Practical Application of the Word of God
I often am puzzled and frustrated at how much disconnect there is, at times, among us as Christians between what we say we believe and what we actually do.
We’re all guilty of it somewhere – and, often, many somewheres – in our lives.
Part of the converting process, with the help of God’s spirit, is to find – seek, look for, examine proactively – and correct those disconnects in our lives so that we’re in sync with God.
Being in sync isn’t a two-way street: God’s already righteous, perfect, and holy so He doesn’t need to change, move, or come over to our side.
The changing, the moving, the coming over is all on us, with God’s help because we can’t do this on our own, to God’s righteousness (Matthew 6:33), perfection (Matthew 5:48), and holiness (I Peter 1:16). This is the essence of developing the mind of Christ and developing God’s character.
I’m convinced that more times than not we look at the process of conversion – and developing God’s righteous and holy character – as a sort of nebulous, distant, and mostly unattainable “thing” that we kind of accidentally stumble upon doing it the right way every once in a rare while, but most of the time it sort of sits on an out-of-reach shelf where we admire it, but we rarely take it down and actually examine it.
Converting is an active and interactive ongoing process. It is not a one-time, past event (which is why I never use the word converted).
Converting is not a thing. In fact, it’s not a goal.
Converting, instead is an continuous and active way of being (attitudes, motives, thoughts, actions, words – in other words, everything we are and we think, say, and do in this life) as defined by God that we continually do and strive to learn to do expertly.
As always, without God’s help, this is impossible. But with God’s help, it is possible.
But how do we become experts in converting from our ways to God’s ways? The same way anyone becomes an expert in something: we live, eat, and breathe it 24/7.
One of the things that has always struck me by Paul’s letters in the New Testament are how many action statements they contain. A frequent set of action statements that Paul uses is put on and put off.
This is not accidental. The verb put implicitly requires conscious effort on the person’s part to whom it’s being said. In this case, that’s you and that’s me.
So we should be stopping at these places where Paul uses these action statements and really think about them and how they apply to us – to you and to me – and what we need to do in order to meet those directives, which God inspired.
So with this in mind, let’s take a look at some areas in our lives where we could be worshiping God in the pattern of the world around us instead of holding fast to the way He spells in His word that we are to worship Him.
I will say up front that I am not convinced in some of these cases that there is no overt wrong with relationship to God and His word.
However, I believe the reason for these overt wrongs are a lack of conscious thinking, awareness about, and studying and applying God’s word, God’s standard, and God’s way of life.
But that lack of consciousness in not thinking through – taking the time away from all of life’s enticing distractions, which have become extant through technology and our 24/7 connected world, to truly critically think – everything we are, we think, we say, we do through thoroughly and completely before we say and do them, is the result of the converting process being on an out-of-immediate-reach shelf where we admire it instead of it being the active, 24/7 force in our lives.
One of the ways in which we can worship God in the way of the world around us is by congregating in the world’s places of worship each Sabbath.
The words we say condemn the objects of worship in these places (God condemns them all throughout His word, and very specifically in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5), yet we consciously choose these places to hold services, despite the fact that there are many other places that are not connected to false religion, are affordable, and are available.
And here’s the part that is galling to me (and, I will guarantee, galling to God).
While we as the body of Christ eagerly choose these places to hold services without any care or concern that they are the equivalent of pagan temples of worship, if those services are being webcasted to a larger audience, we consciously cover, with a background of some sort, those very pagan symbols that are in the camera’s view because we know they will offend the faithful people of God.
However, the pagan symbols out of camera view remain uncovered and are, for the faithful among the congregation present, a reminder that we as the body of Christ are choosing to worship God in the ways of the world around us instead of being faithful to His command that our worship of Him be pure, holy, and unprofane (the book of Leviticus is quite instructive for us as Christians about distinguishing between the clean and the unclean, the holy and the unholy, the pure and the profane according to God’s own instructions to us).
In other words, we know it’s wrong, but we do it anyway.
In many ways, this is no different than Jeroboam’s “sanctification” of a feast to God in the 8th month of the Hebrew calendar. It is the same kind of worship that God condemned throughout the Old Testament (and, which because God and Jesus Christ are the same yesterday, today, and forever, they condemn now):
21“I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies.
22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.
23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
24 But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
25 “Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?
26 You also carried Sikkuth [a pagan god] your king and Chiun [a pagan god, closely identified with the later Roman pagan god, Saturn], your idols, the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves.
I will not rehearse all the reasons why there is nothing scriptural or Christian about Christmas because that’s readily available doing a Google search.
But because it’s not scriptural or Christian, those of us who proclaim to follow God and Jesus Christ should not observe Christmas nor do anything that looks like we’re celebrating an alternative or substitute Christmas, while we claim to be worshiping God.
I refer again to Deuteronomy 12:30-32 for those who want to argue that they’re just worshiping God and Jesus during the Christmas season.
So are we considering how much we are actually in opposition to God’s express commands to us here in Deuteronomy when we don’t overtly observe Christmas and partake in its rituals, but we shadow it with a big congregational get-together, during the same time, in a central location (which requires a substantial amount of money for travel, lodging, and food costs), ostensibly to give our children an alternative to celebrating Christmas (since they’re out of school anyway), to be with their friends and enjoying sports and other activities with them, while we adults go to Bible seminars and fellowship with other adults?
For me, personally, the answer is “yes,” based on Deuteronomy 12:29-32.
I find it particularly distasteful to hear these gatherings referred to as “mini-Feasts,” in a reference to God’s Feast of Tabernacles, which we observe during the autumn of each year. It’s as though we’re somehow giving it a godly credibility by using this moniker.
Yet, I can’t help wonder what God thinks, because even though it has different wrapping (no pun intended), it has many of the same trappings and tenor as Christmas.
For me personally (and I alone will stand before Jesus Christ and give an account for my life and my choices, so since this is a matter of faith for me, if I participate in it then it’s sin for me), it means I’m choosing to emulate the world around me in worshiping God, instead of clinging to and adhering to His instructions to me on how to worship Him.
It seems to me that, as a whole, we as the body of Christ have drifted so far from the word of God being an integral part of our lives (daily and deeply searching the scriptures, proving, through the guidance of God’s spirit, what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, testing all things, holding fast to that which is good – in other words, what God tells us in and through His word, who is Jesus Christ, the only Head of the ekklesia, the Lamb that we are called to follow wherever He goes, not wherever people, organizations, nor our own deceitful and desparately wicked hearts tell us to go) that we don’t really see a problem with our relationship with God, individually and collectively.
We’ve got so caught up in the spin of our own self-promotion (both individually and organizationally), that God and Jesus Christ are no longer the center of our lives, and, therefore, their words don’t govern and direct our lives.
Instead, we’d rather rely on the other temporary tents of dirt and water (because in the end, that is what the sum total of our human composition is) around us to guide and direct our footsteps (and this is natural because we like to be given permission to compromise and sin: “well, everybody else is doing it, so it must be okay” is a very persuasive human justification of doing our will, instead of God’s will).
I daily pray that we all repent and turn back to God, to His word, to His way, and to His will.
I pray for God’s mercy and forgiveness as we all fall short of His glory, often being blind to and forgetful that we can be following false sources of light just like Satan himself who can appear as angel of light.
In addition to my prayers, however, I echo the words of Joshua as the bottom line of my commitment to God, to Jesus Christ, to God’s law, God’s word, and God’s way, continually seeking His kingdom and His righteousness no matter what anyone else does:
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
What is the bottom line of your commitment to God?