Are You an "Almost" or an "Altogether Christian?" What I Believe about Being a Christian

Bible Passage: Hebrews 12:1-13

Theme for the Week beginning October 25th, 2020:  “What I Believe about Being a Christian”

  • An EXCITING video service just for children (and kids at heart) is found at the end of this service. Just scroll down!  (Thanks, LifeChurch!)  

 

The Prelude:  We Prepare Ourselves to Worship God

 

 We Gather Together
  • If you have family worshipping with you, give everyone a hug. 
  • If you are alone, take a moment and imagine the arms of the Loving Lord wrapped around you.  Send thoughts of love to those most important to you. 
  • Then, find a spot at your chosen place of worship.  Light your candle(s). 
  • Be silent for a moment, asking God to open your hearts to every good gift that God has for you today.

***NOTE:  THIS SERVICE HAS A DIFFERENT FORMAT THAN USUAL***


A Wesleyan Covenant Service

The Wesley Covenant Service was adapted by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, for use in services for the Renewal of the believer’s Covenant with God. In his Short history of the people called Methodists, Wesley describes the first covenant service; a similar account is to be found in his Journal of the time. Wesley says that the first service was held on Monday 11 August 1755, at the French church at Spitalfields in London, with 1800 people present. 

The covenant prayer and service are recognised as one of the most distinctive contributions of Methodism to the liturgy of Protestantism in general, and they are also used from time to time by other denominations.

Congregations of various Methodist Churches often observe the Covenant Service during the watchnight service of New Year’s Eve or on New Year’s Day itself, or anytime in the life of the churchin order to renew one’s commitment to Christ and the church.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wesley_Covenant_Service

INTRODUCTION

Dearly loved brothers and sisters, the Christian life is a life found in Christ, redeemed from sin, and consecrated to God. We are those who have entered into this life and have been admitted into the new covenant of Jesus Christ. He is the Mediator of this covenant. He sealed it with His own blood so it would last forever.

On one side of this covenant stands God, who promises to give us new life in Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith. Every day God proves His goodness and grace to us, showing us that His promise still stands firm.

On the other side, we stand as those who promise to no longer live life for ourselves but instead to only live for Jesus Christ because He has loved us and given His life for us.

There are times in our lives when it is important for us to remember and reaffirm our promises and vows. In this same way, we come today to renew our covenant with God. Many generations have done this before us. Today we make the covenant our own, renewing with both joy and sincerity the covenant that binds us all to God.

 

THE CONFESSION

Leader:    We are those who seek to live as true disciples of Jesus Christ, but sometimes we fall short. Let us now examine ourselves before God, humbly confessing our sins and submitting our hearts so that we do not deceive ourselves and cut ourselves away from God. Let us pray:

People:    Father God, You have set forth the way of life through Your Son Jesus Christ, whom You love dearly. We shamefully confess that we have been slow to learn of Him and have been reluctant to follow Him. You have spoken and called to us but we have not listened. You have revealed Your beauty to us, but we have been blind. You have stretched out Your hands to us through our friends, but we have passed by them. We have accepted Your gifts and offered little thanks. We are unworthy of Your unchanging love.

Leader:     Please forgive us for the poverty of our worship, for the selfishness of our prayers, for our inconsistency and unbelief, for the ways we neglect fellowship and Your grace, for our hesitation to tell others about Christ, and for the ways we are dishonest with ourselves, others, and you.

People:     Forgive us for when we waste time and when we misuse the gifts you have given us. Forgive us for when we have made excuses for the wrong things we have done and when we have purposefully avoided responsibility.

Leader:    Forgive us that we have been unwilling to overcome evil with good and that we have not been ready to carry our cross. Forgive us that we have not allowed Your love to work through us to help others and that we have not made their suffering our own. Forgive us for those times when instead of working for unity we made it hard for others to live with us because of our lack of forgiveness, inconsiderate judgment, and quick criticism.

People:    Forgive us for when we have not tried to reconcile with others and when we have been slow to seek redemption.

Leader:     Forgive us also for these sins that we silently confess to you now.

Words of Assurance and Pardon

Leader:     God, the Father of all mercies, is faithful to cleanse us from our sins and restore us to Christ’s image. When we heartily confess, he forgives us once more.  Praise and glory be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.

As people forgiven and free, let us sing our praises to God!

We Sing a Hymn of Praise: “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

(UMH #400; First United Methodist Church, Houston, TX)

(Please sing along or just listen to this inspirational song)

 

THE INVITATION

Leader:     Let us gathered here before the Lord now in covenant commit ourselves to Christ as his servants. Let us give ourselves to Him so that we may fully belong to Him. Jesus Christ has left us with many services to be done. Some of these services are easy and honorable, but some are difficult and disgraceful. Some line up with our desires and interests, others are contrary to both. In some we please both Christ and ourselves, but then there are other works where we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.

Jesus Christ, we offer You this prayer:

People:    Let me be Your servant. Let me follow your commands. I will no longer follow my own desires. I give myself completely to your will.

Leader:     The power and strength to live as true servants is given to us in Christ. We accept the place and work that He gives us, acknowledging that He alone will be our reward.

People:     I am not my own. I am Yours alone. Make me into what You will. Rank me with those You will. Put me to use for You. Put me to suffering for You. Let me be employed for You. Let me be laid aside for You. Let me be lifted high for You. Let me be brought low for You. Let me be full or let me be empty. Let me have all things or let me have nothing. With a willing heart, I freely give everything to Your pleasure and disposal.

Leader:     Christ is Savior to those who are His true servants. He is the source of all salvation to those who obey. To be His servant is to consent fully to His will. Christ accepts nothing less. Christ will be all in all, or he will be nothing.

THE READING OF THE SCRIPTURES:  Hebrews 12:1-13, MSG

(If possible, read all scriptures out loud)

12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

4-11 In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
    but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
    the child he embraces, he also corrects.

God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

12-13 So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Help each other out: clear the path for other runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. You’ll find healing for yourself, too. Run for it!

Leader:  The word of God for the Children of God:

People: Thanks be to God!


We Hear the Sermon from Pastor Thomas (and John Wesley):  “Are You an ‘Almost’ or an ‘Altogether Christian?'”
Series:  Confessions of a Church Pastor:  What I Believe about Being a Christian

(This video sermon also appears at the top of this page.  There you will find a link to the sermon manuscript, as well as “notes” which contains the text of the Covenant Service used here)

We  Sing a Song of Response: “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian”

(UMH #402, Remnant SDA Church, soloist Joy Alexander)

Please play the music video and sing along or just reflect.

 

 

THE COVENANT PRAYER

Leader:     Let us pray together:

People:    My righteous God, for the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, see me now as I come before You. Forgive my unfaithfulness when I have not done your will. You promise mercy if I turn to You with my whole heart.

Leader:     God requires that you rid yourself of every idol in your life.

People:     From the bottom of my heart, I here and now renounce every idol in my life, covenanting with You that I will not commit any known sin. By turning against Your will I have turned my love toward the world. In Your power I will watch for any temptation that will lead me away from You.

Leader:     Through Jesus Christ, God offers to be your God again, if you allow Him to be.

People:     Before all heaven and earth, I here and now acknowledge You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as my Lord and God. I vow to give all of myself, body and soul, to be Your servant and to serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of my life.

Leader:     Jesus Christ is the only way and means to God. God has given us Jesus as the way and means to salvation.

People:     Jesus, I here and now accept You and the only new and living Way. I join myself in covenant with You. I come to You hungry, sinful, miserable, blind, and naked, unworthy even to wash the feet of Your servants. With all my power, I accept You as my Lord and Head. I renounce my own unworthiness, and vow that You are the Lord, my righteousness. I renounce my own wisdom and take You for my only guide. I renounce my own will and take Your will as my law.

Leader:     Christ has told you that you must suffer with him.

People:     Jesus, I here and now make this covenant with You and accept whatever comes in life. Through Your grace I promise that neither life nor death will separate me from You.

Leader:     God has given holy laws as the rule of your life.

People:     I here and now willingly take on Your yoke and burden. All Your laws are holy, just, and good. I accept them as the rule for my words, thoughts, and actions, promising I will strive to order my whole life around your direction. I will not allow myself to neglect anything I know to be my duty.

Leader:     The Almighty God searches and knows you, even the thoughts of your heart.

People:     O God, You know that we have made this covenant today in sincerity, without deceit or reluctance. If You find anything false in us, guide us and help us to set it right. And now, glory be to You, God the Father. From this day forward, I shall look upon You as my God and Father. Glory be to You, God the Son. You have loved me and washed me from my sins in Your own blood. From this day forward, I shall look upon You as my Savior and Redeemer. Glory be to You, O God the Holy Spirit. By Your almighty power, You have turned my heart from sin to God. From this day forward I shall look upon You as my Comforter and Guide. O mighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you have now become my Covenant Friend. And I, through Your infinite grace, have become Your covenant servant. You are mine and I am Yours. So be it. May this covenant that I have made here on earth be ratified in heaven. Amen.

 

WE SEAL OUR COVENANT WITH GOD

… by bringing our Tithes and Offerings

Even during COVID-19, the work of Hope United Methodist Church continues!  Please take a moment to remember all the many blessings God has given you, and then go to www.hopefortulsa.com/give to make an online donation.  It’s simple to sign up–just have your checkbook, debit card, or credit card ready to provide the requested information.  You just have to do this one time.  You can continue to use this online portal in the weeks ahead to bless your church and your Lord. 

If you’d like to mail a check instead, please make it out to “Hope UMC” and send it to:  Hope UMC, 12424 E. 31st St., Tulsa, OK  74146.  All donations are tax-deductible.  And thank you in advance!

…by praying together as Jesus taught us

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name, 
thy kingdom come, 
thy will be done, 
on earth as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread. 
And forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those
who trespass against us. 

And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, 
and the power, and the glory, 
for ever and ever. Amen.

 

…by singing a hymn of commitment:  “In Christ Alone”

Performed by Keith and Kristyn Getty, Mar. 21, 2018

Benediction from Hebrews 12

“So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Help each other out: clear the path for other runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. You’ll find healing for yourself, too.

Run for it! For the glory set before you, run for the finish line!”

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Enjoy this LOOP Show Worship-at-Home-for-Kids Video from LifeChurch!