The Most Important Commandment!

-What Would You Ask God?

Several times, in my lifetime, I’ve found myself in a conversation with someone who made a statement that they intended to ask God about something when they saw Him someday! How about you? If you could ask God any question, what would it be? Well, in Mark’s Gospel, the writer says, that:  “One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?” Of all the 613 commands found in the Torah (Jewish Old Testament) which was THE most important? Wow! That’s a big question! Which command’s at the top of the list? Don’t wanna miss that one!

-The Answer To The Big Question!

This is the most important,” Jesus answered: “Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” Mark 12:28-30.  This is really a timely post as it seems the church, in general, is confused about “worship.” But, Jesus really clears things up, doesn’t He? He’s really saying that we have to love God with ALL of our being—ALL of our “heart” & our “soul” & our “mind” & our “strength.”

-Everyone Claims To Love God!

So, it’s impossible to love God until we know Him! But, we live in a day when everyone claims to love God! That may be a generalization; but, I’m absolutely stunned by the number of times that totally lost, unregenerate people—who have NO IDEA “Who” God is—still tell me they LOVE Him! I can believe them when they say they “love” pizza, for example, because they’ve tasted it! They’ve handled it! I can believe them when they say they “love” hunting because it’s something they’ve done! They take their dog & a friend! So, they’ve experienced it! But, you cannot possibly love God until you KNOW God! Until you’ve met Him & know Him well enough to explain WHY you love Him! Study Jesus’ words! That’s precisely what He’s saying!

-Love God Personally!

Jesus says we must love God PERSONALLY! Notice, from His response to the Scribes question, how Jesus uses 6 “personal” pronouns; and, every one of them is “possessive”—“The Lord OUR God”; “Love the Lord YOUR God”… ”with all YOUR HEART”… ”with all YOUR SOUL”… “with all YOUR MIND”… “with all YOUR STRENGTH.” THE most important commandment, in all of Scripture, is to have a personal, possessive love for God, Jesus says. And, you cannot love someone you don’t know! My wife & I have been married 35 years! But, I confess to you that there were 20 years during which time I did not love her! Not one bit of love did I have for her; and, the reason was that I didn’t know her! I hadn’t met her yet! Once I did, I grew to love her as I came to know her! That’s no different with God! We have to know Him personally before we can claim to love Him! We come to know His character—and, we know Him through Jesus & the Word!

 

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Worship Rejects All Competing Loves!

-It Impacts Your Life Like That!

According to the Apostle Paul’s urging,  to the Church of Rome,  when your worship is genuine it will impact your life, in such a dynamic way, that God will use it to produce perpetual change in you— “…I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual worship…” Romans 12:1.  As we worship God, He is redeeming our lives—as we intentionally present them to Him—to “remake” them into the image for which we were created before sin ruined it all! That’s why Paul wrote the Church of Corinth, “Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” 1 Corinthians 6:19,20.

-You’re Not Your Own!

Don’t you know, Paul asked, that if you’ve accepted Jesus, as your Savior, that you’re NOT your own! He BOUGHT you—that word carries the idea of “redemption.” He redeemed you! He reclaimed you! He’s in the process of restoring you by sanctification! So, we must intentionally present our bodies to Him as a “living sacrifice” to glorify God with our bodies! But, there’s a 2nd point, that Paul ties to our worship, in the next verse—“Do not be conformed to this age”; or, this “world” as some translations render it! (Romans 12:2) I like how the Philips Translation puts it—“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold…

-Only 2 World Views!

In other words, “worshiping” God involves an intentional rejection of the world’s demand to conform! There are really only 2 “world views” or philosophies. There is the philosophy of the world that is self-centered, self-pleasing, and self-indulgent! It’s promoted in advertising, books, movies, video games and most social media. It’s constantly pinching us & squeezing us into it’s mold—“If you don’t conform, you’re out of touch,” the world says!  The opposing “world view” submits to Creator God & His word! Paul continues, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Worship transforms & renews your mind!

-Intentional Transformation!

Genuine worship includes an “intentional transformation” of the mind to think like God thinks—those thoughts that are “…good, pleasing, and perfect…” and align with God’s will! What a contrast, Paul presents, between being conformed & pressed into the world’s mold; or, being transformed with a renewed mind—all within the “context” of worship! Worship is way bigger then singing songs to Jesus for 20 minutes on a Sunday morning.  This passage paints a picture, of worship, that’s all about God doing a work in us! As we humble ourselves, in brokenness, before Him; and, intentionally offer our bodies back to Him, He begins to change us in ways that make us more & more usable for His Kingdom’s purposes! He is re-making us to be what we were meant to be; and, His Spirit works with our spirit by transforming our minds!

 

Worshipers Are Thankful People!

Next Post August 8th

A Little Vacation Time!

-Give Thanks To Yahweh!

The Ark, of God’s covenant with Israel, was coming back to Jerusalem! King David, the newly installed King, made it a priority to lead Israel back to faithful worship of Yahweh! You might recall that the Ark had been captured, by the Philistines, while Saul was Israel’s King; and—though it had been returned to them after God broke out against them with plagues—it had been neglected under Saul’s leadership.  So, returning the Ark to Jerusalem was one of King David’s 1st orders. “On that day David decreed for the first time that thanks be given to the Lord by Asaph and his relatives: ‘Give thanks to Yahweh; call on His name’ David said, ‘proclaim His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him; sing praise to Him; tell about all His wonderful works!’’-1 Chronicles 16:7-9.

-Where Worship Begins!

God’s Holy Spirit inspired David to write that genuine worship begins with a thankful heart.  It’s his initial point! It’s impossible to worship God rightly if your heart is bitter and unthankful! The old preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, once wrote: “All the good that we enjoy comes from God. Recollect that! Alas, most men forget it. Rowland Hill used to say that worldlings were like the hogs under the oak, which eat the acorns, but never think of the oak from which they fell, nor lift up their heads to grunt out a thanksgiving. Yes, so it is. They munch the gift and murmur at the giver.”  True worshippers, of God, must quit taking God’s blessings for granted! Our faith will grow deeper & deeper the more we thank God for everything in life—the good with the bad!

-Worship God In Song!

And, then, David calls out the children, of Israel,  to worship God by singing praise to Him. Notice, it’s NOT a “suggestion”; but, rather it’s an imperative or a command. David doesn’t tell them to sing only if they’re good at it. He’s preaching to the congregation; and, he commands all of them to sing! The psalmist wrote, “make a joyful noise to the Lord”-Psalm 98:4.  It seems that God may actually take a bit more delight when the musically ungifted or unskilled, in the congregation, sing with all their heart, because they’re not doing it for the praise of men; but, for the genuine love of God.

-Worship Is Seeking God!

David also tells the congregation, of Israel, to worship God by seeking Him— “…let the hearts of those who seek Yahweh rejoice,” he says, “Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always” 1 Chronicles 16:10.  It’s an act of worship to seek after God! In fact, the writer of Hebrews says that God “…is a rewarder of those who SEEK Him” (ch. 11:6). God actually REWARDS the worshipper who seeks Him! He hides Himself from those who seek Him for their own selfish interests; from, those, who want Him to be a genie in a bottle. But, to those who seek him so that they might know Him, He will be found! Do you seek Him? Do you pursue Him with greater passion than you pursue the fleeting interests of this world? Only than will you find Him! Seek Him as though He were the greatest treasure in life; because, HE IS!

 

How Must We Worship God?

-What Does Worship Look Like?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “worship”? What images does that word “worship” create for you? There are roughly 450 verses, in Scripture, that contain the word “worship” or “praise” in them. So, it’s a frequent Bible theme! Most often, it’s used as an appropriate outpouring response, of the human heart, toward Yahweh, who is worthy! At other times, it’s used negatively, by the writers of Scripture, because the worship & praise is directed at “idols” or “false gods” or “human kings”; or, some other created thing!

-Let’s Define Worship!

The dictionary definition for worship goes like this:  “worship is rendering honor and homage to God or to any object regarded as sacred; it is adoration, devotion & praise.” While true, that definition seems a little stale & sterile to me! It lacks the key element of a personal relationship! I much prefer this definition:  “worship is a redeemed heart, occupied with God, expressing itself in adoration & thanksgiving.” Much better! Or, what about this definition, by A.W. Tozer:  “True worship is to be so personally and hopelessly in love with God, that the idea of a transfer of affection never even remotely exists.” True worship is always about GOD! He is always the focus of true worship! He is the object of our worship! We are to “be occupied with Him.” We reverence, honor, and adore Him—NOT because of what He does for us; but, because of WHO He IS!

-True Worship Changes Us!

We worship the God who entered the world, He created, to save & redeem His people, who are lost in sin! And, here is the bottom line about worship—when our worship, of God, is true & genuine, our heart & our life will be CHANGED! True worship changes us! I would suggest that it begins in our head with knowledge of the “who”, “why’s” and “how’s” of worship! Then, our knowledge of worship makes it’s way to our heart; and, we know when it’s arrived, in our heart, because our hands quickly follow! It’s seen being lived out in the deeds & actions of a changed life! That’s what happens when genuine worship takes place! If we don’t worship God rightly, we become guilty of disobedience to His commands!

-God Commands Us To Worship!

God commands us to worship Him & no other! And, He’s instructed us what our worship ought to look like:  “I am the Lord your God…Do not have other gods besides Me. Do not make an idol for yourself…You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” Exodus 20:1-5; and, “Fear Yahweh your God, worship Him” Deut 6:13.  A clear picture, of the worship God accepts, is the story of Israel returning to a gathering of praise, around the Ark of God, under King David. In 1 Chronicles 16, David recites a Psalm, of worship & praise, directed at Yahweh! As the recently appointed king, of Israel, David made it a priority to lead Israel back to faithful worship of the LORD. This is what worship looks like—it doesn’t matter if it’s Israel in the O.T.; or, the church in the N.T. Read it again!

 

Your Giving Reveals Your Heart!

-It’s An Exact Index!

Richard Halverson served as the Chaplain of the United States Senate from 1981-1994. Some considered this statement he made, about money, to be controversial: “Jesus Christ said more about money than any other single thing because, when it comes to a man’s real nature, money is of first importance. Money is an exact index to a man’s true character.  All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a man’s character and how he handles his money.” Money is an “exact index” to a man’s true character, he says! In other words, you can get a good feel for a person’s level of spiritual commitment by checking out their spending habits!

-Where Is Your Treasure?

Jesus said it like this, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will follow” Matthew 6:21. What your money goes after is a pretty clear indication of what your heart goes after! What your hands buy is a reflection of what your heart is doing with God! I saw this 1st hand because I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I was 13 when my parents came to faith in Christ; and, I saw how it impacted all their decisions about finances. So, the “quality” of your faith will reflect in all your financial decisions, as well as the level of your generosity. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”; and, He had a lot to say about money! Nearly half of his parables were about finances—He talked about money & possessions more than all His talks on heaven & hell combined! REALLY!

-Is Money Spiritual?

All of which means that it’s impossible to separate your financial life from your spiritual life. We can’t make money a taboo subject in the Church & the pulpit when 1 out of every 7 verses, in the New Testament, deals with money. Think about this: There are 500 Bible verses on prayer; LESS than 500 verses on faith; and, more than 2,350 verses on money! If the Church is to be faithful to the Word of God, we can’t NOT preach and teach about money! There is a fundamental connection between your spiritual life, and, the way you think about & handle money! Your financial decisions ultimately reveal what you think about God!

-We’re Managing God’s Stuff!

And, it’s vital to your walk with Christ—to your SANCTIFICATION & your spiritual growth—that you listen and obey what the Scriptures say about this. You’ve got to get this right, Church! Let the Holy Spirit, who indwells you as a believer, convict you with God’s Word if you’re not doing this right! And, REPENT! Make the right decision for God! As we conclude, let the words of the Apostle Paul to the Church of Corinth speak to your heart: “Remember this, the person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver…You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.” 2 Corinthians 9:1-12

 

What Do You Love More Than God?

-Are There Competing Loves?

When Jesus told the rich young ruler to, “Go, sell your belongings and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven…” he confronted him with the one thing in his life that was competing for a relationship with God—his wealth! The text continues, “…but, when the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions” Mark 10:17-27.  Let’s be clear—Jesus didn’t tell everyone to sell all their possessions and give it to the poor. Only to those, who made their possessions an idol, does He tell to get rid of it!

-Do You Want To Be Rich?

And, it’s not just about HAVING riches! The Apostle Paul says, “…those who WANT to BE RICH fall into temptations, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction” 1 Timothy 6:9.  It’s not having riches, necessarily, that are the temptation and trap. It’s the WANTING to BE RICH! I’ve known people who were dirt poor and fell into this trap! It was the “lust” they had to BE RICH that ruled their life! It was the idol they bowed down to—WANTING to BE RICH! Those who love money, whether they have it or not, are easily deceived by it!

-The Root Of All Kinds Of Evil!

Paul continued his warning to Timothy, “…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” 1 Timothy 6:10. In other words, it’s that covetous love for money that can give rise to all kinds of other deadly sins. When the “love of money” is your life’s ambition, you’ll sell out everything to get it—even your relationship with God! You’ll do whatever it takes to gain more money; and, to gain more stuff! But, you’ll never be content!

-Godliness With Contentment!

Paul told Timothy that it was “…godliness with contentment that is great gain”; and, “…if we have food and clothing we should be content with these” 1 Timothy 6:6,8.  Our greatest “return on investment” comes from a life that finds contentment in God alone! If we have God! If we know Him! If He is our treasure, than food and clothing is all we really need in this life! Paul tells Timothy that it’s possible to be content with those simple necessities of life because we have all that we really need in God! Do you believe that? Do you live that way? Are you content?

-Free From The Love For Money!

God inspired the writer of Hebrews to record these words: “Keep your life free from the love of money. Be content with what you have. For He has said, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you.’ Hence we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5,6.  We can be FREE from the love of money! We can be content with what we have because God will never forsake us! He’ll never fail me! The stock market will fail me; but, God never will! So, how do you spend your money? Jesus said, “…where your heart is, there your treasure will be…” If you treasure stuff, that’s where your heart will follow! If you treasure God’s work, that’s where your heart will follow!

 

More Like Jesus & Less Like You!

-So, How Are You Doing Spiritually?

At a recent Small Group meeting I asked this series of questions: “How are you doing Spiritually? And, on what criteria do you base your answer? How are you measuring your walk with Christ?” I’ve found when I just ask the 1st question—“How are you doing spiritually?”—that everyone says, “Good! Good!” Have you noticed that? I mean, that’s MY typical response to that question! It’s a question that needs qualifying! It needs those follow-up questions. On what basis can I say, “Good! Good!” when someone asks me how I’m doing spiritually?

-Is It About What We Do?

Do we measure our spiritual progress by the things we DO? Be careful! Don’t quickly dismiss the things we DO & say that, “…it’s only what’s in the HEART that matters.” If our HEART is right with God it WILL impact the things we DO, right? Jesus said: “If you love Me, you WILL KEEP my commandments.” At the same time, we can DO all the RIGHT things for the WRONG reasons, can’t we? We can do things to be SEEN of men; and, Jesus called that hypocrisy!

-Practicing The Spiritual Disciplines

Several months back I received a call from a young man who got saved in my youth group, in Colorado, several years ago. He asked if he could interview me for a seminary class he was taking. The interview included a line of questions based on how I lived my life according to the so-called “Spiritual Disciplines”—or, practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth. They’re habits of devotion—like prayer, fasting, public & private worship, meditation, making disciples—and, they’re all activities that Jesus’ followers are commanded to do! In fact, Jesus practiced most of them Himself! In answering the question, for the interview, I prefaced my answer with this caution—we are NOT godly just because we practice certain spiritual disciplines!

-The Error Of The Pharisees

That was the great error of the Pharisees, wasn’t it? They believed that they were godly BECAUSE they practiced certain things!  You cannot separate what you’re doing on the OUTSIDE by who you ARE on the INSIDE. What you DO matters! But, who you ARE matters even more! Here’s what I’m trying to say—Spiritual growth happens, in your life, as you become MORE like Jesus & LESS like you! That’s what’s expected if you’re truly His disciple!

-Where Spiritual Growth Happens

Based on several NT passages, I believe that our spiritual development occurs BEST in the context of a “faith community”; or, a church! Being a disciple of Christ does not begin with something WE do; but, with something that Christ DID! That’s the Gospel! He redeemed our broken relationship with the Father by His substitutionary atonement on the cross! He took away our sin! He paid the penalty we should have paid so that the Father might grant us forgiveness, grace, mercy & love! He adopts us into His “family”; and, it’s His family that makes up the church!  That becomes our new identity! We’re no longer citizens of this world; rather, Scripture says we’re “temporary residents” here! And, it’s within the “family” atmosphere, of the “church”, that God prunes us so that He might accomplish our sanctification!