Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

It is a Matter of…..
by Rayola Kelley

As we see the signs of the times, we must become sober about being prepared to face the challenges before us. The Bible is quite clear that the real challenge for Christians is to keep the faith that was first delivered to the saints of old (Luke 18:8; Jude 3).

Volumes have been written about faith, but the Bible is simple and clear as to its presentation concerning this virtue: it must be unfeigned. In spite of the push to try to be good or do good things, faith towards God is the only way we can please Him (Hebrews 11:6). We must never put misdirected confidence in who we are trying to be and what we are doing as a means to replace genuine faith towards Him. True faith that ends in salvation only finds its complete assurance in God.

This brings me to another important issue that must be properly confronted if we are going to survive the days in which we live. The first article in this series dealt with knowing God, and the second with the subject of sin. However, if you want to get down to the core of spiritual survival, it is quite simple. As Romans 6 teaches us, we either serve God or sin. Clearly, if we are going to survive, we must be serving the right God. We know there is the God of the Universe, as well as the god of this world, Satan (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Presently, one of these gods serves as our owner and master. If you serve sin, Satan is your god and owner, and if you serve Jesus, God is your owner and master. Clearly, there are no shades of confusion as to who we serve, the fruits of our lives will tell on us.

We must first come to terms with whom we serve before we can honestly answer the next vital question. Who do we worship? Even though service is considered a form of worship in the kingdom of God, we can properly honor others without worshipping them. A lord deserves loyalty and service, but only that which we pay homage to will receive any worship. Worship entails more than service and loyalty, it requires an altar, commitment, affection, adoration, and exaltation. To worship something, we must give it importance. Such importance will be missing unless we give that which we pay such homage to identity, distinction, and honor in our hearts and minds.

In summation, we will put our faith in the one who serves as lord in our lives, and express our source of reliance in who or what we worship. It is for this reason that Jesus made this statement in John 4:23, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” It is incredible that the Father must search for those who know how to properly worship Him. What should this tell us about the worship going on in the different religious institutions? Is it acceptable worship to the Father?

Before we can address spiritual survival in relationship to who or what we worship, we must understand that we have been formed in such a way that we must worship something. In fact, that relentless vacuum in peoples’ souls can only be satisfied through genuine worship. We can actually see this need to worship in the case of the children of Israel in the wilderness.

Moses, their intercessor who stood between them and the frightening God on Mount Sinai, had been absent for days. The people became insecure because there appeared to be no god present. Most likely they felt disconnected, like roving waves out on the endless ocean of uncertainty.  These people had clearly been conditioned by Egypt to worship the creation; thereby, they went back to their former ways and instructed Aaron to create a god. Aaron created a golden calf, an idol they were most likely acquainted with. In other words, the idol already had identity.

When you study the history surrounding the gods of that time, the bull was a predominate idol of that period. This reminds us that each age varies as to the idols that are worshipped. The culture and environment of the time will determine the types of idols that are being exalted. In all idolatry, some part of creation is always exalted. Whether it is an image of something in creation or man himself, God is stripped of His glory and replaced by that which has no life or real power (Romans 1:21-28). And, when man is exalted by cultic, humanistic, and New Age philosophies, God is humanized and man deified. It is for this reason that much of the terrain of the world has been marred by the ruins of past societies, cultures, kingdoms, and empires, which have collapsed from within because their idol had no power to keep them.

The children of Israel exalted this golden calf in their minds as god. It is important to point out that all idolatry begins in the mind. The imaginations of the mind create the expectations or possibilities of what such idols will add or bring to people’s lives. These expectations are either self-serving or superstitious, and prove quite seductive to the flesh. They offer promises, but they are false, illusive, or temporary and will end in utter vanity, fear, and despair. However, these expectations take the affections of the heart captive. As I have pointed out in the past, the mind represents idolatry in high places, and the heart, idolatry in secret places (Ezekiel 8:12; 14:3-5; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

It is true that every culture will create the particular environment in which its idols will be given identity. Regardless of how civilized cultures can be, they have their own preferred gods, often created out of images and propaganda. These false gods “supposedly” offer prosperity, happiness, security, and hope. In our culture, the preferred gods have been self-sufficiency, education, sex, money, power, control (witchcraft), and prestige to name a few. It is important to understand that when we abandon all to maintain, exalt, or possess these gods, we, in essence, will end up selling our souls. This is the required wage to possess any idol. Since our souls are the required payment for possessing idols, as well as represent the source of all fleshly and idolatrous worship, we are told by Jesus to worship in the right spirit (John 4:23-24).

Idolatry always creates a surreal world that ends up proving to be absolutely insane. Hence, enters the second part of Jesus’ instruction—we are to worship in Spirit and truth. The right Spirit leads us into truth concerning who we are worshipping. Our understanding of God must be correct, clear, concise, and void of any fantasy or variance if we are to properly worship Him. Clearly, genuine worship is a form of godly discipline that will prove to be sincere, realistic, and honorable.

Since discipline is how we begin to possess our souls in patience, we must always deny self of what we think will make us happy and offer all such illusions and possibilities on the cross in the form of our flesh to be put to death on a daily basis. It is then that we can truly follow the truth of Jesus into a new life. After all, if we gain the world’s preferred idols and lose our souls in the process what have we truly gained (Matthew 16:24-26; Luke 21:19)?

Upon the children of Israel’s responses towards their new god, Aaron suggested that they construct an altar so they could worship the golden calf. With the environment in place, the children of Israel could abandon all to this god in sensual worship. With the so-called “possibilities” of satisfaction before them, the affections of the heart could be directed at this idol with complete abandonment. Such abandonment points to consecration. It is for this reason that the heart serves as the altar of consecration when it comes to worship. Peter tells us that we are to sanctify or set the Lord apart in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15). Without such distinction, we would not be able to properly worship Him.

Clearly, if the heart is missing in honoring God, it cannot be considered genuine worship. Jesus made this clear in Matthew 15:8-9, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Obviously, the heart must serve as the altar of consecration for everything we do in regard to our lives before the Lord. In other words, service towards God that lacks heart is not worship. Praise offered towards God that is minus the right attitude and affections will come across as a tinkling cymbal of hypocrisy, and thanksgiving as a sour note of ingratitude.

Idolatry is the main reason many people are wandering in confusion, tormented by the inability to satisfy the restlessness in their souls, and frustrated that loneliness, emptiness, and insecurity gnaw at their very resolve like parasites.

This brings us to what it means to possess our souls in patience. Possessing our souls means taking responsibility for our decisions (thought process), determination (will), and emotions (affections). We must decide who we are to be by choosing whom we serve, and we must determine who we are going to become by who we worship. Who we are at present has been decided by the life we have embraced and now live, but who we become will decide the life we ultimately will reflect.

Service and worship walk hand in hand. The quality of our service will determine the type of environment that will affect what and how we worship. Service is determined by agendas and priorities, while worship will affect our attitude, emphasis, and approaches. It all seems simple enough, but both service and worship will be influenced by our perspective concerning God.

It is for this reason that Jesus made this statement to the Samaritan woman in John 4:22a, “Ye worship ye know not what.” The Samaritan worshipped a God that she had no personal knowledge about. She knew of Him and knew about Him, but she did not know Him. How can you properly worship someone you do not know? How would you know how to approach or properly exalt or honor someone you did not understand?

Today in our politically correct society, God can be anything you want Him to be. In order to allow people to define their own god, the politically correct term that is being used is, “higher power.”  Such a term may sound acceptable to ears that want to be tickled, but it is a cop-out. God is not some higher power, He is the Almighty. In other words, He is all-powerful. He cannot be just any God, for He is the only true God. He cannot be just any object, image, or idea because He is who He is, and since He is eternal He always will be. As idolatry has already taught us in the past, not just any god can save you.

Salvation of our souls lies at the core of all spiritual matters and truths. Serve whom you will, but if it is not the true God of heaven, you remain lost to Him. Worship whom you will, but if it is not the God of the Bible, it will all be in vain. Dance around your religious altars with penance, declarations, flags, and outward show of piousness, but if such worship has not been consecrated in your heart to the only God of heaven, all such activities will be considered perverted, foreign, and strange to Him. Do all the religious works you can, but if it is not inspired or born out of faith towards the true God of heaven, such works will be considered reprobate.

The true God of the Bible deserves to be worshipped because He is who He is. Since He is deity, He alone deserves to be honored in a worthy, excellent manner. He is holy; therefore, He deserves to be approached in awe and humility. He is love; therefore, He deserves our total love and devotion, and He is our gracious owner, thereby worthy of obedience. He is our Lord, therefore, worthy of our complete dedication, as well as our redeemer, deserving of our complete trust.   

Clearly, to survive the challenging times we live in, it will be a matter of worship that finds its inspiration and breeding ground in serving the right master. We must be sure that we are worshipping God in the proper fashion. In doing so, we can be assured that the Father will find us in the secret chambers of worship (heart) and the high places of praise and thanksgiving (mind); and, there we will be able to commune with Him.

The questions are who are you worshipping, and in what manner is that worship being offered? Are you possessing your soul through the discipline of genuine worship?