Category Archives: Worship

Offering Our Children to Molech

In the disastrous wake of President Obama’s decision to put the full faith and finances of the Federal Government behind the destruction of human life, I have come to a shocking and bone-jarring conclusion:  As a society, we are engaged in child sacrifice and we are unashamed.

In large measure, this post is not directed at the irreligious, the anti-religious, the atheist.  Rather, this post is meant to be a punch in the gut to the people that call themselves “Christians.”  The irreligious, anti-religious, and atheist are, by nature, sinners.  We should expect them to sin and to call sin “OK.”  All too often, however, those who claim the name of Christ look no different than the irreligious, anti-religious, and atheistic people of the world.

The Problematic Situation

For years, society has been heading in the myopic “I-Me” direction.  This devolution has resulted in an insanely selfish society.  But, again, what else do we expect sinners to do?  The church, though, has followed along with society.

1. Worship Wars abound in churches over the style of the music.  Nowhere in the New Testament is a specific style of music commanded.  Since, in the Old Testament, God decrees the minutiae of worship–down to the very thread in the priestly robes–we might expect the New Testament to decree a style of worship.  It doesn’t.  That’s strange and very telling.

Rather than being a gracious and giving lot, our church folk have turned on each other to devour each other.  Why?  because they want the style of music they are most comfortable with.  Arguments are “invented” to keep the status-quo in place.  This is not New Testament piety; this is worldly selfishness.  This is seeking your satisfaction at the expense of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Now, I’m not commenting on a particular style of music.  If I had my preference, the church I pastor would do Bach and Handel (after all, I am a classically-trained trumpet player).  What I am commenting against is the selfishness displayed in our churches.  Why not have a variety of musical styles?  Why not rejoice with someone who prefers “contemporary” styles when, on one Sunday, a contemporary ensemble leads the worship service?  Sure it’s not your preference.  But, church is not about you!  Church is about God and God commands us to be gracious to our brothers and sisters in Christ, to rejoice with and for them, and to be a people known for self-sacrifice.  Instead of a Godly “give/give” idea, we are left to see a worldly “take/take” idea.  How sad and how un-Christian.

2. Churches have become outwardly focused to the exclusion of the fellowship of believers.  Do we need to do mission work?  Absolutely!!  However, mission work is not to be done at the expense of building up the members in our churches.  All too often churches are acting like they exist only to do outreach.  Remember, outreach is only one aspect of church life.  The edification (or building up) of the current members (brothers and sisters in Christ) is also required of the church.

Where this becomes a problem is that the builders and the outreachers are usually fighting over which is more important.  How stupid!  That’s like doctors fighting over which organ a patient can live without–a heart or a brain.  Both organs are necessary and both aspects of church–edification and outreach–are necessary as well.

Yet again, we, in our myopic selfishness, do not work with the other “party.”  No, instead we call them names and brand them as “less spiritual.”  Maybe we do this to justify our own selfish desire to be right?  Maybe we do this because we are so spiritually deficient that we need to feel sufficient and rather than looking to Christ–who is Himself the only all-sufficient One–we demonize our brothers and sisters in Christ to exalt ourselves?

If it is true that our actions speak louder than our words, and it is, Christian have much to be ashamed of.  We look too much like the world.  Selfishness is rampant in the church–almost at the same level as the world.  Essentially, we look no different from the world.

Selfishness is Idolatry

All selfishness is, in one way or another, idolatry.  We seek to place our own thoughts and desires over God’s thoughts and desires.  When we seek to justify ourselves at the expense of our brothers and sisters in Christ we commit the sin of idolatry–self-idolatry.

Idolatry is a struggle.  I don’t mean to speak ill of those who are constantly engaged in the struggle.  I do, however, mean to correct those who refuse to even engage in the struggle!

The Worldly Parallel

One of my biggest frustrations is shopping carts left in parking spaces in the supermarket.  This really is the height of self-absorption.  This is the idea of “I’m too important to be bothered with taking my cart to the cart return.  Someone else, who is obviously beneath me, can do that for me.”

If I had a dime….never mind.

How in the world does this relate to Molech?

Leviticus 20:1-9 says:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name. 4 And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, 5 then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech.

6 “If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people. 7 Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you. 9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.

Molech was one god of the Canaanites.  Worshiping Molech was on the same level as worshiping Baal.  Baal, being the storm god who brought the rain and made the crops grow, was worshiped so that the people of the land could eat.

Parents would sacrifice their children to satisfy their own appetites.

The Canaanites practiced child sacrifice.  Child sacrifice is the height of wicked selfishness.  What parent would sacrifice their own children so that the parents could benefit?  How many examples of parents sacrificing themselves, selflessly, so that their children could live have we seen in the history of the world?  What about Moses’ parents?  They might have been charged with treason and subsequently put to death had the Pharaoh discovered they disobeyed his order to kill the male children.  What about parents who shield their children from tornadoes–using their own bodies to absorb the debris?

It is natural for parents to sacrifice themselves and their desires for the betterment, survival, and support of their children.

So, how can it be the case that women are having abortions because it is summer and they don’t want to look bad in a bikini?  How can parents give their embryonic children to the scientific butchers to grow new parts and pieces for some type of Owellian chop-shop and garage for human fraility?  Why are parents not yelling to the scientists “Take me and leave my children alone!”

One reason: Selfishness.  A selfishness that seeks your own good and your own comfort over the very life of your child.

Molech in the Church

How does this all come together?  Our churches have raised a generation of people (and I purposely didn’t use the word “believers”) who care only about themselves.

If we truly cared for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we would lovingly (notice: lovingly) correct them when they act outside of God’s will.  If we really cared we’d seek the good of our brothers and sisters before we sought our own comforts.  You do not need to look far to see the demise of proper church discipline.  Usually proper church discipline mutates into one of two un-biblical extremes–people seek to crucify, not restore, the brother or sister in the wrong or people refrain from any discipline whatsoever.  Both extremes are wrong.  Both extremes are born out of and serve perverse selfishness.

Is it any wonder the church is shrinking?  We care more about numbers of baptisms than we do about true Christian discipleship and growth.  We don’t discipline each other because the confrontation will take us out of our comfort zone and trying to discipline someone may make them leave and our numbers will fall.  We concentrate on baptisms and the number of people on our church rolls because it serves our own egos, not the ultimate well-being of our brothers and sisters.  See?  Selfishness, again.

The shrinking church is evidence that God has turned His face away from us (I’m not talking “America;”  I mean that God has turned His face away from the church).

May God forgive us for our rampant selfishness.  May we repent and experience His face shining on us once again as we seek to be properly Godly and properly Biblical in all we say and do, both in public and in private.

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

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Filed under "Doing" Church, Deadly-wrong Theology, Uncategorized, Worship

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto….?

I love the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness by Thomas Obediah Chisholm. The phrase “…Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed thy hand hath provided…” is a magnificent picture of God’s sustaining grace. I see God’s mercy every morning when I am allowed to wake up, for I am a sinner and deserve to be struck dead at any moment. God provides for me regularly, though I don’t deserve His provision–I am not rich and my wife and I are struggling to make the financial ends meet, but we have yet to miss a meal or a house payment.

God’s faithfulness is a wonderful thing. But God’s faithfulness may not be what you think it is. Great Is Thy Faithfulness suggests God is faithful to us. I think Chisholm gets this wrong. Follow me as I explain.

One of the things the author of the book of Hebrews wanted to encourage in his readers was hope. The author desired that the reader would “show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:11-12)

Hope is an important thing in Christianity. The hope that the author is describing is not a “golly-gee-whiz” hope. In other words it is not a “gee-I-hope-this-will-happen-but-I-don’t-know” hope. Rather, this hope is an assured hope–like we hope for the sun to rise in the morning. The hope the author of Hebrews is describing here is grounded in certainty.

The hope the author wanted the readers to have is a certainty that would lead to them being imitators of those having already inherited the promises of God. Men like Abraham, cited by the author, are a great example.

The author to the Hebrews describes this kind of hope, a hope based on God’s character as seen in His dealing with Abraham, the great Hebrew patriarch.

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:13-20)

The certain-hope we are to have is not based on feelings, little angels or demons on our shoulders, or undigested pieces of meat. No, the hope we have is based on the word, the very character of God–what God says He will do, He will do.

(1) As Christians, we must trust in God’s word and His character as the basis of our certain-hope because when God says He will do something, it will happen.

The author to the Hebrews is making his case based on God’s interaction with Abraham in Genesis. God makes some extraordinary and fabulous promises to Abraham (Abram, at the time). In Genesis 12:1-4, God promised Abraham the following:

  1. Abraham will be made into a great nation
  2. God will bless Abraham and make his name great
  3. Abraham will be a conduit of blessing
  4. God will bless those who bless Abraham
  5. Anyone who dishonors Abraham, God will curse
  6. Abraham will be the conduit of blessing for the entire world

This is simply priceless. Abraham is given a truly unfathomable blessing by God.

Abraham obeyed and followed God. In Abraham’s life, however, we can see that God is true to his word in that he protects and prospers Abraham–in spite of Abraham’s sinfulness. In Genesis 12:10-20, God protects Abraham and Sarah in Egypt.  In Genesis 14, God gives Abraham a huge military victory.

When God called Abraham, Abraham had done nothing to be chosen. In fact, Joshua 24 tells us that when God called Abraham, Abraham was an idol worshiper. God’s call of Abraham was based on God’s good pleasure and His own purposes of election. Because Abraham did nothing to inspire God’s calling, he simply did not deserve anything that God promised him. This is God’s grace at work, pure and simple.

(2) We must see God’s taking of an oath as a further act of grace.

Have you ever seen the bumper sticker that says, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it?” I used to like that bumper sticker, but I don’t like it any more. Why? Because the theology is dead-wrong. Isiah 46 tells us:

8 “Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
9 remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
(Isaiah 46:8-11, emphasis mine)

God’s word and His purposes are the “gold-standard.” The afore-mentioned bumper sticker is absolutely wrong because it does not matter what you believe about what God says, it matters that God said it and that He will bring about what He has said. The bumper sticker should read “God said it, that settles it.”

When God made His promises to Abraham, it was absolutely certain that God would accomplish what He said He would accomplish in the life of Abraham. But, then, why do we see the episode in Genesis 15 where God makes an oath to Abraham?

God will sometimes take an oath to encourage us, as an act of grace. We see this in the life of Abraham. Genesis 15 shows God encouraging Abraham that his reward will be very great. Abraham, on the other hand, counters with a discouraged question. He asks God what will be given to him since he had no son, no heir, to pass this great reward on to. In fact, Abraham’s chief servant Eliezer of Damascus was going to be Abraham’s heir (as was the custom in that day). Abraham audaciously reminds God (as if God didn’t know) that He has not seen fit to give Abraham and Sarah a son to be the heir.

God then shows Abraham the stars and tells him that his offspring will be unable to be numbered. Abraham, we are told, believed God and that belief was credited to him as righteousness. But, later in the passage, we see Abraham’s doubts–even as God is instituting a covenant with him. Abraham says, “How will I know that I will possess it [the land that God has promised].” God institutes a covenant with Abraham (and his offspring, which he doesn’t have yet) with a bizarre ritual dividing several animals into two parts.

Abraham was questioning what God would do. Abraham is understandably confused–God has promised him great things. But, Abraham knows he has no blood-heir. He is wondering how God will accomplish all He has promised.

As Christians we do this often, don’t we? We doubt God’s promises.  All we need to do is look to Christ and the Cross to see that God is dead-serious about sin, its wages, our penalty, and His great love demonstrated in Christ’s death for our sin.

It is interesting to note that the bizarre covenant-ritual between God and Abraham leads directly to the cross. The “Path of Blood” covenant ritual is supposed to be for both parties (God and Abraham, in this case) to walk through, signifying that if one party breaks the covenant, the offending party will be cut in two, just as the animals are.

Notice that God prevents Abraham from ratifying the covenant. God causes a deep sleep to fall on Abraham (just like the deep sleep He caused to fall on Adam before the taking of the rib) and a great and dreadful darkness fell on Abraham–a clear sign that God Himself was present. Instead of Abraham and God walking through the Path of Blood, only God goes through–in two persons as signified by the smoking fire pot and the flaming torch. At this point, God binds Himself to pay Abraham’s penalty if Abraham or his offspring should break the covenant. From the rest of the Old Testament, we know that the Israelites broke the covenant early and often. While they did lose their land, God paid the price for His elect remnant in Christ on the cross. God paid Abraham’s offspring’s penalty.

This whole episode is not for God’s sake, but for Abraham’s. God had already promised everything to Abraham. And Abraham, as we shall see, was less-than-faithful. God re-assures Abraham through the covenant so that Abraham will understand the truthfulness of God’s word. This is an act of God’s grace. God condescends to demonstrate the truthfulness of His word to Abraham in a “language” Abraham will understand–the covenant ritual which was common in Abraham’s day.

This is precisely why the author to the Hebrews writes, “16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:16-18 )

Do you see what the author is saying? God had already made His verbal promises to Abraham and that was as good as gold. Since God cannot lie, this was as good as a done-deal. But, to show more convincingly, for the sake of Abraham, God took an oath upon Himself. And in that oath, He swore by Himself. So here we have the two unchangeable things: (1) God’s character as seen in His word and (2) His oath which was sealed in Himself. Here we have two equally phenomenal gold standards–God’s word and God’s oath–both of which are rooted in God’s absolutely perfect character.

God does not tell fibs; He cannot lie. When He takes an oath, it cannot be broken. This is a proverbial “double stamp.” God’s word is always trustworthy. It never needs to be confirmed by an outside source. God never consults anyone to see if what He is saying is true. Because God says something, it is by definition true. If at some point in History Past, God decreed that 2+2=5 we would all have learned that 2+2=5. That’s why His promise is Golden. It bears the “Gold Standard” of Himself.

An oath is taken with someone higher as a witness. How many times have you heard someone, usually in anger, say “With God as my witness . . .” They are making an oath. God is called to witness because He is the Greatest Person there can ever be. So when God makes an oath, who does He swear by? Only Himself. There is nothing greater than Himself.

(3) We must come to realize that when we speak of God’s faithfulness we are truly talking about God’s faithfulness to Himself and His promises, not to us.

The author to the Hebrews encourages his readers that God’s promises are our anchor–the anchor of our soul. A sure and steadfast hope capable of going into the Holiest of places. Our hope, our anchor, our ultimate promise from God is Christ Himself. (Hebrews 6:19-20)

Why would this be important? Why must we see Christ as God being faithful to Himself?

Let’s go back to Abraham. Abraham demonstrated a staggering amount of faithlessness, not faithfulness, after God made His promises. Here are some instances of Abraham’s faithlessness:

  1. Abraham’s scheme to lie to Pharaoh–If it was the case that God was going to give Abraham all the blessings promised in Genesis 12 (and we’ve seen it was), Abraham had nothing to fear from Pharaoh. Remember, Abraham lied to Pharaoh saying Sarah was his sister, not his wife (a half-truth). Abraham was afraid Pharaoh would kill him and take Sarah. He was faithless in that he did not trust God to protect him so that God could keep His word of blessing to him. After all, if Abraham was dead, God could not fulfill His promises–therefore Abraham would have to be protected by God. Abraham pulled this very same charade with Abimelech in Genesis 20.
  2. Abraham, at the request of Sarah, took the matters of childlessness into his own hands–To solve the problem of being childless, Sarah told Abraham to visit Hagar and, sure enough, a son, Ishmael, was born. Abraham demonstrated his faithlessness by not waiting on God to fulfill His promises in His time.

In the middle of Abraham’s unfaithfulness, God was faithful. But, God was not faithful to Abraham. God preserved, prospered, and defended Abraham in spite of Abraham’s sin of faithlessness. This is why Paul applies this principle in 2 Timothy 2:13 when he writes “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”

God’s promises are absolutely trustworthy, they are our anchor.

God is faithful in His promises. But that may not mean what you think it means. I have often heard people say, “God was faithful to me and we accomplished _________.” I hate to be the one to tell you this, but that is a wrong way to think of God. God is not faithful to you. God is faithful to Himself.

Think about it. We are sinners; He is perfect. We are corrupt; He is incorruptible. We fail Him almost all the time; He never fails.

Just as God protected His own promise in protecting Abraham and Sarah, God protects His own promises in our lives as well, and that is God being faithful to Himself.

Romans 8:26-35 shows a beautiful of God’s faithfulness to Himself:

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

This passage also shows the so-called “Golden Chain of Salvation:” 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God chooses to save certain people (that is what “foreknew” means, it means God chose. It does not mean God “knew beforehand”). Those whom God chose, He predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. Those whom God chose and predestined He also called, justified, and [will] glorify.

For the Christian, this is a truly golden promise. Because God decreed to save certain people, He will absolutely bring it to pass–for His word is golden. Those whom God chose to save will absolutely be saved and God will bring them to glory–because He has decreed it and has taken an oath (for our sake) to do so–in the “Path of Blood” that led directly to the Cross.

This is precisely why most Christians believe in the so-called “Once saved, always saved” doctrine. The reformers put this doctrine in a better theological light when they referred to it as “Perseverance of the Saints.” The doctrine states that God will cause the truly saved to persevere in the faith. Certainly true Christians will fail and sin, even grossly. But God will, ultimately, cause the truly saved person to remain in the faith–acting and living in repentance and faith.

We must always be careful to think properly when it comes to God. It must always be the case that He is always the Benefactor and we are always the Beneficiary. Any other view turns the world upside-down.

God is truly faithful. But, His faithfulness is not to us, it is to Himself–to accomplish what He has purposed to do. We can say that God is faithful to us as long as we realize that God’s faithfulness to us is absolutely rooted in His faithfulness to Himself.

So, had I written the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness, I would have written the chorus like this: “…great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto thee.”

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Worshiping in Spirit and in Truth

Every model of church, in order to be biblically legitimate, must seek to focus men and women’s hearts on God and His truth as revealed in scripture. The Old Testament, for example, is rich and extremely detailed in describing worship–the worship of God’s people. God’s instructions leave nothing to the imagination–He describes what is proper and worship and He tells us in no uncertain terms how He will be worshiped. As the account of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 shows us, God is deadly serious about proper worship.

The entire Old Testament system of worship established at least five important things (no particular order):

  1. A context in which Christ’s death on the cross would have its intended substitutionary and penal meaning.
  2. The Holiness of God in dealing with sin.
  3. Who God is.
  4. The Law to point out where and how man fails to live up to a Holy God.
  5. A central place of worship where God’s people would go to worship, especially on festival occasions.

In Jesus’ time, the Jews still made their pilgrimages to the Temple for Passover and the other pilgrimage festivals (Pentecost took place during a pilgrimage festival, by the way). But, as we will see, the entire concept of biblical worship was about to change.

In John 4, we see Jesus’ mission to a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. While worship is not the main point of this passage, this passage reveals much about New Testament worship.

During the conversation between the woman and Jesus, she asks if it is right to worship on Mt. Gerizim (as the Samaritans did) or is it right to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem (as the Jews did). The Samaritans were remnants of the now defunct Northern Kingdom of Israel who had been forced to interbreed with the Assyrians who conquered them in 722 BC. The Samaritan people rejected all of the Old Testament, except for the Pentateuch. So, they tried to keep the Old Testament Law but they worshiped on Mt. Gerizim (which, in fact, broke Old Testament Law because it was not the authorized place). The woman’s question brings a shocking response from Jesus. He answered:

John 4:21-24 (ESV)
Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Jesus’ response is a two-pronged answer. Jesus says the Samaritan way of worship is simply wrong. He says they worship what they do not know while the Jews worship what they know. The idea is the Samaritans have been worshiping wrongly because they have not been worshiping in accordance with the entirety of God’s revelation. By holding only to the Pentateuch, the Samaritans rejected the Prophets and by doing so engaged in worship which was not in accord with God’s full (to that point) revelation of Himself.

Secondly, Jesus’ response tells us the forms of worship seen since the inception of the Covenant will soon end. As was mentioned before, Jewish worship included several “pilgrimage feasts” (like Passover) and these feasts required being in Jerusalem for the purpose of performing the acts of worship, just as God had prescribed. Jesus now says that is all going to end—the old order (the forms) will be done away with, in favor of a new order.

Worship in Spirit: We must go to Christ Himself as our place of worship

The idea of worship “in Spirit and Truth” is related to these two developments. To worship in “Spirit” means that there is no physical place or platform in which to worship. The new order will not have a geographical center or specific, required forms. The new order will have a spiritual center and that spiritual center is Christ Himself.

While the John passage does not explicitly state Jesus to be the center of new order worship, we know this is the case from other New Testament passages:

Matthew 12:6, 8 (ESV)
I tell you, something greater than the temple is here…For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath

John 2:19-21 (ESV)
Jesus answered they, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.

The passage in Matthew shows Jesus taking the title “Lord of the Sabbath” which suggests He is speaking of Himself when He says, “Something greater than the temple is here.” The John passage is more explicit. In this passage, Jesus unequivocally equates states Himself to be the Temple.

Because Jesus Himself is the new temple we see there is not a geographical location for our worship. We do not need to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem or any other locale to worship. We make our pilgrimage to Christ Himself. Jesus is intentionally turning the meaning of worship away from a central, geographical style and He is showing the true essence of worship to be a matter of the heart—true worship has at its core a personal and spiritual experience with Jesus Himself. No longer is worship performing outward rituals. True worship is now inward.

Worship in Truth: We must constantly and consistently seek to have our concept of God defined by scripture alone.

To worship in truth means that we worship the one, true, and living God. We do not worship a god of our imagination or a partially biblical god. True worship has, at its center, a proper vision and understanding of God—a vision we can only get from the Bible, God’s own self-revelation.

In saying the new order worship must be “in truth,” Jesus shows there is no such thing as compartmentalized worship. True worship is based in a true concept of God as revealed in scripture and the outward acts are null and void if the inward concept of God is wrong. Also, in order to be valid, outward worship must flow from the heart—a heart committed to the God of the Bible and His Christ.

From other passages, we see the heart is the issue. In see Matthew 15:18-20, we see Jesus telling Peter that it is what comes out of the heart that is, by nature, defiling. Jesus is discussing the fruit of an unregenerate life. One can assume, then, that a regenerate heart will produce good fruit. A heart rightly related to God will produce proper worship. Only a person who has been truly regenerated by the Holy Spirit and saved by the blood of Christ can offer acceptable worship. By definition, true Christian worship is offered only by believers with a proper, biblical concept of God.

We must plan our worship services with God, not man, as our “Audience.”

Today, many pastors and worship leaders commit a grave error in their worship planning by seeking to draw people into their service by their choices of music or the “style” of church. Certainly the Bible allows for all types of music to be used and the Bible allows for different “forms” of worship. However, what the Bible does not allow for is man being the subject of the worship service.

As was stated earlier, every model of church, in order to be biblically legitimate, must seek to focus men and women’s hearts on God and His truth as revealed in scripture. If worshipers and worship leaders fail to see the significance of having our hearts focused on God and having our attitudes right, biblically speaking, we will inevitably commit the same sinful error as the Samaritan woman. We must take great pains to avoid that error so that we do not have irrelevant and invalidated worship.

Note: John Piper has heavily influenced my thoughts on this matter. His writings on the same matters can be found in: John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad, 215-230 and John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, 3rd ed. (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003),

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Clash of Worldviews in Worship

The worship of the Church is dismally weak. Worship is fundamental to the Christian life. But do we ever stop to consider what worship is all about? Do we stop to consider that the world views worship one way and God views worship another way? Many Christians do not stop to consider what worship really is.

The world does worship wrong. Every false religion has, basically, one form of worship–man, the worshiper, tries to act in such a way so that the deity will respond to the worship with his blessing–rain for crops, health, 70 virgins, etc. This format is essentially “Canaanite Worship,” false worship.

One of my favorite passages of the Old Testament is Elijah’s “duel” with the prophets of Baal as recorded in 1 Kings 18. The main point of this passage is not worship. However, this passage does have much to teach us about the nature of true worship and false worship:

1 Kings 18:17-40 (ESV)
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” [18] And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. [19] Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
[20] So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. [21] And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. [22] Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. [23] Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. [24] And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” [25] Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” [26] And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. [27] And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” [28] And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. [29] And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.
[30] Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. [31] Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” [32] and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. [33] And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” [34] And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. [35] And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.
[36] And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. [37] Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” [38] Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. [39] And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” [40] And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

It is a bad time in Israel. The king, Ahab, has married himself a Sidonian woman named Jezebel who brought Baal worship with her and now has made it the “State Religion” of Israel. Elijah, the prophet of Yahweh–the One, True, and Living God, the God of Israel–challenges the prophets of Baal to a duel of sorts. The prophets of Baal and the prophet of Yahweh will prepare identical offerings and will wait to see which God answers by fire.

Here is where we see false worship. Look at what the prophets of Baal do–there are two statements. The prophets of Baal call to their god from morning until noon crying for Baal to answer them. It is said they limp around the altar as they are crying out to Baal.

Who was Baal–he was the Canaanite storm god. Among other things Baal was the one who was supposed to provide rain–which is why it is particularly interesting that Israel was in the midst of a three-year drought, a direct slap in the face to Baal.

Elijah can’t resist some taunting. He chides that Baal is on a journey, or he is asleep and can be aroused by louder crying. Perhaps the funniest charge against Baal is that he is not answering because he is taking care of his business in the bathroom!

Make no mistake, this is not idle taunting. The implication of Elijah’s taunting is clear–Yahweh is everywhere so He never needs to “journey” (Yahweh is not “territorial,” as the false gods were said to be. The whole world is Yahweh’s territory); Yahweh never sleeps and therefore never needs to be woken up; and Yahweh is never unavailable because He is tending to his “physical” needs, like going to the bathroom.

How do the prophets of Baal respond? Their “worship” becomes more frenzied. Now, in addition to their afore mentioned actions, they add cutting themselves until their blood gushed out. From the text we see that self-mutilation was a common practice in their worship. Their “worship” has no effect and the refrain of the text is the same “There was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.” Baal was shown to be a fraud.

Notice, though, the practice of the prophets of Baal. They acted in such a way so as to entice Baal to answer. It is almost as if they were thinking, “If I can only inflict enough pain on myself, Baal will see how much I care and he’ll have to respond, he’ll have to!” This reminds me of Linus’ vigil in the pumpkin patch in It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Linus thinks his sincerity will draw the Great Pumpkin. Linus’ sincerity, and the sincerity of the prophets of Baal, simply doesn’t matter–the object of their “worship” was a figment of their imagination. Yet they still try do act in such a way so as to provoke the “deity” to respond. This is the epitome of false worship. From ancient times until now false worship still looks the same.

True worship is a response to God, not God’s response to us. Look at what Elijah does–he does everything in terms of keeping the Law, the covenant of Yahweh. Elijah asks Yahweh to respond but he asks Him to respond because (in the covenant) He had revealed Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and He claimed for Himself the title “God of Israel.” So, Elijah is praying and acting in response to something Yahweh has already revealed. Even the subsequent slaughter of the false prophets (and, yes, it was a righteous act for Elijah to do this) was in response to God’s revelation–the Old Testament Law commands all false prophets to be put to death.

Look at the order: God revealed Himself to Israel at Sinai, telling them who He was and what He expected of them. It was then incumbent upon Israel to respond to God in worship. Thus the biblical order of worship, and all true worship, is shown: God acts–He is the initiator, we respond because we are the responders.

(Interesting Side Note: The prophets of Baal shed their blood to get their false god to respond. God shed His blood for us to make a way for us to respond to Him. Interesting, isn’t it?)

Adjusting your “Worship Worldview” will have a profound effect on your Christian walk. Here are some outcomes of holding to the true order of worship:

  1. You will view your life as an act of worship in response to God’s gracious work of salvation through Christ. The hymn I’ll Live for Him who Died for Me comes to mind. You will not live the Christian life to “get” things from God. Rather, you will live our life in repentance and faith because God has already given you so much. (see Romans 12:1-2)
  2. Corporate worship services will become a time for the covenant community to respond to God. People will sing more heartily, the arguments over worship style will be greatly reduced (if they don’t disappear all together), and everything done in the service will have one goal–to worship God alone, our “Audience of One.” (Note: I believe every aspect of the worship service must be preceded by the reading of scripture. So if your going to sing the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy, the referent passage from Isaiah or Revelation should precede the congregational singing. This preserves the biblical order of worship and reinforces that the congregation is responding, not initiating.)
  3. The people of our churches will want to live God-centered lives and do the work of the church (missions, personal evangelism, etc.) as an act of obedience to the clear command of God as revealed in scripture.

I have a friend who, after I shared my faith with him, answered “You can’t clean up a turd and I’m a turd.” His unfortunate statement shows a worldly attitude–I have to do something to bring myself into a position so that God will accept me or reward my self-help work. In other words, I need to act in this way or that way so that God will respond favorably to me. I think we all expect that attitude from the world. But that attitude has invaded the church too.

Churches design services “To bring people in.” That is idolatry; it is placing the pleasing of man above a proper response to God. Churches seem to do things–like extra emotional, “God-is-my-girlfriend” songs–to create an emotional response in the people of the congregation so that God is impressed with the crying, etc. and will come into the congregation’s presence. That is pagan worship, right in the middle of our churches!

Our worship must operate under one umbrella: We are to worship (corporately and individually) in response to God. We do not worship to get, we worship because we have been given. Changing the way we think about worship will change the way we live our corporate lives and our personal lives and will have a lasting effect on our world as we lay our treasures up in heaven.

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Calvinists-Getting a Bad Rap…Again.

There are some people who do not understand Calvinism. A recent Baptist Press article illustrates the confusion. In the article, Jerry Drace, an evangelist from Humboldt, Tenn., was quoted lamenting the rise of Calvinism in the SBC. The article quotes:

Drace told the group he currently is working with some young pastors who are “so leaning in this morphed Calvinism that they almost laugh at evangelism. It’s almost to the extent that they believe they don’t have to do it. So [Calvinism] gives them an excuse not to do evangelism.”

Things like this frustrate me to no end. I don’t think it is an intentional misrepresentation, but it is a misrepresentation nonetheless.

The modern missionary movement was started by William Carey. Carey was one of the founding members of the Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen. Many people will find this next fact shocking…wait for it—Carey and his supporters (the Particular Baptist Society…) were Calvinists. And, yes, they believed in missions.

Carey and his supporters believed that doing missions was commanded by God. Carey became a missionary out of obedience to his Lord’s Great Commission. Carey was worship driven, not people driven.

Many people today think of missions in terms of the people, but we are to engage in missions work because God commanded us to do so. We are not to have people as our primary motivation. Certainly people are important in missions, but God is the most important “Person” when it comes to our missions endeavors. It is of the utmost importance to get the order of things right.

Primarily, we are to do missions because God commands us to do so.

Secondarily, we are to do missions because there are lost people on their way to hell who need to hear the gospel.

Unfortunately, when this order is inverted, people become the goal of our missions work when God must be the goal of our missions endeavors. It is idolatrous to invert our priorities in missions—for to make man the object of our efforts is, essentially,  to worship man.

When missions is done for the right reasons—to honor, glorify, and worship God—the missionary, even in the face of crushing opposition, will continue in his or her efforts. Why? Because they are in missions to worship God, not man.

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Worshiping God though Missions

The church exists to worship God. Everything must be done with this one over-arching goal. Every endeavor of the church must have the worship of God as its ultimate end. Otherwise, the church runs the risk of doing ministry for the sake of the local church or for the sake of people in general (these are not bad things in and of themselves—but, they are not, the main thing). Therefore, the church must pursue worship, discipleship, evangelism, and service with God’s glory fully in view and with the worship of God as the ultimate end of any endeavor.

All Christians must participate in missions work and evangelism. The command of the “Great Commission” is to make disciples. Christ did not qualify this command; it is a universal and timeless charge to the church. This means that members of the church must give financially to missions and go on missions themselves, whether it be across the street or across the world.

My conviction about missions and evangelism is based on two specific passages of scripture, Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. While these two passages are not the only passages that can be referenced when discussing missions and evangelism, they are, perhaps, the most informative.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
“[18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The “Great Commission” must be the foundation of any missions and evangelism endeavor. Matthew 28:18-20 has the main verb “Make Disciples.” Therefore, the goal of the Great Commission, whether at home or abroad is to make disciples.

In addition to the main verb “Make Disciples,” Matthew 28:18-20 contains three prominent and helpful participles—“Go,” “Baptizing,” and “Teaching.” These three participles speak volumes to how the Great Commission must be approached and carried out.

The participle translated “Go” is perhaps better translated, “After having gone.” The point of this participle is simple: Discipleship must be intentional, not haphazard. In fulfilling the Great Commission, we do not wait for people to come to us. Rather, we are to deliberately and intentionally go to them to bring the gospel to their country, city, and doorstep.

The second prominent participle, “Baptizing,” is very instructive as to the depth of the disciple-making process. Certainly baptism is a picture-in-action of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. However important baptism is (and it is very important), baptism is not salvific in and of itself. In this context, Jesus’ emphasis on baptizing is probably more closely related to the cost of being a Christian—completely forsaking the former way of life.

The point of baptizing people as part of the Great Commission is to eliminate so-called “easy believeism.” There is no such thing as a private conversion or a false dichotomy between public and private behavior. When true disciples are made by a good missions and evangelism effort, the converts will show fruit of true faith. Baptism seeks to insure (from the church’s perspective and the person’s perspective) a true conversion has happened so that in whatever happens, Jesus’ name and the name of the church is not dragged through the mud. Jesus’ inclusion of baptism in the Great Commission shows we are to have a deep commitment to the converts made so that they become fruit-bearing disciples and it helps to insure the person being baptized is serious about living a life wholly devoted to Christ

The third prominent participle is “Teaching.” Jesus’ point is this: All He taught the disciples must be passed on to new converts. Jesus’ emphasis on passing on His teaching further emphasizes that we are not called to make “Converts.” Rather, we are called to make disciples. When a person is converted to Christ, the battle is not over—it has just begun. When Jesus’ teaching is passed on to all new disciples, inevitably, those disciples will be “Romans 12:1-2” Christians—Christians who worship God in every aspect of their lives and who are continually seeking to have their minds renewed so that their lives are acceptable to God.

Acts 1:8 (ESV)
“[8] But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8 gives a factual statement by Christ to His disciples. In this statement, Christ outlines who the disciples will witness to—Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the World. It is interesting to note the entire book of Acts plays this statement out almost as if it were Luke’s purpose statement. While Christ’s words rang true in the First Century, they must still ring true today. Christ’s point, abstracted out, is that all Christians must witness to various contexts. While we may not be called today to witness to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria proper, we are called to witness to our hometown and our home areas—city, state, and nation. Further, we are called, as always, to witness to the world.

Therefore, the missions endeavor of our church will be local, national, and international.

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