Saturday, August 27, 2011


When we begin to comprehend all that Christ is to us, like Paul we count "all things loss" in comparison. That attitude will become the foundation of our worship to the LORD, the natural expression of hearts into which "God has sent forth Spirit of His Son."

How does Paul choose to illustrate the difference bewteen the  false teachers and true believers? By their worship

"For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).

In telling the Philippians "we are the circumcision," Paul did not intend to be arrogant or proud. By highlighting the subject of circumcision, Paul was communicating the truth that true believers have the sin and impurity removed from their hearts. Only those with circumcised hearts can give God TRUE WORSHIP. Christians need not be ashamed to draw this kind of distinction between the false and the genuine. Is it wrong to boast about the work God did in your heart? Of course not. We did not circumcise our own hearts; God Himself performed this special work, "the circumcision made without hands."
Paul lists key characteristics of TRUE WORSHIP, worship that comes from a circumcision heart:
First, such worship is offered  in Holy Spirit. TRUE WORSHIPERS do not try to glorify God through the inventions of heir minds, to "create" worship through impressive  ritual pageantry or the arts of audience manipulation.
Second, TRUE WORSHIPERS "rejoice in Christ Jesus" and not in their personal accomplishment or achieved emotional state. Since TRUE WORSHIP rejoices in Christ, we can easily conclude that a worship service should seek to make Christ better known through the exposition of the WORD. At one church you may ecnounter honored traditions and rituals that makes the people feel secure. At another church you may hear inspirational stories and music that makes the congregation feel warm and happy.  Often these worship methods can attract a crowd; but without the WORD of God to make Christ known there will be no TRUE WORSHIP.
Third, Paul stated that TRUE WORSHIP "have no confidence in the flesh." There should be no place in our worship for boasting in our own efforts. Instead we revel and rejoice in the clear working of God, in our lives and in the lives of others, to make us more like the Christ we love.

The "religious worshipers" gloried in religious appearances and fleshy externals. If he had desired to do so, Paul could easily have beaten them at their own game! "I also might have confidence in the flesh," he wrote. "If anyone else thinks that he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so" (Philippians 3:4). As Paul went on to relate, he was "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Philippians 3:5-6).
Since he was circumcised at birth, Paul would have been deemed better than those Jews who were adult converts. He could trace his lineage through Bejamin back to Jacob, the man whom God had given the name Israel (Genesis 32:28).
Before his conversion Paul had been one of the Pharisees, the strictest sect among the Jews. He was zealously against cults that opposed "true religion" that he consented to the death of Christians. "But" Paul concluded, "what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ" (Philippians 3:7). 
TRUE WORSHIP places supreme value in Christ. This supreme regard for Christ requires us to take proper view of our human gains and achievements. Do they help or hinder our worship? We must be honest with ourselves.
Why must we give up our human gains "into God's hand"? Because a proper view of our worldly gains, a view that "counts all things but loss," contributes to a proper assessment of the value of Christ. Nothing in our lives is more valuable than He is. Nothing else in the world means more than our relationship with our Savior. When we value Christ above all else, our worship will evidence that fact.. We will not need to invent ways to feel worshipful. TRUE WORSHIP will flow naturally from a dedicated heart, a heart guided by the Holy Spirit so that God alone receives the glory.
(An extract from True Worship by David Whitcomb & Mark Ward, Sr)

Saturday, August 20, 2011


As worshipers we must guard against substituting mere tradition for TRUE WORSHIP. Jesus taught us why when He confronted the issue of traditionalism.

Tradition exalts people - Truth humbles people.
Tradition creats pride - Truth creats holiness
Tradition is impersonal - Truth is intimate
Tradition only affects the outside - Truth penetrates the heart.
Tradition produces hypocrites - Truth produces servants of God.
Tradition is something you keep - Truth is something that keeps you!
Matthew's Gospel records that "the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 'Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread'" (Matthew 15:102).
The people who came to Jesus with this question about tradition were not insignificant people. They were the religious authorities among all the Israelites.They were the leaders who determined the standard of worship for God's people - or at least they thought this was their responsibility. 
 To the scribes and Pharisees, it was becoming very clear that Jesus' teaching opposed the accepted traditional standards.
The issue on which they chose to confront Jesus was the tradition of hand washing during meal. Were they worried about hygiene? Yes, hygiene was one reason for hand washing. But the leaders did not make the long trip north from Jerusalem to Galilee because they heard that the disciples were being careless and spreading disease. Their concern was for the ceremonial aspect of the tradition.
The religious leaders believed that to implement God's command of personal holiness it was necessary to avoid contact with anything the Scriptures might deem unclean. Eating was especially worrisome since it involved touching hand to mouth. A person who touched an unclean item and then touched his mouth, it was claimed, transferred the guilt into his whole body. Thus every Jew was expected to observe an elaborate hand-washing ceremony before and after eating.
The traditions of the elders, such as ceremonial hand washing, had been passed down orally through the generations of eaders. These traditions consisted of four elements: oral laws that Moses was supposed to have given in addition to the written laws; decisions made and precedents of judges; explanations and opinions of noted teachers; and votes of the Sanhedrin
In accusing His disciples of ignoring the teachings of tradition, the leaders were actually accusing the Teacher who gave the disciples such an example. In the leaders' minds, Jesus and not the disciples was the root of the problem.

Christ has animmediate response to their veiled accusation: "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3). Now Jesus was turning the tables on the scribes and Pharisees by citing one of their laws that clearly contradicted God's law.
"For God commanded, saying, "Honor your father and your mother"; and, "He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death." But you say, "Whoever says to his father or mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God' - then he need not honor his father or mother." Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. (Matthew 15:4-6).
Jesus stated God's standard. God clearly commands His people to honor their parents and forbid us to speak disrespectfully of them (Exodus 20:20:12, 21:17). ANd since God forbids wrong speaking, He certainly forbids wrong actions. God's standard obviously prohibits us from doing anything thatfails to honor our parents.
Yet the scribes and Pharisees held to a tradition thatcontradicted God's commnad. This tradition allowed a person to pronounce that any of his possessions were Corban (Mark 7:11), a gift from God that was dedicated to His use. A person could even pronounce a blanket oath over everything he owned.
Complete dedication to God is, of course, a correct attitude. But the religious leaders developed the tradition of Corban so that they could decline to help needy parents. If their possessions were dedicated to God, after all, they could not take these things away from God and give them to their parent! What was worse, the tradition allowed people to continue using their possessions for themselves even after they pronounced the Corban. This practice was a common one in New Testament times.
"All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition," Jesus decalres in Mark's account (7:1-13) of confrontation. And twice in this passage Jesus points out that "many such things you do."

These leaders presented an appearance of righteousness, but Jesus ripped away their religious facade. "You hypocrite!" He called the scribes and Pharisees - and then He went straight to the cause of their hypocrisy.
"Well did Isaiah prophesy about you:'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.'" (Matthew 15:7-8).
Jesus here quotes Isaiah 29:13, who compared the people's spiritual blindness to a closed book. The root problem for these religious hypocrites, Jesus says, is their failure to honor God fromtheir hearts, not just with their words. As a result of their failure, "In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctirnes the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9). Drawing a contrast to the scribes and Pharisees who were obsessive about unclean food, Jesus turned to the gathered crowd and to His disciples, saying,
"Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man ... Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man" (Matthew 15:11, 17-21).
Jesus concluded that the religious leaders' worship was vain and empty. That is not to say that the scribes and Pharisees did not worship. They worshiped a great deal. They were very busy. But their worship was not honoring to God, and so it was pintless. Their hearts were not right; they were giving honor to traditions of men rather than to the God they professed to serve.
Each week, untold multitudes go to church for reasons other than communing with the LORD, enjoying Christian fellowship, and being instructed from the WORD. Some think it is good for business or enhances their social standing. Others make an appearance to display their peity. Some attend merely out of a sense of duty. Not one of these motives brings to God. But since we have our traditional sanctuary, our organ, our robed choirs, our priest or minister in his vestments, we can lay claim to "having a form of godliness, [though] denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5).
Have we allowed our traditions and practices to obscure or even replace True Worship? Do we belive that, as long as we show up for services and do the "right" kinds of things, we are worshiping - even if our hearts are filled with greed, lust, anger, and pride?
(an extract from True Worship by David Whitcomb & mark Ward, Sr.)

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Continuing from Part 1, having established God's attributes of authority and greatness, justice and righteousness, the psalmist moves on to his application.

God's holy nature is revealed through His dealings with humanity. For the LORD rules with equity when He allows His people to pray and intercede for others; when, altogether just, He yet forgives sins; and when also He allows forgiven sinners to reap the full consequences of their sins. In other words, our God is wonderful, forgiving, and gracious - but because He is also just and mighty, the very thought of sin should strike fear in our hearts. Realization of both aspects of God's character helps us understand that God is holy, and this understanding results in TRUE WORSHIP to Him!
To illustrate these truths, the psalmist provides instructive examples from the lives of three of God's choice servants.
"Moses and Aaron were among His priests, and Samuel was among those who called upon His name; they called upon the LORD, and He answered them. He spoke to them in the cloudy pillar; they kept His testimonies and the ordinance He gave them. You answered them, O LORD our God; You were to them God-Who-Forgives, though You took vengeance on their deeds" (Psalm 99:6-8).
We can really take comfort from the fact that God answered the prayers of Moses, Aaron and Samuel. The psalmist points out that even these greatmen of God struggled with sin just a we do. They had weaknesses and failings so that even though God "answered them" and was "to them God-Who-Forgives," He nonetheless "took vengeance on their deed" (Psalm 99:8).
Moses, Aaron, and Samuel all committed sins against God. The Bible records that Moses incurred the LORD's wrath at the waters of Meribah Kadesh, where he showed lack of respect for God in the presence of the people (Deuteronomy 32:51). Aaron also stirred God's anger at Meribah, and he had earlier transgressed when he sanctioned idol worship (Exoducs 31:1-6) and rebellion against Moses' leadership (Numbers 1:1-2). And what was Samuel's sin? We cannot say determinely since the Bible provides no direct mention of it, unless it was perhaps a failure to discipline his two sons (1 Samuel 8:3).
However, we do know two things for certain. First, according to the psalmist, all three men confessed and repented of their failures. How do we know? Moses, Aaron, and Samuel must each have been contrite before the LORD, for He forgave them. Second, not withstanding His forgiveness, God still took "vengeance of their inventions." That is, when His servants followed their own ways, God allowed even these great men to bear the full consequences of their sin. Both Moses and Aaron, for example, were not permitted to enter the Promised Land. Instead, even with the end of their wilderness journey in sight, God took them to glory (Numbers 33:38 and Deuteronomy 34:5).
We, too, will stumble and fall into sin. But "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Nevertheless, we must always face some kind of consequence because of that sin. Why? Because God is just and holy. Yet there is a second reason, one intended for our benefit. Just as the nerves of our fingertips warn us never again to touch a hot stove, the experience of sin's consequences is an inducement to forsake our own "inventions."

The psalmist has sung of God's holiness as demostrated by the way He reigns in awesome might, dwells above all the people. combines power with justice, answers prayer, gives instruction, and forgives sin though not disallowing its consequences. So what is the natural conclusion of the matter? The psalmistexhorts us to "exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy" (Psalm 99:9).
To exalt means to lift up. does God then need me to lift Him up? Of course not. We exalt the HOLY ONE, not just because He is God, but because HE IS OUR GOD! If we are His people, we lift up our God's name above all others. Think about it! He is altogether HOLY, and yet we who are nothing by comparison can call Him our God! Considering our God and ourselves in that light, our natural expression must be to give Him the highestplace in all things. And if He holds that place, our worship should show it.
God's preeminence is the reason we join with the psalmist in worshiping at God's holy hill. His prescribed place of worship. At first, the place of worship was the tabernacle that God's people put up and took down as they traveled in the wilderness. Later the permanent temple in Jerusalem became the place of worship. Thus, as the psalmist sang in his opening stanza, the people were called to honor the King who "sits between the cherubim" and to worship Him who is "great in Zion" and "high above all the people."
In the New Testament, God commands us as His people to worship in our hearts. Indeed, even as we learned from the story of Cain and Abel, the heart has always been the site of TRUE WORSHIP. Even when God promised to be present in a physical location. He warned the Israelites, "But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear [you] are drawn away, and worship othergods, and serve them" (Deuteronomy 30:17). Jesus, also, affirmed that TRUE WORSHIP takes place in the inner man. He taught that "TRUE WORSHIPERS SHALL WORSHIP THE FATHER IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH" (John 4:23).
If we know God and enjoy His presence in our hearts, we will worship Him there. Our worship and exaltation of Him will manifest humility in response to His holiness. To worship otherwise is to indicate that we do not really know the holy God of the Bible.
(an extract from: True Worship by David Whitcomb and mark Ward, Sr.)

Saturday, August 06, 2011


Psalm 99
Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His holy hill;
for the Lord our God is holy

A key barometer of how we treat God is our worship. This fact was true in Old testament days when God's people sometimes had great respect for God and at other times followed their own ideas. At such times they might still observe the outward forms of worship, or they might forsake appearances and follow after idols. Either way, they forgot about the LORD and failed to treat Him with respect. We can do the same today when we casually bring all our sinful baggage with us on Sunday, or forget that He is holy, or perhaps do not even truly know the God we claim to worship. Such lack of respect will be evident in our relationship with Him.

True worship reveals our respect for His HOLINESS. That is the message of Psalm 99 which begins,
 "The LORD reigns; let the people tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved! The LORD is great in Zion; and He is high above all the peoples" (Psalm 99:1-2).
That men should tremble before God's authority is clear. But to emphasize this truth, the psalmist points out that the LORD dwells among the cherubim. Perhaps this observation is a reference to the tabernacle and God's chosen place of presence at the mercy seat, which rested upon the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25;18). This place was so sacred that the high priest could approach it only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Even then, he wore bells on his robe and had a rope tied to him in case God shold strike him dead.
The reference to God's sitting "between the cherubum" may also be a reference to His divine nature. Cherubim and seraphim are angelical beings created by God to praise Him. In several passages the Bible describes the cherubim as surrounding God's heavenly throne, attesting to His HOLINESS."And one cried to another, and said, holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory" (Isaiah 6:3). Truly, this is a God who can make the earth to quake at His power and presence!
God reigns, and He is "great in Zion." This is another name for Jerusalem, the city of His choosing, where His shekinah glory once grace the tabernacle and then the temple. To say the Lord is great in Zion may be an affirmation that God is great among His people.
After the psalmist praise the God who is mighty over the tabernacle and over the city, the progression continues. For the LORD is "high above all the people." Even kings cannot compare to His greatness! Yet even as we tremble before Him, we are comforted to know that God who dwells "above all the people" can see all things. He is in control of every detail of our lives and He cares intensely about His people. A right view of God sees Him in all of the glory thatthe Bible attributes to Him. Such a view compels us to treat Him with the awesome respect thatis His due. When we view His glory we will bow with the psalmist in true worship and declare,
"Let the praise Your great and awesome name - He is holy" (psalm 99:3).

The Scriptures affirm that this God who has the power to do anything chooses to do the right thing. Of God the psalmist sings, "The King's strength also loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob" (Psalm 99:4).
God exercises perfect justice every time. He always establishes equitable decision, always forms righteous plans, and always does justly. Why? Because He is holy. Therefore we are to "exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His footstool - He is holy" (Psalm 99:5).
Because He is God and therefore reigns in perfect equity and  justice, we must exalt Him. This exaltation presupposes that we trul;y know God's attributes - and that knowledge comes only throught a vibrant personal relationship with Him. Anyone can know about God or even use words from the Bible when in worship. But an intellectual knowledge of the LORD is not enough. Even "the demons believe, and tremble" (James 2:19). Those who do not know God cannot exalt His attributes. It is for this reason that we often see worship that suggests the worshipers know a god of wealth or pleasure, or they know only of mere religion. In contrast, TRUE WORSHIP lifts up the name of God because the worshipers know Him intimately.
One necessary means of calling proper attention to God is His people's assuming their proper place before Him. The psalmist enjoins us to "worship at His footstool," giving a picture of our obeisance before His kingly throne. Psalm 93 through Psalm 99 are in fact called the "Royal Psalms," because they exalt the majestic King JEHOVAH.
Ancient thrones often sat on a platform atop several steps. Once the king had ascended the steps, he could sit on the throne and put his feet on the foorstool that was attached to the throne. The footstool existed for his comfort. However, the footstool also became a picture of subvervience and subjugation. Sometimes the footstool was carved with the likeness of the king's enemies. When the king put his feet on the stool, everyone was reminded that the king had brought these enemies into subjection.
God's footstool reminds us that He is the King. Many times in the Scriptures we read that God will make of His enemies a footstool. Other passages state that the LORD has His footstool in the tabernacle, and in others the LORD declares that "the earth is [His] footstool" (Isaiah 66:1, Acts 7:49). In all these references we are reminded that God is exalted as we worship in our proper place of submission.
Such submission can be joyfully given to God because of His HOLINESS "You testimonies are very sure: holiness adorns Your house, O LORD, forever" (Psalm 93:5). God's holiness permits the perfect marriage of might and right. Indeed, God's HOLINESS is the symphony of all of His attributes - attributes that the human mind cannot fully comprehend. God is angry at sin and yet is full of love. He pours out wrath against rebels and yet is altogether longsuffering. His holiness is the glue that joins thses attributes together. His strength loves justice. He both extablishes equity and executes righteousness. TRUE WORSHIP will exalt such a God!
(an extract from True Worship byDavid Whitcomb and Mark Ward, Sr.)