Worship…Not Just a State of Mind

Hands lifted in praiseIs worship just a state of mind? Is it a special feeling that lets you know you are properly connected to God? Is it a great swelling in your chest or a fire in your bones?

Let’s consider how the Bible talks about worship.

Some Pictures of Worship in the Old Testament

Genesis 24.26, 48, and 47.31 reference the action of bowing low in worship, and that wording is found all over the Old Testament.

Service and worship are often paired concepts (i.e., Deut. 29.26; 30.17).

When Nehemiah brought true worship back to Israel, we read the following:

On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served. For they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and of his son Solomon. For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were bleaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God. (Neh. 12.44-46)

It is said “they performed the worship,” which again couples the concepts of worship and service, specifically temple service, in this case.

Singing kidsPsalm 66.4 parallels worship with singing, indicating that God is worshiped through songs of praises:

“All the earth will worship You,
And will sing praises to You;
They will sing praises to Your name.”

Psalm 95.6:

Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Psalm 96.9:

Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

This does not mean we should dress our best, for some who would impress their brothers and sisters by outward dress are certainly not dressed in holiness! This has to do with the heart’s attire, it’s attitude of holiness before YHWH.

Praying HandsSome Pictures of Worship in the New Testament

The New Testament also shows that worship often involves some physical posturing or activity of service.

The wise men “fell to the ground and worshiped” the Holy Child (Matt. 2.11). Satan demanded Jesus “fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4.9). Jesus pairs worship with service in His answer to Satan: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Matt. 4.10). Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, the disciples “took hold of His feet and worshiped Him” (Matt. 28.9). Before he understood better, Cornelius “fell at [Peter’s] feet and worshiped him” (Acts 10.25)–of course, Peter quickly corrected him!

In the early church, Paul writes of an unbeliever who “will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Cor. 14.25), and in the Apocalypse “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne…” (Rev. 4.10).

How Do We Worship?

Does our worship look like the Old Testament Jew’s worship? Does it look like the New Testament disciple’s worship? When was the last time you fell on your face in worship? When was the last time you knelt in worship?

I might quickly interject: “but it’s not really about the posture, it’s about the heart.”

Praying manIt certainly IS about the heart…but the heart should drive us to DO something, take some sort of action, perform some sort of service to the Lord. Although the word worship is never directly associated with singing, praying, or preaching in the New Testament, we understand all of those activities to be spiritual services of worship. But surely those are not the only ways to worship God! In fact, you might fall prostrate before Him and remain in that posture for a while, just reflecting on how GREAT He is in all His glory and magnificence. You might just kneel with your head bowed for a while, dwelling on God’s majesty and holiness.

Worship is not just a state of mind; it’s actively and intentionally diminishing oneself and magnifying God.

Worship is not just a good mood we get when we hear “Christian music”! So much of the so-called Christian world today thinks music ministry when they think of worship. For them worship is the time when the people on stage play music and get the crowd all worked up. When they cry, laugh, or feel a great swelling in their chests, they feel they have worshiped. But it’s not about the feeling at all. Those feelings may (should) result from true worship, but it’s the God-praising, God-glorifying, God-magnifying activities we do which are the actual worship.

What might we add to our worship? Perhaps we need to change some things? The best thing we can do is look in God’s word to see how He desires to be worshiped. Then do those things with all our might!

Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143.10)

YHWH be praised!

Gathering for Worship

Sabbath for ManUnder the Law of Moses, God expected the Jewish people to meet together regularly. He gave them special feast days and weeks scattered through the year, and their Sabbath Day to be a weekly oasis, a rest from the drudgery of the other six work days.

God had sanctified and blessed the seventh day (Sabbath) in creation:

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Gen. 2.2-3)

During each Sabbath rest, the Jews were forbidden to do any of their normal work or daily chores. Deadly serious about keeping the Sabbath Day holy (Exod. 35.2), God embedded it as the fourth of the Ten Commandments:

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exod. 20.8-11)

Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves. (Exod. 23.12)

Rest DayEvery regular day the priests were to offer one lamb in the morning and one lamb in the evening as burnt offerings to YHWH (Num. 28.3-4), but on the Sabbath Day they were to offer two additional lambs (Num. 28.8-9).

And on the Sabbath Day the people were to gather together for worship.

“So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.” (Exod. 31.16)

“For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings.” (Lev. 23.3)

The “holy convocation” was a special time when the Israelite people gathered together for dedicated corporate worship. Jesus faithfully kept the Sabbath Day convocations as the Hebrew brethren gathered weekly in their synagogues for the reading of scripture, singing, and prayer.

WorshipSince the time of Moses, God set forth a pattern of corporate gatherings of His saints, which He has always intended they keep faithfully. The church gathering together in the New Testament is not much different from the Jewish synagogue gathering together. James even called the gatherings of the early Christians a synagogue in his second chapter:

“For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes…” (James 2.2)

The word translated “assembly” in most English bibles is the noun “συναγωγὴν” (sunagogan): synagogue. So the New Testament usage of “church” (which also means “assembly”) flows easily from the first century understanding of synagogue.

Used as a verb, I ask: do you synagogue regularly? Do you church regularly?

More soon to come, Lord willing…

Holy Child–Awesome God!

Shepherds wonder at the sceneThe Holy Child, both God and man even in His infancy. A song our church loves to sing contains the line: “Hands that lighted the evening stars reach out for comfort in Mary’s arms.” Who can comprehend God’s awesome condescension to His people–how the Divine became flesh?

Against that thought, this passage in Isaiah struck me with extra force today, as I pondered my Lord Jesus lying in the manger. Isaiah 40.10-31 speaks of who He IS and how silly it is to compare Him to impotent and ridiculous idols.

May this passage bless you today. Make sure you read the ending!

10      Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand,
And His arm shall rule for Him;
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him.
11      He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.

12      Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
Measured heaven with a span
And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?
Weighed the mountains in scales
And the hills in a balance?
13      Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has taught Him?
14      With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him,
And taught Him in the path of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge,
And showed Him the way of understanding?

15      Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
And are counted as the small dust on the scales;
Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
16      And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn,
Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.
17      All nations before Him are as nothing,
And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.

18      To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare to Him?
19      The workman molds an image,
The goldsmith overspreads it with gold,
And the silversmith casts silver chains.
20      Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution
Chooses a tree that will not rot;
He seeks for himself a skillful workman
To prepare a carved image that will not totter.

21      Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22      It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
23      He brings the princes to nothing;
He makes the judges of the earth useless.

24      Scarcely shall they be planted,
Scarcely shall they be sown,
Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth,
When He will also blow on them,
And they will wither,
And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.

25      “To whom then will you liken Me,
Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.
26      Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number;
He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.

27      Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
And my just claim is passed over by my God”?
28      Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29      He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30      Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31      But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

The Shack: Does It Accurately Describe God?

The ShackYou’ve probably heard of (or possibly have read) The Shack, a best-selling novel which came out in 2007, written by Canadian author William P. Young. The book was published amidst a cloud of controversy, and the arguments continue because the movie (see the trailer) will be released early next year (March 3, 2017).

Many “main-stream Christian” groups are promoting The Shack as a wonderful and fresh portrayal of God’s nature and character.

Does The Shack accurately portray God? Is it helpful in understanding His character, purpose, and plan for us?

Belinda Elliott defends the book on the Christian Broadcasting Network:

“I just couldn’t find much in the book that I would consider heretical…

“The author portrays the Trinity in a unique way. I understand that some readers will be uncomfortable with this portrayal, especially with God The Father as an African American woman and the Holy Spirit as a mysterious Asian woman named Sarayu. This depiction is one of the things that many critics have deemed heretical. Some have gone as far as to cite these two characters as the promotion of ‘goddess worship’ or a feminist God. But I found these to be not only interesting artistic choices, but actually enlightening in a spiritual sense as well.”

God's RevelationReally? Portraying God as a woman doesn’t smack at all of the heretical?

James B. De Young, ThD, wrote a challenge to The Shack entitled Burning Down “The Shack.” He claims The Shack is greatly deceptive and exposes William P. Young’s worldview as a universalist:

“I have known the author of The Shack, Paul Young, for more than a dozen years. In 2004, Paul Young wrote a lengthy document in which he rejected his evangelical faith and embraced universalism. I expose these in my book. He said then:

  • that evangelical faith and its teaching about judgment makes God “grossly unjust”;
  • that “Jesus is a million times more vicious and vindictive than Pharaoh, Nero, or Hitler put together”;
  • that Jesus Christ is “not the Savior from sins”;
  • that Jesus died “a failure and in vain and never saved anyone”;
  • thus Jesus “is not even a good man but a liar, a rogue, and a deceiving rascal”;
  • that “Calvary is a farce, a travesty, and a sham.”

“Young began work on a novel proclaiming universalism for his children. Then three years later Young rewrote the fiction and published it as The Shack, in part his autobiography. Since its publication I have sought to expose the aberrant theology on a web site, in various articles, and most recently, in my book Burning Down “The Shack” by WND Books. In my introduction I cite the many statements that Young wrote in 2004 and compare them with the claims made in his novel, The Shack. The parallels with 2004 are several:

  • “God puts himself on our human level and limits himself”;
  • “When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human”;
  • “Although Jesus is fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything”;
  • “God cannot act apart from love”;
  • “I don’t need to punish people for sin”;
  • The Father and Jesus were crucified together;
  • “God cannot send any of his children to an eternity of hell just because they sin against him”;
  • “mercy triumphs over justice because of love”;
  • Jesus is “a path of reconciliation”;

“These are just some of the distortions of Christian truth that Young puts into the mouth of his characters speaking as the Trinity.”

Jesus the BabyI cringe and shudder whenever a human being (man or woman) attempts to play God in any way. The only human who has a right to show us God in the flesh is Jesus Christ, and He has already done it! ONLY GOD has a right to tell us who He is and what He is like, and He has told us in many passages.

Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with [Moses] there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34.5-7)

In the same context, God both extends mercy to His people and judges those who persist in sin. He does not universally save everyone despite what we do, as The Shack teaches. On the contrary, He judges, and Jesus assured unbelievers of an eternal punishment (Matt. 24.45-51; 25.30, 46). John wrote in his Apocalypse about the final judgment, a lake of fire (Rev. 20.11-15). The Bible gives no room for universalism but instead commands all men everywhere to repent because of the coming judgment (Acts 17.30-31).

The Bible depicts God as masculine. God is a Father, a Husband, a Shepherd, a King. Our post-modern, feminist world cannot accept a God depicted as a male, but neither can it accept the Bible’s clearly-defined roles between the sexes. They would have an androgynous god, but the God of the Bible does not speak of Himself that way. We do not pray to our mother, but to our Father. The church is not Jesus’ husband, but His bride. Any confusion on this aspect of God’s character IS blatant and terrible heresy, and woe to those who cannot see it and teach otherwise!

Be careful! Don’t accept man’s images of God, which are only idols; only settle for what God says about Himself. Once we start attempting to find “fresh” ways of communicating who God is, we have stepped outside of our rights. He created us; we have no right to create Him or attempt to modify / explain His character outside of what He has already given!

If you love the divine image from The Shack, my friend, you love a man-made and impotent god. She is most certainly not the real deal.

What Do I Need for Christmas?

The GiftAs I ponder the wonderful giving opportunities on December’s horizon, I wonder about all the things I already have.

My wife is following an idea this year to provide each of our children four gifts:

  1. Something they Wear
  2. Something they Read
  3. Something they Want
  4. Something they Need

Nice jingle, eh?

Each year it never fails…I lose myself thinking about all the stuff I own and all the things my children already have.

Christmas SweaterSomething They Wear
Sure, my kids have not mastered the art of folding their clothes neatly, but usually their drawers are difficult to shut because they are completely overflowing!

My own closet is packed with pants and shirts I don’t actually wear on any consistent basis. My wife gets upset because all my favorite shirts have holes in them. But the other ones don’t fit quite right, being too large, too small, too scratchy, too tight. Why do I keep them around?

Something They Read
Don’t even get me started on books. We have books. And we also have four nearby libraries we raid on a regular basis. Do we need another book in the house? (Whenever I ask that question, my wife gives me a look which makes me realize, yes, clearly we do. Apologies in advance, dear wife…)

Something They Want
What do I want? I mean, what do I want that fits into the category of I-haven’t-yet-bought-it-for-myself-and-it’s-within-a-reasonable-price-range. Because, let’s face it, if it’s within a reasonable price range and I really want it, I’ve probably already purchased it for myself.

My kids want…video games and LEGOs. And LEGO video games. My littlest son wants character figurines from his favorite video game.

Something they wantDo we usually want things that are good for us? The winning stocking stuffers are usually not pecans, apples, and boiled eggs. Usually they include lots of cocoa, butter, and sugar. Maybe that’s just at my house.

Something They Need
We must define “need” in order to clearly grasp this one. If you ask my children, their “needs” are actually wants. To be honest, it’s not just the children. What do I need? I need to get my truck a new radiator so I can drive it again. I need to finish putting down laminate flooring in my house (that one may not sound like a gift, but in a weird way it is). I need…

Let’s break down needs. Necessities. Air would qualify. Food qualifies. Clothing qualifies. As to the quality of those items, I don’t need the top of the line of any of those things. We eat a lot of organic food, but that’s actually a luxury. I only actually need one or two changes of clothing to live.

I have everything I need, and I always have.

PeacefulWhat I Really Need
After thinking through these four items, what do I come away with?

God has richly blessed me with physical things. I don’t just have what I need–I have much more than I really need. Must folks really have a healthy 401K? Must they live in a four-bedroom house in at least an average neighborhood? Most of the world doesn’t live this way. Why should I think I must live this way? If God has blessed me to live this way, I will praise Him! And if He chooses to take it away from me, praise Him! He will still give me what I need.

What I really need is to know Him and His Son Jesus. That’s where true life is. It’s not in all the stuff I listed above. That stuff comes and goes, ebbs and flows, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13.8).

What I really need is contentment–to be happy with what I have.

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Heb. 13.5-6)

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Tim. 6.6-10)

Content people are grateful. Discontent people are complainers. If you and I can take this mindset of contentment (I have all I need) into the Christmas whirlwind of joy, cheer, and merchandising, we will experience peace amidst the chaos. Doesn’t everyone long for peace?

I pray for a peaceful month in which we all center our lives on Him who makes life worthwhile.

The Political Christian? World Says…Word Says

American PoliticsWORLD: “The worst possible thing that can happen is that a Democrat/Republican president is elected.”

WORD: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Rom. 13.1)

WORLD: “If my presidential candidate doesn’t win, I’ll take to the streets in protest. The other person won’t be MY president!”

WORD: “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Rom. 13.2-4)

WORLD: “I’m not going to pay taxes. Paying taxes is unconstitutional.”

WORD: “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Rom. 13.5-7)

Helping HandWORLD: “I don’t like that person who is running for president. Therefore, I shall share every news story I find that tears him/her down. I like this other person, so I shall share every news story I find which builds him/her up.”

WORD: “You shall not bear false witness.” (Rom. 13.9) “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15).

WORLD: “If someone doesn’t agree that my presidential candidate is the right one for our country, I’ll let them have it with both barrels blazing!”

WORD: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4.29-32)

Emotions in the Face of Election Results

DisbeliefIn light of the political upset which we witnessed last night, I realize many are excited, many are bewildered, and many are upset. I appeal to you, my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, to set your mind on things above, not on things here below.

The following guidance from Scripture seems appropriate:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2.1-4)

So many in this country drift this way and that because they don’t have a firm authority in their lives. They rule their own lives (they think), and so their whim is their command. They have no rock, no anchor of their soul. Their emotions drift with them.

Our emotions, however, are governed by the Lord our God, as we walk in obedience to Him. We can rejoice in all things, even in election results which may or may not have gone our way. We should be careful not to fully think of it being “our way,” even if we voted for Mr. Trump, because we surely don’t stand for everything he does! We should be careful not to think of it being “our way” if we voted for Mrs. Clinton, because it seems God has decided not to place her in this position right now–surely we don’t want to stand against His will.

Christian brothers and sisters, just keep being who you are supposed to be. “Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5.13). Love your neighbor as yourself–especially if they voted differently than you!

God bless you. God give our country peace. May we continually bless Him and bless others.

Fearing God Isn’t Common Sense

Marker FaceWhy should my three-year-old not use the permanent markers to illustrate his room, his bed, and himself? Isn’t it common sense?!

Why should my nine-year-old not ram her bicycle into the back of the toddler’s tricycle in order to push him along? Isn’t it common sense?

Why should my older boys take baths more than twice a month? Isn’t it common sense?

Why shouldn’t that teenage driver blow through the stop sign in front of my house? You’d think it would be common sense.

How could anybody with a brain vote for [you fill in the blank]? It should be common sense, right?

Perhaps what I think is common isn’t so common after all. When the country is divided in half over which candidate is best, where does common sense leave us? I have a sense and you have a sense about what is right, and if our senses don’t agree, can we really follow the rule of common sense?

Just Believe in Your DreamsThe spirit of the age is “follow your heart,” “do what feels right,” and “go with your gut.” As Luke Skywalker flew his X-Wing over the Death Star towards his tiny target, he heard the ghost of Obi Wan urge, “Trust your feelings, Luke.”

New Age religions are not really new. They are based on ancient philosophies. Buddha taught that divinity is within, and you find true enlightenment through your own experiences. Truth is found within yourself.

The Bible teaches the opposite. Truth is external and must be taught, coming from the Supreme and Sovereign God, Creator, Sustainer, Savior. God created us, and we are not Him. He speaks to us through His word, through His Son Jesus.

Wisdom is not something that just comes through experience, but true wisdom comes from fearing God. Notice the following from Proverbs:

1.29      Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the LORD,
1.30      They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.

8.13      The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverse mouth I hate.

9.10      The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

15.33    The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom,
And before honor is humility.

Read the BibleWhat is fearing the Lord? It’s listening to and obeying Him! It’s setting aside your common sense and relying on God’s sense, which may sometimes not make sense to you. It’s relying on something outside yourself–God’s word–to determine your destiny, your path, your goals.

Man’s “common sense” can become his way of following his own authority and rejecting God’s. I must teach my children not to rely on their common sense but to constantly ask, “What would God have me do? How does God discern this situation?”

The Jews in Thessalonica were called NOBLE because “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17.11). They didn’t blindly accept Paul’s preaching; they verified it through studying God’s word, which was their ultimate and final guide. It didn’t matter that Paul’s preaching made sense to them or not; they double checked. If they determined the teaching to be from God, they followed it.

Man’s philosophies often make sense to us, and sometimes we accept them because they sound reasonable. But that doesn’t mean they are right. God declares what is right and wrong, and we don’t really have a say in the matter! He’s the one who rules; we don’t.

Fearing God isn’t common sense these days. But it’s still the way to true wisdom.

Is Seeing Really Believing?

Shocked EyesThe apostle John wrote his gospel in order to produce faith in his readers (John 20.30-31). How is that faith born? In the book the crowds and even Jesus’ disciples ask Him to SHOW them something so they can believe. Don’t we sometimes declare, “Seeing is believing”?

The crowds, attempting to goad Jesus into giving them more bread asked, “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?” (John 6.30)

Faltering Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” (John 14.8)

Those Who SAW

After Jesus began to work miracles,”many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.” However “Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2.23-25). Although they believed when they saw, it seems their believe was not really in Jesus as the Son of God. It wasn’t a belief unto salvation, a persevering faith.

Skeptical

Jesus chided the people, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4.48).

Jesus fed the 5000, and “when the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!'” (John 6.14). That sounds like faith, but just wait until  the end of the chapter: “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (6.66).

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, “many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done” (John 11.45-46).

Those Who HEARD

More than SEEING, faith comes by HEARING, as Paul writes in Romans 10.17. John’s gospel illustrates and illuminates this truth: faith comes by hearing the word of Christ.

When Jesus told Nathanael, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” He based that connection solely on the words of Jesus (John 1.47-51).

ListenThe very fact that Jesus is the embodiment of the Word shows the prominence and weight of hearing His word (John 1.1, 14)

Following Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, He spent the rest of the day teaching the whole town, who had come out to meet Him. “Many [of the Samaritans] believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.'” (John 4.41-42)

What Jesus Is Looking For

In the very heart of the gospel, the pivotal chapter, John 12, we read this indictment against the Jews: “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him” (John 12.37). And here’s the main point, as Jesus continues:

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12.44-50)

This is why Jesus told Thomas at the end, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20.29)

Faith is not built on sight but on sound. It’s not in the seeing but the hearing that truth faith is born. True faith comes from believing the word of God, embodied in His holy Son.

Two different but inseparable questions: Do you believe in Him? Do you believe Him?

No Shame in the Struggle

I just listened to a sermon online in which the preacher stated:

“There is no shame in the struggle.”

WrestlingDo you struggle with a certain temptation? Do you wrestle a sin that seems to pierce deeply into your flesh?

Satan wants you to believe you are alone, that you struggle with something so shameful no one else will understand. Satan wants you to wonder about your very salvation.

“Am I really saved? Does God really love me since I’m still so messed up? Is the Holy Spirit really with me?”

Have you ever wondered such things? If you have,

1. It means you are a member of a special, exclusive club called “the human race.” Brother, Sister, I am right beside you in these feelings. I’ve wandered the same paths and wondered the same things.

2. It means you need to listen more to God. Satan is feeding you lies! Satan WANTS you to be unsure about your standing with God. He wants to suck away your joy, your peace, your steadfast assurance of God’s power and plan.

What has GOD said?

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8.1)

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8.31-39)

Believe God. Believe what He said!

You struggle, and that is good. Many don’t struggle, you know. The majority do what they will and feel no shame. They’re not really in the fight at all because they either don’t realize they should fight or they just don’t care to engage the forces of darkness. Of course, all those without Christ cannot hope to win against sin because only Christ gives us both the will and the power to battle temptation. Your struggle against temptation and sin is actually a sign, a confirmation, of your right standing with God.

If you have stopped fighting because you feel it’s too difficult or because you think God will save you despite your despondency, that should serve as a severe spiritual warning in your life! Cry out to God to help re-sensitize you to sin, to help you struggle again.

There is no shame in the struggle, friend. Embrace it. In the struggle we learn to trust more deeply in God and not in ourselves.