD'S WORD
Anthem: "Just a Closer Walk with Thee," Lojeski
or Sung Response: "Will You Come and Follow Me" SNC 267
or Anthem: "The Summons," Bell
The Prayers of the People
A Litany of Commitment
Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are light trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (from Psalm 1, 139, NRSV)
Songs: "Those Who Wait Upon the Lord" SFL 215
"Spirit of the Living God" PH 322, PsH 424, RN 90, SFL 184, TH 726, TWC 297, UMH 393
Jesus stays with us in the Spirit,
who renews our hearts,
moves us to faith,
leads us in the truth,
stands by us in our need,
and makes our obedience fresh and vibrant.
The Spirit's gifts are here to stay in rich variety-
fitting responses to timely needs.
We thankfully see each other
as gifted members of the fellowship
which delights in the creative Spirit's work.
He gives more than enough to each believer
for God's praise and our neighbor's welfare.(from Our World Belongs to God, st. 31, 33)
WE LEAVE TO CONTINUE SERVING GOD
*Words of Sending
Go now to love and serve the Lord.
*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!
*Song: "Fill Thou My Life, O Lord, My God" PsH 547, RL 147, TH 589
Postlude: "Rigaudon," Campra [organ]
or "Fill Thou My Life, O Lord, My God," Boertje [piano]
* you are invited to stand
1. This sermon is designed to deal with a critical phenomenon in the Christian church-that of "half-healed people." Such folks are Christians, in the process of growing (to varying degrees), but discontented with the rate of growth. Sanctification may be proceeding very slowly.
2. We have selected Lazarus as an illustration of such persons. When we meet him in John 11:44 he is in a very unique and precarious condition! He has experienced the miracle of a resurrection yet is still bound with grave clothes. He's only halfway to where he must be. He needs to be "unwrapped." The healed blind man in Mark 8:22-26 experiences some of the same thing. Paul has such people in mind in 1 Corinthians 3; they are building on the correct foundation . . . but with wood, hay, and straw.
3. The sermon should frankly ask the question of just how serious this is. Is it OK to remain "half-healed" and be content with such a state? Obviously, it causes many problems-it produces frustrated Christians who desire something better, makes for poor witnesses and a weak church, and could produce some embarrassment on the judgment day (picture the persons in 1 Corinthians 3 seeing only ashes from what was burned up!).
4. So the sermon turns its attention to the matter of spiritual health, which includes depth, love, servanthood, and faithfulness-combined with a tension and balance between the fact that we must be patient (for growth often comes slowly) and impatient (for we ought not to be satisfied with too little).
5. Lazarus can serve as a visual example of how to approach the matter: we must identify the grave clothes that are currently holding us wrapped, determine that they must come off, seek others as mentors and aids to unwrap us (notice that Jesus told others to unwrap Lazarus!), and proceed to do the unwrapping. You can conclude the message with some practical pastoral advice on how to proceed.
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)
- The prelude suggestions, all based on the tune NETTLETON, can be found in the following sources:
"Partita on 'Nettleton' " arranged for organ by John Eggert, published by Concordia 97-6862  (E). Many of the variations in this partita are written for hand only and could be played on the piano.
Here I Am, Lord, a piano collection by Anne Marie David published by Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5  (M).
"Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" arranged for 4-5 octaves handbell choir by Diane Bish, published by Fred Bock BG0798  (level 4).
"Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" arranged for 3-5 octaves handbell choir by Kevin McChesney, published by Jeffers JH S9186  (level 2+).
- The anthem "Alleluia" by John Coates is a TTBB setting of the tune SINCLAIR and is published by GlorySound C-5066  (E-M). This anthem is suitable for either a men's chorus or quartet.
- The SATB anthem "Not for Tongues of Heaven's Angels," based on 1 Corinthians 13, is composed by Roy Hopp and published by Selah 425-812  (E-M). A congregational hymn setting can be found in SNC 275.
- The offertory music, based on the tune O WALY, WALY/GIFT OF LOVE, can be found in
Sing a New Song, an organ collection by Robert J. Powell published by Augsburg 11-10766  (E-M).
Today's Hymns and Songs, a piano collection by John Carter published by Hope 244  (E-M).
- The SATB anthem "Just a Closer Walk with Thee," arranged by Ed Lojeski, is published by Hal Leonard 08330750  (E-M).
- The alternate hymn "Will You Come and Follow Me" (KELVINGROVE) is also arranged by John Bellas-a two-part anthem with optional flute and congregational verses. The anthem is published by GIA G-5410  (E).
- You may wish to transpose either "Those Who Wait Upon the Lord" or "Spirit of the Living God" so that both can be played in the same key and can flow easily one to the other.
- The organ postlude "Rigaudon" by Campra, arranged by Virgil Fox, was published in 1963 by H. W. Grey 902 (E-M). The alternate piano postlude on ELLACOMBE can be found in Piano Improvisations for the Church Year, arranged by Barabara Boertje and published by Unity Press 70/1194U  (M).
- The opening hymn is a very honest and personal plea/prayer for the Spirit of God to tune our hearts, not only for better singing, but for greater devotion and obedience. A call to worship that reflects and anticipates this theme will begin this dialog with God on the right note.
- During the prayer for confession, time is provided for private confessions. It is helpful to introduce this by acknowledging that we all have different confessions to make and it is difficult for one worship leader to represent all. Therefore each is given a brief private time for a personalized confession. In most worshiping groups 30-45 seconds is sufficient, but you can judge that in your situation.
- The Children's Moment is placed immediately after the service of confession. It gives an opportunity to explain to the children that gratitude is the main motivation for wanting to follow God. We follow him because he loves us and we belong to him!
- The litany of commitment can be read responsively by a worship leader and the congregation, or two halves of the congregation, or two worship leaders. The songs located between the two readings are sung prayers for God's Spirit to fill us and lead us. The profession from Our World Belongs to Godshould be read by all. (Our World Belongs to God is a contemporary testimony of faith adopted by the Christian Reformed Church. It is available in the back of the Psalter Hymnal, or from Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave, SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560; 1-800-333-8300; www.FaithAliveResources.org.)