TEACH THEM TO WORSHIP
Welcome back to the Commands of Christ blog series where we are examining together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus and which are essential for new disciples to understand and obey. If you missed the first four posts in this series you can find them by clicking Repent and Believe, Be Baptized, Pray, Make Disciples, and Love.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In this post, we will look at the sixth of nine foundational commands that Christ gave for disciples to obey. This fifth command is to love and is found in Matthew 4:10.
Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve."
You are probably familiar with the context of this verse. Jesus has been baptized by John in the Jordan River. As He came up out of the water the Spirit descended on Him like a dove, and the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Then the Spirit led Him out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He had been fasting for forty days when He was tempted and this verse is His response to the devil following the third of three temptations. Jesus had been taken to a high mountain, from which the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and all their glory. He told Jesus, “All of these I will give to You if You will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus responds to the devil by saying, “Be gone, Satan. For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.”
There is the command to worship God. But like many Christian ideas, concepts, and words, they are used by many without much real thought as to what they mean. So what is worship?
Internal Essence of Worship
We must understand at this point that there are two elements of worship. There is the inner essence of worship and the external expression of worship.
John Piper believes that such a distinction ought to be made because he believes that Jesus does the same in Matthew 15:8-9.
“This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me.”
In this verse, the internal is the heart and the external is the lips. And when the lips say things that do not accord with what the heart believes, the worship is described as vain or empty. It is not worship. It is not worship if there is not the heart aspect to it. So, you can do as many deeds as you want and go to as many church events as you want and never be worshipping if it is all external and nothing is happening in your heart toward God. All true worship is, in essence, a matter of the heart.
So what is that inner experience of the heart toward God that we call the experience of worship? Maybe Jesus was pointing us toward an answer in John 4: 23-23.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Note that worshipping in spirit is not contrasted with worshipping in the body or with the body. Instead, it is put alongside worshipping in truth.
What is Jesus saying here? I think the point is that right worship, good worship, pleasing worship depends on the right grasp of the way God is – truth. If we worship an idol of our own making, we are not really worshipping God.
An important implication or worshipping in spirit and truth – having a right grasp of the way God is – is coming to value Him as that which is most valuable. Worship depends on a correct spiritual or heart understanding of God’s supreme value. True worship depends on a right understanding of God’s nature and it is a right valuing of God’s worth.
Of course, His worth is infinite. So, true worship is a valuing or a treasuring of God above all things.
The inner essence of worship is the response of the heart when the mind is rightly understanding God and the heart is rightly valuing God. Or you could use words like treasuring or prizing God or delighting in God or reverencing God. All of these inner responses to God reflect His infinite worth and beauty. That is what worship was designed to do: put the supreme worth of God on display.
External Acts of Worship
So, we worship God truly when we know Him truly and treasure Him properly. Then the word worship refers to that inner valuing and treasuring becoming visible in the world in two basic ways in the New Testament. One is acts of the mouth; acts of praise (speaking or singing) and repentance in worship services or small group gatherings. The other is acts of love with the body and the hands and the feet, acts of love that show the supreme value of God by what we are willing to sacrifice for the good of others.
We can see these two basic ways in Hebrews 13:15-16.
Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
These verses begin and end with sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice is an echo from the Old Testament sacrifices which were at the centre of worship and were to display the value of God as we gave up a bull or a goat or some grain and showed that God is precious to us.
We treasure His redemption that comes to us through Jesus Christ. So through Christ, two things become worshipful sacrifices in our life: first, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name (public and private singing and praying and repenting and confessing) and second, the fruit of deeds.
Worship ought to be a part of our everyday life, not music that we listen to or how many church services or events we attend. Let’s worship God in spirit and truth.
So offer to God the fruit of your lips in praise and worship. And don’t neglect to do good. Both are pleasing to God and both are necessary acts of worship.
How has worshipping God helped you in your everyday life? What have you learned? How have you been encouraged or challenged? Please share in the comments, we would love to hear from you!
THE HABIT OF JOURNALING
In this week’s blog post, we are considering the habit or discipline of journaling. In past posts, we have considered Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship as it relates to both time and finances, fasting, and silence/solitude.
If you have not seen these posts yet, go ahead and click on the links to catch yourself up.
And remember that the primary motivation for these spiritual habits or disciplines is taken from Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7, where he says, exercise or discipline yourself toward godliness. This applies to us just the same today and he makes it clear that, if we wish to be godly, it will take work, discipline, and exercise. Just as an athlete, musician, or artist must exercise disciplined practice to become more proficient at their chosen field, so a disciple must exercise disciplined practice in these activities as means’ of grace to become more proficient at being godly. That is to say, as we become more disciplined in the practice of these habits, more of God’s grace is available to us which will change us.
So what about journaling? Let’s begin with an explanation.
A journal is a place (physical or digital) in which a person records information important to him or her personally for the purpose of preservation and/or consideration. As a follower of Jesus your journal is a place to document the works and ways of God in your life. Your journal can also include an account of daily events, personal relationships, a notebook of insights into Scripture and/or a list of prayer requests and answers. A journal is one of the best places for tracking your progress in the other disciplines and for holding yourself accountable to your goals.
The words ‘spiritual journal’ can sound quite exclusive – something artsy types do, not normal everyday disciples. Or they can sound quite old-fashioned and not something for twenty first-century disciples. But both of these impressions are unhelpful! A spiritual journal is an ordinary, honest record of what is going on in your life, how you feel about it, and your awareness of where God is in it all.
It needn’t be in good English; it’s not being handed in for marking! It needn’t be written in a fancy book. You can do it – and there are good reasons why you should consider it.
Why Keep a Spiritual Journal?
A spiritual journal achieves three things: it is a record, which aids reflection and thus becomes a means of responding to God’s call to deepening discipleship.
How to Keep a Spiritual Journal
You can breathe a sigh of relief: there are no rules to keeping a spiritual journal! Find a system that works for you and be willing to adapt it as you go, so that it keeps working. If it enables you to record your day, reflect on God’s involvement and respond in some way then it is working! Having said that, here are a few thoughts to help you think through your own approach.
One final thought: although the journal is a private document, it could help you develop this habit – and perhaps reflect on your journal entries – if you shared your ‘journal journey’ with a close spiritual friend. Keeping a spiritual journal in company with others allows you to learn from one another’s experience and to support one another in developing the practice.
Do you currently have a spiritual journal? If so, please share how this has helped you in your spiritual growth and relationship with God? If you don’t have a spiritual journal, we hope that you have been encouraged to start one and we would love to hear all about it!
At this time of year, many people find themselves thinking more about thankfulness. But a look at Scripture reminds us that being thankful needs to be a foundation of our lives every day.
In fact, having an “attitude of gratitude” adds to our spiritual and physical health all year round - and it’s a mindset we can cultivate. We can certainly express our appreciation to family and friends, for employment, fun times and new things. But the Bible clearly instructs Christians to fix our eyes on the Heavenly Father, the true source of every good thing in our lives. He is the One who graciously gives us “good things” of all kinds, and our natural response should be thanking Him specifically.
How Can We Express Thanksgiving?
“Enter His gates with Thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise His name” (Psalm 100:4).
We can express our thanks privately anytime. But there’s something very special about gathering together to express gratitude to God. I grew up in a church where opportunity was often given for testimonies. People were invited to stand and share something God had done in their lives, or how coming to know Jesus changed their lives. Listening to stories always led me to be more aware and grateful for God’s presence in my life.
Verses all through the Bible point us back to God as our Creator and Sustainer, and how we are to be a thankful people. The list of things we could praise Him for is endless. But here are just a few reasons to give thanks to God all year long. Don't be surprised if more blessings come to your mind as you read these.
“Let us come before Him with Thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods” (Psalm 95:2-3).
1. His Love
In 1 John, the disciple says straight out that, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). In Scripture, we see those that received and embraced His unconditional love for them humbly and joyfully thanked the Lord for it.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” (1 Chronicles 16:34).
“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind” (Psalm 107:15).
God’s love is just as strong for us today as it was for those in Scripture. He is still our Father, who seeks a relationship with us. His deep and abiding love should lead us to praise Him just like those we read about.
How has God shown His love to you?
2. His Provision
From the earliest days of the Israelite nation, God has delivered His people from, and led them through, all sorts of trials and hardships. So, many accounts tell of people responding with gratitude for how God watched over them in challenging times. Their trust grew stronger and led them to pray with expectation going forward.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy and with my song I praise Him” (Psalm 28:7).
“I thank and praise You, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power” (Daniel 2:23).
“Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
“Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).
It doesn’t take much thought for us to come up with our own testimonies of how God has carried us in hard times. He wants us to recognize that He, and no one else, is our Provider, and to hear our response.
In what situation has God provided for you?
3. His Forgiveness
King David and the disciple Peter are two examples in Scripture of men who were impacted by their sinful choices, and later received the forgiveness of God. Both were deeply changed in the process. Others join with them in Scripture to express thanks for such amazing grace.
“I will praise You, Lord. Although You were angry with me, Your anger has turned away and You have comforted me” (Isaiah 12:1).
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits - who forgives all your sins” (Psalm 103:2-3).
Every believer throughout the ages has been able to hold onto the same promise of receiving God’s forgiveness for sin. We too can feel that lightening of our spirit and respond with gratitude.
What sins has God forgiven you for?
4. His Word
Even before the Bible we have today existed, its teachings and truths were shared. Sometimes it spread by word of mouth, other times in written form. But whatever way it reached people, the Word of God changed minds and hearts and inspired gratitude in those that heard it.
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16).
“At midnight I rise to give You thanks for Your righteous laws” (Psalm 119:62).
Today, most of us are immensely blessed to have access to the whole Bible. On any given day, we can be impacted by the life-renewing power within its pages. God is pleased when we use this gift and thank Him for it.
What Bible verse has made a difference in your faith walk?
5. His Creation
God created the earth for His pleasure and ours and took great care in the process of making it. Every detail was intentional. King David was one of many who delighted in nature, seeing evidence of the Master’s hand all around him.
“Give thanks to the Lord of lords: to Him who alone does great wonders, who by His understanding made the heavens, who spread out the earth upon the waters, who made the great lights - the sun to govern the day, the moon and stars to govern the night” (Psalm 136:3-9).
We have the opportunity to appreciate God's handiwork as well. Looking up into a bright blue sky, sitting on the beach or a walk in the woods is a way to find refreshment and calm.
What is your favourite spot in nature to spend time?
6. His People
The Apostle Paul often expressed gratitude for his fellow Christians and for the encouragement and support they gave. He recognized that God was ministering to him through those believers while giving them a chance to know the joy of serving the Lord. Feeling the power of community brought out praises.
“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).
“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all His holy people and their faith in the Lord Jesus” (Philemon 1:4).
“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your face is growing more and more and the love all of you have for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
The church was part of God’s plan for His people. Most of us who belong to a local church family can agree that there is comfort and strength to be found in fellowship. We are given chances to serve each other and help each other grow closer to our Lord. The sound of thanks coming from a congregation sounds sweet to God.
How has being in a church family made a difference in how you live?
7. His Plan for Us
The Apostle Paul wrote repeatedly that the followers of Christ have been set apart by God. He taught that believers have the privilege and responsibility of growing in holiness and of joining the Lord in His mission. Paul also mentions God's plan for us to share in numerous blessings through what Jesus did on the cross: victory over the enemy, restoration with God and an eternal Kingdom to enjoy. And we know from the covenant God made with Abraham that we are blessed like this in order to be a blessing (Genesis 12).
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
“We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because You have taken your great power and have begun to reign” (Revelation 11:17).
How has the knowledge of God’s plan for you now and in the future encouraged you?
God Gladly Receives Our Praise
In this age, we are even closer to seeing the return of Christ. That should awaken us to greater determination to be known as God’s children, and more gratitude for His wonderful promises.
Saying “thank you” to God hardly seems like enough in light of all His blessings to us. But whenever we do that, He gladly receives our praises. Studying verses about thankfulness will bring us to a place of humility, and a place of joy, and that is how God wants us to live every day.
“What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people” (Psalm 116:12-14).
CHANGE OF PLANS
Have you ever planned a trip or special celebration that you had to end up cancelling? Maybe you had some personal goals that you were hoping to accomplish, but weren’t able to? Or maybe you had some great ideas for your business or ministry that you had to put on hold?
While our answers may vary, one thing most of us can agree on is that we didn’t see COVID-19 coming and all the effects that would follow. Many plans had to be changed, cancelled, and put on hold at this time. Its not easy when plans need to be changed because often there is some disappointment that comes with that.
Today, we are going to look at 3 important truths to keep in mind when our plans don’t come together the way we had hoped for.
1. Our plans are not guaranteed.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
This year, my family had 2 celebrations that we had made plans for. A 10-year Wedding Anniversary and a 40th Birthday. We had a special trip booked and we even had a hall booked to help make these days extra special. They all had to be cancelled.
We need to remember that whatever we put on our calendar and plan for is not guaranteed. God knows everything and it is He that directs our steps, not our plans.
It doesn’t mean that the disappointment won’t be there because initially it will. It means that when our plans get ‟interrupted” its God allowing His plans to come to pass. And whatever we experience, God will use to build and develop our character to make us more like Jesus.
2. God is still in control.
Psalm 47:8 says, “God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.”
No matter what we go through, God is still on His throne. He is still in control. This is not only a great reminder but also a comfort to know that our Father in heaven is always in control. It reminds me of being a child and that safe feeling of being with our parents when we are afraid. God is always there for us no matter what we are feeling. Let us find encouragement in that today.
3. God’s plans are best for us.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
This is one of my favourite verses in the Bible. This promise assures us, encourages us, comforts us, gives us hope and peace, and so much more. When God called Jonah to go and preach in Nineveh, he decided to go the opposite way. Jonah tried to run away from God, but didn’t get very far only to be swallowed by a giant fish. Even though Jonah did not understand, the plans that God had for his life were best for him. We know what ends up happening- Jonah eventually obeys and does what God asked Him to do. God’s plans for us are best for us.
During this season, it has been so wonderful to see the church step up and be in prayer and reading the Bible more. It has also been wonderful to see people who do not know Jesus ask questions. People are seeking and this is a good thing.
Another thing I have seen are missionaries who are desperately waiting to get back on the field to serve God and share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Their plans have been greatly changed, and they are trusting God for greater plans to come. Let’s continue to pray for our missionaries as they wait to be able to return to their fields.
How have your plans changed this year? Have you had to cancel anything? What are some good things you have seen or experienced during this season? Please let us know in comments. We would love to hear from you.