Tag Archives: suffering

THE VANITY OF WORSHIP

“In vain do they worship me – their teachings are merely human rules”  (Jesus’ words in Mark 7:6—7 of the church leaders who opposed him.)

Such manifest vanities are today practised and displayed daily by millions of church goers. Jesus could well say of today : they worship me after their own traditions instead of obeying my words.

Consider : Jesus never asked his disciples to worship him!

Imagine this absurd scenario:  The first disciples come together to worship Jesus. So they put him up on a throne and lift up their hands or they prostrate themselves! They say they love him, adore him, bowing down and singing before him, sure that their devotion, their religious acts will please him. They devise a form of service and trot it out ….. and they ignore his expressed words in the gospels.

Or, just imagine the first disciples post-Pentecost composing or going through a liturgy or holding services or dedicating buildings to Jesus! Of course, such scenarios do not fit. Human constructs.

Instead they show the worth of Jesus by obeying his Holy Spirit, sharing goods, experiencing apostolic teaching, eating together, praying, receiving the Holy Spirit.

Are we using “worship” as a substitute for plain obedience to Jesus? Faithfulness unto Jesus means we  follow him to the end.

Many ignore his commands to believe, to pray, to persevere, to go make disciples, to teach all peoples all his commands, to receive the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to him.

He has unequivocally and expressly stated that his disciples are to put his movement, his kingdom, before their interests and agendas, to put him first, to seek the Father’s will and heart, to sit at his feet, to abide in him, his words abide in them, to love one another as he has loved them.

Have we forgotten he asks us to lose our lives for his sake, to be fishers of men, to give freely, to rejoice in suffering ….. ?

Did Jesus start “worship” classes? Did he teach about how to do “services of worship”? Did he appoint worship leaders? The whole idea is absurd. So many human inventions.

“Do whatever he tells you said Mary, his mother to the servants at the wedding (John 2)—the best advice ever given. The last recorded words of Mary. How spot on! “Do whatever he tells you.

Now that’s worship: Do whatever he tells you.

Listen as he teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer: Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. His Father’s will not just listened to, but actually done.

The writings of the whole Bible are all about pleasing God, doing his will, living under his wonderful rule (that’s worth-ship—acknowledging God’s amazing and eternal worth). Isn’t that what Jesus’ parables are all about? The house built on the rock is the person who not only hears but does the will of God.

Following Jesus is to worship him, obey him, doing whatever he says. It’s obedience to God, not sacrifice that counts, declared the prophets.

Where is worship in the Letter to the Hebrews, that most Jewish of all the New Testament writings? It’s being provocative, “stirring up one another to love and good works”.  It’s drawing near to God with faith, it’s seriously listening to your leaders, it’s enduring suffering. It is in rendering a sacrifice of praise by our lips which bear witness to his name—that is, being a witness to Jesus. It’s being mature and teaching others.

Prayer is worship. A notable example is in Acts 4 prayer with shouts of praise to God in the context of persecution.  Study of scriptures is worship.

Worship is not just a sing-song.

Worship in Acts? What about Paul and Silas in that Philippi jail in the most uncomfortable circumstances; or with Lydda at place of prayer.  Pauls’ teaching and arguing, and urging, writing letters, always on the go. Frequently imprisoned. Always acknowledging Jesus’ worth.

For Paul the apostle “acceptable worship” is service to others and witness to Jesus (Romans 12).

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 it’s building one another up when you meet together with the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit—that’s worth-ship of Jesus.

In Ephesians 5 it’s “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” … to one another! Edification of the brothers and sisters is worth-ship along with making melody in the heart to the Lord.

Entertainments are common in many churches today and they call it worship! More like having an indulgent fun time—a substitute for the solid joys of doing what he asks.

The heart of God is the saving of the lost, that’s worship. Reaching outsiders.

What did Peter teach? What did John teach? James? And the others? It’s all about serving one another and doing the work of the Lord, being lights in a dark world. Worship in spirit and in truth.

Though the Israel cultus is gone, yet people feel the need to be religious, to offer up something other than “ourselves, our souls, our bodies as a living sacrifice”.

The Father “seeks those who will worship in spirit and in truth”.

HE CAME HERE

Here. Yes here. Planet earth.

Sent.

He arrived in the humblest of circumstances. Yet at the certain will of the Father.

Helpless. Formed in the womb of a Jewish girl. Made of the humus of earth. Like us. For our sakes.

Vulnerable in the extreme—like us. For our sakes.

(The conspiracy to get him starting relentlessly at his arrival—Herod the pawn obeying his gov/god to kill him. He will experience this again and again, and repeatedly he will be spared until his hour, his glorious hour, has at last come.)

Born to die. Born to raise the sons of earth. Born to give them second birth.

Sent—had to grow like all of us—inside a woman. Had to be nursed, cuddled, nurtured—like us. For our sakes.

Think of it and be shocked. Disturbed.

Came leaving behind all those treasures of wisdom and knowledge, coming with an uneducated mind, learned about living on this earth—like us. For our sakes.

Can this really be the Logos, the eternal One?

Utterly unexpected. His own people totally unprepared for this.

And who is prepared to experience him, his loving confrontation, his transforming authority? Who will hear his voice and rush into his embrace?

Now Christmas is over. Let’s get back to normal living? Without him, the real Jesus.

Now the packaged Jesus disappears from the shelves. The religious ‘advent’ of baby Jesus in a manger. The plastic churchy copy already fading waiting for the next fad to trifle with?

Yet He remains, calling new sons and daughters to his movement—calling those who have the ears to hear to assemble around him. The true Christmas Day began and has not ceased. This is the DAY when his voice can still be heard. It remains.

Hear his voice and turn before that DAY ends.

For it will end. Sooner than you think.

 

The context of Hebrews 11

Whoa. I missed the last eight verses in Hebrews 10! Because these set the context for what follows in chapter 11, I hope you will bear with me by my going back to these passages. He wrote there

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. Heb 10:32-35, NIV.

Here is yet another strong argument not to throw away their confidence. These believers had suffered, side by side, endured persecution, wept and cared for others who were suffering. They were insulted publicly, even been imprisoned and lost possessions for their faith—and joyfully! Plus pressure from angry, anti-Jesus legalistic Jews who insisted they renounce faith in Messiah Jesus and thus to fall away.

What will we do when persecution comes our way? Will we give up on Jesus? Countless brothers and sisters in many nations face similar trials daily. Right now, e.g., in Syria, rebel militants are targeting Christians who they see as having preferred the existing regime. Women in these places are especially vulnerable. Pakistan is a dangerous place to call yourself a Christian. Millions of Christians around the world are persecuted, some being killed and their property confiscated or burned. This is happening today.

Like our letter’s readers, we Christians must not throw away our confidence, our trust, our active, living hope in the grace and love of God in Jesus for the future, because we know that we ourselves have better and lasting possessions which will endure.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” (Isaiah 26:20)   And, “But my righteous one will live by faith (Hab. 2:3). And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Heb 10:36-39, NIV.

Perseverance is required and determination to continue to do the will of God and not our own—to live by faith and receive that righteousness that can only come by faith in this new and living Way. There is nothing that can take the place of perseverance. Genius? Talent? Education? No. Perseverance reigns supreme.

Where do we belong in this discussion? Will we be among those who shrink back when things get tough, threatening? Surely testing times lie ahead for us.

We are reassured that our glorious hope is in Jesus’ coming, everywhere spelled out in the New Testament writings. Our hope is not in earthly prosperity or gratification or false security.  Our Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples that following him would lead to suffering, even death. Again, this is confirmed by the entire New Testament corpus.  It’s what the Book of Revelation is all about with its strong emphasis on HOPE.

Now we can go on to the next section of the letter: faith and hope that pleases God our Father. Next time.