The focus for 2012 is worship. The purpose of this emphasis is to equip the people of Heartland to more biblically, theologically and holistically worship God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our guiding text at least for the beginning of this year is Romans 9. We come to the first three verses this week looking at Paul’s connection to unbelieving Israel, specifically his longing that they might repent and believe in the gospel. You may hear this text and think that I will be presenting a motivational message for you to feel compassion for the lost and share Jesus with them and that certainly is a valid application of this text, but I want you to see something more powerful than this. I want you to see that worship fuels missionary zeal. Worship fuels missionary zeal.
John Piper puts it this way: “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” When we speak of worship in this way, we speak not of the actions performed on the Lord’s Day in the corporate gathering of the people of God, but rather the holistic Christian experience of treasuring of God. Piper again,
If the pursuit of God’s glory is not ordered above the pursuit of man’s good in the affections of the heart and the priorities of the church, man will not be well served and God will not be duly honored. I am not pleading for a diminishing of missions but for a magnifying of God. When the flame of worship burns with the heat of God’s true worth, the light of missions will shine to the darkest peoples on earth. Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak. Churches that are not centered on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God will scarcely kindle a fervent desire to “declare his glory among the nations” (Ps 96:3).
Often, our evangelical missionary efforts are centered around programming, strategy and methodology when we would do better to equip people to worship and we would get to watch them boil over with enthusiastic evangelism because of the God they adore. The context of Romans 9:1-5 demands we examine the evangelistic fervor of Paul, but I think it is absolutely necessary to examine the Paul’s worship first, because worship fuels missionary zeal.
Turn to Acts 9. Paul was a passionate Jew. He hated Christians and Christianity with unparalleled zeal. Acts 8 tells us that he was not only in hearty approval of the stoning of Stephen, but that he ravaged the church, dragging Christians to jail. That is where we pick it up in Acts 9:1. [Read 9:1-9, 17-22] The statement most telling is the statement, “He is the Son of God.” It is in the seeing and savoring of Jesus Christ that Paul finds the passion to explain the person and work of Jesus Christ to all who will hear him.
The difficulty for Paul was that the Jews, upon finding out he was a Christian saw him as nothing more than a traitor, one who had joined an anti-semitic cult. He went from Pharisee to controversy in their eyes. In Acts 21, the Jewish believers were in confusion over him as well: “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.” (Acts 21:20-22) Paul needed to address his zeal for his countrymen as well as the Gentiles and he does so in Romans 9.