What is true worship?

By  Joseph Carroll

The apostle Paul described true worship perfectly in Romans 12:1-2: “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.”

This passage contains all the elements of true worship. First, there is the motivation to worship: “the mercies of God.” God’s mercies are everything He has given us that we don’t deserve: eternal love, eternal grace, the Holy Spirit, everlasting peace, eternal joy, saving faith, comfort, strength, wisdom, hope, patience, kindness, honor, glory, righteousness, security, eternal life, forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, sanctification, freedom, intercession and much more. The knowledge and understanding of these incredible gifts motivate us to pour forth praise and thanksgiving—in other words, worship!

Also in the passage is a description of the manner of our worship: “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.” Presenting our bodies means giving to God all of ourselves. The reference to our bodies here means all our human faculties, all of our humanness—our hearts, minds, hands, thoughts, attitudes—are to be presented to God. In other words, we are to give up control of these things and turn them over to Him, just as a literal sacrifice was given totally to God on the altar. But how? Again, the passage is clear: “by the renewing of your mind.”

We renew our minds daily by cleansing them of the world’s “wisdom” and replacing it with true wisdom that comes from God. We worship Him with our renewed and cleansed minds, not with our emotions. Emotions are wonderful things, but unless they are shaped by a mind saturated in Truth, they can be destructive, out-of-control forces. Where the mind goes, the will follows, and so do the emotions. First Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have “the mind of Christ,” not the emotions of Christ.

There is only one way to renew our minds, and that is by the Word of God. It is the truth, the knowledge of the Word of God, which is to say the knowledge of the mercies of God, and we’re back where we began. To know the truth, to believe the truth, to hold convictions about the truth, and to love the truth will naturally result in true spiritual worship.

It is conviction followed by affection, affection that is a response to truth, not to any external stimuli, including music. Music as such has nothing to do with worship. Music can’t produce worship, although it certainly can produce emotion. Music is not the origin of worship, but it can be the expression of it. Do not look to music to induce your worship; look to music as simply an expression of that which is induced by a heart that is rapt by the mercies of God, obedient to His commands.

True worship is God-centered worship. People tend to get caught up in where they should worship, what music they should sing in worship, and how their worship looks to other people. Focusing on these things misses the point. Jesus tells us that true worshipers will worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). This means we worship from the heart and the way God has designed. Worship can include praying, reading God’s Word with an open heart, singing, participating in communion, and serving others. It is not limited to one act, but is done properly when the heart and attitude of the person are in the right place.

It’s also important to know that worship is reserved only for God. Only He is worthy and not any of His servants (Revelation 19:10). We are not to worship saints, prophets, statues, angels, any false gods, or Mary, the mother of Jesus. We also should not be worshiping for the expectation of something in return, such as a miraculous healing. Worship is done for God—because He deserves it—and for His pleasure alone. Worship can be public praise to God (Psalm 22:22; 35:18) in a congregational setting, where we can proclaim through prayer and praise our adoration and thankfulness to Him and what He has done for us. True worship is felt inwardly and then is expressed through our actions. “Worshiping” out of obligation is displeasing to God and is completely in vain. He can see through all the hypocrisy, and He hates it. He demonstrates this in Amos 5:21-24 as He talks about coming judgment. Another example is the story of Cain and Abel, the first sons of Adam and Eve. They both brought gift offerings to the Lord, but God was only pleased with Abel’s. Cain brought the gift out of obligation; Abel brought his finest lambs from his flock. He brought out of faith and admiration for God.

True worship is not confined to what we do in church or open praise (although these things are both good, and we are told in the Bible to do them). True worship is the acknowledgment of God and all His power and glory in everything we do. The highest form of praise and worship is obedience to Him and His Word. To do this, we must know God; we cannot be ignorant of Him (Acts 17:23). Worship is to glorify and exalt God—to show our loyalty and admiration to our Father.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Prepared by SundayDesk, 

– Read 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

As we look at this passage, we wonder, “If God is in control, and He is; and if God is all powerful, and He is; why did He let all of this stuff happen to His man Paul? If God is in control, why do bad things happen to good people?

This past Thursday, July 8th, my family and many others, gathered at the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office to do 2 things. We gathered first, to recognize those in the Sheriff’s Department and in the community who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, this past year.

We celebrated with them as they received the medals and awards they so richly deserve. 2nd, we gathered also to remember those in law enforcement and around the world, who have given their lives to protect our lives and our freedom.

It was 6 years ago, this past Thursday that I received a phone call, telling me that my dad had been shot and killed in Geneva, in the line of duty. Thursday night, as we again listened to the honor guard firing their 21-gun salute, as we listened to the sad wail of the bagpipes and the lump-in-the-throat producing sound of “taps” being played and echoed by trumpets, I thought of the many times I have heard those sounds in the past few years.

I thought of the many times those same trumpets are played for our soldiers each day.

I thought of the volunteer firemen who died in the town neighboring ours, just weeks after my Dad’s death.

I thought again of the teenage girl from our church, a young girl who, with a friend, had prayed to accept Christ in my office.

I thought of her phone call and heart-breaking cry as she told me she had been raped. As my mind replayed those events, the question again came to mind. The question asked by so many, both inside and outside of the church. “If God is in control, why do bad things happen to good people?”

Now, I do not know the mind of God, I cannot share all of His reasons, but this morning I would like to share with you, 7 reasons from God’s Word, why bad things happen to good people.

Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world

Gen. 3:1-19

If you remember, in the beginning chapters of the Bible, man and woman lived in the Garden of Eden, a virtual paradise. There was no pain, no suffering, no heartache, and no death.

Then Adam and Eve sinned. Because of their sin, the whole world was cursed. The deaths we have waiting for us one-day, the loneliness, sickness, pain and disease we endure today, all come because of man’s sin.

People ask, “How could a loving God let people get sick? How can He allow cancer, and strokes, and Alzheimer’s?” My friend, if you buy a brand new car, and go out and rear end someone and wreck it. You don’t blame it on the manufacturer.

It is broken as the result of your actions. The sickness, and disease we endure today, the hurricanes and tornadoes, the droughts and floods, the struggle at work and pain in childbirth all came as a result of man’s sin. They broke it. The world is not like God created it.

Continuation…Repent of your sins and turn to God!

By James Miller

Mat 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: {20} But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: {21} For where your
treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Mat 7:7-14 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: {8} For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. {9} Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? {10} Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? {11} If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? {12} Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. {13} Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: {14} Because strait is the gate, and
narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Mat 22:37-40 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. {38} This is the first and great commandment. {39} And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. {40} On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Mat 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. {29} Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. {30} For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Isa 57:20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. {21} There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

Prov 8:36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

Matt 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

Matt 13:40-42 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. {41} The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; {42} And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. {13} And the sea gave up the dead which were in
it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. {15} And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

John 4:13-14 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, {14} “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

John 7:37-38 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. {38} “He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Repent of your sins and turn to God!

By James Miller

God has a message for this world and he wants this message  proclaimed. It is the message that was preached by the great  prophets of the Old Testament. It is the message that was  preached by Jesus Christ when he was here on this earth.

And it is the message that Jesus instructed his followers to preach to the entire world. That message is: Repent of your sins, turn away from them and turn to God! Forsake the way of
Darkness and Sin and turn to the way of Light, Life and Truth as found in Jesus Christ. If you do this there is forgiveness for you. If you do not the consequences are very dire.

Turn to God. Commit your heart and life to him. Renounce the Way of the World. Become a believer in Jesus Christ and a follower of His way. Become a Christian. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in
me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) and “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). Jesus died for our sins. By his atonement  we can have life if we serve him.

Christianity is about a personal relationship with God: a relationship characterized by a love of God and the following of His way, not from fear, but from love. It is about an allegiance to God, a commitment of heart and life to him. It is about living by God’s principles and rules. It is about following in God’s way.

And what is God’s way? The Way of God  is the way taught to us by Jesus Christ. It is the Way of Jesus. God’s way is the way of honesty, integrity, goodness, virtue, moral purity.

We live in a world that is deeply depraved,very immoral, terribly wicked. God’s way is a way that is diametrically opposite to the ways, outlooks and values of this world. God is a biased being. He is not tolerant of sin. He has a very strong bias against sin. He has created a hell as punishment for the sinner.

The Bible clearly states that  fornicators, adulterers and homosexuals will go to hell. God’s way is a morally straight, virtuous, clean life. If moral straightness, chastity and cleanness are puritanical, then the Bible is a very puritanical book. Someone may ask, “What is  sin?” The answer to that question is, “Sin is what God says is sin.”

He is our maker. He tells us how he expects us to behave. If we defy him and live however we please, it is at our own peril.We have been dully warned. He has repeatedly given mankind warning  of the consequences of sin.

It is eternal hell. There will be a day of judgment when all will be judged. No one will be exempt.
John the Baptist preached a fire and brimstone message of repentance. Jesus preached the same message. We live in a world  that very badly needs to listen to that message. We live in an age of great Christian apostasy. It is everywhere. True Christianity is very hard to find. Most Christianity is nominal Christianity.

People go through motions. They think they are Christians because  they attend a certain church. They trust what the preacher is telling them. The true message of the Bible is rarely heard today. It is just not socially acceptable. It is not politically correct.Hence it has been altered, twisted, distorted, diluted, sugar-coated, or replaced with a completely false message just to make it attractive and popular with the masses. One finds the truth by serious readingof the Bible. That is the only way. You cannot trust man.

Most people have no convictions. On religious matters, they don’t know what to think. They are easily misled. And they are too lazy to think or act. So they go with the flow, follow the crowd. They think they can’t go wrong by following the crowd. They feel, “The majority can’t be wrong.” Well, that is a terrible mistake. That is the road to hell. The crowd is almost always wrong.

Ezek 18:21-23 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. {22} All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. {23} Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

1 Cor 6:9-10 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, {10} nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

Gal 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. {8} For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, {20} Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, {21} Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Eph 5:3-12 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; {4} Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. {5} For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. {6} Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. {7} Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

{8} For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of  light: {9} (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) {10} Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. {11} And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. {12} For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

Prov 24:12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every
man according to his works?

Mat 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Heb 9:27 It is appointed unto man once to die .. and after that the judgment.

Gen 6:5-6 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. {6} And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

Jer 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? {10} I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

Ezek 18:4 The soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Jer 17:7-8 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope is in him. {8} For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, that spreadeth out her roots by the river. She does not fear when heat cometh; but her leaf shall be green; and is not anxious in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

 

 

Continuation… Superficial vs. Spiritual Wisdom

Prepare by John A Huffman, Jr.

This is the wisdom of the before time, end time and after time. Paul is saying that the most brilliant of persons living in time alone could never come up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, the most brilliant persons who have ever walked the face of this earth cannot, in a clear and rational way, articulate the notion of before time and after time, much less be able to figure out the strange mysteries of the Creator, Sustainer God, who was before time, will be after all time is over and who functions in His triune nature here within the very midst of time.

Eternal truth is not perceived through the eye. We can see nature. It gives us wonderful pleasure. We enjoy art. Some of our most satisfying sensations come through the eye. We can study science. It is dependent upon observable data. However, when we see nature defaced into that which is ugly and observes science gone crazy in nuclear holocaust or physical disease or in legal transgression, we need healing that goes beyond our gifts of observation.

The moral word is not one of expediency alone. The ear can hear the great music, but there is a music of grace that goes beyond that which triggers the most rapturous of aesthetic ecstasy.

The human heart can be filled with enormous piety, compassion and even love, but it cannot ultimately set right that which is wrong.

For all of this, we need God’s revelation of himself.

Einstein could probe the frontiers of science but couldn’t come up with the message of Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross, which has healing power for all time and even beyond!

Assertion Four: God has revealed His wisdom to us by His Spirit.

Tell me about yourself. Tell me your deepest inner thoughts, will you? I doubt that you will. They are secret, aren’t they? They are your private thoughts. No one is going to know them, unless you reveal yourself honestly. And no one can make you do that, can they? You can play games, can’t you? And you’ve done some of that. We all reveal facts about ourselves that fake people out. We all know how to do it, don’t we? You can show off the knowledgeable or the ignorant you. You can show the wealthy or the poor you. You selectively choose to reveal what you want to reveal. That is your right, to own your own thoughts. No one has the power to rape your inner private self.

I notice this in my counseling ministry. There are layers on one’s self that a person reveals. Seldom do they get down to the deepest level in the first interview or two. That is one reason why we advise long-term therapy. There is so much about a person that remains hidden.

Paul makes this human analogy when he writes, “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11).

You have no opportunity to know who God really is and what He is thinking unless He initiates His self-disclosure to you. He has done it. The result is the wisdom of God that you can only discover through His self-disclosure.

Assertion Five: You have received not the spirit of this world but the Spirit of God.

Paul writes, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).

Have you ever employed a tutor to teach you things that are simply hidden to your own rational understandings?

Let me reveal something about myself to you. I am not gifted in languages. I have taken three years of Latin, two years of German, two years of Greek and one year of Hebrew twice. In order to pass my required studies in German and in Hebrew, I was forced to employ a tutor. Languages do not come naturally for me.

There are those of us who need someone who can sit down and explain how to do a particular math problem or someone who can explain to you the mystery of aerodynamics.

God has given you a tutor. If you have received Jesus Christ as Savior, you have the Holy Spirit in your life. He is the very essence of God himself, who has been given to you by God to impart not human wisdom, but spiritual truth. The Holy Spirit is not going to supernaturally teach me Latin, German, Greek, Hebrew without my effort. Nor is the Holy Spirit going to do your physics for you or write your English literature paper or even fill out your annual tax forms. The Holy Spirit will give you wisdom that will help you use your time more wisely and maximize the intellectual gifts that are yours. He will help clear your mind, so that you can study. But the Holy Spirit’s primary function is to interpret spiritual truth, so that you can come to Jesus Christ, grow in Jesus Christ, be enabled by Jesus Christ to face temptation, to be gifted in Jesus Christ and used by Jesus Christ in a way that validates your very creation.

Assertion Six: The unspiritual person does not receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The unspiritual person does not receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit for they are foolishness to him. That person is not able to understand them, because they are “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Why is this? The unspiritual person lives only in the temporal. The Kingdom of God understandings are moronic or idiotic to him or her. The spiritual person lives with a sensitivity to the eternal.

For example, when I teach from God’s Word, if a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior, it will have a tremendous impact on how that person uses their money, sexuality and power; a nonbeliever becomes threatened. An unspiritual person rejects that. They accuse me of going from preaching to meddling. It’s their own business what they do with their money, their sex life and their power. They don’t realize that every good and perfect gift they have comes from the Lord, and He owns it all, and He can take it back at any moment. They won’t let go. It’s theirs. They don’t understand the joy of liberality, that sees one’s self only as a temporary recipient and steward of what God has given. The concept of tithing is absurd. The fact that one could experience joy in giving himself or herself to the Lord and to others doesn’t make any sense. The flip side is that the nonspiritual person doesn’t understand why unlimited money, unlimited sex and unlimited power doesn’t satisfy them.

Assertion Seven: The spiritual person has the very mind of Christ.

Paul concludes the progression of his argument to this point by declaring that a person who is spiritually alive has the Holy Spirit operative in his or her life to the point that you actually have the mind of Christ. He warns, as we will discover when we get into 1 Corinthians 3, that we who are believers in Jesus can quench the Holy Spirit. We can revert back to a previous stage in our spiritual development in which we function as infants, as babies, not ready for the deeper things of God’s Word. But the exciting fact is that you and I are capable, as we are enabled by the Holy Spirit, to have the very mind of Christ, wisdom going beyond the wisdom of the most brilliant person on the face of this earth, because ours in the wisdom of God himself. I may be able to understand the Theory of Relativity or even the physics involved in aerodynamics; but because I am Christ’s and my life is open to Him, I have an understanding that goes beyond the wisdom of this world. And you, too, are entitled to it. You could call it a “spiritual depth perception”-a special capacity to probe the depths of spiritual truth aided by the Holy Spirit.

You see, do you not, we’re talking about the economy of an “upside down kingdom.” God’s kingdom is different than the kingdom of this world. His wisdom is of an eternal nature. The wisdom of this world is temporal.

I invite you today, if you have never received Jesus Christ as Savior, to open your life to Him; acknowledge your need of His forgiveness, His healing, His wisdom, letting go of that false pride, that arrogance which demands that you have your way as one living in the economy of this world’s kingdom. Or if you have received Him but have smothered the Holy Spirit with a blanket of self-interest, elitism, arrogance, pride, doubt, party spirit, admit it for what it is. Stop looking back to a better day spiritually. Repent! Welcome the Lord once again into the very center of your life. Acknowledge how much He loves you and wants you to reciprocate that love. And live with the wisdom which comes from the Holy Spirit! May these words of the hymn writer Kate B. Wilkinson by your prayer and mine:

May the mind of Christ my Savior
live in me from day to day,
by his love and power controlling
all I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
in my heart from hour to hour,
so that all may see I triumph
only through his power.

May the peace of God my Father
rule my life in everything,
that I may be calm to comfort
sick and sorrowing.

May I run the race before me,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only unto Jesus
as I onward go.

John A Huffman, Jr. is Senior Pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA.

Continuation…Superficial vs. Spiritual Wisdom

Prepare by John A Huffman, Jr.

This growth is a rigorous process. This wisdom has depth to it. A Christian who is maturing in his or her faith is not coming to church on Saturday night or Sunday, adult education, or all the other activities, to be entertained by some clever, eloquent performer who orchestrates your emotions and makes you feel good. It is our responsibility to teach you. It is your responsibility to learn. That is why Paul says, “Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6-7).

Paul is making some assertions that have huge implications for you and me. In the time that’s left, let’s look at these specific assertions.

Assertion One: There are two kinds of wisdom.

One is “temporal wisdom.” It is the wisdom of this age. It is the wisdom of the rulers of this age. It is a wisdom that has limited horizons. It is propelled forward by the spiritual powers of darkness. It has a satanic dimension to it. And it is doomed to pass away.

What would be some examples of this temporal wisdom?

There are many labels we could throw around.

Naturalism tells us that we live in a closed universe of cause and effect. What we experience through our senses is all that there is.

Secular Humanism places us as human beings at the center of all reality, leaving no place for the word of the cross. We should be good to each other. It’s wrong to be bad, but there’s no clear definition of what is good and what is bad. It is a one-dimensional effort to somehow figure out how human beings can live together without any notion of divine or any kind of higher power. This so quickly becomes a lifestyle determined by “political correctness.”

Hedonism declares a universe that has no real meaning, so “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

New Age Mysticism informs us that reality is found within ourselves and, with intense meditation, we will come to a greater awareness of who we are and how to function in relationship to others.

Materialism stimulates our inquisitive nature, promising that wealth and power is the purpose of living. “The one with the most toys wins.”

Apostate Christianity belittles the historic biblical doctrines of the faith, yet still claims to be Christian. Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong ran a full-page ad in the September 6, 2005, issue of Christian Century belittling historic biblical truth and the very fact that, after the Bible is read, we declare, “This is the word of the Lord.” He writes:

In many of its details, the Bible is simply wrong! Epilepsy is not caused by demon possession. David did not write the Psalms. The earth is not the center of the universe. On other issues of great public concern, the Bible is no longer even regarded as moral. Its verses have been used to affirm war, slavery, segregation and apartheid. It defines women as inferior creatures and suggests that homosexual persons be put to death.
Church people try to ignore or suppress these biblical deficiencies, but when the Scriptures are read to a listening congregation the response is increasing incredulity. They still respond, “This is the word of the Lord.”

Outside the church, this presumed authority of Scripture is generally ignored. Secular people live in a post-religious world where the idea that a literary work, written between 1000 B.C.E. and 135 C.E., can be “the Word of God,” is simply too far-fetched to believe. This obvious ecclesiastical power play is no longer even passively accepted as benign. One has only to chart the evil and pain that many people have endured in history because someone regarded the Bible as the “Word of God.” That claim is no longer regarded as valid.

There are those who still claim the name Christian but repudiate the notion of a Creator, Sustainer God, who breaks into human history in the person of Jesus Christ and who reveals His truth in the Scriptures, which we hold to be “the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”

We could go on mentioning other evidences of temporal wisdom. What do they all hold in common? They live within time. They don’t really explain where we came from, why we are here and where we are going in a way that equips us with quality for the now.

The second kind of wisdom is eternal wisdom. This is the hidden wisdom of God. It is His natural and special revelation of himself. This lasts forever and is the ultimate ground of all being in which you and I can stake our very lives. Granted, at times, we distort it and misinterpret His wisdom. When we do so, we need to come under the authority of God’s revelation, finding correction of our errors through our endeavor to more fully understand the wisdom that goes beyond our temporal, limited, finite, human rationality.

Assertion Two: None of the rulers of this age fully understand this.

Sometimes the phrase “rulers of this age” is used to describe evil, supernatural powers thought to control human destiny. It appears that here Paul is referring to human leaders, since, in verse 8, he says that these are the ones who crucified Jesus and since the contrast in this whole passage is between the believer who has the Spirit and the nonbeliever who does not have the Spirit.

Not many of the rulers of this world understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Power does have a way of corrupting. As has been said, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I do know that, when your citizenship is in the Kingdom of God and you bow your head before His sovereignty, there are those rulers of the kingdom of humankind who are threatened by your allegiance to the Lord. They do not understand this. The currency of the kingdom of humankind is a different currency.

Some of us discover this reality when we travel. One summer I spent two weeks in Scotland. I used British Sterling to buy my meals, to pay for my lodging, to rent a car, to pay bridge tolls, to purchase tickets on ferries, to have my laundry done. At the airport, I tried to change as much of my leftover Sterling as possible into the currency of the European Union. However, I still had some left in my wallet; and when I arrived in Madrid, I tried to buy a newspaper with it at the airport newsstand. It was refused. I tried to give it as a tip to the bellboy at the hotel. He wanted nothing to do with it. It was the currency of another land. What had gotten me in and out of everywhere in Scotland was reputed as irrelevant in those countries of the European Union. I have jar on my dresser at home filled with coins and paper currency of various nations of the world, valuable currency if I ever returned to them but useless to me here-not even worth the time and energy to go to a bank and try to make an exchange.

The eternal wisdom of the Kingdom of God is viewed as foolishness to the kingdom of this earth. It is currency that is irrelevant. It doesn’t make sense. It is puzzling.

Perhaps one of the best examples of this was the trouble Jimmy Carter got into when he, as a Christian running for president, very candidly admitted to the editors of Playboy Magazine that, although he had been faithful as a husband to his wife, he occasionally had “sexual lust in his heart.” Those of us who are biblical followers of Jesus understand clearly what he said. We’ve been there too. Even as he was acknowledging his faithfulness to his marriage vows, he wanted to make very clear that he was not a perfect person, that he needed the forgiveness of Jesus Christ on a daily basis. Remember how the world laughed at him? He was right on theologically but became a joke to nonbelievers. Even now, 25 years out of the presidency, he becomes front-page news when he goes into a ghetto here or abroad and gives a week of his time at manual labor, helping the underprivileged through Habitat For Humanity. Incumbent presidents and Hollywood celebrities take those photo opportunities to be seen with a hammer in hand and work for an hour or two enhancing their images, but they don’t do it for a week at a time. That’s not the stuff of people in power. To a follower of Jesus, whatever his political party association may be, someone like Jimmy Carter is simply fleshing out his faith alongside the rest of us who are not as prominent and newsworthy. Don’t be surprised when some people view you as odd when you are faithful to your Lord.

Assertion Three: No one can figure this wisdom out on his or her own.

It is impossible to come to this truth of God without God’s specific revelation. Paul paraphrases an Old Testament statement when he writes, “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’-these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

John A Huffman, Jr. is Senior Pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA.

 

Superficial vs. spiritual wisdom

Prepare by John A Huffman, Jr.

1 Corinthians 2:12-13
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.
All this week, I’ve been wrestling with these words of 1 Corinthians 2:6-16.

Initially, what Paul is saying seems so illusive, so erudite, so remote from the practical problems with which we struggle that I was tempted to jump over this passage and move on to chapter 3. However, an expository preacher does not have the luxury of skipping over tough passages. Also, I sensed a still, small, inner voice urging me to keep on, saying, “Dig into that text, John. Don’t rob its tremendous truth from your people, when I am so close to giving you an intellectual and spiritual breakthrough of understanding.”

The breakthrough came for me when I backed off from these eleven verses, taking a look at them in the context of what had come before and what is to follow. It suddenly dawned on me that Paul is in the process of presenting a progressive argument that would touch the hearts and minds of fellow believers whose attitudes and lifestyles are not living up to the profession of faith which is theirs.

So let’s make a quick review.

He opens his letter reminding them of his authority as an apostle called by the will of God. He also reminds them that they are called to be saints “together.”

He wishes them grace and peace. His choice of these words as he opens his letter was not designed to carry heavy theological freight. He was simply wishing them what any civilized, socialized person would wish to a group of friends, a gracious and peaceful existence. He knew that they had become divided. He was pained by the elitism with which some prided themselves in being followers of himself or Apollos or Peter or Christ.

Instead of putting them down with his initial comments, he expresses thanks to God for them. He does not rule them out of the Kingdom of God because of their carnal, less than spiritual, sinful activities. He embraces them as brothers and sisters in Christ. He tells them how, even though he’s been away from them for many months now in Ephesus, he always gives thanks to God for the generosity with which He had showered upon him: grace; riches; spiritual gifts; blamelessness; and divine faithfulness.

Wouldn’t you agree this is an adult way of going about business? He is not manipulating them with shame. He is using affirmation, acknowledging some very positive elements that mark their Christian life and experience.

Now he is able to confront one of the biggest issues, one that he would come back to again and again later in this letter. He appeals to them as brothers and sisters in Christ to put aside their divisions and stand united around the person of Jesus Christ. He begs them to quit “doing their own thing.” He understands human nature. He knows how easy it is for people to revert back to their own natural prejudices and former lifestyles when they get out of fellowship with the Lord.

He can understand why some would be proud followers of him. After all, they were Gentiles whom he had led to Christ and assured them that they didn’t have to become Jewish proselytes, obedient to the details of the Old Testament law. He could understand how some with fairly sophisticated Jewish upbringing would love the eloquent, allegorical teachings of brilliant Apollos from Alexandria. He could understand how some of the more conservative Jews would confess Jesus to be the Messiah but take their theological directions straight from Peter at Jerusalem, whose articulation of the Gospel tended to come out of a more Hebrew mindset. And he could even understand the ultimate elitism of those rugged individualists who functioned with the spiritual snobbery that is content to own no human leader but instead claims a direct pipeline to Jesus the Messiah.

Paul disavows any endeavor to encourage party factionalism and points to the cross of Jesus Christ as a rallying point that would bring everyone together in Christian unity. He writes, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).

With this, he confronts the issue. The issue is not that the word of the cross is “moronic” to those who have not repented of sin and received Jesus Christ as Savior. It was that to the nonbeliever. Can you think of anything more “foolish” than to say God became man, nailed to the cross, and, through His life, death and resurrection, the forgiveness of sins is offered? Nonetheless, that’s the very essence of the Gospel. What is foolishness to some is that which is of ultimate significance to those of us whose eyes have been opened to the reality of God’s love and grace. The word of the cross is the power of God to those of us who have trusted Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

This morning, we have presented to you 55 new members who have completed the half-day, new-member class with instruction and personal sharing. We have not pried into all the personal past acts and beliefs of each of these persons, but we have shared the essence of the Gospel and have alerted them that their qualification for membership in St. Andrew’s is that they have repented of sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. This class of members includes persons from very young to very old, variety of gender, life experiences and geographic identity. Some are long-term veterans of the faith who know a lot of what the Bible teaches. Others are brand new to the faith. What every one of them has declared is that they have put their individual trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

Paul then rhetorically makes reference to people who are known to be wise, brilliant and clever debaters, people who have the wisdom of this world. He refers to Jews who want miraculous signs and Greeks who are looking for eloquent philosophies. As appealing as all this is, he underlines the most elementary of spiritual truths, “. . .but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).

Then he gives two examples.

Example #1: “Take you for example.” He talks specifically about the believers at Corinth. He notes that many sophisticated fraternities or sororities screen those applying. They want people who are wise according to worldly standards. They want powerful people. They want people of noble birth. He bluntly reminds them that not many of them were that wise, that powerful or of noble birth. In fact, later he will remind them that, if they’re going to be arrogant about their spiritual sophistication, they need to remember their origins. “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers-none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

It is helpful, isn’t it, to remember our roots? None of us is perfect! Every one of us is a sinner. Some of us are sinners who have never received God’s grace. Some of us are sinners but for the grace of God, and we are clothed in His righteousness, based on His graciousness, not on our own brilliance, power or sophistication. We can’t buy our way into the Kingdom of God by our intellect, our power or our connections. The reality is that God loves us. We are His chosen people!

Example #2: “Take me for example.” Paul is saying that he knows that he is very intelligent. He can hold his own in intellectual repartee with the brightest of people, he continues to declare that he didn’t come to Corinth with the goal of impressing them with how smart he was. He writes, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Do you follow me? Let’s not get so haughty and prideful, so arrogant in our intellectual and spiritual sophistication. Remember the message of the Christian faith is not one of highly sophisticated philosophical musings. It is an elementary word, the word of the cross. The minute you and I forget that, we begin to develop a prideful elitism. Like our party leaders, we pride ourselves in our own intellectual sophistication.

But wait! This is not all that Paul is talking about. He now makes the transition in his argument that is extremely important. He wants to repudiate any notion that would imply that the Gospel that is so simple in its utterance ends up producing a Christianity that is a “no-nothing” religion that encourages and coddles ignorance and “anti-intellectualism.” That just is not the case. Available to the Christian is a realm of discourse, a knowledge and wisdom that does not repudiate the healthy aspects of this world’s wisdom but actually goes far beyond it.

Every pastor lives at the center of an unrelenting tension. It is my responsibility every time I speak to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that is so straightforward, so simple, that an uneducated child, an adult with a limited IQ or a person with waning intellectual capacities can understand it. I have the responsibility to declare the kerygma, a herald’s announcement of the plain, blunt facts of the Christian life. That’s the starting point. It’s the message of that wonderful children’s song, “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know, For the Bible Tells Me So.” It calls every person, no matter how sophisticated or how modest in intellectual background, to come in repentance to the cross of Jesus Christ. This is evangelism.

On the other hand, I have the responsibility for another kind of instruction that is called didache. This means teaching. This is the explanation of the significant facts that have been announced. It is a stage beyond the basic work of evangelism. It is the responsibility to take the Scriptures, which have been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit of God, and to impress these additional spiritual truths upon you in a way in which you will grow spiritually. I have a responsibility to lead you to growth that goes beyond the basics of the Christian faith without repudiating that basic foundation. There is a lot more to the Christian faith intellectually, doctrinally, theologically than the basic facts. The basic facts, when brought to life by the Holy Spirit’s actions in your life, enable you to be born again, receiving the gift of God’s grace. It is God’s intention that you and I move forward in a growth process that takes joy in the basic facts of what God has done for you, while at the same time exposing ourselves to the deeper teachings of God’s Word.

Paul has to stop at this point and remind the Corinthian believers, as he also reminds you and me in Newport Beach, that once you have come to faith in Jesus Christ, you have the privilege of growing in wisdom.

To be continued…

John A Huffman, Jr. is Senior Pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA.

 

 

Why Do Christians Worship on Sunday

By Daniel Hyde

From creation onward, the people of God worshiped on the seventh day of the week. This was a “creation ordinance” that the Creator Himself established by His example, with the intent that His creatures would follow it.

He worked six days and called His image-bearers to work (Gen. 2:15); He rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2; Ex. 20:11; 31:17) and called His image-bearers to rest. He signified this with His benediction, setting apart the seventh day as “holy” (Gen. 2:3).

Later, when the Sabbath command was reiterated, we read: “In six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed” (Ex. 31:17).

The word refreshed (Hebrew, naphash) is used only two other times in the Old Testament: once in reference to giving rest to animals, servants, and visitors within Israel (Ex. 23:12), and once in reference to David and his men (2 Sam. 16:14).

After God worked to make everything, it was as if His rest refreshed Him. Yet God’s rest and refreshment mean so much more; they have to do with His joy and satisfaction.

The psalmist writes, “May the LORD rejoice in his works” (Ps. 104:31). God’s rest and satisfaction was that of a King; having created the heavens and the earth to be His cosmic palace, He took His place on His throne, so to speak, on the seventh day.

After God brought His people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, the Sabbath day took on even more significance as a covenant sign that God sanctified His people (Ex. 31:13). On that day, the saints celebrated the reality that God had created them and that their rest was rooted in His rest: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Ex. 20:8-11).

As well, the Sabbath signified that God had redeemed His people (Deut. 5:12-15). Finally, the annual Day of Atonement fell on a Sabbath (Lev. 16:30-31), so the Sabbath also celebrated God’s forgiveness of His people.

Under the old covenant with Israel (Ex. 19; Heb. 8:6, 7, 13), the Sabbath day was extremely strict. Not only was no work to be done by the Israelites and their children, they also were to give rest to all in their households—servants, livestock, even sojourners (Ex. 20:10).

God even gave regulatory laws over what could and could not be done.

For example, if one even went out to gather sticks on the Sabbath in order to kindle a fire (Num. 15:32-36; Ex. 35:1-3), he was to be put to death (Ex. 31:14-15; 35:2). All this strictness was a part of the tutelage of the law, which was meant to lead Israel by the hand to Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:24), who is the final sacrifice ending the old covenant (Heb. 7:11-12, 18-19; 8:7, 13).

When Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, things changed. Christ, the second Adam, “finished” (John 19:30) the work that the first Adam failed to do (Rom. 5:12-19).

Because of that pivotal event, the church determined that for Christians under the new covenant, the day of worship and celebration of the Lord’s grace in Jesus Christ was to be the first day of the week, Sunday: “From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, [the Sabbath] was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath” (WCF, 21:7).

On this day, we are reminded of and participate in the glorious reality that we have already entered God’s rest (Matt. 11:28; Heb. 4:10) and that we await the experience of the fullness of this rest in eternity in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21-22).

We now assemble corporately for worship and enjoy a foretaste of our eternal rest, then go out into the kingdom of this world to work for six days. So why do we worship on Sunday and not Saturday?

The first day of the week was the day on which our Lord rose from the dead (John 20:1; cf. Ps. 118:24).
The first day of the week is called “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10; cf. 1 Cor. 16:2).

The first day was the day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church (Acts 2:1-36).

Just as on the first day of creation God made light and separated it from the darkness, we gather on the first day of the week to celebrate the light of the gospel in Jesus Christ, who has separated us from the world of the darkness of sin (John 1:5, 9; 3:19; 8:12; 2 Cor. 4:1-6).

From creation until Christ, the people of God worked six days and then rested on the seventh day. This was a picture of their looking forward to eternal rest; the seventh day of creation was not structured with an “evening and morning” as the previous six days (Gen. 2:1-3), which signified that the seventh day had no end and was thus a foretaste of eternity itself.

On the other hand, from the work of Christ until the consummation, the people of God rest on the first day and work the next six, looking back on the finished work of Christ. Yet we too look forward to the full consummation of this rest.

Living by faith

Prepared by Knowing Jesus

“My righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, I have no pleasure in him”.
Hebrews 10:38.

A Righteous Life

Once in the Old Testament and three times in the New Testament we are told – the just shall live by faith. The righteous man shall live by faith – a life of complete dependence upon God. My righteous servant shall live by faith – a life that rests its entire trust on the Father. It is through faith that a righteous person has life – a life of dependence on the Lord. The righteous shall live by his steadfast life – a life of complete trust on God.

Habakkuk and Romans

In Habakkuk we see that unwavering trust in God is the main focus of the passage.. no matter what the circumstances nor what difficulties are pressing in on our lives. In Romans the main focus is on righteousness – of the one living by faith.. and how those with faith in God are credited with Christ’s RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Galatians and Hebrews

In Galatians the main focus is on life – of the righteous person LIVING by faith, and how faith frees us from curse of the law – so that we can LIVE by trusting God. In Hebrews the main focus is faith –for it is by FAITH that the righteous man lives.. for without faith it is impossible for the believer to live a life pleasing to God. Without faith it is impossible for the Christian life to produce fruit of righteousness. Without faith it is impossible to show forth righteousness, which is of faith. Without faith we can’t sow, pursue or reap a harvest of the fruit of righteousness.

Dependence on God

OH! we were sealed with the Spirit’s seal of righteousness when we were saved. but living a life of righteousness can only be lived by faith – dependence on God, and of course faith has no merit on our part – for it is ALL by God’s grace.

Godly Living

Godly living – a righteous life is a life that demonstrates dependence on God – an unfailing dependence on the grace of God in every area of life and living. A righteous life is one that has come to rest entirely on God’s sovereign grace. It is a voluntary submission to Christ’s sovereign will, that becomes our firm resolve. It is the submissive will that excludes all personal honour in favour of His splendour.

Total Dependence

God has set-out His criteria for godly living clearly:– total dependence on Him, and when God has set His ground rules there is no compromise on His part. When a believer lives in total dependence on God it is credited as righteousness. When we live in dependence on self we are not living by faith but our own standards.

Total Trust

Total dependence on God is faith in Him : trusting His word : believing His promises, but it is more; even more; much more – it’s trusting Him to do what is right and best. Faith is trusting God in His infinite grace and wisdom to do what is best for you. This may mean having to go through difficult times without understanding why.. it may mean a cruel and painful loss – or the slaughter of your reputation – it may mean having to face a future that is ravaged by unknown elements, and faith is trusting God’s omniscient wisdom to be working all things for the best.

Trusting Faith

We understand what God’s strength is about but His wisdom is so different from ours. Faith is trusting Him with your family, your needs, your health – your reputation. Faith teaches us dependence in Him to do what is best – no matter what the outcome.

Faith Speaks

Faith says with Job: though He slay me yet shall I trust Him. Faith says with Peter : to Whom shall we go, You have the words of eternal life. Faith says with Paul : His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in my weakness. Habakkuk first used the reforming words that resounded down the corridors of time, and we find them echoing through Romans; through Galatians ; through Hebrews

Last Testimony

And Habakkuk last words in His revolutionary, faith-focussed book were: Even though the fig tree does not blossom, and there are no grapes on the vines; even if the olive harvest fails, and the fields produce nothing edible; even if the flock is snatched from the sheepfold, and there is no herd in the stall – as for me, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will find my joy in the God Who delivers me.

Daily devotion: Conditional Strength

Prepared by Knowing Jesus

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9a).

Whereas most feel that personal weakness is the great hindrance to a sound Christian life, the real tragedy is the astonishing strength of the old man. The Cross for our cursed strength; the Lord Jesus for our blessed weakness.

“Let no one imagine that he can be effectively used in the Lord’s service, or even make progress in the Christian life, without some measure of real entrance into the valuable principle: When I am weak, then am I strong’ (2 Cor. 12:10).

It is absolutely essential in forming the character of the true servant of the Lord Jesus. Where it is not known and felt, there is sure to be unsubduedness, unbrokenness, and self-occupation in some form or other.

On the other hand, where one has been brought into this principle, there will always be a measure of brokenness, softness, and tenderness of spirit; and not only so, but also largeness of heart, and that lovely tendency to rise above those petty, selfish considerations, which so sadly hinder the work of God.

“All of His servants in the Word stand before us as vivid illustrations of the value and necessity of broken material. All had to be broken in order to be made whole – to be emptied in order to be filled – to learn that, of themselves, they could do nothing, in order to be ready, in the Lord Jesus’ strength, for anything and everything.” -C.H.M.

“Our Father’s spiritual goal for his own is neither continuous straitness nor continuous poverty. For these are never the end; they are only the means to His end. Straitness is the pathway to expansion; poverty is the pathway to abundance.”

“Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9b).