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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Heart Worship (cont.)

Heart Worship (cont.)
    
      One account that reveals the heart of a Christ like man, is the book of Job.  Of course, only a limited scope of this man's heart can be gleaned, but there is much that can be understood about the proper heart attitude.  The previous post emphasized that believers don't know their own heart, but the Lord has providentially orchestrated each and every circumstance in the life of a believer to do His will.  The life of Job was a life of yieldedness and patience.  Job seemed to have a firm foundation in his knowledge of God and that shines through in this book, along with his patience and heart attitude 
     
      There is a key element about Job’s heart attitude that is presented at the beginning of the book.  That is the fact that the believers attitude is observed by others.  Firstly, God then the angels and finally, man.  God sees everything in the believers heart, but men and angels can not see the heart, but only the outward display.  Unfortunately, it is human nature to draw conclusions based on that outward display.  

      Job's heart attitude towards God is recorded in the first chapter.

"And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, 
and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
     
       
       It seems that a lot of christians believe that the heart attitude is all that matters when worshipping and serving the Lord, and they are right, however scripture also teaches that there are more spectators of our testimony than God alone.  This heavenly scene in Job 1:6, where God suggests Job as Satan's test subject, the sons of God are also present.  When Satan is testing Job, Satan's angels, but also the sons of God, or angels, are observing the testimony of Job.  Job may not have understood that angels were observing him, but it is reasonable to conclude that from this passage, but the New Testament also tells believers this clearly in 1 Corinthians 4:9b.

"...for we are made a spectacle unto the world, 
and to angels, and to men."

       Believers are made to be a spectacle unto the world.  What a testimony we can have before the world when obedience, reverence, and Christ-likeness is manifested!  Paul writes later in chapter 3 in 2 Corinthians that believers are "our epistle...known and read of all men."  Only God knows the heart of man, but men see the outward testimony and observes closely how Christ-like a believer is, especially if that believer is in the process of witnessing.  It is hugely humbling to remember that men are watching our testimony.  Job had a human audience.   His wife and his 3 comforters.  Job's wife even suggested to "curse God and die", but Job's heart was set on establishing a testimony before God and men.  Christians seem to forget that unbelievers are watching, but the Holy scriptures remind believers that a testimony of God is "known and read of all men." 
        Angels also watch believers.  A unique perspective on the book of Job is that God gave us a behind the scenes look into how Satan needs permission from God to cause trial in our lives.  When a trial comes along, it is easy to conclude that it is our fault and of course this is most often the case since we still have a sin nature, but it is possible that God is using the trials in our life to teach the angels more about himself.  Trials certainly teach the believer more about God , and of our own sin nature, but our trials also are a teaching tool for the angels.  God reminds us of that in at least 2 places of scripture, in Job chapter 1 and 1 Corinthians chapter 4.  
        
        Everything a believer does is definitely seen by God and He will judge all of our works, but they are seen by men and angels also.  All the new trends in the christian realm are teaching others how believers view God.  The popular worship movements and questionable ministry organizations are teaching others an improper view of how a true believer views God, but also individual christians that are firmly settled in their convictions but dipping their toes in the waters of these trends and movements, are, in that sense, saying it is ok and nothing is wrong over here.  In other words, believers that are not entirely practicing the doctrine of separation are confusing others by doing so, believers and unbelievers.  For instance, a believer who is firmly settled in his/her convictions and what the Bible teaches, but desires greatly to reach the lost in the Homosexual demographic, would have a very confusing testimony if that believer chose to dip his toes in those waters.  The believers testimony before men includes evangelism, of course, but coupled with the practice of complete separation.   

 "For God is not the author of confusion, 
but of peace..."

        
     

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Heart Worship

    The most important aspect of a believers worship to God is the heart attitude.   Everything that accompanies worship; love, devotion, submission, obedience, the sense of awe of God, all starts in the heart.  1 Samuel 16:7b says:  

"...for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; 
for man looketh on the outward appearance, 
but the LORD looketh on the heart."

    This is probably the clearest verse telling believers that the Lord looks at the heart of man.  The worship of a believer is in the heart and the Lord is the only One that can see that heart.  In a previous post, the illustration of a little girl picking flowers for her mom was used and the mom was pleased with the heart of her little girl.  Her mom couldn't really know what was in her girls heart, but could only tell by the offering that was given.  Once the girl knew the boundaries, but still picked from the same bed of flowers, her mom could still sense love in her child, but it's not a pure love anymore, but mixed with something impure.  God wants a pure love offering from His children.  Every motive, every thought, every compromise that believers condone is brought before God, either voluntarily or before the judgment seat at that final judgement.  
    There is one man in particular that comes to mind and his heart can be known from reading his story.  Jonah did not have the right heart's attitude to serve the Lord.  In fact, Jonah admits (chapter 1 verse 10) to the shipment that he was fleeing from the Lord. The only logical conclusion is that Jonah did not want to obey.  Jonah heart was so in rebellion that he even fell asleep.  Earlier, in verse 5, Jonah was fast asleep.  Jonah was comfortable in his rebellion and turning away from the Lord. The Lord had to bring Jonah to the place where he "cried...unto the LORD...O LORD, my God."  
    
     It is also both, encouraging and fearful to know that God is omniscient.  God knows the needs of the heart and will do what is needed in order to humble that believer, whether they yield themselves or not.  The end goal of God is to transform the believer into the image of Christ.  Trials can have an element of excitement when realizing that God is at work, but because man does not even know his own heart, one's motives may seem good and right in his eyes, and even in the eyes of others, but it is God that knows when a person truely has right motives and looks deep into our hearts to keep us or get us back on the straight and narrow path. Just like the in Jonah's life, the Lord knows when we become complacent the Lord knows exactly what it will take and how heartbreaking of a trial we need to be humbled.  Hebrews 10:31 states:

 "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

         Believers may be able to deceive others, and even themselves, but it is only by God's Word that believers can be assured of the path that they go.

"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: 
but the LORD pondereth the hearts."

    
  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Devoted Lifestyle

Worship: An Expression of Devotion.


IN LIFE

     If worship is, essentially, an expression of love and devotion to God, where in scripture is that concept mentioned and what do the scriptures say about the Christian life.

     In the previous post, Romans 12:1 was mentioned as one of the main commands in the New Testament for a life of holiness. Let's elaborate that verse a little bit.

 "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a    living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."

      Believers are beseeched or strongly exhorted to present their bodies a living sacrifice. This is only possible by the mercies of God. The Greek word translated "mercies" in this verse is the word for compassion. The etymology of "compassion" is Latin, meaning "co-suffering." More involved than simple empathy, compassion commonly gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another's suffering. As we can see from the etymology of this word, it is more than just an exhortation, rather it is God's desire to alleviate our suffering and it is only by faith in God that our suffering is alleviated. Colossians 3:3 states that "...your life is hid with Christ in God." The believer's life is found in Christ every time that believer humbly kneels at the cross of Calvary. It is not easy to kneel at the cross, but like Isaiah 57:15 says (and in many other passages as well) the Lord delights in the presence of contrite heart. It is necessary to give the sufferings of this life to God so that believers may be of more service in God's work on earth.
      The first command in this verse is to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. There are all sorts of sacrifices and offerings made unto the Lord in the Old Testament. In the New Testament there is a different type of offering commanded by the Lord, the sacrifice of our body and life. According to Romans 6, our old nature has already been crucified with the Lord. Believers now have to offer their bodies and lives to the Lord. Our life is already in the hands of the Lord, which is both a comforting thought and a fearful thought. This can't be some nonchalant offering, but needs to be made to be pleasing and acceptable and holy to the Lord, unlike need Nadab and Abihu offering their strange fire. So often, Christians believe that what they offer is automatically accepted. If believers are commanded to offer a holy and acceptable sacrifice, then not everything is holy and acceptable, and only God has told us what is holy and acceptable.
       What is a holy offering? This verse commands believers to present their living body as holy. (The next group of posts will analyze the individual parts of the body mentioned throughout scripture.) There are two aspects to holiness, within one definition. The essence of the word holy means to separate. In the Christian life, a holy life is twofold, in that there is to be separation FROM sin and the world, yet also separation UNTO God. This is very similar to thinking of the advice that Daniel gave King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4: 27.

 “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.”

        Sin is all the flesh knows, but God has given us a new and spiritual nature...A nature that the flesh is unfamiliar with. It seems that believers need to deceived their own flesh and offer a spiritual offering. James chapter 1 verse 22 exhort the believer to deceive their own selves by doing the word, by living out our faith.

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."

        The whole christian life is filled with choices between sin or righteousness. God hates sin and the more time a believer spends getting to know God, the more repulsed the believer will be by his sin nature and his daily sins. God commands His children to be holy all throughout Scripture. Reading through Leviticus, it is easy to see how holiness was to be expressed, in the clothes the high priest wore, the sacrifices, the choosing of the high priest, etc. In the New Testament, holiness is to be displayed in the life of the Christian, not only his life in general, but in every facet of his life. Holiness is only obtained through the recognition that there is nothing good in the flesh, as Paul lamented in Romans chapter 7.

       The next step, according to Romans 12:1, is that our life needs to be acceptable. Only God tells us what He accepts. Yes, God will accept any man that will come to Him on the basis of child-like faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, but does God accept the way christians live their lives? This verse in Romans is a small indication that our lives are not acceptable, simply because we are commanded to live a life that is acceptable. For instance, 1 Timothy chapter 2:1-3 exhort believers to pray for their president, and this is acceptable to the Lord.

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;"

      There are numerous other places in Scripture that instruct us in acceptable and holy living. Those will be looked at further in the following posts.

Friday, June 6, 2014

When is worship appropriate? (Cont.)

       If worship is an expression of a believers love and devotion to God: love of God, a love for His truth, and a love to understand and learn more truth should be clearly evident in a believers life.

2 Corinthians 5:14  "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:"

     This verse tells believers one of the great sanctification truths of God's love.  God’s love should definitely be the main motivation of the believers worship and service to God, but in addition to that, God's love will constrain believers to right worship and service.  (Romans 12:1 and other places in Scripture equate worship and service.)
     There are two ideas that can be gleaned from this verse.  First, the love of God for sinful man, which was clearly displayed at the cross of Calvary, is the controlling factor in the believers life.  Whether this believer is walking with God or being chastened, God's love prevails in everything in those circumstances.  The promise in Philippians chapter 1 that he which had begun a good work, will perform it until Christ returns is reiterating this truth of the love of God.  It is only by God's unending love that His grace abounds, his provision exceeds, and his comfort overwhelms.  In Romans chapter 8, Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God and it is that love that conforms believers into the image of God.  God forces his hand on his children and though it often times is excruciating, the end result is to be conformed to be more like Christ.  What love of God!
       Another idea that can be gleaned is that the believers love for God controls the things that he does.  To know that we are being conformed to be more Christ-like in order to be used more effectively by God should motivate the believer to yield himself wholly to God's loving hand.  Love for God results in stricter dedication and a willingness to refrain from certain activities.  It seems the norm today that ones expression of worship is flippant and anything goes, but the Bible teaches that God only accepts worship that is acceptable and on His terms.  The worship movements and gatherings found within christendom are only superficial displays which play on the human thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  True worship is sourced in the heart and cannot be seen, but the expression of worship within these popular trends are deceiving christians into thinking it is true and Biblical worship.            
       Jeremiah 17:9 warns believers that their own heart is deceitful.  It is needful for all things to be brought before the Word of God, including our thoughts and intents, but in addition to that, our actions and the things we choose to involve ourselves with is to be brought before the Word of God.
        In Leviticus chapter 10, Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord, which the Lord did not command and therefore did not and would not accept, in fact the consequences were quite deadly, literally.  The Bible does not tell us anything in regards to their motives and intents, but it is logical to since they wanted to offer sacrifice to the Lord, we can only rightly speculate that their motives were sincere.  However, they were sincerely wrong.....wrong in their actions.  Let's illustrate this with something I heard from my pastor and this is probably the best and clearest illustration to make this point.   A 5 year old girl wants to express her love to her mom and she knows that her mom likes roses and really wants to give her mom some roses.  One day she is outside playing and sees a bed of beautiful roses, but they are just over their property line in the neighbors yard.  Not knowing the boundaries, but only wanting to show her love to mom, she goes and picks a bunch of roses from the neighbors yard.  Upon giving them to mom, who could only be elated with joy at the heart (innermost thoughts, love, and devotion) of her 5 year old daughter, but also grieved that these flowers were from the neighbors yard, both sides need to be dealt with.  Yes, it is a heartwarming act of love, but it was wrong.  The motives were clearly sincere and heartfelt, but the outward expression was simply wrong and there are some corrections that need to be made.  It is understandable that this little girl did not know that she was crossing the line, but now those lines have to be explained to her so that this doesn't happen again.  If this child were to pick roses again from the neighbors yard, her mom wouldn't be very pleased.  The first time was done in complete innocence, the second time is in rebellion, though the motive may remain the same.  Now that the girl knows where the boundaries are, but still chooses to pick the neighbors roses, her mom will be displeased because there is rebellion mixed with her expression of love.  If that young girl truely loved her mother, that offering would be the purest and truest offering possible.
         The love and devotion a believer has towards God will result in that believer searching the scriptures to understand the way God desires to be worshipped, which we have noted is an expression of love.  The Bible points out in John 4:24 that worship needs to be in spirit and in truth, not just surface truth or what looks like it could be truth, but biblical truth, and as much of it as can be known.  

  God knows the hearts of his children and that is obviously between the believer and God, but the how to approaching God is a needful study.    

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

When is worship appropriate?

      A lot of Christians seem to only spend their worship time in church once a week.  According to the Bible, worship is involved in everything a believer does. The Bible commands the believer to worship in spirit and in truth.  Some may say that this is how a believer worships, not when.  A closer look at this verse will reveal that both concepts are addressed.

Why can God expect a continuous attitude of worship?

     In the book of Deuteronomy 6:5 is the command to love God.  This command seems impossible and no one that has ever lived, lives today, or in the generations to come will be able to properly obey this verse, except Jesus Christ.

                     "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart,
              and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."

      God made man in His image and this verse speaks clearly to the three main parts that make up man.  Man is commanded to love God with every facet of his being.  Another great reminder is found in 1 John 4:19.  Believers love Christ because Christ first loved us.  Therefore our response to His love should be on His terms.

      An expression of our love to God is our worship of and service to God.  Worship is defined by Jesus in the gospel of John chapter 4 and the most literal rendering of verse 24 is as follows: "God is a spirit and the ones who are continually worshipping him must (it is necessary) continually worship in spirit and truth."  To worship in spirit and in truth is directed to the how of worship, but this verse is literally telling believers that the continual worshipping God is necessary.  The more that the Holy Spirit convicts a believer of their sin, the more that believer will realize the necessity of true worship.  It seems that worship is inate in man, and for the believer, it is imperative that the true God of the Bible is the object of that worship.  It is is easy to see in the world that unbelievers choose to worship earthly objects, and sometimes their devotion puts a lot of believers to shame.  They seem to understand this verse in John more than the Christ follower.  The life of the believer needs to be characterized by worship and devotion to the One and true God.  Worship is commanded, but is not contingent on the believer's thoughts, feelings, or emotions, but so often today the definition of worship is contingent upon the thoughts, feeling, or emotions of sinful, fallen man.  There is another passage in the New Testament that commands continual worship from the believer.  In the book of Romans chapter 12 and in the first verse, Paul beseeches, or summons his readers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service.  There are a few key thoughts in this verse. This exhortation is from God.  Paul was only the human instrument used to write this God-inspired exhortation.  2 Timothy 3:16 states that ALL scripture is given by inspiration, of God, or literally translated, God - breathed.  There are at least 40 different human authors used by God, regardless of the human agent, God is the ultimate authority of His word.
        Secondly, our whole life is to be yielded as a worship service to God, but not just any service, holy and acceptable service.  It is very possible for a believer to get caught up in the busy-ness of serving that it becomes a routine and robotic.  All service and each time there is service being done for the Lord, that needs to be brought before the throne of grace.
         Lastly, it is only logical and reasonable for believers to present their lives as a sacrifice to God.  1 John 4:19 states the whole motivation of living for Christ.  The finished work on the cross was the greatest display of Christ's love toward sinners and no believer can reciprocate that act properly, however it is a privilege to have an opportunity glorify God in our lives!

         In order to really know the love of Christ, all one has to do is believe that Christ died for their sins and they shall be saved.  The same love that Christ displayed on the cross of Calvary for the world is also made available to each one that believes.

 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  John 3:16