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Jesus & Worship

Because there are many religions, so it’s said, there must be many paths to God. We all worship the same God, only in different ways. This way of arguing is as old as time. But perhaps this way of arguing is the wrong way, just as one of those paths may lead to the wrong “god.” What if you worshiped a particular god all your life only to find out his way—that of idolatry—diverted the path to the true God? Passed the brink of time, you would not be in a very good situation, for I have not known many who have reentered time to change their path.

The Supremacy of Christ

Christians are peculiar people. They believe in one way to God, a rather narrow, dangerous way at that. I do not think many who are reading this article would object if I said, to paraphrase John Owen, that those who do not behold the glory of Christ by faith now will not behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter. Beside the fact that it would be unfair to have multiple ways to enter eternity (for some ways are easier, some unpredictable, some nearly impossible), God has graciously revealed the way to Himself through His Word.

Jesus—the Word—rules the present world, putting to silence those gods who speak of mythical fairy tales. Jesus upholds all things (Heb. 1:3). He not only reigns supreme over all spiritual forces in the heavenly places, but also governs the affairs of men so that nothing happens outside His control. Jesus is the only man who has risen from the grave. Jesus is the only God who has the power to raise us from the grave, change our ashes into something beautiful, transform sinners into saints and rebels into the redeemed. Only Jesus—over all gods, and people—is worthy of praise.

In fact, for those who are trekking on the right path, John says that for all eternity Christ will be the object of worship (Rev. 22:3). The new heaven and the new earth will be a place of constant worship. Christ as the object of worship is significant primarily in two ways. First, God will dwell among all those who had faith in Christ (Rev. 21:22). God and the Lamb are the new temple, indicating that worship is to be found with Christ Himself, the radiance of God’s glory (Heb. 1:3). Second, the glory of God literally fills the new heaven and the new earth so that there is no need for the sun or moon. John explains further by stating that Christ Himself illumines this glory, for the glory of God is the lamp of the Lamb (Rev. 21:23).

Applying Truth

In Revelation 21, John pulls back the curtain to our new eternal home. We see that worship dominates our activity because we are constantly and literally with God. Sin, tears, death, pain will be no more, allowing unhindered praise to spring forth. We will drink “from the spring of the water of life without cost,” tasting absolute freedom and total immortality (21:4-6). Eternity will be a residence of peace where all fears and disappointments vanish. The world of sin will be replaced by a world of righteousness. We will live in such a place by the glory of the Lamb whose light shines on us.

To bring heaven down—or, to make this applicable—we could say that our looking into eternity should motivate us to live by the lamp of the Lamb while waiting for our heavenly home. Paul says we are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8). We live in a dark world. This world has need for the lamp of the Lamb that shines so brightly in heaven. We bring heaven down by telling the world that worship of the true God is only experienced by the light of Christ. Living by the lamp of Christ means that we live our lives in open worship before a dark world. As others see Christ in us, the piercing light will penetrate their darkness, bringing hope, salvation, and peace to people who are wooed and fooled by false gods.

 

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I Will Rejoice

Discouragement is so much a part of our lives we often forget the reasons we have to rejoice in the Lord. This could be made a universal statement: discouragement is so much a part of humanity we often forget the many blessings we have in life. Too cynical? Maybe not. Thoughtfully answer these questions. When is the last time you had a week of absolutely no disappointment? Let’s go further. When is the last time you had a day of absolutely no disappointment?

The book of Psalms is a place of refuge for the discouraged. It’s a book of wonders, poetically describing the wonders of a great God who jealously loves His people. Psalm 33 starts with five commands to praise the Lord (vv 1-3). In the second half of the first verse, the Psalmist tells us that rejoicing in the Lord is an appropriate response for God’s people: “It is appropriate for the morally upright to offer him praise” (Ps. 33:1 NET). The rest of the Psalm offers reasons why God’s people should rejoice in the Lord. We will look at four of those reasons.

We have cause to rejoice in the Lord because . . .

Reason 1: The Lord is just (v 4).

When the Bible says that the Lord is just, it means that He is absolutely fair in everything He does and will maintain moral integrity in all His actions. “For the LORD’s decrees are just, and everything he does is fair”(Ps. 33:4 NET). As redeemed people living in a fallen world, we long for God’s final justice. We rejoice in the thought that in Christ God will vindicate His people.

Not only will God vindicate His people at the final judgment, but also right now we experience the peace and satisfaction of a God who acts a Judge for His people. Corruption prevails all around us, yet God is always exercising justice. Knowing that our God is just in all He does gives us reason to rejoice in a fallen world.

Reason 2: The Lord is Creator (v 9).

The argument goes like this: If you are a created being, then you will naturally have a hunger for God. Even more to the point is that you have a hunger only God can satisfy. But since we are fallen people corrupted by sin, we start this life as an enemy of God and search for satisfaction in everything but God (Rom. 5:10). Both our spiritual and physical needs can only be met by the God who created all things. Even the act of eating and drinking is to direct us to a loving and gracious God. We eat in order that we glorify God. And we glorify God by partaking of Christ (John 6: 54).

As was briefly stated, a problem prohibits us from worshipping God the Creator. We worship other gods. As Paul clarifies in Romans 1:25, a great delusion has occurred. Humanity has exchanged truth for lies and they now worship the creation rather than the Creator. And the sin that’s still present in believers occasionally tricks us into thinking that this is okay. We really know better. We have a desire that only the Creator, who created us, can satisfy.

Reason 3: The Lord is the Deliverer (vv 18-19).

A few months back I saw a movie with a well-known actress. I noticed something was drastically different about her; and the more I observed, the more it was not old age. She looked so different that my friend had said she looked like a caricature of herself. It was apparent that she had gotten so much plastic surgery she actually damaged her face rather than beautify it.

I am neither opposed to plastic surgery nor do I think it’s a sin. I don’t know this actress, although she doesn’t, to my knowledge, profess Christ. But a problem exists in a society whose God tends to be beauty and self-consumption: we naturally assume the problem is external and we do everything possible to fix the outside. The problem is internal. Only Christ can change our hearts, which out from it flows insecurities, anger, disappointment, sadness, bitterness, loneliness, etc. Jesus is sufficient to mend all of those—and more.

Reason 4: The Lord is faithful (v 22).

“May we experience your faithfulness, O LORD, for we wait for you” (Ps. 33:22 NET). The Hebrew word translated here as “faithfulness” can have many different, wonderful shades of meaning (see NKJ as ‘mercy;’ ESV as ‘steadfast love;’ NAU as ‘lovingkindness’). Whether it’s faithfulness, mercy, steadfast love, or lovingkindness, we can be sure that the Lord never changes and will rise like the sun every day to bestow new mercies (Lam. 3:23).

We, like the Psalmist, long to experience God and His never ending faithfulness. His faithfulness is what motivates us to sally on with the course of action He has mapped out for us. We know God is there to assist, nurture, and guide us. We rejoice in the God who is unlike those who have let us done through broken promises. He remains faithful even when were faithless (2 Tim. 2:13).

It can be difficult to have a mindset of rejoicing when so many things are going wrong in our lives. But we have a God who is neither like our problems nor like our environment. Jesus reveals God to us. When we look at Jesus , we see a God who is absolutely fair, a mighty Creator, a powerful Deliverer, and constantly faithful. There is a needed promise for those who trust in this God. Those who trust in this God will be happy (Ps. 33:21). Worship is the act of rejoicing with a happy heart in the God who is faithful and true.

 

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The House of the Blameless

Last month TIME magazine had a picture of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s new COO, and a heading that read, “Don’t Hate Her Because She’s Successful.” The business mogul tells the world, or those who read TIME, that women should rise and take their proper place as leaders. Maybe the heading serves as the sub-conscious of those embittered who haven’t reached, as TIME evokes, her level of “success.” I’m sure she’s hated by many.

In contrast to the successful, fast moving world of business enterprise, perhaps the rise of radical Christians would evoke more hate than female leadership (John 15:19). If there’s not a Christian magazine called ETERNAL, perhaps there should be. A fitting cover might show a bloody cross with a heading entitled: “Don’t Hate Them Because They’re Blameless.” I’m sure it would be loved by few.

Why would Americans “hate” this woman for being “successful?” (Success for Sheryl seems to be defined by her bank account, hard work, and relationship with Facebook.) To name a few reasons, there could be jealousy, envy, covetousness, a feeling of insignificance because a lack of national recognition, a disappointment because they have worked just as hard as Sandberg but have a salary that pays a third of what she makes, or even less.

For many Americans, the desire to be recognized among the populace drives their sense of satisfaction, safety, and, sadly, significance. Success is defined by affiliation, whether to a certain amount of income, a company, a relationship, or an image. Mrs. Sandberg landed a job with one of the most recognized and valued companies in the world. Shortly thereafter, she landed on the front page of TIME as a tribute to praise her high-class status among those who are seeking the same place of honor.

In Psalm 15, a greater person than Mrs. Sandberg speaks to the populace about success. King David also seeks a place of honor that’s connected with affiliation. Sandberg smiles for TIME. David looks for God. David looks by asking, “O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” (Ps. 15:1 ESV) David knows that only those who walk blamelessly will have connection to the most powerful “Person” that exists (v 2). For the Christian, dwelling with God is the greatest place of honor in the world.

If worship is defined as offering yourself to the one true God for devotion, praise, and happiness (joy for both you and God), then we need a way to enter His presence for worship to ignite. You wouldn’t enter the Oval Office without reason, just like you wouldn’t be the COO of Facebook without prerequisites and competence. Moreover, when dealing with God, things automatically get more complicated.

You can’t work your way up the ladder in order to land a position in God’s house. You can’t be smart enough, pretty enough, tall enough, tough enough, or work hard enough to seal the deal on a relationship with God. God can’t be bought by money or wooed by praise. God resides in a House where righteousness rules the streets and justice builds the Theocracy. No corruption. No sadness. No heartache. No disappointment. No violence. Only perfect peace, priceless perfection, and persevering praise exists in an economy where Christ rules as King and the subjects submit as reflectors of His Highness.

In a place imaginable as this, only a blameless person will enter. Only the best. But the blameless and the best aren’t made by human ingenuity or American hard work. (“Oh no!” say most Americans.) Ironically, the blameless are made so by affiliation or, better, by a relationship. In order to walk blamelessly one must be set free from sin. In order to be set free from sin one must be crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6). It will cost you more than 4 to 8 years at graduate school. It will cost you your life.

The blameless will worship in God’s presence. The blameless will be hated by the world (John 15:19). When calculating the cost of the successful outcome of dwelling with God, take comfort in these words: “He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot).

 

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Continual Adoration

“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

Many well-meaning Christians mistakenly assume that true worship only happens on Sunday. Many well-meaning Christians, who do not assume that, mistakenly live as if true worship only happens on Sunday. Which is to say, many of us probably forget that true worship always happens when we worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). The former lacks the vision to see their workplace, home, and every day routine as time to acknowledge God both privately and publicly. The latter lacks commitment to acknowledge God both privately and publicly in everyday details. But there is hope for all of us.

A Limitless God Beckons for Continual Adoration

Worship should be ongoing devotion to God that views all of life as a moment to praise, exalt, and revere the Lord. At first, the woman at the well did not grasp who Jesus was, and therefore failed to understand that worship can be constant interaction with God. Her question as to which mountain true worship takes place revealed her shallow perception on both the limitlessness of God and His desire for continual adoration.

Jesus brings the infinite God to true worshippers by making His limitlessness accessible at all times. Time or space cannot confine God. God is spirit. If God did not make a way for us to know Him through His Word or Son, there would be absolutely no hope in approaching Him for worship. The chasm of sin separates. Just a little more goodness would not grant a pass over the much deserved gulf. There must be absolute goodness in order to cross the separation of a sinful people to a holy God.

Jesus embodies in Himself the absolute goodness that is required. He is the only mediator between God and man because He is the only one who possesses a sinless nature required to procure absolute goodness. His perfection allows Him access to the Holy of Holies. His cross tore the vale that separated man and God. God now dwells with those who have been washed by the blood that ran down the cross. Cleanliness identifies true worshippers. Blood-bought worshippers now have free access into the Holy of Holies at all times.

Jesus states that His Father demands continual adoration. In v 23 Jesus says that the Father is constantly seeking worshippers (which is indicated by the present tense in the Greek). The implication is that the Father demands constant adoration. If the Father is always seeking worshippers—and I am sure He will not fail in His pursuit—then worshippers will always be adoring the Father. The Father is after those who will take the time to worship Him in spirit and truth at all times. God is powerful enough to see this through. Not only so, but God is worthy enough to require such allegiance.

Applying Truth

Life is taxing. It wears us down. In a society where busyness is a virtue and distraction is mistaken for productivity, a daily routine can disguise itself as the mundane of life that has little to do with God and His kingdom. But a daily routine should be desired. A daily routine should be opportunity to transform “ordinary living” into an ongoing dialogue with a God who desires to be sought and rejoiced in. The Psalmist, I am sure, had daily responsibilities and yet understood that seeking God is where happiness is found: “Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You . . . .” (Ps. 40:16 NAU)

For many of us this daily routine involves work, and work is necessary for our livelihood and those we are responsible for. This can create pressure and stress. For many of us the pressure is so great that we feel like we do not have enough time to give God what He deserves. The people in our lives, it seems, demand more attention than most others and now God gets the short end of the stick.

The mediator Jesus Christ helps us here. He offers a living relationship with God that restores, refreshes, and renews our inner person so that we may worship Him even in the “mundane” of life. Knowing Jesus allows the busy person to see all of life as a way to connect with the God who desires our fellowship. The promise is that if we seek after the God who is worthy of continual adoration then we will rejoice and be glad in Him.

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Worship and Your Story

Worship leads to transformation and identity. Worship is not just what I do, it’s who I am, and who we are collectively, as the body of Christ. God fashions our lives so that we must be knitted or woven together in relationship with each other and with Him.

“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ..” [1 Peter 2:5]

 

No one can really have an appreciation for what you are going to bring forth until they know where you came from. There is a story behind your worship. In 1 Chronicles 4:1, we learn Judah’s backstory. Judah’s very name means “praise.” The Bible says Judah came from the womb of a rejected, pushed aside woman who was hidden and disguised in order to marry a man who didn’t want her. Her name was Leah. Leah’s dad didn’t value or protect her, but gave her to a master manipulator for his own profit and benefit. Judah came out of a broken, bleeding, bruised woman who kept trying to get love, affection, attention and affirmation from users and abusers. Her reason for calling him “Judah” is given in Genesis 29:35; “THIS TIME I WILL PRAISE THE LORD.”

Worship and relationship with God leads to events in our lives. Our worship is the door or passage for Him to come in and take us from ruins to restoration. Worship takes us from resting in Him to new things springing forth! We have to remember the mighty works of God in our lives in the past, meditate on what He has done for us, and bring it to the situation we are in now! When we start praising Him, that’s when real deliverance happens. The same God who delivered you from the bear, will deliver you from Goliath. The same God who delivered you from Goliath, will deliver you from Saul. And the same God who delivered you from death will promote you into the castle! Remember His mighty acts and meditate on them.

Our worship will pull us from our problem and take us to our provision, just like Joseph. It opens up atmospheres. Worship makes things happen! Worship leads to transformation and identity, because its not just what I do, it’s who I am, and who we are collectively. Meditate on His mighty acts, and He will deliver you…again!

 

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