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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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WHAT’S WRONG HERE?

According to a study by LifeWay Research:

  • Three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) agreed that people must contribute to their own effort for personal salvation.

  • Almost two-thirds of evangelicals (64 percent), and nearly as many Americans (60 percent) described heaven as a place where “all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones.”

  • Almost two-thirds (65 percent) said that most people are good by nature, even though everyone sins a little.

  • Sixty-four percent of Americans said God accepts the worship of all religions.

  • More than half (52 percent) said that Jesus is the “first and greatest being created by God.”

(See article by Tyler O’Neil, 12 Lies American Evangelicals Believe)

 

 

 

ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! (Psalm 95:1-6 ESV)

… Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, (Hebrews 12:28 ESV)

The MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY defines “worship” as 1) “the act of showing respect and love for … God especially by praying with other people who believe in the same God: the act of worshipping God;” 2) “reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence;” 3) “to take part in worship or an act of worship.” Such definitions, however, fall short in their accuracy because worship is both an attitude and an act. Worship must connect the mind and heart with the truth of God and His marvelous grace as made known in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible.

Continue reading

IDOLATRY

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)

Samuel A CainHuman nature frequently leads people to try to change God and His worship into something that is more pleasing to them. Man’s chief end – “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” (The Westminster Shorter Catechism) – is often neglected simply for the pursuit of personal joy.

Idolatry is very appealing. Our culture actually encourages self-worship. There are “cultural Christians” who believe they can use their faith to manipulate God for their own worldly prosperity. They worship the gift not the Giver. Many in our congregations can barely sit still for 30 minutes unless they are hearing a sermon titled “Five Steps to Success” or “Seven Steps to What You Really Want”. Others run to the church that entertains them the most. They say they are there because of the worship. However, they do not include hearing God’s Word preached in their definition of “worship”. They attend because they are entertained – thus, diminishing worship to idolatry. Continue reading

TREASURING GOD

God is the GospelJohn Piper:

“Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.” (God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself)

Worship God in the Heart

From the words of Brother Lawrence:

We must, during all our labor and in all else we do, even in our reading and writing, holy though both may be – I say more, even during our formal devotions and spoken prayers – pause for some short moment, as often indeed as we can, to worship God in the depth of our heart, to savour Him, though it be but in passing, and as it were by stealth. Since you are not unaware that God is present before you whatever you are doing, that he is at the depth and centre of your soul, why not then pause from time to time at least from that which occupies you outwardly, even from your spoken prayers, to worship Him inwardly, to praise him, petition him, to offer him your heart and thank him? What can God have that gives Him greater satisfaction than that a thousand times a day all His creatures should thus pause to withdraw and worship him in the heart?

Our Worship Accepted Because Of Christ

In the words of Bob Kauflin:

It’s not the excellence of our offering that makes our worship acceptable but the excellence of Christ. We cannot worship the eternal Father apart from the eternal Son… Our worship is accepted not on the basis of what we have done, but on the basis of what Christ has done… [Therefore] if we [leaders] help people focus on what God did two thousand years ago rather than twenty minutes ago, they’ll consistently find their hearts ravished by His amazing love.

The Banquet Of God’s Glory

In the words of John Piper:

The revolt against hedonism has killed the spirit of worship in many churches. When you have the notion that high moral acts must be free from self-interest, then worship, which is one of the highest moral acts a human can perform, has to be conceived simply as duty. And when worship is reduced to a duty it ceases to exist. One of the great enemies of worship in our church is our own misguided virtue. We have the vague notion that seeking our own pleasure is sin and therefore virtue itself imprisons the longings of our hearts and smothers the spirit of worship. For what is worship if it is not our joyful feasting upon the banquet of God’s glory?

The Worship Service

From the pen of John MacArthur:

In the process of striving to fulfill our needs and satisfy our desires, the church has slipped into a philosophy of “Christian humanism” that is flawed with self-love, self-esteem, self-fulfillment, and self-glory. There appears to be scant concern about worshiping our glorious God on His terms. So-called worship seems little more than some liturgy (high or low) equated with stained-glass windows, organ music, or emotion-filled songs and prayers. If the bulletin didn’t say “Worship Service,” maybe we wouldn’t know what we were supposed to be doing. And that reflects the absence of a worshiping life – of which a Sunday service is to be only a corporate overflow.

The Serious Worship Of God

Quoting Richard Baxter:

“Remember the perfections of that God whom you worship, that he is a Spirit, and therefore to be worshiped in spirit and truth; and that he is most great and terrible, and therefore to be worshiped with seriousness and reverence, and not to be dallied with, or served with toys or lifeless lip-service; and that he is most holy, pure, and jealous, and therefore to be purely worshiped; and that he is still present with you, and all things are naked and open to him with whom we have to do. The knowledge of God, and the remembrance of his all-seeing presence, are the most powerful means against hypocrisy.”

Worshiping A Great God

From the works of J. I. Packer:

It is a fact of Christian history that those who are consciously worshiping a great God do not find that worship services lasting two or three hours are a bore; on the contrary, they are experienced as a joy . . . By comparison, the modern Western passion for services lasting not more than sixty minutes raises the suspicion that both our God and our own spiritual statues are rather small. (Packer, A Quest For Godliness, 334)

John Stott Explains Why Acceptable Worship Is Impossible Without Preaching

John Stott

Quoting John Stott:

The ‘message’ is God’s own Word. For the people have not gathered to hear a human being, but to meet with God. They desire like Mary of Bethany to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his teaching. They are spiritually hungry. The bread they desire is the Word of God.

What, then, are the code and channel of communication? Obviously the code is words and the channel speech. Yet the communication is to be understood neither in physical terms (from pulpit to pew), nor even in human terms (one mouth speaking, many ears listening), but in divine terms (God speaking through his minister to his people).

It is this total context which makes preaching unique. For here are God’s people assembled in God’s presence to hear God’s Word from God’s minister.

That is what I mean when I claim that, even in this age that is saturated with the most elaborate media of communication, preaching remains sui generis. No film or play, no drama or dialogue, no seminar or lecture, no Sunday School or discussion group has all these elements in combination. What is unique is not an ideal or an atmosphere, but a reality. The living God is present, according to his covenant pledge, in the midst of his worshipping people, and has promised to make himself known to them through his Word and sacrament. Nothing could ever replace this.

Although in the rather flowery language of a century ago, Matthew Simpson gave an admirable summary of the uniqueness of the sermon event. He wrote of the preacher:

His throne is the pulpit; he stands in Christ’s stead; his message is the word of God; around him are immortal souls; the Savior, unseen, is beside him; the Holy Spirit broods over the congregation; angels gaze upon the scene, and heaven and hell await the issue. What associations and what vast responsibility!

Thus Word and worship belong indissolubly to each other. All worship is an intelligent and loving response to the revelation of God, because it is the adoration of his Name. Therefore acceptable worship is impossible without preaching. For preaching is making known the Name of the Lord, and worship is praising the name of the Lord made known. Far from being an alien intrusion into worship, the reading and preaching of the Word are actually indispensable to it. The two cannot be divorced. Indeed, it is their unnatural divorce which accounts for the low level of so much contemporary worship. Our worship is poor because our knowledge of God is poor, and our knowledge of God is poor because our preaching is poor. But when the Word of God is expounded in its fullness, and the congregation begins to glimpse the glory of the living God, they bow down in solemn awe and joyful wonder before his throne. It is preaching which accomplishes this, the proclamation of the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. That is why preaching is unique and irreplaceable. (Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century, Eerdmans, 1982, p. 81-82)

Is Believing A Lie As Valid As Believing The Truth?

37 “I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18)

Can you be a Christian and hold to the politically correct view that truth is a matter of personal opinion? Charles H. Spurgeon wrote that “The glorious charity of the present day is such, that it believes lies to be as good as truth; and lies and truth have met together and kissed each other; and he that telleth truth is called a bigot, and truth has ceased to be honorable in the world!”

It is important for Christians to protect themselves in this culture where truth is relative and words have no meaning. We must carefully research those ideas which are brought into the church in the name of tolerance. These concepts are often presented in vague and unclear language. Scripture, on the other hand, consistently makes definitive statements about good and evil; truth and lies. It is becoming more difficult for Christians to know when they are being taught false doctrine. This is why it is so extremely important for Christians to study the truth of Scriptures.

Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24) Later, Jesus states in John 8:31-32 “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Only absolute truth will guide you to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) This excludes personal opinion as the final arbiter of truth.

“I Got Nothing Out Of The Worship Service!”

Quoting Eric Rauch:

We tend to easily dismiss the new in favor of the old, for the simple reason that it is new. While many churches are guilty of this belief, many others are also guilty of the opposite extreme: ignoring the old in favor of the new, simply because it is old. While it is beyond dispute that each individual in the Church has personal tastes and preferences that are unique to him, we must be acutely aware of these subjective inclinations when it comes to worshiping the triune God. How often have you heard someone say (or maybe even said it yourself!) that they “got nothing out of the church service.” This simple declaration betrays a backwards understanding of why we gather together as a church body. If we get nothing out of a worship service, perhaps it was because we put nothing into it. Worship is not about us, it is about Him, and we must be constantly reminding ourselves of this basic fact.

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