Practical Application of the Word of God
God gives us explicit instruction about how we are and are not to worship Him in His word. Too often, however, we, as Christians, fall prey to picking and choosing elements of His instructions and then doing whatever seems right in our own eyes, with justifications, excuses, lame explanations, and outright dismissal (e.g., “God doesn’t care as long as we _____________”) to claim we are worshipping God the way He commands us to.
This is a dangerous practice. But we see it all around us among the ekklesia, if, that is, we’re paying attention. Sadly, too few of us have enough spiritual consciousness to even think about it or to question it.
This lack of spiritual consciousness is prevalent and it is growing among the ekklesia. Each of us whose dimmed spiritual consciousness is becoming more and more evident is ultimately responsible for our lack.
We are not continually and diligently studying God’s word. Many of us don’t even rely on God’s word alone as the sole source of truth – all truth in the universe and beyond – despite Jesus Christ Himself confirming, in His next-to-last recorded prayer to our Father before His death, that God’s word is truth.
We do not maintain a without-ceasing relationship with our Father through prayer – asking for His spirit to be renewed continually, for wisdom, for understanding, for discernment, for guidance, instruction, and direction of every thought, attitude, motive, word and action (Psalm 119 describes a wholehearted relationship with God that has almost disappeared among the ekklesia) – that gives us an everpresent spiritual consciousness that is an integral part of who we are, how we are, what we think, what we say, what we do, and what is most important to us.
Instead, we put everything else – our will (the mind of Christ is quite simply reflected in His prayers in the garden of Gethsemane when He said “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will“), our wants, our desires, our physical lives, our everything, including people and organizations that we claim spiritual fellowship with – above and before God and His word.
That is why the ekklesia is so divided, scattered, and shattered. Most of us are willing to follow everything but God and, as a result, we’ve fallen into seriously straying from worshiping God the way He commands us to.
It seems that I am one of the few who has a real issue with meeting in facilities that have pagan symbols in them. I’ve heard all the tired and worn out excuses. “Well, I just pretend they’re not there.” “It’s the only place we could find.” “God doesn’t care about those things.” “It’s not like we’re worshiping them.” And the list goes on.
I know these things are not true. But we among the ekklesia have lied to ourselves so much over time that we’ve come to abandon the truth and convince ourselves of the veracity of things that are absolutely false.
Much of this has to do with laziness, the desire for convenience, and a general unwillingness to live wholeheartedly by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Each of us will have to answer for this when we stand before Jesus Christ.
I daily and frequently during the day, as these things are very much on my mind, beseech God to show me what to do about everything – including this – because I don’t know of and by myself and I trust no human being to have the answers because they are as incapable as I am simply because they are corrupt and physical just like I am.
We’re told that Jesus Christ Himself walks among the congregations of the ekklesia. Do we think about that consciously? Ever?
How we worship God matters to God. What we do in our worship matters to God. Our worship of God reveals our attitude toward God.
Do we revere God? Do we respect God? Do we believe God? Do we strive to obey God? Do we praise God? Do we give God the glory and the credit for everything? Are we in awe of and in wonder of God?
Let me digress for a minute about being in awe and wonder of God. There was a recent statement that I heard about what David said in Psalm 8 and in II Samuel 7. The statement said that we should never ask that because we should know God’s purpose and plan.
I’ve thought about that quite a bit. The implication is that David didn’t understand the plan and purpose of why God created humanity, so he asked the questions. Yet we know that’s not true. David understood the plan of God better than most of us, I daresay.
An example for me (there are many – the Psalms are personal and rich with the depth of what an intimate relationship with God looks like and I find myself there very often as I seek God’s will and His face) is in Psalm 17:15: “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”
This verse helps me understand my own restlessness and lack of satisfaction in this life because it’s never going to be resolved here, but it will be resolved in the resurrection when Christ raises me along with the rest of His saints and delivers me from the inherent corruption of being human by giving me incorruption – that clean heart that I desperately long for, the pure mind that I ache for, the perfected soul that will elude me until my last breath here on earth that I beg for – as an eternal member of the family of God.
And that plan is for every human being who has, who does, and who will ever live. David knew that. David believed that. And David lived that and lived for that.
I personally believe that when we lose our awe of God – and of His calling and all that entails – we drift from Him in how we worship Him. We bring Him down to our level and we exalt ourselves mentally to being His equal, which as Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 show us is the same thing that Lucifer did, which we are not and never will be.
Our awe for our Father and our Savior and King should be increasing as we grow spiritually, not decreasing. How we worship God shows which state we’re in and how much our spiritual consciousness is in effect or not in effect.
God specifically tells us in Deuteronomy 12 that we are not to look around us and emulate the false worship of idols to worship Him. He is very specific about what He expects from us in our worship of Him, down to the minutest details.
Yet the story of Israel and our story as Christians shows that we all fall short in following God wholeheartedly and completely. Most of us don’t even realize how far we have strayed from true worship of our Father and our King.
Why? Because on the surface, it looks close enough to be okay.
I have thought about this deeply as I’ve recently finished a Bible study of II Kings. There are many deep and thought-provoking lessons from reading the histories of the kings of Israel and Judah.
One thing that never doesn’t stop me in my tracks is the lack of continuity in obeying God. We see many examples where a parent obeyed God faithfully and their children didn’t (did they not pass that on?) or where a parent disobeyed God and their children obeyed God (how did that happen?).
The other thing that also always stops me in my tracks is the general statement that someone obeyed God, but they didn’t do x, y, or z or it was not like this person or that person. I don’t want that “but” asterisk to be beside my name in God’s history of my life. However, I see those asterisks everywhere in my life and I continually take them to God and ask Him to remove them from me and from my life.
This time, while studying II Kings, I became aware of a section near the end of the book that it was almost as if I was reading it for the first time (proof again that God’s word is living and all that it contains for us to learn is beyond the scope of what we will ever be able to learn in this lifetime). Two chapters – II Kings 16 and II Kings 17 – specifically deal with worship.
What caught my attention when reading these two chapters this time was the mixture of ostensive worship – the rituals – that God commanded, polluted and perverted by idolatry and by syncretism.
Notice what is said about King Ahaz in II Kings 16:10-16:
“Now King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus; and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the design of the altar and its pattern, according to all its workmanship. Then Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus. So Urijah the priest made it before King Ahaz came back from Damascus. And when the king came back from Damascus, the king saw the altar; and the king approached the altar and made offerings on it. So he burned his burnt offering and his grain offering; and he poured his drink offering and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. He also brought the bronze altar which was before the Lord, from the front of the temple—from between the new altar and the house of the Lord—and put it on the north side of the new altar. Then King Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, “On the great new altar burn the morning burnt offering, the evening grain offering, the king’s burnt sacrifice, and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, their grain offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice. And the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that King Ahaz commanded.”
All of these offerings were the offerings that God commanded. However, Ahaz, whom we’re told in verses 2-4 of II Kings 16:
“he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his father David had done. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel; indeed he made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.,” offered this worship to idols, false gods, and on altars made like those of the nations around Judah.
In other words, on the surface, it looked okay, but it was completely wrong and it was sin against God.
In II Kings 17, we see the system of worship in Samaria where elements from godly worship were mixed with ungodly worship and a form of syncretism – the blending of different religious systems – emerged. They were not holy and they did not worship God.
The reality is that we see the same things we read in II kings 16 and II Kings 17 among the ekklesida today.
Am I guilty of this false worship of God? Are you?
I pray that I’m not and that you’re not.
Yet we are surrounded by it and the real challenge is how not be taken in by it and abandon our faithfulness to God. It is a real, daily, conscience-stabbing dilemma for me that I am continually asking God to resolve for me, to guide me out of (and, simultaneously, lead me into faithful, wholehearted, pure worship of Him and my King), and to correct my literal footsteps from this tainting of the world (James says we must be unspotted from the world and we hear Jesus Christ telling us to “Come out of her, My people,” echoing His words in John 17, when He says we are in the world, but not of the world) that has stained the ekklesia as a whole and has polluted how we worship God.
God cares about everything about us. He cares about our relationship with Him. Like any parent, He is concern with how we do things (attitude, motives, mindset) as much, if not more, as He is that we do the things He has commanded us to do.
All of us were kids once to physical parents. Perhaps your parents didn’t care about your attitude as long as you did whatever they asked you to. My parents were much more concerned with my attitude.
I could do what they told me to, but if my attitude and my heart wasn’t right or in it, it was as though I hadn’t done it at all and there was always a conversation – at the very least – about why having the right attitude and heart was important.
My attitude and my heart showed what was going on inside of me – my character. And simply going through the motions with no concern one way or the other or slamming and banging my way angrily through doing something they had asked me to do was unacceptable to them because it showed the deficiencies of my character.
Is this any less true of our Father in heaven? Or is it even more true of Him?