True Worship

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When the author of Hebrews encourages us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,” he is offering us a solution for sin and the key to endurance.  In the light of His majesty, the vapors of time and space and pain and pleasure mingle to nothing.  Every lesser thing simply fades away.  Jesus is the all-consuming focal point, the beating heart from which all life comes.  Can a person become lost in such beauty?  I would like to suggest that this is the goal, the end for which we must strive to enter.

The first step to having our eyes fixed on Jesus is to take them off of ourselves.  What can a person bring before an all-sufficient God? Our very best offering is like dung or rubbish before the All-Consuming fire of Love and Holiness.  C.S. Lewis expresses it beautifully in his fiction, “The Great Divorce.” A human spirit visiting heaven for a day from hell wants to be recognized for his value and gifts.  He is answered: “‘No’…, ‘I can promise you none of these things. No sphere of usefulness: you are not needed [in heaven] at all.  No scope for your talents: only forgiveness for having perverted them.  No atmosphere of inquiry, for I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God.’”  To look at yourself or your abilities when standing before the Eternally Transcendent God is like staring fascinated into your grubby pocket when you are poised above the majesty and terror of the Grand Canyon.  It’s best to lay yourself aside for a moment and gaze on Him.

Whether or not we can bring anything to God doesn’t really matter once we have actually seen Him.  He is so beautiful, so resplendent, so glorious that once we have encountered Him all we can actually think about is how wonderful He is.  I call this experience the bliss of self-forgetfulness.  It harkens back to the days in the Garden when Adam and Eve walked naked and unashamed with God.  There was no need to consider themselves, but only to delight in the fellowship they shared with their Maker.  This fellowship and unity was so real that when it was severed at the entrance of sin, Adam and Eve only at that time perceived their nakedness.  Self-awareness came because they, like Satan before them,  had made self their god.

As people chosen, sanctified, and redeemed under the blood of Jesus, God is calling us to return to the self-forgetfulness that comes from being one with Him. Fixing our eyes on Jesus calls us to the glory that awaits us.  Colossians 3:1-3 says: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” This week, let’s hide ourselves in the all-sufficient completeness of Jesus.  Let’s lose ourselves in the awe and splendor of His nature and character.  Let’s disappear in the revelation of His beauty and majesty. This is true humility. This is true worship.

Hannah Stevens

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Rediscovering the Prophetic Voice

Man Holding Loudspeaker

The prophetic voice throughout the generations has been defined in many different ways, but when we study the ministries of men like Samuel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John the Baptist, one clarion call resounds, the trumpet blasts of these prophets to the people was one of reconciliation through repentance. They were the men called not firstly to condemn God’s people, though that was often a consequence of the people’s hard heartedness, but their messages were intended to reunite and restore a wayward people to a loving God. We are in much need today for this kind of prophetic voice today. Even Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost resounds with the declarations of the prophets who preceded him. He indicted the people of the blood guilt of the Son of God, while in the same breath inviting these murderers to partake of His mercy.

The Church must rediscover it’s prophetic voice in the face of a multitude of voices calling that “God is dead”, “I was created as a Homosexual”, “All roads lead to the same God”, and other similar declarations being trumpeted throughout our culture. In light of the revelation of the power and glory of our God, these are but trivial and foolish murmuring. However, in the absence a prophetic church that possesses and declares that glory, but rather harmonizes with the demonic dogma, then this darkness becomes very dark indeed. We must ask with hearts of contrition, have we hidden our light under a basket or become like salt that has lost it’s flavor? We must rediscover our voice, so as to speak as oracles of God. Truly, the secret of this rediscovery is that we will only find our voice, by returning to hearing His.

Consecration to the First Commandment

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Who do you want to be best friends with? The person I undoubtedly want to be best friends with is my wife, because she above all others she is the person that I am bound by covenant relationship to love the most, second only to God. This relationship is a love relationship designed to reflect the depth of unity and relationship the church is to have with our Bridegroom King. (Ephesians 5:28)

So now I must ask, how would adultery in my marriage affect my friendship with my wife? How about persistent adultery, if someone were nightly fornicating with strange women in their marriage bed? It would destroy the marriage and very naturally cause tension, arguments, and conflict, even unto a separation and divorce. It is no accident that God says there is one condition under which divorce becomes permissible, adultery.

Yet many believe that they can fornicate with the worldly systems of this evil and present age, and that their bridegroom God will simply turn a blind eye. The one who calls His name Jealous, and commands us to worship “NO OTHER GOD” (Ex. 34:14).  He does not say, “worship me primarily”, He says “HAVE NO OTHER GOD”. What little idols of selfish ambition, the love of money, sensuality, and rebellion have crept into our hearts? Have you inspected your motives, or considered the account you will give for the careless words you speak? The Holy Spirit, cries out, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Obedience to the Commandment of God, to love Him, requires absolute allegiance to Him. He will not share you beloved, any more than a husband would willingly share His wife.

Many of us long to obey the commandment to love God with everything, but we have not rightly separated ourselves from the lovers of our past. You cannot love God with your whole heart if your emotions are bound up in the destinies of immoral sitcom characters, you cannot love God with all your mind while exalting the doctrines of humanism and secularism above His Holy word, you cannot love God with all your soul while you refuse to forgive your brother, you cannot love Him with all your strength, when you expend the majority of it building your own career or ministry. Where are you refusing to surrender? Do you ask the Holy Spirit daily, or do you avoid that question as much as possible. Do you desire to yield to the influence of the living God, or do you fear you may have to give up your selfishness?

Concerning your relationships His holy word commands of you,“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship had righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14)  Have you seen your unbelieving friends in the light of how scripture records them, as living in lawlessness and in darkness? Does your heart long for their freedom and deliverance, or do you enjoy the opportunity their lack of values affords for self-righteousness, or do you hold offense with God, that the sins of your unbelieving friends and family would condemn them to burning torment in Hell? Do you agree with the justice of God?

Concerning your career, and resources, have you resolved to build God’s kingdom instead of your own? Jesus says plainly, “No one can serve two masters; for he will hate one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24) What does Jesus mean, in the plainest sense, that the priority of your personal financial gain and His Lordship over your life will at some point conflict, and in that moment if you have served your own personal gain, you will hate the self-sacrifice required to be his disciple. Just as the rich young ruler who Jesus told, while looking at him and loving him, to sell everything and come after Him, instead of rejoicing at the invitation to “take up the cross, and follow…” (Mark 10:21-22), “he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful…” Would you rejoice at the invitation to give all for the sake of following Jesus whole hearted? If your answer is “NO” then there is greater surrender available to you. Discover the reality of rewards in another age, for all the self-sacrifice you endure in this present one there is a reward yet to come, as Moses did “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Heb. 11:26).

Do you entertain your eyes and ears with tantalizing images, and sensual music that stirs sinful passions in your members, do you indulge in media and entertainment that sets your mind on the very things Jesus died to set you free from? Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth! (Col. 3:3) What are you dwelling on, in your movies, Internet surfing, and music? What fantasies do you tolerate in your minds eyes concerning those made in the image of God, scripture calls the intention of lust the same as the sin of adultery.  Does your inward thought life fit the standard of scripture for what is worthy of your consideration, as true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, is it virtuous and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8)? Are you participating in things Jesus himself would think, watch, or do alongside you? Do not doubt the promise of His word that He is ever present with you in spirit. “I am with you always” (Matt 28:20).

Do not dismiss these thoughts as legalistic rhetoric, it is the standard of scripture that many of us have had available to us every day of our life, and our disobedience to the simple standards of His Holiness will be part of our life evaluation on the day of accountability. This is a real appointment for you, in the not so distant future. As sure as the day you were born, you first entered school, graduated, got married, and eventually you will die, this day will come. One day, considering the vaporous nature of life – perhaps even this day, you will be present before Him in eternity giving an account for the deeds done in the body. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Whether good or bad, you will give account.

God is not going to evaluate us as being sincere in our devotion, unless we have works that back up our confession of love and faith. Jesus says it plainly, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The minimum requirement for radical love is a heart resolved to grow in obedience, to forsake all other lovers for the sake of Him!

Yet, beyond a separating out from worldliness, there is a resolve to obtain access by faith to true holiness. God is igniting a generation of radical lovers, who reject even legitimate pleasure for the superior pleasure of loving God. Like the Nazirites of old, who out of desire for God (Numbers 6:1) consecrated themselves, vowing to touch no dead thing, to not even eat grapes, much less drink wine, and grow their hair long as a sign to all that they belonged exclusively to God. These radical lovers like the John the Baptist, will carry a heart of humble devotion to the man Christ Jesus above their own ambitions, declaring boldly as friends of the bridegroom “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29). In refusing the wine of this world they discover the supernatural joy of being full of the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle exhorts, “Do not be drunk with wine, which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). These lovesick worshippers have found that to be empty of the world is to be full of God, for this is what the Father is looking for, those who worship in “Spirit and truth” (John 4:23). Not those who worship in formalism and religiosity, but offer themselves as living sacrifices Holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1), this is the spiritual act of worship. Oh God, let our hearts be an altar, and our love be a flame, to lay ourselves down for the sake of your name!

Self-sacrifice is a foundational condition of extravagant love, as Jesus Himself defined it, “Greater love had no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). We should be thinking, not how best can I live as a Christian yet surrender the least possible of my material, emotional, and self serving comforts, but rather tremble and rejoice at the truth of God’s word, “He who desires to save His life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt 16:25). Jesus says, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and his own life also, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26) Jesus demands that all other allegiances, even of that to family and self, be radically inferior (even to the point of “hatred” by contrast) to our devotion and love for Him. There are no close seconds in commitment if we desire to follow Jesus.

Jesus has pledged a higher allegiance to you than to His own family. For after being told by some,  “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You” (Luke 8:20-21). “He answered and said to them, ‘My Mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” If you are obedient to God’s command to love, then Jesus is unashamed to call you brother (Heb. 2:11). Jesus does not ask of us any more than He Himself is willing to do, but to the man who asks to bury His dead father before “coming and following” Jesus replies, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt 8:22).  In short declaring, that any priority, no matter how seemingly noble or justified in the eyes of the world, that draws you from the simplicity of “coming and following” will produce death for the would be follower. Jesus declares unapologetically, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25 emphasis added).  John gives us his definition of love in no uncertain terms; “By this we know love, because He (Jesus) laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

Sanctification, a setting apart, unto obeying the first commandment, demands a reckoning of oneself dead to sin and the world, but “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:11). Oh, the life and grace that is available to us in Him to live whole hearted! It is abundant indeed (John 10:10), for surely, His loving-kindness is better than life (Psalm 63:3) itself, and His love better than the wine of this world (Song of Solomon 1:2). So drink deep oh lovers, and be drunk with love! Refuse to fill your belly with worldliness and drink from broken cisterns, that you would feast on the banquet of the eternal and drink from the fountain of living waters.