Questions: Does God see you the way you might try to appear to other people? Do you live freely without trying to be something other than who you truly are on the inside?

What the sin is: Trying to manipulate and control God and others to get what we want is in essence the sin of the religious person (including Christians). Seeing the problem in others and in the church rather than in ourselves (Isa 59:2).

Empty ritual and formalism: In Isaiah 58, God exposed the emptiness of two religious rituals that were practiced in Isaiah's day: fasting (58:3-6) and Sabbath keeping (58:13-14). Both of these are expressions of not doing things. In fasting, you don't eat. In Sabbath keeping, you don't work. Isaiah shows us that what we don't do isn't enough to make us right before God. Our walk with God shouldn't only be defined by what we don't do. What do we do for the LORD?

"For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities:13 rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived" (Isa 59:12-13).

"Consider it pure joy (all joy, great joy), my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance (patience, endurance, steadfastness). 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature (perfect) and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).

James tells us that trials are beneficial and that suffering may be good for us; it can help us to become who we truly would like to be: mature, "perfect," complete and whole, not lacking anything (Ps 23:1). I pray that this may be the attitude we embrace as we begin the new year.

As we begin 2017 it may be good to express the Why, How and What of our church, West Loop Church:

  • The WHY of West Loop is to always declare grace (Ac 20:24), rest (Mt 11:28) and freedom (Gal 5:1).
  • The HOW is through Scripture (2 Tim 3:16) and life together (1 Jn 1:3), i.e. through Bible study and community.
  • The WHAT is to give generously of our life, time and money--all of our resources (Dt 6:5; Lev 19:18; 2 Cor 5:15).

Romans 12:1, 2

romans12Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
     
Pastor Tim Keller says Chapter 12: 1-2 are a summary of the whole of the Christian life! If someone asked you what is your motivation for Christian living? What would you say? When I was younger, my motivation was based on fear. Specifically, to avoid the fires of hell. In these two short verses, Paul explains the motivation for Christian living. It can be summed up in two words. “Therefore,” and “in view of God’s mercy."