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The Spiritual Act of Worship

Lisa Barry: I wonder how many 17 to 25-year-olds there are listening to me today, because I want to talk to you right now. If you're a Christian you no doubt face a daily struggle to either follow the pull of this world or to follow God's path. Some of you might want with all your heart to follow God, yet it seems you're feelings and drives are pulling you in another direction. Well, Elisabeth Elliot knows what that feels like. Even though she can identify with how you feel, she also knows that remaining pure in an impure world is possible. Today on Gateway To Joy Elisabeth shares a few very practical steps that will keep you on the path that your heart already wants to follow. Get your pencils ready to write, and let's get started.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking especially today with young men and women, with teenagers, people who are struggling with that business of passion and purity.

You know, every one of us is created with quite a lot of passion. We are all created pure, but it's up to us what we're going to do with that body. So I've been asking this week, whose are you? Do you belong to yourself or do you belong to Jesus Christ. Do you belong to the world, to your friends, to your ambitions, to your hopes? Or have you put yourself in the safe arms of the Lord Jesus Christ and said with all sincerity, "Lord, I want to do it right. I want to give myself to you."

I want to read to you from Romans 12. If you have your Bible, that would be great if you could open it to Romans 12. This is a terrific passage. I love it. I read it over and over and over again. The apostle Paul is talking to the Roman Christians, many of whom were very new Christians. He's explaining just exactly what it means to be a servant of God. He says, "Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship."

Now I want to stop right there and remind you that I was talking yesterday about when Jim Elliot and I fell madly in love with each other, but had no way of knowing whether God was ever going to bring us together again. He was a year behind me in college. He lived in Oregon; I lived in New Jersey. I was going to Africa, I thought. He was going to South America, he was quite sure. Here we were sitting on the grass in a park on a beautiful May morning, way back in 1948. Can you imagine that this old woman that you're listening to can remember back that far? Yes, I can. It certainly was one of the most crucial times in my life.

You know what the word crucial means? It comes from the Latin word Crux, Crux. C-R-U-X. It means a cross. There was a sense in which, as we sat a couple of evening later in a cemetery on top of stone slab of some sort, we were discussing the strange route by which God seemed to have been leading us. Yet, it also seemed as though God was going take away from us the thing that we most desired.

Jim had told me that in his quiet time that very morning he had read the story of Abraham and Isaac. You remember that God told Abraham that he must sacrifice his son, his only son, his son that had been given miraculously to him. He was to make him a living sacrifice. Jim said, "Bet, I thought about you then when I read that. I thought she's the most precious thing in my life, but I have to lay her on the altar." That's what he did. He put me on the altar and we sat there in silence for quite a while.

We were sitting at least arm's length apart, I think. Which is what my mama always told me. Keep them at arms length. You know what happened? Suddenly we realized that the moon had risen behind us and was casting the shadow of a stone cross on that slab where we were sitting. The words came to me then, written by Amy Carmichael, a missionary in India. "Lord crucified, O mark Thy holy cross on motive, preference, all fond desires on that which self in any form inspires. Set Thou that sign of loss. And when the touch of death is here and there laid on a thing most precious in our eyes, let us not wonder. Let us recognize the answer to this prayer."

That's a tough prayer, isn't it? Who of us wants the Lord to take over all our fond desires and all our preferences? But I have no doubt that I'm listening to some very earnest young men and women who want to keep that priceless gift called virginity, which can never be given away more than once. So Jim and I were sitting there on that stone slab, in an agony--of course--dying to embrace each other, to kiss, to just give ourselves to each other.

But back to the verse I gave you in Romans 12, "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship." Think about that now. Some of you may be in a position where you could get down beside your bed right now and make a spiritual act of worship of your body. Just say, "Lord, here it is. You gave it to me. I want to keep it pure. You know how full I am of passion."

And some of you are just seething with passion, dying to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, somebody to love you. Maybe you feel lonely, maybe your brothers and sisters don't understand you, and certainly you're quite sure that your parents can't possibly understand what you're going through. Yet, we have a loving Savior who loves us with an everlasting love. He's telling us, "Trust Me. I do know what I'm doing. I want to make it perfect for you. I want it to be the most beautiful, wonderful thing in the whole world when I give you that person in marriage, in My time and in My way." That's what God wants for you and me.

Paul goes on to say, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and to prove what God's will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will."

I want to remind you that what we're talking about is a spiritual act of worship. You have one body and only one. The Lord is asking you, "what are you going to do with it?"

Psalm 54:3 says, "Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life, men without regard for God." I'm very keenly aware, young people, that there are all kinds of opposition to your remaining pure. I thank God for the students--college students, high school students, maybe even some grade school students who have read my book called Passion and Purity. I wrote it for you. I wrote it so that you could recognize that it is entirely possible to be full of strong, powerful passions and yet be able to surrender yourself to Jesus Christ--to that cross. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

It may seem, as it seemed to the psalmist at that time, that strangers were attacking him, ruthless men who were looking for his life, people who had no regard for God. Let me give you Mark 8:34. Jesus said, "If you want to be my disciple you must give up your right to yourself, and take up the cross and follow."

Many of you, I believe, want to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. He longs for you to put yourself at his disposal. Now He's not saying you have to be a disciple. You can be a disciple of anybody else. There were plenty of rabbis walking around in Jesus' day giving out other messages. But Jesus said if you want to be My disciple there are three things you have to do. Number one, give up your right to yourself. That means to let go of everything that you're hanging on to and just surrender it to Jesus Christ. "Here I am, Lord, all of me for You forever. Do anything you want with me." I think that's what it means. That's the first condition.

The second one is, take up the cross. That's going to mean a desperate struggle with the prince of darkness, "Our ancient foe who seeks to work us woe. His craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate; on earth is not his equal." We're talking about Satan there. Satan would love to have you, young men and women. He would love to get every one of you into bed with somebody that you're not married to. But you don't have to say "yes" to him. Jesus simply says, give up your right to yourself, take up the cross-- which means acceptance of the will of God and follow. One day at a time; one step at a time.

A young man said to me, "I'm 19-years-old. I don't know if I can hold out 'til I'm 25." I said, "You don't have to hold out 'til you're 25. You just have to hold out today, and God will give you strength one day at a time."

I love you. God bless you.

Lisa Barry: What a great program. And for those of you who would like to share today's content with someone who needs to hear it, head for the Internet and type in gatewaytojoy.org. There you'll find a transcript of today's program that you can e-mail to a friend. For those of you who have daughters that aren't quite to the teen years yet, I have a wonderful book to suggest. It's called Girl of Beauty. This book facilitates quality time with mother and daughter. Each day has a captivating story that illustrates an area of character. There's a problem presented and an opportunity for resolution. Questions at the end of the chapter help to focus your child's thoughts on what she might do in a similar situation. It's biblically based, and I think one of the timeliest tools that I've come across. The cost for A Girl of Beauty is $14.50, and you can send that along with a note to:

Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or you can call at 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Or dial up our Web site at gatewaytojoy.org.

Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible, and is supported by the generous gifts of people like you. This is Lisa Barry thanking you for listening today. And I hope you'll join us again tomorrow when Elisabeth talks about how to keep sight of the love of God even when you've blown it. That's all coming up next time on Gateway To Joy.

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