Worship valuing God above all, in all Winter 2013 Volume 44, Issue 1 www.LifeAction.org/revive
6 No Other Gods Before Me Mark D. Vroegop
Grading My Worship: Incomplete Dan Jarvis
Behold His Handiwork
J. C. Ryle
Conversations Worship Is a Community Project
From the Heart
Nancy Leigh DeMoss
The Heart of Worship
Amp It Up!
Del Fehsenfeld III
Spirit of Revival
Executive Director: Byron Paulus Managing Editor: Daniel W. Jarvis Creative Director: Aaron Paulus Senior Designer: Thomas A. Jones
Senior Editor: Del Fehsenfeld III Assistant Editor: Kim Gwin Art Director: Tim Ritter Photography: Gerard Van der Leun; Katie Bollinger; istockphoto.com: Camrocker, Zimamember, Viktar
Volume 44, Issue 1 Copyright © 2012 by Life Action Ministries. All rights reserved.
Why were Old Testament worship ceremonies so bloody?
Comparing Worship A Bible study on true and false worship
Making It Personal Apply principles discussed in this issue
Revive magazine is published quarterly as God provides, and made available at no cost to those who express a genuine burden for revival. It is financially supported by the gifts of God’s people as they respond to the promptings of His Spirit. Its mission is to ignite movements of revival and authentic Christianity. Life Action does not necessarily endorse the entire philosophy and ministry of all its contributing writers. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or pay our authors for content. We grant permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be photocopied for use in a local church or group setting, provided copies are unchanged, are distributed free of charge, and indicate Life Action Ministries as the source. Many Revive articles are also available online. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. To purchase additional copies of this issue, be placed on our free mailing list, or contact the editors with feedback or questions: Life Action Ministries • P.O. Box 31 • Buchanan, MI 49107 • 269-697-8600 • info@LifeAction.org . We do not share subscriber information with other organizations.
SPIRIT OF REVIVAL husband, father, friend, and employer. Praise God for the blessings He has given to me, for His undeserved mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
e seek the things we value most. Some people seek pleasure. Others seek profit. Some seek notoriety—their own 15 minutes of fame. In our ministry, we have set a priority on seeking God. Seeking God is a biblical prerequisite for revival and spiritual restoration (2 Chronicles 7:14), and I believe it must be a precursor to broader spiritual awakening. That’s why, if you get to know the Life Action family, you’ll inevitably hear about people “seeking God for revival” and “seeking God’s face in prayer.” In fact, our flagship small group curriculum, authored by Tim Grissom and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, is entitled, simply, Seeking Him. In every sense of the word, we want to seek God. We want to know Him to the fullest extent possible. Worship, as I understand it, is what we do after we have “found” what we are “seeking.” When we do encounter God—when we do see Him for who He truly is, when we do experience revival from the Holy Spirit—what is our response? We worship! We fall to our knees and pledge our all to His service. This was the experience of the bold blind man in John 9. I call him bold because he stood up to the self-righteous religious leaders of his day and gave glory to Jesus—before he even knew who Jesus was! At the end of the story, Jesus returns to more properly introduce Himself. The healed man, upon learning that Jesus was the “Son of Man,” said, “Lord, I believe!” Then, the text simply says, “he worshiped Him.” This man’s response to meeting the Savior was to fall down in worship, in reverential awe, in thanksgiving, in joy. Here was an individual who had been blind from birth, now experiencing the miracle of sight due to the supernatural healing touch of Jesus . . . of course he would want to worship! It was the only fitting response to what Jesus had done. Every week, Life Action receives hundreds of similar stories from people who have encountered Jesus in one of our outreaches and want to tell us about what He has done for them. In fact, just prior to writing this article, I read the following from a young man in Illinois: God found me with pride, selfishness, and unforgiveness toward my mother, who left us when we were children. This week I have forgiven her fully and been released of this deeply hidden burden. I now have a renewed passion/excitement in my prayer life and worship, and a strong conviction to grow as a Christian
The sequence is always the same. When people experience freedom through repentance in their vertical relationship with God, the natural response is one of revived love and worship for Jesus, the Reviver. The result is unbridled desire to serve Him and overflowing praise to God for who He is . . . a life filled with freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness. Fast forward to our own lives. What has Jesus done for us? Since He has pulled us out of the muck and mire of the world and healed us from spiritual blindness, opening our eyes to His wonders, we, too, have a story to tell. We also must confess, “Lord, I believe!” Even more, we must worship. Romans 12:1, the verse upon which this issue of Revive is based, teaches that full surrender really is the only right response—the “reasonable service”—to the awesome and undeserved mercy of God. So here, on the pages that follow, we’d like to call you into a lifestyle of worship, a life that says, “God is worth more to me than anything else.” As we seek God for revival, we fully expect Him to answer our prayers, personally, corporately as church families, and even across whole regions. We believe God’s promises about seeking and finding, trusting and obeying. Before, during, and after this whole process, we plan to worship. In any way we can, for any length of time available, no matter what it may cost, we want to worship the Lord. He alone is worthy of any praise we may sing or any gift we may bring. Lord, I pray for our Life Action family and all of us who read and benefit from Revive magazine. Together we ask that You would bring us closer to You, that You would teach us what it means to seek, to praise, to glorify, and to worship You. No matter what the future may bring, Father, we trust in You and we worship You. Here we are. Here I am. v
He alone is worthy of any praise we may sing or any gift we may bring.
Executive Director Twitter: @ByronPaulus
Does your church Thirst For Jesus? Every heart worships something . . . it’s what we worship that makes the difference. One of the main causes of dryness in Christians’ lives today is substitution. Substitution happens when we worship anything other than Jesus. If we want to see real transformation in our churches, we must pay attention to Jesus. THIRST is a unique call to revival and authentic worship by Life Action Ministries. This dynamic 4-day event will awaken the thirst for transformation in your people that will have a lasting effect on your church.
Substitution is empty . . . Worship is transforming.
Schedule a THIRST conference in your church and let’s worship Him together.
Call Life Action at 800-321-1538 or visit www.LifeAction.org/thirst for more information about scheduling a THIRST conference at your church.
CONVERSATIONS Worship Is a Community Project
orship is a big deal because it’s the key to transformation. The greatest principle of spiritual formation I’ve encountered is this: We are changed by Jesus as we worship Jesus. This truth is on display in 2 Corinthians 3:18 (kjv): But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Our job is to worship Jesus in all His glory. The Holy Spirit’s job is to change us by degrees into the image of Christ. Being conformed to Jesus is the point of being a Christian (Romans 8:29). This is how God is glorified in reclaiming what was lost because of sin. And this restoration is what makes us fully human and crazy glad. So, Christian transformation is a Spirit-driven process that flows out of a life of worship. As we pay attention to Jesus and are captivated by Him, our inner being is increasingly shaped like His. The result is that we develop the capacity to think, feel, and act like Jesus. What aborts this process is when we get confused about our job assignment. Instead of focusing on maintaining ceaseless worship of Jesus, we start assuming the responsibility to change ourselves (and others). In other words, we try harder to make things happen. Trying harder is a bad deal, especially over the long haul. It’s exhausting. For most, it’s depressing. For those who are good at outward conformity and performance, it’s downright dangerous (remember the Pharisees). The worst part is that trying harder doesn’t transform anyone to be like Jesus. Now here’s what really fascinates me. The Bible tells us to worship Jesus, not just personally, but also corporately. If you grew up in church, you were probably told since childhood about the importance of individual disciplines, like, “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” That’s mostly true. Spiritual disciplines, rightly understood and practiced, bring us into proximity to Jesus, where He changes us. But Bible reading and prayer are themselves powerless. Only when done in a posture of worship—with faith and attentiveness to Jesus—does the Spirit’s power flow. And there is a dimension of worship or “beholding
Jesus” that can only be done together. We get a compelling picture of how worship happens in community from Luke 24, where two disciples are surprised by an encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. The two downcast followers of Jesus were on a journey, in the days after Christ’s crucifixion, when an unidentified man joined them. He showed them how all of the Old Testament texts must be understood in a way that points to the Messiah’s suffering, death, and resurrection. Their hearts were “strangely warmed” by the Holy Spirit as they realized that the point of Scripture is not just a set of principles, but a Person. And then over a meal, He broke the bread, and their eyes were opened—the man was Jesus! Just as suddenly, He disappeared. The two hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the rest of the disciples about their encounter with Jesus. From this story, we learn several things about worshiping Jesus together: 1. We can help each other read Scripture in a way that makes Jesus the point of what we are learning. 2. We can have meals together where we remember that Jesus is the bread of life. 3. We can ask and expect the Holy Spirit to ignite our hearts with love and passion for Jesus. 4. We can talk about Jesus and share about our experiences with each other. What would happen if Christians everywhere started being relentlessly Jesus-focused? What if the goal of our lives became worshiping Jesus? What if every quiet time or sermon became an exercise in understanding how Jesus is the point? What if mealtimes became celebrations of the abundance and fullness of Jesus? Every moment of life can be lived worshiping Jesus. And as we worship Him together, He makes us more like Him. More what we were created to be. Transformation is underway. As Christians, let’s form Jesus-saturated relationships. Because worship is a community project. v
As we worship Jesus together, He makes us more like Him.
Del Fehsenfeld III
“no other before me” God’s sole desire for His people is that they enter into an exclusive love relationship with Him. God has a right to demand “no other gods before me.” He hates idolatry because of His exclusive claims to obedience and worship. God is God alone. To worship Him on any other terms is to not worship Him at all.
by Mark D. Vroegop
gods power, pleasure, control, escape, gratification, riches, popularity, sex, money, praise of men, powerful positions, view of oneâ€™s body, relationships
Old Testament history reveals that idolatry was a perpetual weakness for God’s people. In fact, Israel’s idolatry signified a national departure from the One who had redeemed them. Conversely, when Israel returned to God, one of the first things they did was to destroy the practice of idolatry in their midst. Time after time, when the people pursued idolatry, God sent periods of chastisement. But when the people put away their idols, He sent a fresh outpouring of spiritual blessing. This pattern was also seen at the level of national leadership. The kings whom God blessed with great spiritual fruit were the men who took the issue of idolatry seriously. On the other hand, national “shepherds” who came before the Lord with idols in their hearts (Ezek. 14) were not heard by God, and they misled the people with wrong counsel. Thus, for spiritual blessing to be granted by God, the issue of idolatry had to be addressed both personally and nationally. Revival was a turning from idols and a turning toward God in true worship.
Idolatry Is Worship Idolatry means the worship of something created, as opposed to the Creator. Worship is more than just singing or praising. Worship involves obedience (Rom. 12:1-2). And obedience requires action. Idolatry is therefore as simple as that which a person obeys (other than the one true God). Whatever a person obeys becomes his or her functional god. Satan’s desire has not changed since God removed him from His presence. His desire is to see mankind cease to worship God. He attempts to lure man away from complete devotion to the Sovereign One in any way possible. Whether Eve in the garden, Cain filled with jealousy, the builders of Babel, or those sacrificing children to Molech, his main concern is that something other than devotion to God rule a man or woman’s heart. It is important to note that Satan does not care how a person commits spiritual adultery. One need not worship Baal if covetousness will serve as the functional god. For a man to be a member of the occult is no more important to the Enemy than for a man to be controlled by lust, if lust will do. Satan’s only goal is for man to neither worship nor obey God. Further, idolatry’s attractiveness is not simply the experience of worshiping something. Rather, the power of idolatry comes from the “god’s” ability to give us what we want. Power, pleasure, control, escape, gratification, riches, and popularity keep idolaters coming back for more. Idols such as sex, money, praise of men, powerful positions, view of one’s body, and relationships can be as controlling as Baal ever was. The issue is not the object of worship; rather, it is the function that it provides in place of God. When idolatry is confessed and repented of, not only does the heart of man respond to God, but his actions do as well. The beauty of grace is that God not only demands exclusive love and obedience, He also makes those things possible through a changed heart. In fact, redemption from beginning to end is about God’s relentless pursuit of His own glory expressed through the singular allegiance or worship of His people.
The Real Worship War The events of Exodus 32 depict one of the darkest hours in the history of Israel. In just forty days, the same people whom God had redeemed out of slavery went from the glorious redemption through the Red Sea to one of the most horrendous acts of idolatry ever recorded in Israel’s history—the worship of the golden calf at Mount Sinai. The depth and rapidity of Israel’s backsliding is all the more astonishing in light of the fact that, only weeks before, the nation so feared God that they begged Moses to speak to God for them. They had joyfully sung the Song of Moses, saying, “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness . . . ?” (Exo. 15:11). They had experienced the personal presence of God and witnessed His miraculous power to save them from years of tyranny and cruel bondage. Yet these same people demanded that Aaron craft a god for them, and they then worshiped this god with such immoral excess that God was forced to kill thousands of them. Israel’s idolatry in Exodus 32 is instructive for anyone who desires personal revival. Notice that the seeds of idolatry first began to grow when the people started to question the plan and timing of God. Moses had ascended into the clouds at the peak of Mount Sinai to meet with God. During the forty days that Moses was gone, the people became impatient and agitated. In their insecurity and unbelief, they told Aaron, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses . . . we don’t know what has happened to him” (v. 1). Just like the first temptation that overcame Eve, the people were led astray by questioning the wisdom of God’s method. Their idolatry began long before the golden calf was made in the belief that their feelings, desires, and wants justified transgressing God’s instructions.
You Are What You Worship Israel’s idolatry came to fruition in the form of a god that they could control. Surely, no one in the camp really thought this golden calf had delivered them from Egypt. It was simply an expression of their lust, a way to have what their hearts wanted. Exodus 32:6 (nkjv) states that the people “sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” When the apostle Paul references this passage in 1 Corinthians 10:7-8, it is clear that the “playing” was sexual immorality. The worship of the idol was linked to the immorality. More specifically, their immorality was idolatry. Imagine the scene. At the base of the mountain where God was meeting with Moses, sins of the most heinous type were taking place. There was false worship and there was immorality. The immorality was simply the product of their worship. It was a product of a god other than Jehovah ruling their hearts. Israel’s idolatry illustrates that the allure of idol worship is the temporary gratification it provides. Idolatry is usually linked with actions that are pleasurable, sinful, and addicting. Baal and
Ashtaroth worship were popular because of the immoral rituals that accompanied it. Similarly, the Corinthian temple of Diana in the New Testament era appealed to the masses because of the temple prostitutes who serviced the worshipers. The golden calf incident is a reminder that sexual purity comes only to those who worship the right God. The real battleground for sexual purity is more than abstinence—it is the issue of worship. Whatever god controls the heart will also control the body. It is interesting to note the context of Paul’s wonderful statement in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 regarding the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit. The context of this passage is about sexual purity. The idols of a person’s heart and the subsequent use of his or her body are absolutely linked.
Ministry Is Worship-Leading
One of the most instructive sections in Exodus 32 is Moses’ confrontation of Aaron. It is apparent that idolatry was not just the people’s problem. Moses held Aaron accountable for the idolatry that had occurred. Moses’ rebuke is startling: “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” (v. 21). Clearly, Aaron was culpable for allowing idolatry to progress unchecked. Aaron’s excuses were pitiful. He blamed the people. He blamed Moses. He even suggested that the calf happened by accident. He said, “I threw it [the gold] into the fire, and out came this calf!” (v. 24). Despite his justifications, it is clear that it was Aaron’s responsibility to restrain the people, and he had failed to do so. This is an important warning to anyone who holds a position of ministry leadership. We must be careful not to give people the idols that their hearts desire. A spiritual leader must always guard against being the provider of an idol. If we as pastors, teachers, parents, and other leaders refuse to restrain idolatry, we are responsible for the sinful actions of the people we serve. In this regard, it is important to remember that idolaters are passionate about their idols. They will hate anyone or anything that hinders their worship. They will consider no cost too great. But godly leaders must be even more passionate about turning them to the true God. Such action will take love, rebuke, counsel, teaching, and time. It will take sacrifice, energy, and, at times, great pain. But we are dealing with competing gods. We are dealing with spiritual adultery. In helping others experience revival, we must see beyond their actions and words to the ruling gods of their hearts. We must point them to true worship, true obedience, and the true God. To do anything less is to cease to shepherd.
There is no more fitting question to be posed to the hearts of those who are trapped in their idolatry than the call of Moses to make a choice. The choice could not be clearer. The question is not, “Who needs to love the Lord more?” nor is it, “Who needs to read their Bible more?” It is not even, “Who needs to get serious about their sin?” The question is much clearer: “Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come to me.” The central issue in redemption is, “Who is your God? Who will you worship?” The product of grace is a life singularly devoted to one God, one Lord. People trapped in addictive sin patterns, people who “blow up” at the slightest offense, and people forever failing must examine not only the specific behaviors that are ruining their lives, but more importantly who is ruling their heart! Perhaps part of the reason that idolatry is still so prevalent today (although often disguised) is that our attempted solutions are not penetrating enough. The call of revival is for people to turn toward God. It is the call for people to choose which side they are on. It is the call for people to turn from their idols. Contemporary idols may have no altars, but they certainly have sacrifices. These idols are found not in temples but in hearts. But when hearts are revived, they are cleansed of all idols. In revival, there can only be one object of worship, and that is God alone! Mark Vroegop is the lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis and serves on the board of Life Action Ministries.
Who Will You Worship? The narrative of Exodus 32 ends in bloody fashion. Moses stood at the edge of the camp and yelled above the noise and decadence, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me” (v. 26). The sons of Levi gathered and were armed. Three thousand people died because of their immorality in the ensuing purge.
GRADING MY NCOM
Y WORSHIP: MPLETE by Dan Jarvis
DON’T RECALL FAILING any classes in school. I had my share of failed tests or papers, but I always seemed to balance those out with enough decent work to sail on by, almost as if the “F” had never happened. I do remember, however, seeing an “I” a time or two—that is, though I didn’t exactly fail, no credit was given. My work was incomplete. When I set out to “grade” worship in American churches, I immediately felt handicapped by two factors. First, I’m not God, and I don’t know how God feels about the way we worship Him; I can only assume. Second, it would be difficult to grade such a wide swath of churches and styles at one time—from liturgical to warehouse, contemporary to traditional, ancient to modern. My experiences come mostly from the evangelical contemporary-traditional blend of style and substance. Growing up, I was taught that worship involved everything from giving money on Sunday morning to singing “Shine, Jesus, Shine” and “Fairest Lord Jesus.” We called our Sunday meetings “worship services,” which were mostly a half-and-half split between musical praise and biblical preaching. Since then, I’ve served on staff at three churches and visited many scores more, mostly of the same flavor I grew up with, though with some variety. One church had no staff or directive leadership in their meeting; they simply gathered, the men shared as they felt led, and songs were suggested by people in the congregation as the service progressed. Another more liturgical community had us repeating phrases and quietly meditating. Another I visited didn’t feel church-like at all; it felt more like a concert or a stage show themed on Christianity. At one church the congregation shouted and hollered so much that I wasn’t sure what the guy up front had even said! I’ve also seen a wide variety of instruments used to assist in all of this: piano, guitar, organ, violin, drums, trumpet, electric guitars, bells, whole orchestras—even a tuba solo! All of this, I suspect, has been born of good motives, and most of it can be very useful in glorifying God, which is the supreme end of any expression of worship. Our job isn’t simply to find our niche church and settle in for a predictable lineup each week that suits our fancies. Our job is actually to worship God. The formats, the styles, the approaches, even the leaders are really just tools you and I use to make those expressions possible on a corporate basis. We want to express what God means to us, and we want to do it together.
WE CAN GO FARTHER I’ve experienced some real A+ worship along the way, via church music, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, preaching, and serving. There have been moments when I felt like I was ushered right into God’s presence. I’ve lived through other moments (be honest, you have too) that clearly didn’t make the cut—moments that seemed man-centered, or style-centered, or even me-centered. Or just pathetic. Regardless of the style your church uses to frame its praise moments, you’ve probably felt at times it was deficient, and at other times you’ve wished the whole of Christendom could feel what you were feeling in that sacred place. So, since I don’t have enough information to fairly grade the entire American church, I’ll start by grading myself. How is my worship? First, I’ll give credit where due. I am grateful for the people in my church who lead corporate times of musical praise. They are setting the stage for those who wish to declare their love for Jesus. I am deeply grateful for their hard work and practice to make such moments possible. But even with the benefit of great worship leaders around me, I’d still have to grade my personal worship this way: Incomplete. It’s not that my church needs to tweak its style or add more songs to the service lineup; I’m thinking deeper than that. The Scripture that caught my attention in this regard is a familiar one: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). Paul had just finished eleven chapters of grand theology— from the desperate depravity of man in chapter 3 to the glorious salvation available by faith in chapter 5; from victory over sin in chapter 6 to our helpless state in chapter 9. In fact, Romans 9–11 offers some of the most humbling words in all of Scripture— in summary, that we deserve nothing from God, and that His free offer of salvation should never be taken for granted or received in pride. The only reason that you or I have any chance whatsoever to have a share in God’s kingdom is because He graciously and mercifully gives us the opportunity. Any grace we receive from God is completely undeserved. In view of this great mercy, then, what should our response be? How can we, having been snatched from the spiraling cesspool of Romans 1 and graced with the joyful promises of chapter 8, ever adequately express our thanks to God? What service can we perform? What song can we sing? What prayer can we pray? The supreme act of worship is this: to offer ourselves, wholly and holy, to Him. Becoming a living sacrifice in the service of Jesus is the only way we can fully express God’s great worth to us. That is, after all, the very meaning of “worship” itself—from the old English “worth-ship.”
Whether in reverent meditation or jubilant dancing, our expressions, songs, praises, and gifts should all demonstrate how much God is “worth” to us. If He is worthy of our all, then by all means, let us lay it before Him! In pursuit of worshiping God in this way, I’ve been working off of three principles that I hope will improve my grade: 1. Worship is first for God, not for the benefits I receive. The focus of worship is not me or my needs. I may enjoy it; I may feel fulfilled by it; I may even be shaped and encouraged by it; but the purpose for which I worship is completely about God. He is the audience of my boisterous praise. He is the object of my tender affection. He is the recipient of my cheerful gifts. And, of course, He is my Lord, the one who directs this life I have offered to Him as a living sacrifice. 2. Worship involves all of life, not just half of the service on Sundays. The greatest weakness I’ve observed in American church worship is the assumption that well-performed music equals a great “worship experience.” It doesn’t. A person could worship God from the very depths of their soul and not utter one note of melody or harmony. And the best musician on the planet could sing loudly about Jesus and do it for all the wrong reasons. If worship really is offering my life to Jesus, as Romans 12:1 suggests, then praise is just one of many ways I could showcase that devotion. There’s nothing wrong with allocating a significant portion of our Sunday meetings to musical expressions; that is a wonderful pathway to tell God what He means to us. The “sacrifice of praise” is one we should willingly and joyfully bring to Jesus as often as we can. But worship is also about giving and serving and sharing the gospel; about working honorably and caring for the needy; about architecture and art and science and industry and theology and discovery. Worship is whatever we do for the glory of God. It is whatever we lay before Him, saying, “Lord, You are worth this much to me.” Being a parent has helped me understand this. When my son colors a picture and hands it to me, beaming with joy, I know he has done his best. He is using his art to tell me how much I mean to him. And when my other son cleans the family room as a welcome surprise, then rushes me over to see his handiwork, he too is offering a form of “worth-ship” to me. “Dad, Dad, look at this! Look what I did for you!” In the same way, we worship our heavenly Father. Not just at predetermined intervals on Sunday mornings, but anywhere and everywhere. All the time. “Look, Lord Jesus, here’s what I made for You today. Here’s a song I want to sing, here’s a project I completed, here’s a house I cleaned, here’s a meal I cooked, here’s a bold step of faith I’m ready to take!”
3. Worship flows from relationship, not just duty. The reason we praise God isn’t because we have to. Worship may be a spiritual discipline, and there are certainly commands in Scripture that compel our involvement. But when it comes to singing a song of praise to Jesus because you love Him so much, is that really something He is forcing you to do? Are you giving gifts to the Lord because you are obligated to contribute? Are you only serving because it was commanded? Or even as you read those words, are you shaking your head? “No, no, that’s not why. I want to serve and give and sing. I love God! I appreciate His work in my life. Giving myself to Him seems like the least I can do!”
A BETTER WAY TO GRADE WORSHIP Once these principles were put to work in my heart, my concept of what makes for “a great worship service” changed. Rather than looking at Sunday church through the prism of self-satisfaction and personal preference, I can look at the larger picture of what worship actually is, and what place corporate expressions of worship have in people’s lives. I’d like to suggest a new way of evaluating our church worship experiences, for leaders and congregants alike:
The Bible talks a lot about singing our praise. However, Scripture also instructs us to express our worship in other ways: o Shouting – Psalm 66:1 o Kneeling – Psalm 95:6 o Dancing – Psalm 149:3 o Playing instruments – Psalm 33:2 o Clapping – Psalm 47:1 o Meditating – Psalm 19:14 o Lifting hands – Psalm 63:4 o Being still – Psalm 46:10 o Observing nature – Psalm 19:1 o Acknowledging awe – Psalm 66:3
1. Did we sense that God was pleased by the attitude of our hearts and the intensity of our involvement?
o Fearing God – Psalm 33:8
2. Did we give God the best we had to offer Him?
o Brokenness – Psalm 51:17
3. Did we express to God how much He is worth to us? Are we together revived in our love for Him, and in our desire to live every moment for His glory?
o Longing – Psalm 63:1
From here, immense creativity and variety are warranted. There is no “box” to which we must limit ourselves as we showcase how great God is to us. Truth be told, you and I will probably have different opinions about the way we conduct corporate times of worship. But perhaps we can agree on this point: When God grades our worship, He cares less about our song selection or volume level or modus operandi, and more about our answer to this question: Are we giving Him our best? v
o Gladness – Psalm 40:16 o Hope – Psalm 42:5 o Joy – Psalm 16:11 o Everything else – Colossians 3:17
Meet the New Worship Leader You don’t have to sing or play an instrument to be an effective worship leader. What if you used other means to call men and women to a deeper commitment to Jesus? What if you mobilized people to pray and volunteer? What if you started a ministry group to serve the needy or to blanket your community with the gospel? What if you mentored a young person and helped them come to a place of full surrender to the Lord? What if, by your influence and investment, more people began stepping onto God’s altar and saying, “Here I am, Lord, a living sacrifice for You!”? Put to use the gifts God has given you. Call people to live a Romans 12:1 lifestyle. Call people to worship.
You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1
J. C. Ryle
uthentic religion is genuine, sincere, honest, and thorough. I mean
that which is not inferior, hollow, formal, false, counterfeit, sham, and nominal.
Authentic religion is not mere show, pretense, skin-deep feeling, or temporary profession. It is something inward, solid, substantial, intrinsic, living, lasting!
We know the difference between counterfeit and authentic money—between solid gold and tinsel—between plated metal and silver—between authentic stone and plaster imitation. Let us think of these things as we consider this subject of authenticity. What is the character of our religion? It may be weak and feeble, and mingled with many defects. That is not the point before us today. Is our religion authentic? Is it true?
The Importance of Authenticity Authenticity is a far more rare and uncommon thing than commonly supposed. I want men to see that “unreality” is one of the great dangers of which Christians ought to beware. What does Scripture say?
In the parables of Jesus, observe how many of them are intended to put in strong contrast the true believer and the disciple in name only. The parables of the sower, of the weeds, of the net, of the two sons, of the wedding garment, of the ten virgins, of the talents, of the great banquet, of the ten minas, and of the two builders all have one great point in common—they all bring out in striking colors the difference between authenticity and unreality in religion. They all show the uselessness and danger of any Christianity which is not authentic, thorough, and true. Consider also the language of Jesus. Eight times in one chapter, we find Him denouncing some religious folk as “hypocrites,” in words of almost fearful severity—“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33). How is it that our gracious and merciful Savior used such cutting words about people who at any rate were more moral and decent than the tax collectors and prostitutes? It is meant to teach us the exceeding detestableness of false profession and mere outward religion in God’s sight. Open wickedness and willful submission to fleshly lusts are no doubt ruinous sins, if not given up. But there seems nothing which is so displeasing to Christ as hypocrisy. Further, notice that there is hardly a grace in the character of a true Christian of which you will not find a counterfeit described in the Word of God: Is there not a false “repentance”? Saul, Ahab, Herod, and Judas Iscariot had many feelings of sorrow about sin. But they never really repented unto salvation. Is there not a false “faith”? Without a doubt there is. It is written of Simon Magus, at Samaria, that he “believed,” and yet his heart was not right in the sight of God. It is even written of the devils that they “believe . . . and shudder” (Acts 8:13; James 2:19). Is there not a false “holiness”? Joash, king of Judah, appeared to everyone very holy and good, so long as Jehoiada the priest lived. But as soon as he died, the religion of Joash died at the same time (2 Chronicles 24:2). Judas Iscariot’s outward life was as correct as that of any of the apostles up to the time that he betrayed his Master. There was nothing suspicious about him. Yet in reality he was a thief and a traitor (John 12:6). Is there not a false “love and kindness”? Without a doubt there is. There is a love which consists in words and tender expressions, and a great show of affection, and calling other people “dear brethren,” while the heart does not love at all. It is not for nothing that John says, “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Is there not a false “humility”? There is a pretended meekness of demeanor, which often covers over a very proud heart. Paul warns us against a forced humility, and speaks of
having “an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility” (Colossians 2:18, 23). Is there not a false “praying”? Our Lord denounces it as one of the special sins of the Pharisees—that “for a show make lengthy prayers” (Matthew 23:14). He does not charge them with not praying, or with praying short prayers. Their sin lay in this, that their prayers were not authentic. Is there not a false “worship”? Our Lord said of the Jews, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8). They had plenty of formal services in their temples and their synagogues. But the fatal defect about them was want of authenticity and heart. Wherever I turn my eyes, I see abundant cause for the warning, “Beware of inferior religion. Be genuine. Be thorough. Be authentic. Be true.” How much religion among some members of the church consists of nothing but “churchmanship”! They are members of the church. They are baptized in her baptistry, married in her sanctuary, preached to on Sundays by her ministers. But the great doctrines and truths preached from her pulpits have no place in their hearts and no influence on their lives. They neither think, nor feel, nor care, nor know anything about them. And is the religion of these people authentic Christianity? It is “Churchianity,” and no more. How much evangelical religion is completely make-believe? You will sometimes see men professing great affection for the pure “Gospel,” while they are, practically speaking, inflicting on it the greatest injury. They will talk loudly of soundness in the faith, and have a keen nose for heresy. They will run eagerly after popular preachers, and applaud evangelical speakers at public meetings. They are familiar with all the phrases of evangelical religion, and can converse fluently about its leading doctrines. To see their faces at public meetings, or in church, you would think they were eminently godly. To hear them talk you would suppose their lives were tied up in all kinds of religious activity. And yet these people in private will sometimes do things of which even some heathens would be ashamed. They are neither truthful, nor sincere, nor honest, nor just, nor goodtempered, nor unselfish, nor merciful, nor humble, nor kind! And is such Christianity as this authentic? It is not. It is a worthless fake, a wretched cheat and farce. I write these things with sorrow. I have no desire to bring any section of the Church of Christ into contempt. I have no wish to cast any slur on any movement which begins with the Spirit of God. But the times demand very plain speaking about some points in the prevailing Christianity of our day. And one point which I am quite sure demands attention is the abounding lack of authenticity which is to be seen on every side.
The Tests of Authenticity Dismiss from your mind the common idea that, of course, all is right if you go to church. You must look further, higher, and deeper than this if you would find out the truth. Listen to me, and I will give you a few hints. Believe me, it is no light matter. It is your life. If you want to know whether your religion is authentic, try it by:
The place it occupies in your inner man. It is not enough that it is in your head. You may know the truth, and assent to the truth, and believe the truth, and yet be wrong in God’s sight. It is not enough that it is on your lips. You may say “Amen” to public prayer in church, and yet have nothing more than an outward religion. It is not enough that it is in your feelings. You may weep under preaching one day, and be lifted to the third heaven by joyous excitement another day, and yet be dead to God. Your religion, if it is authentic and given by the Holy Spirit, must be in your heart. It must hold the reins. It must sway the affections. It must lead the will. It must direct the tastes. It must influence the choices and decisions. It must fill the deepest, lowest, inmost seat in your soul. Is this your religion? If not, you may have good reason to doubt whether it is authentic and true (Acts 8:21; Romans 10:10).
The feelings toward sin that it produces. The Christianity which is from the Holy Spirit will always have a very deep view of the sinfulness of sin. It will not merely regard sin as a blemish and misfortune, which makes men and women objects of pity and compassion. It will see in sin the abominable thing which God hates, the thing which makes man guilty and lost in his Maker’s sight, the thing which deserves God’s wrath and condemnation.
It will look on sin as the cause of all sorrow and unhappiness, of strife and wars, of quarrels and contentions, of sickness and death—the curse which cursed God’s beautiful creation, the cursed thing which makes the whole earth groan and struggle in pain. Above all, it will see in sin the thing which will ruin us eternally, unless we can find a ransom—lead us captive, except we can get its chains broken—and destroy our happiness, both here and hereafter, except we fight against it, even unto death. Is this your religion? Are these your feelings about sin? If not, you should doubt whether your religion is authentic.
The feelings toward Christ that it produces. Authentic religion will make a man glory in Christ, as the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Priest, the Friend, without whom he would have no hope at all. It will produce confidence in Him, love toward Him, delight in Him, comfort in Him, as the mediator, the food, the light, the life, the peace of the soul. Is this your religion? Do you know anything of feelings like these toward Jesus Christ? If not, you have every reason to doubt whether your religion is authentic.
The fruit it bears in your heart and life. The Christianity
which is from above will always be known by its fruits. It will produce in the man who has it repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, spirituality, kindness, self-denial, unselfishness, a forgiving spirit, moderation, truthfulness, hospitality, and patience. The degree to which these various graces appear may vary in different believers, but the germ and seeds of them will be found in all who are the children of God. By their fruits they will be known. Is this your religion? If not, you should doubt whether it is authentic.
Your feelings and habits about means of grace. What
are your feelings about public prayer and public praise, about the public preaching of God’s Word, and the administration of the Lord’s Supper? Are they things to which you give a cold assent, and tolerate them as proper and correct? Or are they things in which you take pleasure, and without which you could not be happy?
If your heart is right in the sight of God, you have no cause to flinch from examination. If it is wrong, the sooner you find it out, the better. Prove it, finally, by your feelings about private means of grace. Do you find it essential to your comfort to read the Bible regularly in private, and to speak to God in prayer? Or do you find these practices boring, and either slight them or neglect them altogether? These questions deserve your attention. If means of grace are not as necessary to your soul as food and drink are to your body, you may well doubt whether your religion is authentic.
Are You Authentic? Is your own religion genuine or fake? I do not ask what you think about others. Perhaps you see many hypocrites around you. You may be able to point to many who have no authenticity at all. This is not the question. You may be right in your opinion about others. But I want to know about you, yourself. Is your own Christianity authentic or counterfeit? There is nothing like coming to particulars about these matters. If you want to know whether your religion is authentic, genuine, and true, measure it by the five particulars which I have now named. Measure it fairly; test it honestly. If your heart is right in the sight of God, you have no cause to flinch from examination. If it is wrong, the sooner you find it out, the better.
If you love life, do not turn away from the question which is now before you. The time must come when the whole truth will be known. The judgment day will reveal every man’s religion, of what sort it is. Surely it is a thousand times better to find out now your condition, and to repent, than to find it out too late in the next world, when there will be no opportunity for repentance.
Your repentance may be feeble, but let it be authentic; your faith may be weak, but let it be authentic; your desires after holiness may be mingled with much weakness, but let them be authentic. Let there be nothing of coldness, of double dealing, of dishonesty, of sham, or of counterfeit in your Christianity. Never be content to wear a cloak of religion.
If you have common sense, reason, and judgment, consider what I say. Sit down quietly this day and examine yourself. Find out the authentic character of your religion. With the Bible in your hand, and honesty in your heart, the thing may be known. Then resolve to find out.
Be all that you profess. Though you may sin, be authentic. Though you may stumble, be true. Keep this principle continually before your eyes, and it will be well with your soul throughout your journey from grace to glory. v
A false Christianity is sure to fail a man in the end. It will wear out; it will break down; it will leave its possessor like a wreck on a sandbank, high and dry and forsaken by the tide. It will supply no comfort in the hour when comfort is most needed—in the time of affliction, and on the bed of death. If you want a religion to be of any use to your soul, beware of false Christianity!
J. C. Ryle (1816–1900) was a 19th-century evangelical Anglican pastor and writer whose books have sold over 12 million copies. This article is adapted from his sermon “Authentic Religion,” found at www.BibleBB.com.
IT’S TIME TO CRY OUT!
Life Action Ministries, OneCry, and 15 other ministries burdened for spiritual awakening in our day co-sponsor this premiere conference for ministry and marketplace leaders. Josh Davis and a Life Action worship team will lead in worship.
April 22–25, 2013
Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, Asheville, NC
Join Kyle Martin, Richard Owen Roberts, Michael Catt, Byron Paulus and others as they present the need for and the hope of revival. Participate in one of ten focus groups with other like-hearted leaders as we seek to Develop a Revival Culture in our ministries.
www.Heart-CryForRevival.org 18 2 LifeAction.org/revive
The Lodge is a place for pastors and leaders to take a break from the demands of ministry and find spiritual renewal and physical rest.
Rest. Refocus. Renew. Discover the many retreats at The Lodge by visiting
www.RetreatAtTheLodge.org ÂŠ Copyright 2012 The Lodge r e Ministries. vive 19 3 The Lodge is an outreach of Life Action
Behold His Where is the majesty of God seen? “The heavens,” says David, “declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1
Sam Storms Lift Up Your Eyes! The implications of Psalm 19:1 and other texts like it have eluded us far too long. The heavenly gallery is the most unimaginably exquisite and breathtaking art. The focus of it all is the majesty of God himself as he displays for our enjoyment and his glory the beauty of his creative artistry. Each of us is under a divine mandate to become an amateur astronomer, to peer into the incalculable depths of sky and space to behold the handiwork of our omnipotent Creator. I’m no scientist, but I want to invite you to come with me on a brief journey where most of you have never been before. Hold your breath and behold the beauty of your God!
How Fast Is Fast? I’m assuming most of you have traveled by air and can appreciate the speed with which we are now able to traverse the globe. Rarely will a commercial airplane fly at less than 500 miles per hour, so we will make that our consistent speed on the journey at hand.
Handiwork That’s actually quite slow, at least when compared with the speed of light. All of us learned in high school (or before) that light travels at an astonishing 186,000 miles per second (not per hour, but per second!). To be even more precise, it is 186,282.4 miles per second. We can convert that to 670,000,000 miles per hour! Not even my daughters drive that fast! Don’t let the magnitude of this escape you. It means that in one second, a flash of light can travel around the entire earth seven times! Although our moon is 240,000 miles from earth, it takes light only one and one-third seconds to get from here to there. A brief moment to meditate on this simple but astounding feature of created reality will forever change how you read Genesis 1:3: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” He could have created it even faster, but there is a point beyond which our brains can’t compute. An important measure that I’ll mention on numerous occasions is the light-year. A light-year is how far light travels in one calendar year. If you’ve got a big calculator, you can figure it out for yourself. Multiply 186,000 times 60 and you have a lightminute. Multiply that figure by 60 and you have a light-hour. Multiply that figure by 24 and you have a light-day, and that by 365 and you have a light-year. So, if light moves at 186,000 miles per second, it can travel six trillion miles (6,000,000,000,000) in a 365-day period. That’s the equivalent of about 12,000,000 round trips to the moon. Now that’s quick! But let’s return to our commercial 747 jet airliner, which pokes along at what now feels like a pathetically slow snail’s pace of 500 mph. Buckle your safety belt and come with me on a journey you’ll never forget.
How Far Is Far? Let’s assume we are speeding in our jet airplane at 500 mph on a trip to the moon. If we traveled non-stop, twenty-four hours a day, it would take us just shy of three weeks to arrive at our destination. If we wanted to visit our sun, a mere 93 million miles from earth, it would take us a bit more than twenty-one years to get there. And if we wanted to reach Pluto, our non-stop trip would last slightly longer than 900 years! Of course, we’d all be dead by then, but I trust you get the point. If there is a clear sky tonight, go outside and gaze into the heavens. Pick a star, any star. It seems fairly close. Want
to visit? Surely it couldn’t take that long to get there. It almost seems you can extend your hand and touch it. Well, not quite. The nearest star to us is a system of three called Alpha Centauri. The closest of those is Proxima Centauri, a mere 4.3 light years from earth. If we were bored with Pluto and wanted to extend our journey, speeding along non-stop, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, we would land on the closest star to earth in a mere six million years! That’s 500 mph for 6,000,000 years. Beginning to get the picture? Let’s speed up our travel a bit. Suppose our airplane was fast enough to go from earth to the sun in only one hour. That’s traveling at 93 million miles per hour. Imagine what that would do to the radar gun of your local police department! Traveling non-stop at 93 million mph, it would still take us over 78 years to reach 61 Cygni, a star in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), roughly 10.9 light years from earth. If you aren’t satisfied with visiting a single star, perhaps you’d like to take a look at the next galaxy in our cosmic neighborhood. The Andromeda Galaxy is a giant spiral, almost a twin of our own Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers have determined that there’s probably a black hole at its center one million times the mass of our sun. Although Andromeda is closest to us, it’s still a staggering 2.5 million light-years away (a mere 5 quintillion miles, or 15 with eighteen zeros). On dark nights in the fall, it’s barely visible to the naked eye as a small misty patch of light. Some are frightened to hear that it’s moving toward us at 75 miles per second. No need to panic or rush to build a bomb shelter. At that pace, given its distance from earth, it might reach our Milky Way in about 6 billion years! In case you’re wondering (on the assumption that your brain is still able to calculate the seemingly incalculable), our trip to Andromeda would last a paltry 4.2 trillion years. This is the point where my mental circuits start shorting out—so let me wrap up this part of our journey with one more number. I recently purchased a poster bearing a photograph from the Hubble Space Telescope. It purports to show the most distant galaxy in the universe, at least the farthest one that Hubble has been able to detect. Astronomers estimate that it’s approximately 13 billion light-years from earth. Remember, a light-year is 6,000,000,000,000 (six trillion) miles. That would put this galaxy at 78,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles from earth! In case you were wondering, we count from million, to billion, to
trillion, to quadrillion, to quintillion, to sextillion. So, this galaxy is 78 sextillion miles from earth. I can barely handle driving for more than three or four hours at 65 mph before I need to stop and do something, either eat at McDonald’s or, well, you know. The thought of traveling at 500 mph non-stop, literally sixty minutes of every hour, twentyfour hours in every day, seven days in every week, fifty-two weeks in every year, with not a moment’s pause or delay, for— are you prepared for this?—20,000,000,000,000,000 years (that’s 20 quadrillion years)! And that would only get us to the farthest point that our best telescopes have yet been able to detect. If the universe is infinite, as I believe it is, this would be the mere fringe of what lies beyond.
How Many Is Many? Now that we know how long it would take, what might we do to make the time pass more quickly? We can’t count cars, as we might on a trip from Chicago to Dallas. Why don’t we count stars? That ought to be easy enough. After all, most of us have tried to do that on a clear night from our backyard. We must remember that our sun is but one star in but one solar system. Our solar system is part of a galaxy we call the Milky Way. How many stars do you think are in our galaxy alone? The naked eye can see perhaps 4,000 stars on the best of nights. The Milky Way contains anywhere from 150 to 200 billion stars! And we are only one galaxy among some 150 billion others, each with billions of stars. Each! There is a galaxy known as Virgo with more than 5 trillion stars all to itself. Think of it this way. The next time you are at the beach, reach down and take into both hands as much sand as possible. Now begin to count. You’d probably lose track trying to count each granule and eventually go insane before half way through with your task. If you were to take every single, solitary grain of sand off of every square inch of beach on the face of the earth, you wouldn’t equal the number of stars in the galaxies of the universe. And your God made them all! The psalmist declared, “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Ps. 147:4). No wonder the very next verse proclaims, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” What an understatement!
How Big Is Big? Our sun, a mere 864,000 miles in diameter, is actually a bit puny, as stars go. Comparatively tiny though it be, you could line up more than 100 earths, each touching the next, and still not span the diameter of the sun. You can make 333,000 earthsized planets from the matter in the sun. Whereas the surface temperature is 5,500° C, its central temperature is 15,000,000 degrees Celsius. Ouch!
Astronomers have been especially focused on one of the biggest stars in our galaxy known as Eta Carinae. The diameter of Eta Carinae is a bit more than 400 million miles. If it stood in for our sun, it would swallow up all the planets out to Mars! It’s only 7,500 light years away in a spiral arm of the Milky Way. As the heaviest star in our galaxy, Eta Carinae is in serious need of a diet, tilting the scales at a svelte 120 times the mass of the sun. If that isn’t big enough for you, I recently read that astronomers found a mysterious object at least forty billion times as massive as the sun. Some say it’s closer to 200 billion times! This is either the largest black hole ever or some new unexplained phenomenon. The mass of this object is equal to that of all the stars in the Milky Way galaxy combined (that’s 150 billion stars), yet it is compressed into a space 10,000 times smaller.
Behold Your God! Pause with me for a moment and reflect on what’s been said. No words have been found that can adequately express the magnitude of this universe we call home. Yet the vast, immense, incalculable, unfathomable size of what I just described would be, at best, a microscopic speck on the tip of God’s outstretched finger! Oh, the majesty, the splendor, the immeasurable glory of a God so great that he made it, sustains it, and points to it as the revelation of his ineffable beauty! Resist the temptation to think such scientific facts are ethereal bits of irrelevant data that have no bearing on who you are and how you live. God himself encourages us to look on them and ponder their magnitude, especially in those seasons of life when he seems distant, remote, uninvolved, and worst of all, apathetic. If only for a moment, take your eyes off yourself and your circumstances, off the ways of this world and all rival claimants, and look at who God is. Ponder his mighty deeds. This isn’t to say your soul or circumstances aren’t important. It simply means that you are in the hands of an omnipotent God whose ability to act on your behalf is equaled only by his passionate affection for you as his child, whose strength is without end and whose sovereignty covers the expanse of the heavens. God’s desire isn’t to minimize your life and struggles and disappointments. His intent is for you to gain hope, knowing that nothing can wrench you from the loving arms of a God like this! v This piece is extracted from One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God by Sam Storms, published by Christian Focus Publications, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, www.ChristianFocus.com, and is used with their permission.
FROM THE HEART
The Heart of Worship
n Luke 7, we read of Jesus being invited for dinner to the home of a Pharisee named Simon. We don’t know who else was on the list of invited guests, but we do know that one woman came without being invited. We are not told her name. We know only that she was “a woman in the city who was a sinner” (verse 37). The implication is that she was a woman of ill repute, a woman with a reputation for sexual promiscuity. She certainly would not have been welcomed at this social gathering by anyone other than Jesus, who gladly welcomes sinners who recognize their need for mercy. As I have studied this passage and those that parallel it in the other Gospels, I have come to believe that this woman had recently encountered Jesus. Before this occasion, she had responded to His call to repentance, turned from her sin, and embraced Him as the Messiah. He, in turn, had forgiven her and set her free from sin. Now this newly forgiven woman was returning to Jesus to say, “Thank You!” She wanted to express her profound gratitude and love for this One who had transformed her life. Bearing an alabaster flask of costly perfume, she stood behind the feet of Jesus as He lay reclining at dinner, according to the custom of the day. As she stood quietly in His presence, she began to weep. I don’t believe this woman came into this dinner intending to be noticed or to make a scene. I don’t think she planned to draw attention to herself at all. But she was so overcome with the realization of how Jesus had found her and what He had done for her that she couldn’t restrain her spontaneous display of emotion. Tears of sincere gratitude coursed down her cheeks and onto the Savior’s feet. Almost as if she was embarrassed, she stooped and began to wipe the tears off His feet with her hair. This was a picture of the forgiveness she had experienced, for Jesus had wiped her sinful heart clean. Then, presumably stooping even lower, she began to kiss His feet and to anoint them with the perfumed oil she had brought with her. Who better could she lavish this precious substance on than the Son of Man who had delivered her from herself and her sin? Spontaneous and blissfully unself-conscious worship and adoration flowed out of the life of this broken, contrite, forgiven woman. By contrast, Simon the Pharisee, who had
hosted this dinner, was incensed. In his self-righteous state of mind, this woman’s behavior, indeed her very presence, seemed utterly inappropriate. Jesus proceeded to tell a story about two men who owed a debt to a moneylender. One of the men owed an exorbitant amount—more than he could ever repay. The other owed just a paltry sum, but he, too, was without the resources to pay even that small amount. The moneylender “freely forgave them both.” Now Jesus said, “Tell Me, which of them will love the moneylender more?” Simon correctly answered, “The one who was forgiven the bigger debt.” “You’re right,” said Jesus. Then, to help Simon apply the word picture, He reminded him of what had just taken place. Simon had not treated Jesus with even common courtesy, much less the respect that would normally be shown a guest of honor. He had not provided water to wash His feet, he had not greeted Jesus with a kiss (equal to a handshake in our day), and he had not offered oil to anoint Jesus’ head. It wasn’t that Simon’s need for forgiveness was any less than this woman’s. However, in the blind arrogance of his heart, he simply didn’t realize how great a sinner he was, or how great was his need for forgiveness. Consequently, he was not able to express the kind of worship and love that this woman had lavished on Jesus. As I reread this passage, I have to acknowledge that my own relationship and responses to the Lord Jesus often resemble Simon’s more than that of the “sinner woman.” I am grieved by the coldness, indifference, and hardness of my heart toward the Savior; I long to express that spontaneous, extravagant love and devotion that pours forth out of a broken, contrite heart—a heart that recognizes the greatness of my sin and the surpassing greatness of His grace. v
I long to worship from a heart that recognizes the greatness of my sin and
of His grace.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Revive Our Hearts Radio Host
? ? ?
Hard Questions Why were Old Testament worship ceremonies so bloody? “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are clean outwardly. How much more, then, will the blood
Dr. Richard Fisher
of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:13-14)
hat was some worship service. I have
never felt so close to God,” said a young man who recently approached me after a particularly Spiritempowered Sunday morning. I gave him a high-five, and together we said, “Praise God!” Of course, in that service, and in the ones you likely attend, there is no suffering or bloody sacrifice—just a warm feeling of inner joy at meeting with God’s people.
But in the Old Testament, worship involved a host of animals being killed, and consequently, a lot of blood being poured out. Often “communal meals” with symbolic meaning were shared using the meat from these sacrifices. Old Testament temple worship would, to us, feel more like a visit to the slaughter house than a church! We’d probably hold off on the high-fives and instead hold our noses in disgust. John MacArthur writes in Experiencing the Passion of Christ that historical records from Jesus’ time indicate that as many as a quarter-million lambs were slain in a typical Passover season. That’s a lot of blood!
Why was worship linked to blood? Worship in the Old Testament was meant to be a national celebration that expressed the grateful heart-relationship Israel enjoyed with God. He had called, delivered, cleansed, and led them to freedom, dignity, and purpose. They learned that they were part of God’s plan to redeem and restore mankind. Their worship festivals were set up to correspond with the harvest calendar, to emphasize the spiritual and physical provision of God. Their celebrations, ceremonies, and rituals were designed:
• • • •
to help them maintain a vibrant relationship with God to remind them of God’s grace to focus their hope on the coming Messiah to keep them aware of God’s ultimate mission, the rescue of mankind
Often, these celebrations called for blood sacrifice. This stained the whole ceremony with the evidence of death—not a pleasant thing! But it was there for a purpose. In the midst of the joy of Israel’s meetings, the blood served as a painful reminder of sin and the desperate need all humanity has for a Savior, God’s promised Redeemer. The stench of death was not intended to be the dominating feature of worship; rather, the sweet fragrance of fellowship and peace was to define these festivals. God always preferred obedience to sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:19-23); that is, rather than sin and the need to make atonement, God desired that people would simply obey His law to begin with. But as we know, from the account of Adam and Eve’s fall and ever since, humanity rarely chooses the right path. Even when the first couple sinned and realized the gravity of their transgression, they immediately tried to make a covering for themselves. They knew something had to be done to mask their guilt—but what could they do? “The wages of sin is death!” In His great love for us, God chose to pay the price for sin; he covered Adam and Eve’s nakedness with the skin of an animal. In doing this, God substituted the death of an animal for the death of Adam and Eve. The animals died so that Adam and Eve might be covered and live. The Israelite worshiper would have clearly understood the implications of this action. It became the basis for their sacrificial system. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). Every year, one animal would be sacrificed as a temporary covering (atonement) for the sin of mankind, waiting and looking forward to the day when God’s Son would pay in full the penalty for sin. Every year, individuals would present an animal as a substitutionary sacrifice for their own personal sins, to restore temporary fellowship with God, until the promised seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) would come to redeem humanity and crush the devil’s work.
Seem unfair? It was! Adam and Eve should have died. Every sinner should die. You should die. But, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 nkjv). Let the worship begin! When I served as a pastor in Leroy, Ohio, I ministered to a family who suffered from many genetic defects. The parents had died in their fifties; a sister had died in her forties, and Jackson was about to die—he was suffering from kidney and liver failure and needed kidney and liver transplants soon. Imagine how impossible it seemed—to find kidneys and a liver that were in good condition, and compatible to his body, at the same time. Someone special could donate a kidney . . . but a liver? You don’t donate livers. For someone to give you their liver, they must give you their life; they must die for you to live. On the brink of death, Jackson received news that the matching kidneys and liver were available. A person who had died in an accident had donated his organs to help others live. Jackson was “born again.” His first responses were introspective. “Someone,” he said softly, “had to die so that I can now live. I feel guilty. But at the same time, I am so grateful.” He didn’t know who to thank, so he just praised God for making his new life possible. Of course, Jackson’s story reminds us of the New Testament worship ceremony which began at the Last Supper of Christ. In the communion ceremony, we celebrate Jesus’ death—His broken body and His shed blood. Of course, we don’t have a “bloody” service, because the sacrifice has already been completed; Jesus died once for all time. But every time we celebrate the Lord’s Table and take the fruit of the vine in hand, we remember. We remember the blood of the Lamb, poured out for us. v Dr. Richard Fisher has served as a professor and regional director with Moody Bible Institute.
And so, until Jesus came, blood flowed in the worship ceremonies of God’s people. But it did not carry the curse of death; rather, it bore the hope of forgiveness, freedom, and life.
What does this mean for us? Unless a person grasps what sin actually is, and what it costs, he will never understand why God chose to illustrate redemption through the bloody sacrificial system. The shedding of blood represented giving one’s life so that another could live. It was a costly reminder; the animals sacrificed were precious to the Israelites and to God. But the ceremony helped them see the truth and follow the ways of God.
Comparing Worship A Bible Study on True and False Worship
These are but a few scriptural examples that illustrate the difference between true and false worship. God is not interested in contrived, forced, or rote honors from people whose hearts are ungrateful and not submitted. What the Father does seek, however, are those worshipers who will honor Him both “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Look up each passage discussed to advance your understanding of worship.
In the law of Moses, ceremonial worship was prescribed for the people in order to remind them of the many covenant promises God had made, and also to provide them a context through which to appropriately express their respect for the Lord. The sacred Holy of Holies in the midst of the temple, where the ark of the covenant was placed, was only to be visited by the high priest on an annual basis (Leviticus 16). Through Jesus, the ceremonial laws have been fulfilled, and the “veil” separating sinful humanity from the holiness of God has been torn in two—not because God is now “okay” with sin, but because Jesus has satisfied God’s justice through His atoning death on the cross. God deserves our reverent awe; His name must be treated with careful respect; and as we worship Him, we must be mindful of the amazing privilege we have of going into the Most Holy Place, of having a personal relationship with the Almighty. Most of all, we should give joyful praise to our mighty Savior, Jesus Christ, whose has brought us near to God (Hebrews 10:19-39).
Uzzah was among a small band of Israelites assisting in the transport of the precious ark of the covenant. This object was a symbol of God’s presence, and as such, it was to be carefully moved based on specific regulations outlined by Moses. In the midst of the journey, an ox stumbled, causing the ark to wobble. Thoughtlessly, Uzzah reached up to steady the ark, and because he touched it, he was instantly struck down by the Lord (2 Samuel 6:1-7). Regardless of his motives, Uzzah’s careless treatment of this sacred object resulted in his death! As we worship the Lord today, though we do not venerate physical objects, we should grasp the magnitude of what we are doing when we ask God to be present among us.
When God instructed His people to offer sacrificial lambs or goats, He required that they bring the very best of their flocks. Because livestock was a central part of their economy, asking farmers to bring the best of their flocks and herds to sacrifice was a very expensive request. Those prime specimens would be better stock for reproduction and, ultimately, for sales. But first, above all profits or business savvy, God required not only a “tithe” but also many sacrifices for various occasions (Leviticus 1–7). When a young man asks the woman of his dreams to marry him, he doesn’t give her costume jewelry. No, he scrimps and saves so he can give her the best diamond ring possible. Why? Because the cost of the gift demonstrates both her value and worth and the depth of his love for her. God also deserves our very best. He is worth more than any compilation of gifts or sacrifices we might amass. Two of the most personally “expensive” verses about worship in the New Testament are 2 Corinthians 8:5 and Romans 12:1.
People who misunderstood the meaning of worship devised more cost-effective ways to contribute to the Lord. Rather than bringing the best of their livestock, some Israelites would present blind or lame animals before the Lord. After all, if God wanted animal sacrifices, why not offer those which would need to die anyhow? In Malachi 1:6-14, the Lord reveals how disgusted He was with this approach to worship. These gifts were not brought out of love for God, but from obligatory ritual. They did not seek to please Him, but to appease Him. Scripture tells us that God’s desire was not actually for animals to be slaughtered on altars, but for people to bring the best of what they had as a symbol of their heart attitudes. Worshiping God is not about duty, or about checking off some boxes to make God happy with us, but about how much we value Him (Psalm 51:16-17).
Though not discussed in detail, the Bible tells us, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did” (Hebrews 11:4). Abel’s sacrifice was of the kind God had required. But his faithdriven sacrifice didn’t just please the Lord; it also incensed his older brother, Cain, whose offering was not accepted by God. Whether Cain’s offering was not accepted based on what it was or based on the spirit in which it was offered, Scripture does not specifically say. But Abel’s later inclusion in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 indicates that the difference between Cain and Abel’s offerings was ultimately reflective of their faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (v. 6). True worship is believing worship.
Human religions always seek to define their own ways to worship God, rather than simply submitting to Him. Cain went through the religious rituals of worship—he did offer sacrifices to God, but these were on his own terms rather than on God’s (Genesis 4). This great error has often been repeated by wayward humanity (even by many Christians), believing that we can think up our own definitions of worship rather than allow God, whom we are supposedly honoring, to set the parameters. Worship isn’t for us; it is for Him. If our opinions about worship are self-generated, we may awake one day to realize it is not really God we have been worshiping.
The Pharisees sneered when a broken woman came and knelt at Jesus’ feet, anointing Him with expensive perfume. Because they did not value Jesus this highly, they had missed an opportunity to worship that the woman readily accepted She brought the best she had—in all probability her most prized and expensive possession—and generously poured it out on the Savior. Why? Because her heart was overwhelmed with grateful love for God’s forgiveness. The one who has been forgiven much, loves much (Luke 7:36-50).
King Saul was commanded to destroy a city and not to take the spoils of conquest. Yet when he returned from his successful campaign, claiming to have carried out the Lord’s instructions, he had kept the best livestock, directly disobeying the Lord. He had put his personal agenda over God’s glory. In a desperate attempt to cover for his obvious wrongdoing, Saul told the prophet that all these animals were to be sacrificed as an offering. God rejected Saul and removed the kingdom from his hands. The motions of worship can never replace an obedient heart that actually worships (1 Samuel 15).
Making It Evaluating the quality of our worship can be a helpful indicator of our spiritual health, and of our readiness for revival.
How Much Is God Worth to Me? The old English word “worth-ship” shows us that worship has to do with what we value.
Circle the words below that best describe your worship: Personal
Have I offered my life to God as a “living sacrifice”? (Romans 12:1) Y N
To me, being a living sacrifice means that ___________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________ Our calendar, checkbook, and prayer life are often barometers of our level of worship: How many hours do I invest weekly in prayer and Bible study? __________________________________________________ What percentage of income do I typically give to God’s work? ___________________________________________________ How often do I pray about decisions before moving forward? ___________________________________________________ The last real sacrifice of time, effort, or resources that I made for God’s kingdom was ______________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
How Do I Express My Worship? God invites us to praise Him and desires that we show our love for Him. Check any statements below that apply to you: Negative o I worry about other people hearing me sing or seeing me lift my hands. o I often participate in worship services because it is my duty, not my delight. o I am happy to skip church when opportunities present themselves. o My prayers are usually just about my own needs, not about God’s greatness. o If asked to read a Scripture or pray publicly, I would politely decline.
Positive o I am excited about singing and praising God with other Christians. o My worship isn’t constrained by what others think; I am focused on God. o I seek out opportunities to worship, personally and with others. o When I pray, I spend time praising God for His attributes and thanking Him. o My worship is with more than words; it also includes acts of service. o I readily tell others that I belong to Jesus Christ.
Underline any common expressions of worship that you have used to show God your love for Him in the past month: Served the poor
Shared my testimony
Sang from my heart •
Encouraged someone to seek God •
Spent an hour in prayer
Returned good for evil
Lifted my hands in public worship
Repented of an idol
Used my skills to serve
Shared my faith Loved an enemy
Prayed with my family
Thanked God for His creation
Gave sacrificially •
Practiced silence before God Used artistic abilities for God’s glory
Bowed on my knees before God
Assisted in a mission or outreach project
Write your own definitions of the following words: Worship: _________________________________________________________________________________________ Praise: ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Glorify: ___________________________________________________________________________________________
How Do I Praise God?
We can praise God through adoration and thanksgiving. In the space provided, write down ten characteristics of God that amaze you (e.g. loving).
In the space provided, write down ten blessings from God that you are thankful for (e.g. salvation).
The psalms remind us of Godâ€™s faithfulness, grace, and other praiseworthy attributes. From Psalm 145, write three specific things you can do to demonstrate your worship to the Lord. 1. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ 2. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ 3. _______________________________________________________________________________________________
Questions for Prayer
Lord, is there any part of my heart that I have not fully surrendered to You? Lord, in what ways has my worship not been giving You my very best? Lord, what else could I offer You that would bring more glory to Your name?
NEXT STEP Serve More
Amp It Up!
ne of the seemingly never-ending controversies surrounding church music is the volume at which it is played. Too quiet? Non-singers won’t add their voices. Too loud? Some say they can’t focus on the Lord. Just right? The angelic chorus of heaven, we suspect. Until then, our soundmen will be dodging salvos from pew pundits! But in this issue of Revive, we’ve learned that worship involves far more than musical expressions of praise. It involves the best of everything we have. It is really our full commitment to God—laying ourselves on the altar and becoming a “living sacrifice.” From there, we may sing, shout, bow down, write a letter, or even observe a time of silence, all in an effort to tell God how great He is to us, how much we appreciate His work in our lives, and how much we would love to know Him more. Once we’ve gone that far, what’s the next step? I say, let’s amp up our worship. Not necessarily on the audio mixer, but in the way we live our lives. At whatever “volume” we’ve grown accustomed to honoring God, let’s turn it up. Let’s glorify Him more.
Give More In Old Testament Israel, the people gave their regular tithes, but they could also give offerings of thanksgiving and praise. They could go above and beyond the “requirement” of the law, so as to really showcase their love for God. Let’s do the same! I once met a man who endeavored to add an additional 1% of his income to his tithe every year. When I spoke with him, he had worked his way up to giving almost 50% of his earnings to God’s work!
Risk More Influential Christian educator and author Henrietta Mears famously said, “There is no magic in small plans. When I consider my ministry, I think of the world. Anything less than that would not be worthy of Christ nor of His will for my life.” Why not attempt something great for God? If He deserves the best of our songs or the best of our money, why not the best of our efforts? The best of our dreams? Let’s ask God for the faith to do whatever He may call us to do!
Many people will tell you that their time is worth more than their money. If given a choice, they’d rather get an extra week of vacation than a few extra dollars in pay. If that’s true for you, then the “best” you have to offer the Lord may be your time—the hours you could dedicate to His service. As an act of worship, then, you might offer Him your vacation (to go on a mission trip) or part of your weekend (to serve through your church) or even a prized weeknight (to start a prayer and action team). Who knows? Ask God, “Where would You like me to serve, and how much time would You like me to contribute?”
Say More I’ve found myself getting much bolder recently, in part because I realized that I may only have one opportunity to make an impact on someone’s life. As I seek to turn up the volume of my worship, I can’t help but think that God is most glorified when I am telling others about Him. Think about it: Isn’t that what makes you feel valuable? It’s one thing for someone to tell you that they appreciate you, but it is an entirely different matter if you discover that someone has been “singing your praises” to others! You and I have the privilege of doing exactly that because of our love for Jesus. Let’s talk to Him and talk about Him. After all, what else even matters?
Let’s amp up our worship of the One who is worth our very best!
Worship is the opportunity that you and I have to express, in word and in action, just how valuable God is to us. I don’t know about you, but I want the whole world to know. I want all of creation to join in the chorus. Let’s amp up our worship of the One who is worth our very best! v
Daniel W. Jarvis
P.O. Box 31 • Buchanan, MI 49107 269-697-8600 • www.LifeAction.org
Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Life Action Ministries
Igniting Movements of Authentic Christianity Life Action Ministries exists to mobilize believers across America to seek God for another great spiritual awakening, and to help them experience God’s power and presence. Our family of outreaches is igniting movements of Christ-centered revival among God’s people in innovative, life-changing ways.