How Worship Affects Everything

(Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash)

I recently finished Paul Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. While I hope to provide a more in depth review of the book, today I want to focus our attention on one principle that jumped out to me. With the recent emphasis in the discussion of transgenderism, Teen Vogue’s article on anal sex, and the confusion surrounding human sexuality in general, I was again impressed with the relevancy of Scripture.

In the eleventh chapter, Tripp discusses the principle of ‘false gods.’ (Tripp, 2016) The principle is, ‘You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.’ (Tripp, 2016)

The chapter develops how this principle fleshes out in our children. Tripp touches on a point that has profound implications: worship. He states, ‘Worship is a tricky word for most of us, because when we think of worship we tend to think of formal religion….But worship is not just a religious function; it is a human function. Worship is something everyone does every day.’ (Tripp, 2016)

Applying to our children, this enables us to understand why they do the things they do. Branching out from the focus on children, and this enables us to understand the state in which we find our country.

Think about it: we were made to be and are worshipers. Tripp wisely writes, ‘It’s the fact that we always live in service of something or that we always live in control of something.’ (Tripp, 2016) Why are individuals confused about their gender? (Let me state that there are some genuine issues underlying some instances of gender confusion and identity. I am discussing the willful abandonment of a gender at birth for the opposite gender.) Why are people desiring to be with the same gender, sexually? Why are magazines proving teenagers ages 12-17 how-to guides for anal sex? Because we are worshipers.

Paul, in his masterful work of the book of Romans, captures this truth exquisitely:

 ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.’ (ESV, 2007)

There are several points worth noting.

  • Rather than creation impressing God’s truth upon their hearts, their unrighteous acts suppress the truth.
  • These individuals knew God but rejected Him.
  • Because we are worshiping beings, our need to worship something still exists.
  • Our rejection of the worship of God results in the worship of creation, including humanity.

Our need to worship something does not dissolve with our failure to believe in God. As a result, we worship something or someone. How does this look like in our society?

We are confused about sexuality. We are worshiping ourselves, our good, our pleasure, when we step outside the God-ordained boundaries for sexual gratification. You see, sex is a good thing. God created it for our enjoyment as well as the natural means of increasing the population of the earth (see Genesis 1:28, 31; 2:24; Proverbs 5:15-19; and Hebrews 13:4). However, when we forsake worshiping the one true God, our worship moves to another, and in our society, sexual gratification is near the top.

We have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25, ESV). We have forsaken the worship of our Creator for us, the creature. If I choose to be another sex, then I change it, because my desire overrules even nature itself.

How does this understanding help us? In several ways:

  • It should cause us to have an enormous amount of grace with each other.

    If God made us to worship Him, and by our nature we avoid Him (see Romans 1:18-25 and 3:10-20), then it is only the incredible grace of Jesus that changes us (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Those who receive grace should be the most gracious, as we know the depths of our sin and the absolute wonders of His grace. That means we should be patient, kind, and loving. 1 Corinthians 13, the ‘love chapter’, details how the grace of Jesus should look in our lives. Are we sharing grace with one another?

  • It should help us understand why people do the things they do.

    I have heard people say, ‘How can they do that? What are they thinking?’ They (and we too) do it because they were meant to worship! They (and we too) were created by a gracious Father to spend our lives in awe and service to Him. By the fall, they (and we too) ignored the truth of creation that should lead us to the Creator and instead place ourselves on the throne of sovereign rule. They (and we too) seek to serve their god, themselves. Whether that means we change our sexual identity, our sexual orientation, or even the ages when we offer advice for sexual acts, we worship something. In our interactions with others, knowing why they do certain things can help us minister from a position of knowledge rather than stupidity.

  • It should help us understand our own false worship.

    Sexual sins are not the only expression of our need to worship. Our jobs, positions, titles, money, rest, people, television, mobiles, and much more are all expressions of our need to worship. The question is not, “Do I worship sex? (or insert any other thing)” The question is, “Do I worship God and God alone (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5)?” It is so easy to see the splinter in our brothers and sisters eyes and completely ignore the telephone pole in our own (see Matthew 7:1-5).

  • It should help us to pray.

    God desires to restore Creation (see Romans 8:18-25 and Revelation 21-22). In fact, it was the motivation for Jesus’ incarnation (see Ephesians 1:3-10 and Colossians 1:15-20). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). It is God’s desire to restore everything so that it will once again be ‘very good’ (see Genesis 1:31). We, as recipients of this incredible grace, should pray for others. We, who experienced the bondage of sin and Satan, should zealously pray for those within it and his grasp. Our hearts should ache with a desire to be tools to help place the God who deserves all worship into the hearts of those who are failing to worship their Creator.

It always amazes me, though it should not, just how relevant the Scriptures are. It also amazes me just how depraved we (I am in the list too!) are. Finally, I am overwhelmed at the grace of our Lord, who ‘shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8, ESV)

There are several good resources that are available if you wish to discuss this matter further.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary provides a good article discussing Teen Vogue’s deplorable post.

For a good discussion on the topic of transgender, see Samuel James’ article on the Gospel Coalition.

Finally, check on the Christian Post’s article. You’ll find some helpful discussion there as well.

 

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How to Love Others More

Have you ever had trouble loving people? Is there a co-worker who just grinds your gears? Or an in-law (or blood relative) that knows how to irritate you beyond comprehension?

We all have been there. I know I have. I remember someone I used to work for, and this individual would purposely do some really hurtful actions. I never murdered this individual, but I can sadly say I had so not-so-fond thoughts.

Most people know some of the Ten Commandments, one of which is, ‘You shall not kill.’ (Exodus 20:13, NAB) I’m working on a sermon that addresses this verse. Initially, I was intrigued. I have spent more than half of my life in church and have heard this command numerous times. The excitement of a new study excited me.

So, I set to work. Initially I began with a note pad and pen (which is my custom). However, about five minutes into my research I realized this job required something bigger. So I borrowed a white board from another room and set to work. In about ten minutes I had recorded most of the important material related to my study.18588963_10208822612382542_2713873779717572604_o

It was during this time of research that I found something incredible, and one that, I hope, will enable me to be more faithful in my love of others.

The word used for killing in Exodus 20:13 is רצח. I began looking for other usages of this, and once completed I summarized it with a basic definition of “to deprive of life.” Now, this is a very basic definition, I know. For in some instances, depriving something of life may save others. Or, it could provide the necessary sustenance for continued life. But for my study, I began to look at life in Scripture. Of course, life began in Genesis 1:20-28 with the creation of animal life and ultimately crowned with humanity. (You can check out my thoughts on the creation of האדם in a previous post.) Life, or נפש, is the key to our appreciation and ultimate love for humanity (and animal life too!).

Humans, however, are different. We were created בעלם אלוהים. And so, because humanity is the image of God, our lives are intrinsically valuable. That is, we matter because God matters. Or, God’s image in us makes humanity intrinsically worthy.

Now, it is possible to simply gloss over that. Chances are, you already did. But in the off chance that you are reading this contemplatively, humanity is intrinsically valuable.

It is not a particular religion, a sexual orientation, or a political party that makes humanity worthy. It is the fact that they are human.

It is not a particular religion, a sexual orientation, or a political paevelyn-paris-33498.jpgrty that makes a human being excellent. It is the fact that they are a human being.

It is not the color of one’s skin, the level of intelligence, or the physical or mental capacity that makes a human being invaluable. It is the fact that they are a human being.

Because “When God created human beings, he made them in the likeness of God; he created them male and female.” (Genesis 5:1b-2a, NAB) That is what makes a human being worthy.lechon-kirb-25696

Now, how does this help us love others more? When we stop looking at people in categories, we start to what is really there: people. She is not a Muslim, she is a human being created in the image of God. He is not queer, he is a human being created in the image of God.

When you and I begin to see God in others, our ability to love them is transformed. That is why Paul could write, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NAB) There is humanity, gloriously and wonderfully bearing God’s image.

Do my words convey my belief that people are created in the image of God? Unfortunately, not always. But I am reminded of the weight of such ill-used words in Matthew 5:21-26. The Rabbis of Jesus’ day had broken the law down to manageable loads. In fact, the commandment regarding killing was boiled down to simple murder. As long as you don’t murder anyone, you’re good! (If these were the true standards, we would be much better off!) But Jesus wouldn’t let that slide. God’s standards are infinitely higher than we could ever imagine. Murder, as expressed in Exodus 20:13, does not involve just the literal taking of life. It goes beyond that to our words, the very basis of our communication to others. Whether it is Raqa or fool, if it does not proceed from the view of love and value, we are in trouble. (By the way, this does not absolve us for confronting errors, for in the next few chapters Jesus does just that, as well as recommending it in Matthew 7:1-5.)

So, are you having trouble loving others? Just see them the way God sees them: image bearers. I am amazed at what I can overlook when I see someone as a person, uniquely, incredibly, and fantastically made בעלם אלוה’ם.

P.S. I do not mean to convey that our own sins and shortcomings do not need to be addressed. When Jesus was speaking with the woman caught in adultery, his words were, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11, ESV) While Jesus saw her humanity, he did not simply condone her sin. Likewise, it would be a mistake in the desire to love others that we would ignore sin in our own lives.

Helpful Tips from the Banner of Truth

I am a subscriber to the Banner of Truth magazine. It is a great blessing, as many of the articles come from sermons preached. They challenge my thinking, warm my heart, and draw my attention and focus to God.

While catching up on my reading of them, I thoroughly enjoyed the July 2016 copy, issue 634. The article is titled, “Evangelising [sic] Muslims: Five Points of Entry” by Peter Barnes.[1] I do not want to review the article; rather, I want to share some of the insights that I gained. I also would like to draw attention to some of the ideas that I have been pondering but have yet to put to paper.

The introduction to the article was perhaps the best portion. Barnes writes, “In seeking to make the gospel known to Muslims, we will struggle if we simply follow the guidelines in the book of Acts.”[2] In my opinion, some Christians overemphasize the Scriptures. Now, before you write me off as a heretic please read my explanation. It is possible to follow the Scripture to such an extreme that it violates proper interpretation. For example, the Bible teaches that witches should be executed (Exodus 22.18). Some people attempt to place this command to the nation of Israel on followers of God today. Of course there is a lengthy discussion that should take place on why believers do not follow this practice, but many pick and choose what to follow from the Tanakh. Some people follow marriage advice from the Torah (such as the teaching on divorce and remarriage- see Exodus 24.1-4), or dressing advice (specifically the Scripture that commands men not to dress like women and women not to dress like men- see Deuteronomy 22.5), but they fail to follow the command to execute witches. On the same line, some people desire to strictly follow the teachings of the New Testament on the church. An example of this can be found in the first chapter of C. Douglas Weaver’s book In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story.[3]

In accordance with this desire to be Bible-based and Scripture-laced, people want to follow the ‘New Testament guide’. While I definitely believe that Scripture is the foundation of faith and is to be sought and practiced, I also see the truth that it is a book with historical grounding in a specific time and culture. This has profound implications on what we practice and how we practice. Zuck clarifies this thought when he writes, “In approaching the Bible it is a self-evident truth that the Bible is a book. Like other books it is written in languages spoken by people for the purpose of communicating ideas from the writers to the readers.”[4] This seems to have been forgotten by many individuals in the church today.

To bring this circle to a close, let us return to Barnes’ statement in his opening paragraph. “In seeking to make the gospel known to Muslims, we will struggle if we simply follow the guidelines in the book of Acts.”[5] It is helpful to remember that the main method of spreading the Gospel initially (see Acts 2-9) was primarily to and through Jewish individuals. Thus the preaching focused on the Messiah and the teaching of his suffering and death.[6] If we were to strictly follow the practice of the early believers found in Acts, our evangelistic efforts, specifically to the Muslim people, will be borderline impossible. My point is not to delve into the methods of evangelism to the people of Islam. Other writers have done an excellent job at this.[7] My point has more to deal with the need for creative and a freedom for believers to engage in different methods of evangelism. Barnes notes Paul’s various methods as referenced in 1 Corinthians 9.19-23.[8] We need to rely on God’s Word for everything. But we also need to realize that there is freedom within that.

Another part of the article that really impressed me was Barnes’ call for peace in discussions. He writes, “We must be kindly interest in them. We ought not begin with a frontal assault on the character of Muhammad or the integrity of the Qur’an.”[9] Since 11 September 2001 the treatment of Muslims has been poor at best and borderline hate crime at worst. And while Barnes’ article focuses on interactions with the Muslim community, the application can be made broader. People of different faiths, genders, sexual orientations, etc., are all treated with contempt and degradation. Paul encourages us to address people “in love”.[10] We commanded to love one another.[11]

Believers should be incredibly careful in their discourse, both personally and digitally. Disagreeing on an issue is not the problem, it is our demeanor. It is no wonder that people do not have a positive view of Christianity when its adherents are so demeaning, arrogant, and rude. Here are some helpful suggestions that I have utilized and have found to be helpful.

  • Never be rude- while this may seem simple, it is profound. I have seen posts referring to those who are voting for Hilary Clinton suggesting that they raise their hands and slap themselves because they are idiots. How in the world is this helpful? Does one actually think that a supporter of Hilary Clinton will see that and suddenly change his or her views? That is almost as ludicrous as posting such a mean-spirited image.
  • Ask questions- generally speaking, questions are much more helpful in interactive dialogue than statements. Of course, it is possible to be rude when asking questions. But assuming we are starting from that point, questions help further mutual understanding. It implies incomplete understanding, and it takes humility to acknowledge that. It also encourages questions from the opposite party, and thus differences and misunderstandings are greatly reduced.
  • Treat that person like you would Jesus- I do not mean bow down and worship them. I do mean that each person you interact with, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, race, age, height, weight, favorite band, and so on, is created in the image of God. That means that every human being you interact with in person or digitally is an image bearer of God Almighty. Treat them that way. Oh, and by the way, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. That is a hefty pill to swallow.
  • Study other people, faiths, etc.- Ignorance means “a lack of knowledge, understanding, or education.”[12] Ignorance is forgivable, but only for a time. If you are attempting to dialogue with another individual, learn as much as you can from that individual’s perspective. If you want to learn more about the Democratic Party, do not go to Fox News. Look into the original sources. Educating yourself on issues, beliefs, and practices will help you understand where the individual is coming from and will help to alleviate misunderstandings.

[1] Peter Barnes. “Evangelising Muslims: Five Points of Entry.” The Banner of Truth, Volume 7, Issue 634, 2016, 7-15.

[2] Barnes, 7.

[3] https://books.google.com/books?id=shbpTq7wqAIC&pg=PA9&dq=new+testament+churches&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjssOya0P3PAhVCGz4KHSugAY8Q6AEIRzAI#v=onepage&q=new%20testament%20churches&f=false. Accessed 28/10/2016.

[4] Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (Colorado Springs, Cook Communications: 1991), 59.

[5] Barnes, 7.

[6] Simply peruse through the chapters referenced above and it will become painfully obvious what materials the early evangelists used to spread the good news.

[7] See Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross (Grand Rapids, Baker: 2002) and Winfried Corduan, Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press: 2012).

[8] I preached a message on this titled “Pauline Advice on Blessing Your Block”. You can access that here under that title: http://tnova.org/media.php?pageID=22. Accessed 28/10/2016.

[9] Barnes, 8.

[10] Ephesians 4.15, NIV

[11] 1 John 4.7-21

[12] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ignorance. Accessed 28/10/2016.