The ladies in our church are going on a women’s retreat in a couple of weeks and the theme of their study will include the abundant life found only in Christ and the idea of true worship. And, as would happen, just today I discovered a blog post by Jeff Kinley that addressed some of the issues I have personally struggled with when it comes to true worship (as compared to the lame stuff we call worship today).
I pray this will be a blessing to you as you prepare this Sunday morning to worship our Sovereign God.
Read ‘Em and Weep
The following are 10 reasons many of us rarely experience true worship. See if you can relate to a few of these.
1. While most Christians struggle with the challenges of life, many live defeated lives, never achieving the “more than conquerors” victory that Scripture claims is the normal experience of those who have been redeemed.
2. Many professing Christians simply stop growing after an initial burst of interest and enthusiasm. Bibles gather dust and heart-fires start burning out. As a result, the process of sanctification (becoming like Jesus) is often short-circuited, fueled by sin, Satan or self. These people end up as spiritual children living in adult bodies. Churches are FULL of these folks.
3. Many have never taken the time to really understand salvation— studying what actually took place at the cross, contemplating their dark, sinful condition and future outside of Christ, and learning to regularly bath in the infinitely deep ocean of God’s grace and love. Understanding how and why God saved you is the key to contentment and joy in life.
4. Most Christians have little clue about how great their Lord is. I mean, how could they? They rarely, if ever, crack open the only Book God wrote to reveal Himself to them. Ignorance of the mind-blowing truths in Scripture concerning who God is and how amazing His attributes are is a guaranteed one-way ticket to Bland Land. Bank on this: true theology and doctrine is never, ever boring. Rather, it infuses our hearts with awe and wonder, inspiring pure, explosive heart-worship.
5. Face it. We like comfort and often choose the path of least resistance when it comes to our faith. Living for Jesus is hard, and few American believers have the lungs for the long, uphill race. So we rest comfortably by the wayside, occasionally admiring those “Super Christians” who run by on their way to maturity.
6. We refuse to exercise faith in the daily challenges of life, and almost never branch out and trust God for something truly supernatural, especially if it could cost us a bundle. We treat sacrifice and suffering like tax season— with a sense of dread and avoidance. Fear rules many of our life decisions, not faith. Safety and security becomes our style, influencing everything from friends to finances. And that makes Heaven yawn… and grieve.
7. We love the idea that God is loving and compassionate, but fail to grow past those sentimental attributes. Godly discernment, on the other hand, may lead us to actions that others may interpret as unloving. So we continue enabling people in their immaturity and sin— and do it all in the name of love. But in reality, hidden behind this “love” is simply a weak and impotent heart. Boring.
8. We ignore the direct application of God’s Infinitely-Wise Word where it really matters— on the job, at home, in our marriage and in our parenting. And we wonder why we’re so screwed up. We trust in ourselves because having faith seems to be complicated and intangible. We settle for “what works”— expediency, pragmatism and peace. And when we do look for advice and counsel, it’s usually from someone just as messed up as we are. Logical?
9. The average American Christian checks into church 2x a month, way too little for it to ever have any real, life-changing impact on their lives. Like working out 2x a month, there is never any real progress or growth. Truthfully, there’s always a “good reason” to prioritize something else over gathering with your spiritual family – sleep, work, friends, fun, movies, sports on TV, etc.
10. Honestly, we want a God who entertains and serves us. We prefer that He act like we want Him to and at the time of our choosing. And when He fails to deliver or meet our expectations, we lose interest and become bored with His “ways”.
Do any of these resonate with you? They do with me. Ask our Lord to give you His “living water” and teach you to be the kind of worshipper He seeks. And remember these wonderful words of Jesus to the Samaritan women He encountered at the well:
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when (who) the true worshipers will worship the Father (how) in spirit and truth; (why) for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must (what) worship in spirit and truth” – John 4:23-24.
Strive to become the worshiper the Father actively seeks to worship Him. Because that, my dear friend, is the abundant life in Christ (John 10:10). And begin that faith journey with Him today.
You can find more about Jeff and his writings on his blog. You can also read the rest of Jeff’s post here. And rest assured, Jeff is one of the “good guys”.
When we look at the gifts given us by the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, we are drawn to the fact that some of these gifts are verbal (word of wisdom and knowledge, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues) and some are non-verbal (faith, gifts of healings, working of miracles). And within the verbal gifts, we find certain pair that are closely associated with each other. For example, we have the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. Then those who possess the gift of tongues and those who are gifted to interpret tongues. And the gift of prophecy and those who are able to discern the spirit behind the prophecy. It seems one gift is closely related to another.
But a more careful study will show that two of these gifts are directly related to one another, they’re literally different sides of the same coin. “What two gifts?” you ask. Prophecy and tongues. “How can that be?” Keep listening to find out more.
The following is a study on 1 Corinthians 12:10.
To download the slides for this message, click – HERE
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If your resolution this year is to “understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:5), then you must begin this vision quest by understanding how the if / then passages in Scripture work. Simply put, you do the ifs, and God provides the thens. One is contingent upon another. One comes first, and the other follows after. One is a condition that must be met, the other is the result of meeting that condition. One is your responsibility, and the other is His.
Consider this passage from Proverbs 2:
Proverbs 2:1-5 – My son, if (condition) you receive my words, and (if you) treasure my commands within you, (to what extent) so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if (condition) you cry out for discernment, and (if you) lift up your voice for understanding, if (condition) you seek her as silver, and (if you) search for her as for hidden treasures; then (result of meeting the condition) you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
As you can see, the promise of understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God only comes after the if conditions are met. One is contingent upon another. Meeting the if condition is the key that unlocks the then promise, If I want to understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God, then I must meet the condition set forth to receive that promise. It is foolishness, according to this passage, to assume we will receive the promise without meeting the condition.
Some promises in Scripture are granted without a condition being met.1 Others, most in fact, have a condition attached to them. For example, our salvation is based on meeting a condition:
Romans 10:9 – That if (condition) you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and (if you) believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, (then – result or promise) you will be saved.
Note that salvation comes after the condition is met. Repentance and the acknowledgement of Christ as Lord is mandatory, not optional. You cannot come to faith in Him any other way. This is an if / then passage about salvation.
If / Then Passages
But there’s so much more. Take a look at a few of these if / then passages. See if you can begin to understand how important your part is in receiving the promises of the Father.
Matthew 6:14-15 – “For if (condition – your action and responsibility) you forgive men their trespasses, (then – the result or promise from God) your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if (condition – your action and responsibility) you do not forgive men their trespasses, (then – the result or promise from God) neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
If we desire forgiveness from God, we must first forgive others. First the condition, then the promise. How important is it for me to forgive others who have wronged me? It’s vital. For without meeting the horizontal condition of forgiveness between me and another, God is not obligated to fulfill the vertical condition of forgiving me for my sins and transgressions. This is not something to play around with. This if / then condition has lasting, eternal consequences.
John 15:10 – “If (condition) you keep My commandments, (then – result) you will abide (rest, dwell, make your home) in My love, (example) just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”
How do I rest and abide in the love (agape) of Christ? And how can I experience the abiding presence of that love like Jesus had with His Father? By meeting the if condition of the if / then promise. By keeping His commandments. By doing what He tells me to do. By loving Him through my obedience and not living a life of rebellion, apathy or arrogance. After all, Jesus also said in another if / then passage, “If you love Me, (then) keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Which means, if I love Him, then I will show my love for Him by keeping His commandments. And if I don’t love Him, then I won’t keep His commandments. Or, more frightening still, if I’m not keeping His commandments, then I must not love Him at all. Which means our love for Christ can be clearly seen by our obedience to Him. Not in our words, but in our actions (Luke 6:46).
We’ll close today with just one more. This if / then promise was spoken to Martha at the tomb of Lazarus right before Jesus raised him from the dead in the sight of all.
John 11:40 – Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if (condition) you would believe (then – result) you would see the glory of God?”
Jesus was about to raise a man back to life who had been dead and buried four full days. It was to be a powerful testimony that Christ is God and can do all things. For me, it’s one of the greatest miracles in the New Testament. But Martha would fail to see God in any of this unless she believed. She was in danger of becoming hard hearted and spiritually blind, much like the Pharisees and others who made up the religious establishment of that day, to what was about to take place. Instead of experiencing the glory of God, she would go back to her home unchanged, unmoved, and further away from the One who raised her brother from the dead. Why? Because of her lack of belief. Jesus’ words to her were simple, “If you believe (the condition that unlocks the revelation of the glory of God), then (the result of her faith and belief) you will see the glory of God.” And the opposite is also true. “If you do not believe (condition), then (result of lack of faith) you will not see the glory of God.”
The spiritual magnitude of this momentous event for Martha was contingent on her belief— on the if part of the if / then promise from Jesus.
Are you beginning to see the importance of these overlooked if / then promises in Scripture? Good. Because there are hundreds of them.
For the next few weeks we’ll be looking at the if / then passages found in Scripture to discover what part we must play in receiving the promises from God. Why? Because fulfilling the if part is something we can do. It’s something we can get better at. Something the Lord has left in our hands. Obedience to His Word is our responsibility. And the promises for obedience, the results of the if / then promises in Scripture are, honestly, overwhelmingly wonderful.
Tomorrow we’ll begin looking at the if / then promises found in the Proverbs.
1 – For example, God’s promise to Abraham is not conditional on anything Abraham would, or would not do (Gen.12:7). See also Gen. 12:1-3; 13:15-16; 15:18-21; 17:6-8; and 35:11-12.
What if God was bigger than the box in which we try to place Him? Wouldn’t that be incredible? You and I both know that He is bigger than anything we can imagine. But nevertheless, we have a tendency to always try to place Him in a box that allows us to understand Him on our terms.
Think of the boxes in which we try to place Him. We have our experience box that rejects God moving in any way other than what we have experienced in the past. This box makes our experience with Him as the defining element of His character and the full expression of His will. God can never be bigger than He has been in our past. He becomes one-dimensional, myopic, and is not allowed to do anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or stretches and expands our faith.
We have our denominational box that limits God to the tenets of our theology, our sacred creeds, or our agreed upon statements of faith. But this box assumes we know all there is to know about the Unknowable One, the One who defies human description. This box cannot be true. For how can the created know all there is to know about the Creator, no matter how infested the created is with pride and arrogance and self-exaltation?
Then we have our spiritual maturity box. This box states that the way God is dealing with us right now, at this present moment, at our current level of maturity, is how He deals with everyone. Why? Because we can’t accept the fact there may be others who are more mature than we are in the things of the Lord. That would make us feel uncomfortable. Or, worse yet, convicted. And there are other boxes we conjure with different labels. We have our faith box, our feelings box, and the like. But God cannot be contained by the constraints of our fear or insecurity.
God is beyond all that. He’s incredible. He’s beyond comprehension. He cannot be understood or described by mere human words. It is foolishness to assume we can know the Almighty and all His ways. Why? Because He says about Himself in Isaiah,
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Often we find ourselves hamstrung and impotent in our spiritual lives, when compared with Scripture, because of the limitations we place on our God by the box we try to force Him into.
The Early Church
We see God do incredible things in the book of Acts— unparalleled things compared to what we see Him doing in the church today. Because that fact alone makes us feel so uncomfortable, we go to great lengths to try to convince ourselves that His moving like He did was for them alone, at that time in history, but not for us today. Why? Why would we assume that? Then we go through great theological gymnastics to somehow try to prove that the “abundant ” life Jesus promised (John 10:10), as revealed to us in the book of Acts, was only for them, and not for us. They got to experience true intimacy with the Lord, and we are left standing alone, jilted at the altar.
But what if all that changed?
What if we got the opportunity to be able to see God for who He really is? What if we began to understand the Holy Spirit as being more than just an attribute of God, or a characteristic of God, or just some innate power coming from God that we ask for when we need it? What if our eyes were opened and we began to see and experience the Holy Spirit as Jesus revealed Him? What if we truly believed, and rested on that belief, that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth that will “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:27)? What if we took Jesus at His word when we said, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (the Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7)?
How would that change your life? And how would it change your experience with His church?
These are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself of late. In all my years of ministry, I’ve had the nagging feeling that I’m missing something, that I am somehow coming up short. I’ve felt there’s more to this life in Christ than what I was taught in Seminary or that I have experienced in all my years in church.
Have you ever felt the same?
Do you see how the church is portrayed in the book of Acts and then wonder what happened between then and now? I do. And it drives me to hunger for more of Him.
What if we had the confidence, as the Scripture states, to go “boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16)? Not just mental assent to the truth of this verse, but to know this truth deep down where our hurts and fears reside. What if this promise became a living reality in our lives?
What if we really believed that God loves us, no matter what, and listens to our prayers? Would that change your prayer life? It would mine. Would you seek Him first in your frustrations and disappointments, or would you continue to try to manipulate people and circumstances to your own advantage?
What if we truly believed what it says in Romans about each of us? God tells us “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs— heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). Do you feel like a child of God? Do you think of yourself as a child of God? And more than that, do you live like an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ? But that’s who God says we are, no matter how strange and foreign it may seem.
Back to Acts
Together, we’re going to take the book of Acts and try to understand it through new eyes. Not our 21st century eyes of doubt, cynicism and failure, but through the eyes of the Spirit and in childlike, trusting faith. We want to see the Lord for what He says, and what He does, and believe His words are true for us today. We want to understand the book of Acts as not some ancient story about how the church was, and can never be again, but for how things should be. How things could be. And hopefully, how they are.
We want permission to be able to dream again.
So join with me as we strive to uncover the truth about who Christ is and how the Holy Spirit works in our life by looking at an in-depth study of the church in the book of Acts.
It should be quite a ride. I hope you’ll join with me.
Often we preach about the need for revival in the church and in our own lives. We hold the virtues and blessings of revival up high, for all to see, yet fail to talk about the dark side of revival, the downside of totally surrendering to Him.
And that downside is satanic attack.
For the novice, this attack can be devastating because they are often ill-prepared to stand against it. For the more mature believer, the attack is just another affirmation they are living as light and walking where the enemy dwells.
Do you know how to prepare for a spiritual attack? Do you know how to stand when the day of evil comes (Eph. 6:13)? If not, then keep listening.
The following is a study on Spiritual Warfare.
To download the slides for this message, click – HERE
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