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Long-View Living in a Short-View World

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Scripture consistently draws lines of demarcation between the Spirit and the world, and between Christ-followers and the world. As the called-out, we are repeatedly adjured to be set apart from the world system. We are entreated to resist the urge to pattern our lives and our passions after that system, pursuing rather the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

Consider these two passages of scripture:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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. - 1 John 2:15-16, ESV

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:2, ESV

There are three ways the term "world" κοσμος (kosmos) is used in the New Testament, and context must determine which is in play.

  • In some cases, kosmos refers to the physical creation, as in Acts 17:24 - "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man."

  • In some cases, it refers to the "world of humanity," as in John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that he gave..." God loved the people, and here that is denoted by the word kosmos.

  • The third usage of kosmos is to refer to the world system, the values, ethics and mores of society. It is that usage we employ when we say something or someone is, "so worldly." We are saying that it, or they conform to that world system. This is the usage in 1 John 2:15 - "Do not love the world or the things in the world."

Occasionally, we see multiple uses in one context, or one verse. I would argue that we see all three in John 1:10 - "He was in the world [system], and the world [physical creation] was made through him, yet the world [humanity] did not know him."

We use the term "world" in a variety of system nuances on a regular basis. We say someone is going to be in a "world of hurt" if they do X, Y, or Z. We speak of the "world of politics" and how it is so divisive and teeming with hatred. I remember hearing, as a youth, "Welcome to ABC's Wide World of Sports." These are descriptive of an invisible, underlying system - an entity, structure, or philosophy that drives the activity of that system.

The Bible urges us in the strongest possible language not to love the world. Here are five reasons to embrace and live out this principle.

We do not Love its Ruler

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. - 2 Corinthians 4:4, ESV

Satan is described, biblically, as the god of this world. The values system of the world is of his making. Thus, when we look at what the world values and promotes, it generally falls into one of the three buckets of 1 John 2 - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, or the pride of life. Look at and listen to the world system, and you will see and hear these three values consistently promoted and praised. Any sin you can imagine will fit into one or more of those categories.

When I am passionate about thinking like the world, looking like the world, being loved and accepted by the world, I am actively inviting the influence of Satan into my life. I am succumbing to "the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). This is both foolish and dangerous. Aligning myself with the world system is to align myself with the spiritual realities underlying that system - a system opposed to redeeming work of Christ.

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. - 1 John 5:19, ESV

Consider the relentless allure of the film and music industry, and the pressure it exerts to shape our thinking and passions, not after God, but after the pattern of the world. These industries stoke fires of inner dissatisfaction on the basis that our lives do not resemble the lives of the beautiful elite. Thus, we buy their stories and their wares so we can live vicariously through those that we foolishly admire.

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. - Proverbs 23:17

We do not Love its Objectives

As just noted, the core objective of the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), the prince of this world (John 12:31), the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), is to oppose and thwart the redeeming work of Christ, to blind the minds of the unbelievers, to deceive the whole of society and lead us astray (Revelation 12:9).

As a Christ-follower, I cannot align with those objectives. I cannot march to that drumbeat. Just as Christ-followers are animated by the Spirit of God, those who are not Christ-followers are animated by the spirit of the world. Jesus himself refers to them as "children of the world" (Luke 16:8).

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. - Luke 5:25, ESV

We do not Love its Effect

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. - 1 John 2:15, ESV

Note that the issue is not engaging in worldly activities, but rather my love and admiration of a system that is actively opposed to godliness. This is a matter of the heart. When I am in love with the world system, I cannot be in love with God. It is reminiscent of Jesus saying, "No man can serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24).

The love of the world system pollutes and diseases my heart, and out of that diseased heart, my behavior flows.

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. - Matthew 15:18-19, ESV

Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15) Note that the driver of the obedience is a heart full of love for Jesus rather than love for the world. Love for the world puts my heart in direct competition with love for God, and draws me away from him. Anything that sours my love for God, or competes for it, is of the world, and demands an examination of my heart toward it.

We do not Love its Progressive Takeover

It is rare that one moves from godly to worldly in a moment. No, this is a gradual seduction, the frog in the boiling pot, drawing us in almost unaware. James teaches us about this transition.

We begin by tolerating worldliness, being friendly and polite toward it. "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4, ESV)

If the world is okay with me, I need to examine my own heart toward the world. Jesus said, "All men will hate you because of me." (Luke 21:17) John confirms this, "Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you." (1:John 3:13, ESV)

These are not fun passages to read, but they are illustrative of the incompatibility that exists between loving God and loving the world system.

Moving beyond friendship with the world, James says we become stained, spotted, or polluted by it (James 1:27). The world begins to "leave its mark" on us, and over time we look more and more like the world to the point that we are indistinguishable from it. Eventually we are fully conformed to the world, celebrating its values and idolizing it's performers.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.. - Romans 12:2, ESV

Do not fall prey to the world's subtleties. Remember the lesson of Lot who first looked toward Sodom, and then pitched his tent toward Sodom and then moved into the city of Sodom, and was eventually captured when the city was overrun (Genesis 14).

Remember Who and Whose You Are

When my eldest son was about to leave home for the university, I told him, "Never forget that you are Sheridan Gray." I was not concerned that he would forget his name, but wanted to impress upon him that his name, his honor, his reputation, his integrity, once compromised, are terribly difficult to recover.

You are a child of the living God, creator of heaven and earth. You are a saint, a holy one. You are a son or daughter of the high king of Heaven, a child of covenant. You are the redeemed, the blood-bought. You are ambassadors of Christ, witnessing the gospel of grace to a dying world.

Remember, also, that you are an eternal soul, while the world that is seducing us will pass away (1 John 2:17). This world system is temporary, but our God is forever! We are here as "strangers and pilgrims on the earth." (Hebrews 11:13)

Then remember that you are growing and maturing into Christian adulthood. "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." (1 Corinthians 13:11)

In the end, it comes down to a choice each of us must make. We can live for eternity, or we can live for time. This decision is at the core of everything we do at Long-View Living Ministries. We challenge men and women everywhere to embrace Long-View Living in a Short-View World. You can live for now, for the flesh, the tangible, or you can live for eternity, for the spirit, and the glory of God.

The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever. - 1 John 2:17, ESV

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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Twitter - @DamonJGray


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Last week we looked at Satan's disruptive tactics as the "accuser," accusing God to humanity and accusing humanity to God. We also saw him as the "enticer of lusts." This week, we continue our look at this enemy, knowing that understanding one's enemy is a precursor to defeating that enemy.

...so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. - 2 Corinthians 2:11, ESV

He is a Hunter

The apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:8 that our "adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

The roar of a lion can be an overwhelming and frightening thing if one is standing close by the lion when that roar occurs. It is tempting to read this characterization from Peter and see it as a warning to stay away from roaring lions. That may be the case and it is good advice to do so. But I believe there is an even better lesson we can pull from this verse.

When does a lion roar? Is it while he is hunting? Is it when he is hiding in the thicket, watching the doe across the field? No, the lion does not roar while hunting.

When the lion is in predator mode, he is as silent as he can be, stealthily moving from one spot to the next, imperceptible. And when he is in position for the final attack, he moves with astonishing speed and power, taking down his prey with impressive ease.

Then he roars!

A lion's roar is a warning to others, saying, "This is mine. I caught it and I am the one who will devour it."

Lions also roar to declare control over territory, and to communicate with other lions from whom they may have become separated while hunting or roaming. But when the lion has you in its attack path, you will not know it until he is right on top of you.

So, it is with Satan. Don't look for Satan in the roar. Look for him in the thicket. He is a hunter.

He is an Impersonator

While the lion hides in the brush to camouflage himself, sometimes Satan is standing directly in front of us and we do not recognize him for what he is. While calling out some false, lying apostles, the apostle Paul said the following:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. - 2 Corinthians 11:13-15a, ESV

Jesus warned us about this as well, saying, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15, ESV).

I have met so many in the body of Christ who are far too trusting, accepting any charlatan as having "a word from the Lord" entirely on the basis that they claim it to be so. How blindly foolish of us!

The people of Berea were considered noble precisely because they did not blindly accept the word of Paul and Silas. They received it with eagerness, yes, but they examined the scriptures every day, verifying, validating, and confirming whether or not what Paul and Silas said was true.

Trust, but verify.

Never forget, that Satan is highly adept at twisting scripture. The first thing he said to Eve was, "Did God really say...?"

He is a Liar

There is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. - John 8:44b, NASB

Everything Satan says should be treated with great suspicion. As the messages of the world fill your ears, it is critical that you understand you ARE being lied to. Don't fall for it.

He is a Deceiver

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world - he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. - Revelation 12:9, ESV

Three times from Paul and once from James, we are told, "Do not be deceived." Not to make light of scripture, but that seems like a silly thing to say.

The tricky thing about being deceived is that we don't know we are deceived. That's because we are deceived! Right? So how can we prevent being deceived when we are deceived? It's like trying to "eat your own head." You just can't do that.

You can lie to me, and I may or may not know it. It is possible that you are lying to me and I know it, and you know I know it. But one who is deceived does not know they are deceived. They believe something, and are acting on information that is blatantly false and they have no idea this is the case. That is one who is deceived.

The propensity for deception is the reason behind my becoming fairly animated with those who build a faith-life, or a doctrine, based on how they "feel" about something. "Oh this just feels so right. I know God is in this."

Really? How?? Because you feel it? The lion is about to roar!

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

So, how do we avoid being deceived? I believe it is the Bereans again. Verify everything (even this blog posting) against the standard of scripture. Search the scriptures daily to determine if what you are hearing, seeing, reading is true. Test what I say, what the TV sitcom says, what the musician on the radio says, what the silver-screen movie says. Verify all of it against scripture, and you will not be deceived.

He is Bound, but he's Loose

Some believers get pretty cocky where Satan is concerned. It is almost as though they are talking smack to Satan like a boxer or an ego-inflated UFC fighter. "I bind you Satan. I'm gonna take you down, and wrap you in spiritual chains, and I rebuke you, and forbid you, etc."

Even Jesus did not speak to Satan in this way. And consider Jude 9, "But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'"

Satan is not one with whom we should toy around. It is true that he is somewhat bound, and he does have limitations, almost as though he is on a leash. But that by no means makes him safe or impotent.

Consider this - A rabid dog on a leash is indeed bound, but he is also loose, depending on where you are standing. If the dog is staked by the door on a ten-foot chain and I'm on the sidewalk fifteen feet away, is he bound? Yes, he is. But if I am five feet from the door, is he still bound? Yeah, he's still bound, but he's also loose!

Don't play around with Satan. He's not to be feared, but neither is he to be taken lightly.

He is a Blinder

Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers. They are blind but believe they see. In fact, they believe they see more clearly than those who genuinely do see.

But Satan has blinded their minds, "to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4b). In this sense, this is the flip-side of the liar and deceiver. Not only does Satan speak lies, he also obscures truth.

He is a Huckster

I love a good magician. My wife does not. She feels lied to by their magic, but I don't mind it. I know it's a trick and they know I know it is a trick.

What I do not care for at all is one who will pretend to do the miraculous in order to deceive. And we know this happens.

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception - 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10a, ESV

Do not be bowled over by the supposed signs and wonders. Just because something appears powerful and amazing does not mean it is of God. I was once asked by an objector, "What? Are you saying this is not real?" I responded, "No, not at all. I am saying it is not of God."

Remember Jesus' stern warning about this:

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 7:22-23, ESV

Jesus did not say the signs and wonders were unreal, just that they were not done in service to him, even when they were done "in his name."

He is Not a Caricature

It is important for Christ-followers to understand that Satan is not a toy for our amusement. He is not a silly cartoon-caricature jokester, twisting dogs’ tails and dipping schoolgirl pigtails into ink wells. Satan wants nothing less than the post-resurrection defeat of Christ through the death of the human soul.

We are at war, and the war is not with the person next to us, or in front of us, or our partner in marriage, or our political adversaries. The enemy is Satan.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12, NASB)

Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war - Psalm 144:1a, ESV

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


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I know of only three occasions in scripture where we read of Satan actually speaking - those incidents wherein he is dialoguing with Eve, dialoguing with God about Job, and when he is tempting Jesus

I recognize that some want to attribute Isaiah 14:14 to Satan, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the most high," but that is the king of Babylon speaking, not Satan. And from this same passage, just two verses earlier, many draw the errant conclusion that Satan's true name is Lucifer, when it is not. As before, Lucifer is/was the king of Babylon.

The Accuser

So, we have three accounts of Satan speaking, and in those accounts, we see quite clearly that Satan lives up to his character as "the accuser."

Case #1 - Satan Accuses God Before Humanity

In Genesis 3 we find Satan speaking to Eve, and asking her "Did God really say ...?" He follows his question with a statement that God knows that as soon as Eve eats the fruit, she will be just like God, knowing good and evil.

"God is holding out on you, Eve! Can you not see that?" In this, Satan is accusing God to humanity.

With the accuser pressing Eve into action, she looked at the fruit, saw that it was good to the taste, pleasant to look upon, and that it made one wise. Boom! We have the lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).

The same message is whispered into our ears. "God is holding out on you. God is not letting you have that, or do that. God is causing this trouble to befall you. Everything happens for a reason, right?"

When Satan pulled this on Eve, it was the first temptation in the Bible, quite literally, the oldest trick in the book, and it worked!

Case #2 - Satan Accuses Humanity Before God

In Job 1 Satan is talking to God about Job, accusing humanity to God. "God, you have blessed Job beyond measure," which was true, "but you just take away all his stuff, and he will curse you to your face!"

John's Revelation, 12:10, says Satan is "the accuser of the brethren." That is certainly what happened with Job, and it makes me think we should consider very carefully the source of our indignation when we begin pointing fingers of accusation at one another.

Case #3 - Satan Has an Accusation Dilemma

In Matthew 4, Jesus has been driven by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted by the accuser. Satan is now standing face to face with the Christ, the Messiah, and it presents him a dilemma.

Satan has accused God to man (humanity), and he has accused man to God, but here he faces the God-Man. What is he to do? Who can he accuse?

The Lusts

To solve his dilemma, Satan returned to the playbook that worked so well with Eve, the same one that works so well with us. He employs the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. This is Satan's best shot, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with his Skyhook. He can't miss!

Satan pressed the lust-of-the-flesh button on Jesus. "Jesus, you're starving. Command this stone to become bread." And despite Willie Nelson's claim to the contrary, Jesus refused to do so. He did not turn stone to bread.

Satan tried the lust of the eyes. "Here, Jesus, plant your gaze upon all of the kingdoms of the world." And make no mistake, this temptation was quite real. Satan absolutely could have given Jesus exactly what he proposed to give him. "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19b, NASB).

And finally, Satan drew on the pride of life. "Jump from the pinnacle of the temple, Jesus, and surely the Father will save you. Presume upon his care." Satan pressured Jesus to give in to αλαζονεια (alazoneia), the swaggering boast of a braggart who is trying to convince others of his importance.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. - 1 John 2:15-16, NASB

I have it on the schedule to discuss "loving the world" more deeply in a future posting, but for now, just know that one of the most potent and effective tools in the devil's toolbox is his ability to cause us to love the world system, to admire it, to want to emulate it, and be liked by it. We crave the approval of a system that can do nothing but build barriers between us and our God.

Be aware of the source of those cravings. They come from the evil one.

Next week we will look at more characteristics of Satan's tactics as he attempts to lure us away from Jesus and into his fold.

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


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I no longer do so, but there was a time when I served in full-time ministry, and the majority of that work was done in the context of the university campus, initially as the Director of the Louisiana Tech University Christian Student Center, and subsequent to that as a Campus Minister at Kansas University. For those of you who are unaware of it, Jesus is a die-hard Jayhawks fan. 😉

Though I had completed my studies for ministry, and was thrilled to at the opportunity to put that learning to use, I was completely unprepared for what would greet me as soon as I launched from the starting gate. Over the course of the first two weeks of my new "career" in ministry, three students committed suicide.

I was numbed by that - so shocked I didn't even know how to respond. It was surreal at its core, the kind of thing you read about as having happened someplace else, far away, certainly not right here on your own campus.

When I was in seminary, I remember one of our instructors talking to us about hope. For him it was just a passing comment, but for me, it stuck. Today, more than 35 years hence, I can hear him say it as though it was yesterday. He said, "You give a person hope, and they won't jump. Even the slightest hope, and they won't pull the trigger."

False Hope

The world is astute at offering up myriad false hopes, proposed solutions to our sense that there has to be something better than our current state or circumstance. A deceitful society conjures up fantasies and feeds them to our Lemmings' mentality as we die inside trying to fill a void that can never be filled outside of Christ.

It is a societal con game nourishing itself from, while simultaneously feeding, our inner dissatisfactions. Consider the man or woman who sits for hours plugging quarters into the slot machine. The machine sucks the life and wealth out of her, all the while holding out the promise that it might pay off if she just sits there a little longer feeding it quarters.

We enter sweepstakes and buy into pyramid wealth schemes. We jump at cures for our ailments and march with others in the endless parade of miracle diets which do nothing but drain our wallets and continue to fuel our self-dissatisfaction and poor self-image.

With distorted perceptions, we allow ourselves to be manipulated and exploited, all in the name of hope - hope that it can be different, hope that there is something better than this.

Hope With a Guarantee

For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. - Hebrews 7:19, KJV

Biblical hope is not mere wishful thinking - "gee I hope so." The term ελπις (elpis) denotes an expectation rooted in firm confidence that, though currently unseen, what is expected will certainly occur. It is a firm assurance in the reality of what is coming. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1, ESV). Those who hope in Christ will never be put to shame (Isaiah 49:23).

The apostle Paul speaks to the church in Colossae of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). The Holy Spirit of God has been placed inside every Christ-follower, as a seal, an earnest, a deposit guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 1:22). When everything is said and done, God will be looking for that seal, that down-payment, and wherever he finds it, those are the ones he will be taking home. That's a rock-solid hope, my friends!

In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. - Ephesians 1:13-14, ESV

The Threefold Hope

The hope we have in Christ is described in three ways in the New Testament.

First off is is a "good" hope. Jesus Christ and God the Father have loved us, "and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16, ESV).

Second, it is a "blessed" hope. We deny the ungodly desires of the flesh, living righteous lives while we look forward "for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13, KJV).

And third, it is a "living" hope rooted in one of the most astonishing events in human history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3, ESV).

So, Take Courage!

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV

If you are in Christ, your hope is guaranteed, your good, blessed, living hope, secured for you by the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. You can bank on it my friends.

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


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Used by permission.

Our language belies what we know to be truth, or at best, it puts on display our inner conflict over what we actually believe.

Very often, while in a public assembly with other believers (usually at church), someone up front will say something along the lines of, "Let's continue to worship." The fact that it is said at all reveals the unspoken belief of many in the room that what we were or are doing right now is not worship, but something other than worship. We were worshiping at one time, stopped worshiping to do this other thing, and now "Let's continue to worship."

And what happens next? You know it as surely as I do. The one who said that strikes a chord on the guitar, or the piano, because in our minds, worship is inseparably tied to music and singing. We even refer to this musician as "the Worship Leader," while we would never think to refer to the one praying, or to the one speaking, or the one tithing as leading worship. Praying is praying, preaching is preaching/teaching, tithing is giving, and singing is worship. Intellectually, you and I know this to be untrue, but again, our language belies what we know to be truth, or at best, it puts on display our inner conflict over what we actually believe.

Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. - Ecclesiastes 5:1, NKJV

Wrestling With the Worship Question

The fact that we are so conflicted in our speech is illustrative of the reality that answering the question, "What is worship," is not a simple matter. The quote above from Ecclesiastes gives emphasis to the importance of our doing so, lest we be offering God "the sacrifice of fools" in our attempts to worship. How tragic that one would be attempting to worship the divine, but doing evil instead.

I believe one of the more profound statements in all of scripture on the subject of worship fell from the lips of Jesus when he spoke with the woman at the well as recorded in John 4. The theological undercurrents of the encounter between Jesus and this woman are astonishing, and space does not grant us a full treatment of that today, but suffice it to say that in this interaction, Jesus is doing three things that no other self-respecting male Jew of his time would have done. He is speaking with a woman. He is speaking with a Samaritan. He is speaking with a Samaritan woman who is shacked-up with a man to whom she is not married. And it is to this woman that Jesus utters the defining statement on worship.

The more deeply Jesus and the unnamed woman drove their conversation, the more clearly the woman began to grasp that she was not talking to any ordinary male Jew. This was a deeply religious man - one with some pretty keen insights, and a transparency she was not used to seeing in Jewish men. So, as the conversation pressed forward, she decided to toss out a point of contention between the Samaritans and the Jews - what is the proper location for worshiping God?

The woman put her question like this: "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship" (John 4:20, NASB) In response, Jesus informed the woman that, very soon, location would be irrelevant to pure worship. And then he gave her the jewel!

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father ... But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” - John 4:21, 23-24, NASB

True Worshipers Are Being Sought After

Are you feeling disconnected from God? Are you looking for God and just cannot seem to find him? I would exhort you to stop looking for God and to start worshiping him. If you do that, you won't need to look for God because God will find you. God is seeking worshipers, but not just any worshipers. He is looking for very specific worshipers - those who worship him in spirit and truth. Since those are the worshipers God is seeking, those are the worshipers we should be.

Theologian A.W. Pink wrote in his book Exposition of the Gospel of John that there are three "musts" in John's gospel. We must be born again (3:7). The Son of Man must be lifted up (3:14). And here, true worshipers must worship in spirit and truth” (4:24). So, whatever this worship is, we would do well to figure it out and latch onto it.

One last thing that jumps out at me from Jesus' statement is that, if there are true worshipers, by definition that means that there are false worshipers. We got a hint of that from the Ecclesiastes quote where we saw the worship of fools who think they are worshiping but are actually doing evil. We don't want to go there. Furthermore, if true worshipers worship in spirit and truth, then false worship must be confined to body and falsehood. It is something worth pondering.

True Worshipers Worship in Spirit and Truth

Though I walk in a physical body, I am a spiritual being. I carry my spirit within me.

Years ago, when asked "What is my spirit?" I heard a man say, "Your spirit is whatever doesn't show up at the funeral." I am created in the image of God, and God is spirit, and those who worship him must do so in spirit and truth. In some sense, then, true worship is going to involve my spirit seeking after the Spirit of God, to pursue God from the inside out, rather than with outside activities and trappings.

Not only is worship a matter of spirit, it is an issue of truth.

When I was a seminary student, it was emphasized to me that this "truth" was a call for doctrinal accuracy. At the time I bought that explanation because I simply did not know any better. Over time, however, I have come to understand that doctrine has little to do with what Jesus is saying here beyond the fact that what he is saying here is his doctrine on worship.

Truth here is αληθεια (aleitheia). Aleathia is truth in the sense that it is what what is real. It is genuine. From that definition, we are closer to what Jesus is calling for if we read his statement as, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and sincerity." Insincere worship accomplishes nothing. It is an act of vanity - emptiness.

Jesus spoke to the uselessness of external activity without an engaged heart.

This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me
- Matthew 15:8-9a

Thus, worship is an inside-out affair. It flows from the heart to the hands. Lifted hands from a dead heart is empty exercise, but a heart on fire that cannot help but thrust hands heavenward is a beautiful thing. It is my heart, or my spirit that brings life to my worship.

Matthew Henry said it like this, "The way of worship which Christ has instituted is rational and intellectual, and refined from those external rites and ceremonies with which the Old-Testament worship was both clouded and clogged." It is my inner being invigorated by overwhelming adoration of the divine.

The call for sincerity in our worship is not a new thing. The largest book in the Bible, the Psalms, is one of the most impactful records of worship in all literature. And there we read this:

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
- Psalm 51:6, NASB

Take the challenge this week to free your heart, your "innermost being," to be unencumbered by external matters, and from that free heart, pour yourself into worship of your Creator God. Be abounding in awe, love, and adoration.

Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. - Hebrews 10:22, NASB

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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Acts 17:28 - ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν