Saturday, March 17, 2007

# 191: Worship

When looking up the word “worship” in Webster’s Dictionary, I came across two very descriptive meanings: 1) “extreme devotion or intense love or admiration of any kind”; 2) “adore and idolize.” In the gospel of John 4:23-24, Jesus says, ". . . true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." One extremely strong word which stands out in that verse is the word “must.” There is no legitimate way to water-down that word. The only way to get around it is to ignore it. Also, that verse begs the question: How must a person worship in spirit and truth? Many people might say, "We worship on Sunday when we go to church." Is that brief weekly visit the main source of worshiping intensely in spirit and truth? To worship in spirit and truth implies some sort of vital actions to display that spiritual worship. Webster uses the adjectives “extreme” and “intense.” Do we have an intense or extreme devotion, love or admiration for God and His Son Jesus? Do we adore and idolize God and His Messiah? These are hard questions. If we claim to be His disciples, we have to acknowledge these crucial requirements, and not just shrug them of as farfetched. If there were stronger imperatives than extreme and intense, they would apply to the worship of God.

To worship in “truth” can only mean to live according to God’s truth; the place where that holy truth can be found is in God’s instruction book, the Bible. To worship God in spirit primarily means to love God and neighbor, since love is the standard behind all spiritual substance, which displays itself in some physical action. And the only way we can show our whole-hearted love and devotion for God is by obedience to His commands, which are truth. When we submit to worshiping God in spirit and truth, we have the joy and peace of living in the presence of Jesus Christ in the here and now. Warning: Failure to comply with His truth will most likely result in a sentence of death. Are we obedient to His truth? Worship which is not spiritual consists of worshiping worldly things, people, ourselves, family, etc.

To worship the Father in spirit and truth will never be an easy task. 1st Peter 4:18. "And ‘If it is HARD for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’” Regardless of the difficulty, now that we have been and will be made aware of the way He desires to be worshiped, we will bear much fruit, SHOWING ourselves to be His disciples. John 15:8.

The formula is simple in theory: Firstly, believe Christ. John 3:36. "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life." Secondly, love God and neighbor. Mark 13: 30: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ And, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” And thirdly, obey all New Testament commands. John 14:21. "Whoever has my commands and [actively] obeys them, he is the one who [intensely] loves me." [emphasis added]. 1st Corinthians 14:22. "If anyone does not love the Lord–a curse be on Him. Come, O Lord!" If and when we continually follow that formula with our lives, with no deviations, our positions will be secure in Christ.

Let’s grade ourselves concerning our Godly worship on a scale from zero to ten, ten meaning one’s whole life is geared around Christ, and zero meaning one is holding hands with Satan. Let’s be honest with ourselves. If we cheat, we are only hurting ourselves. And then the question comes up, regardless of what our score is, whether we are actively aiming for a ten. I do know that most of us like to paint ourselves pretty (think more highly of ourselves than is warranted). Our score is not as important as our active desire to get as close as possible to the top score. If I was to attempt to honestly score myself, I would be lying if I gave myself anything higher than a three. And yet my earnest desire to somehow reach that ten will allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in my life.

Before I can point my finger at anyone else, I have to truthfully examine what/who I have been worshiping besides God and Christ. This may be embarrassing, but I must recognize my shortcomings, thus exposing all the things I am now worshiping in my life before I can instruct/criticize others.

For the life of me, never before did I ever think of or use the word “worship” regarding the attachment I have to my children and grand children. As I continue to examine my life, another love came to mind, and to my surprise, the one I unknowingly loved more than all else—a love bordering on worship—is/was myself. All this time, that deceiver, the devil, had me by the throat, and thus has been quenching my devotion to Jesus Christ. That love of self must have had an insidiously negative effect on how I have been attempting to idolize my Lord Jesus Christ. After admitting these newfound errors in my devotion, I already spiritually feel a hundred pounds lighter. While in the process of composing this post, I was made aware of my misguided love regarding where my worship was going. And with God’s help and inspiration, there will be some dramatic and difficult changes to be made.

Now, for the first time, several New Testament verses have come to life (I mean their true meanings). The first: Luke 14:26. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple." Another verse similar, yet not as strong, but still displaying the same principle, is in Matthew 10: 37. "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me . . ."

I am certain many who read these verses for the first time must have thought Jesus had a little too much to drink. Not so! Yet there is no contradiction. Let me explain. What Jesus is emphasizing by His strong words is that the love for Him and His Father must be so extreme and intense that all other loves could be classified as hate, and that it will/must dwarf the love we have for those closest to us, even the love we have for ourselves.

Those who don’t understand what point Jesus is attempting to put across will bring out these verses which seem to contradictory those above. Ephesians 5:28-29. "In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no body ever hates his own body, but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church."

These verses are telling of two totally different principles. The former: Our Lord is exhorting us to make sure our love for Him is much greater than any human love can be. And the latter is displaying that love for our wives/husbands must be the same as the love we have for ourselves—not the type of love that wants attention, but a concern of caring for our marital partners in the same way we care our own bodies. Since no one hates their own body, it can be classified as a benevolent concern for self (love).

This paragraph is an addition to this post. The principle of hating those closest to us, as described above, seems to conflict with the principle of loving our neighbor as ourselves. That is not true. We must still love our neighbor as self, but that love for neighbor/s must never be of greater value than our love of God, as displayed by obedience to Christ’s commands. This is what I mean: If love for neighbor/s takes up more of our time, attention and devotion to the point where our lives seem to be solely devoted to neighbor, thus putting love for God in second place as to our spiritual prerogatives, then our priorities must be adjusted. This can be seen when a person goes gung-ho for some worthy humanitarian cause, while leaving God on the wayside.

So far we have only mentioned humans as objects of worship. Nevertheless, there are many material things that are worshiped in the world which have nothing to do with worshiping God in spirit and truth. I have used these upcoming verses a number of times, and they also apply to this post. Luke 14-16. "The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. You justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows the hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight."

Instead of using the word “worship” when it comes to things we possess that have much value to us, in our materialistic culture we live in, we use the terms “highly valued,” “absolutely necessary,” etc. Usually they are things which are the result of being prosperous. The damage wealth does to the Christian life: First of all, our love for whatever puffs us up, making us proud, which is a much-desired worldly emotion, but hated by God. And more importantly, these noteworthy and pleasurable things or attitudes silently replace God, who desires all our worship. Then, in whatever happiness we gain, we give God thanks for all these much- desired worldly things or the happiness produced by whatever, which allows us to put God on the back burner for now. Of course, we may call on Him again when we get into a tight spot.

They are a few of the reasons why God strongly disapproves of wealth in the hands of His people. But the main reason is, how can a person worship God in spirit and truth with money? Also, to have more than one needs is a crime against those without the bare necessities. Along with that, being actively engaged in the pursuit of more of the good things this world offers steals time that should be devoted to the things of God.

I believe the most prevalent alibi goes something like this: “Look how much more we can do for the cause of Christ with all the money we give to our church.” One big problem, if not the biggest: This makes it acceptable for disciples of Christ to be prosperous in a monetary way, causing everyone to look up to them and their wealth as a pillar of the Christian church, thus making them role models. To put it as plain as possible, the reason the New Testament advocates blessings for the poor who truly love the Lord is because they are the ones who are blessed. James 2:5. "Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" In no way are the wealthy blessed, especially if they desire to either stay rich or desire just a little bit more.

Notwithstanding, if and when the wealthy desire to be obedient to Christ’s commands and be generous and willing to share their wealth with those in genuine need, especially the Godly poor, then they too can share in the goodness of God’s love by worshiping God in spirit and truth. But to display their lack of wealth, their lives must be lived in modest ways. Then they can be true models for all that look up to them. Click on post # 153: Anatomy of Wealth, or post # 116: What Money Can and Cannot Buy.

Could anyone imagine what would happen to organized religion if all churches preached the above message? Fear not. It will never happen, come hell or high water. Can anyone now understand why the majority of Jews 2,000 years ago never accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah? And it is no different today. Just remember this: Organized religion is big business, and spiritually naive people are their stooges/pawns.

The disturbing aspect of being wealthy and being a disciple of Christ is this: That principle is 100 % contrary to what the world and our human nature dictate to us all. The vast majority of us are encouraged to go to college, and then we will be able to live on easy street the rest of our lives. Americans are the guiltiest of all. And who is the role model for the world? Is it not America, where the streets are paved with gold? How far has our beloved country strayed from what the true definition of “children of God” really means? Whatever bad happens to us in the future, as God views all things, we will justly deserve it for desecrating the Holy Name of His beloved Son for 400-some years. For sure, there are certain signs in the air. The writing has been on the wall for some time, and George W. Bush has been highlighting his form of satanic "christianity" while putting the finishing touches in the margins. In short, that writing reads: "The time is near."

In ending, Almighty God demands to be worshiped exclusively by all who take on the name of His Son, and that worship must be in spirit and truth. Amen!

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