Jesus teaches us that the worship of God is to be done in both spirit and truth (see John 4:23-24), and those who truly love Him will keep His commandments (see John 14:15-24). In essence, genuine worship is marked by obedience stemming from grateful hearts. Singing, clapping, raising our hands, and tingling sensations do not necessarily prove worship has taken place. Rather, are we coming to God through Christ and yielding to His Word and Holy Spirit? If these are neglected, then genuine worship acceptable to God is not taking place. Let us not make the same mistake as Cain, who refused to worship God on His terms (see Gen. 4:1-8).
“Lord, use me for Your glory!” Have you ever prayed this? If so, this is an invitation for pruning, and pruning hurts. Furthermore, if you are sincere about such a prayer, the Lord will answer your prayer. Strangely, the way we tend to envision the answer is not at all the way it comes.
A. W. Tozer once penned, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” Whenever God uses a man or woman for his kingdom purposes, He will cut away pride, selfishness, hatred, and self-sufficiency.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:1-5 (ESV)
Jesus states several crucial elements concerning our spiritual health, growth, and fruitfulness. First, the Father is the One who brings about growth and fruit. Neither of these are by our own doing.
Second, part of our growth comes through pain. The Father “cuts away” what is either dead or “diseased” (i.e., injurious).
Third, if we truly desire to grow, bear fruit, and be useful to God in His kingdom, then we must abide (dwell in, remain) in Christ and His teachings. This does require a measure of self-discipline on our part.
And finally, Jesus says that apart from Him we can do nothing, which explains why much of the church is impotent. This is not a criticism but simply a statement. Too often we set our plans into motion, lift a small prayer for blessing, then watch the results fade away like smoke. Hence the reason for pruning—dependence solely on Him.
As mentioned, pruning hurts; yet, this is necessary for spiritual health and bearing fruit. Sometimes when pruning (various trials) comes, persons often think it is because they have done something wrong, as though God is upset with them. But notice what Jesus says: “Every tree that does not bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
“Lord, use me for Your glory!” If you truly desire this, then there will be times of pruning, but do not be disheartened. Just as the Father disciplines those that He loves (see Heb. 12:5-8), so He also prunes the fruit bearing ones who glorify Him. Indeed, pruning hurts, but it is necessary for healthy growth.
Here, in the West, we focus so much on the “here and now” with all its passing pleasures and empty vanity. We desire wealth and people’s praise. We live as though this is all there is. The Western church is just as guilty. Yet, to those who truly belong to Christ, the apostle Paul writes,
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. ~ Colossians 3:2-10
Paul gives us three reasons to set our minds on (eternal) things that are above. First, those who are truly born-again have died in Christ; therefore, they have also died to sin. Being in Christ, they are united with him in his resurrection (see Rom. 6:1-14). To put it another way, they are given a new identity.
Second, it is the genuine believers responsibility to set his/her mind on things above. In part, this serves as an act of spiritual worship (see Rom. 12:1-2).
Third, Paul warns us the wrath of God is coming on account of unbelievers and false believers.
Along these lines the apostle John writes,
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. ~ 1 John 2:16-17
Consider who you are and whose you are. Do you belong to Christ? If so, you have a new and honorable identity. In Christ, you are a part of a holy and royal priesthood (see 2 Peter 2:5, 9). In Christ, you are a prince/princess of the Great, Eternal King. This world is not your home, you are just passing through. So why focus so intently on what is passing? Set your mind—fixate—on what is eternal.
• What are your thoughts? Start a conversation.
My blogs, overall, are meant to encourage and hope for those struggling with depression, anxiety, and the like. I rarely use posts to advertise. However, at this time I do want to mention some books I have a available through Amazon. For a limited time each book is under $10.
Christian Reflections in a Deflecting World – This book is intended for the Christian always on the go. There are 150 brief reflections with Scripture and questions to help a person think about eternal things in the midst of the busyness. $5.99
In the Eye of the Calm: Reflections and Poems on Faith, Hope, Love, & Life – Approximately 100 poems along with numerous, more in-depth reflections on many of life’s experiences, both joyful and painful. $4.99
Light in the Darkness for Weary Travelers – A compilation of 35 of my blogs on hope and encouragement. $5.99
Take Up the Shield of Faith: Christian Reflections for Young Adults Serious About Their Faith – 100 brief reflections with Scripture and questions, covering twenty subjects, such as: the Bible, the Fall’s effects, faith, truth and wisdom, false teachers, spiritual warfare, conduct, etc. $4.99
A Royal Priesthood: The Christian’s Privilege and Responsibility – Studies in Practical Theology – The Apostle Peter says believers in Christ make up a holy and royal priesthood. How should this change one’s perception of God, himself, other believers, and the world around him? This books seeks to answer these. $6.99
I hope you will take the time to check these out. Again, these prices are for a limited time.
In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer writes how modern man tends to think of idolatry in terms of people bowing to figures carved of stone, metal, or wood. However, idolatry begins in the mind, even if no overt worship takes place. Tozer goes on to explain that idolatry is any entertaining of thoughts about God not worthy of Him, not only worshipping something other than Him.
This has great relevance in our society that views God in so many different ways other than what He reveals in the Scriptures, and that tries to use Him for political and financial gain. This also has great relevance within modern Christendom where many of its adherents often seem to stress more as to whether or not they like the worship services, rather than truly considering if He likes them.
Nearly across the board people believe in God’s love. Certainly love is part of God’s character. The Scriptures declare, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8 [ESV]). However, it is imperative we understand His overarching attribute—holiness! This attribute is the umbrella to every other one. Holy means “set apart; other; extraordinary; transcendent.” It is the only attribute of His mentioned to the third degree—and in both the Old and New Testaments:
“And [the seraphim] called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (Isaiah 6:3)
“And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Revelation 4:8)
God’s love is a pure, holy love. His love will never be separated or go against His holiness. Jesus says the Father desires worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24). So, to profess God’s love while disregarding His holiness is to make a mockery of true worship and to plummet heart first into idolatry, which leads to holy judgment.
One of the tragic cycles we read of in the Old Testament is the Israelites’ regression into idolatry. Integrating the customs, behaviors, and beliefs of the people around them into the worship of God, only to drift away from Him without even realizing it. Perplexed and angered by the prophets’ rebukes and confrontations, all the while indulging in the immorality of the cult religions of Baal and Astarte, and the child sacrifice of Moloch (something God declares that never even entered His mind [see Jeremiah 7:31]).
One of my great concerns for many churches today is the adapting of customs, behaviors, and beliefs of the secular and pagan society around us, trying to integrate these into the Christian faith, dismissing the very attributes and ways of God He reveals to us in the Scriptures.
Jesus said of some of the religious people of the day, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me’” (Mark 7:6-7).
And one of the most haunting things He says is, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
God is holy, but He is also loving. Although He is loving, may we remember He is also holy, holy, holy, and His love is a holy love. If we try to tweak these to accommodate our desires or to condone or justify our beloved sins, we are guilty of idolatry. To not desire God as He is is merely to desire a god of our own making.