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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO www.timeintheword.org

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Vain Worship

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Matthew 15:8-9
These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

Daily Scripture Reading - Ezekiel 33

Puritan Catechism
Question #33 - What is adoption?

Answer - Adoption is an act of God's free grace (1 Jn. 3:1), whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:17).

Confessing Our Faith
A daily reading from The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, as amended by Charles Spurgeon.

Chapter 21 – Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience

Devotional Thoughts
Some tradition is good. In fact, in the Bible we are encouraged a number of times to keep traditions and to shun people who do not follow good traditions based on sound doctrine. But if we take human traditions and the teaching of men and make them equal to the Word of God then we have made a false god out of tradition! Too many people worship the tradition instead of worshipping God.

And as Jesus continues to attack tradition, especially where it attempts to make void the commands of God, He prepares to make a vivid point about defilement and the tradition of the Pharisees when it comes to the idea that one must wash his hands before eating lest he become defiled. But first, Jesus addresses those who would question Him. He says to them in Matthew 15:7-9:

Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

This follows the statement that those who are questioning Jesus are themselves making "the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition." They had elevated traditional teachings to the same level as authoratative Scripture. And the things they were teaching were so contrary to the Word of God that they in effect were making the Law of God null and void. People were learning how to sin and get around the requirements of Scripture thanks to these theological traditionalists.

And Jesus lets them have it! He identifies them in an exclamation - they are hypocrites! The word means a play-actor, a fraud. They wear a mask and pretend to be what they are not. They hide their true selves and their true sins behind a pretense of spirituality. This then is another reason we need to learn to discern! To tell the difference between the fakers and those who truly do walk with Christ.

They question Christ, having tried to discredit Him and His disciples, and they have the audacity to judge and condemn others based on their own self righteous standards. And Jesus quotes Isaiah to make His point - this great prophet who was killed by Manasseh for his godly life and message. Isaiah proclaimed the Word of God. And that Word tells us that those who are hypocrites may think that they worship God, they may say the right things and look like they are reverencing God. But in reality, there is a great gap between their lips and their heart. As Del Fehsenfeld, Jr, used to say - the 18 inches between the head and heart is often formed by a stiff neck!

These people, Jesus says, draw near to God with their mouths. They honor and glorify Him with their lips. But their heart, He says, is far from God! This is a serious issue. It is a defilement of worship. As we have studied before, the worship of God is not a matter of personal preference or style. It is not a matter of location. It is not a matter of even sounding right. Jesus said that God desires that those who worship Him do so in spirit and truth. What does it mean to worship God in spirit and truth? As I wrote earlier, to worship God in spirit and truth is to worship with a right heart attitude coupled with a right outward reverence! To read more about it, visit my previous blog post on the topic posted December 12, 2005.

Further Jesus makes the point that to elevate the traditions and commandements of men to the level of Biblical authority and infallibility is to worship God in vain!! Did you hear that? Whenever a church or a preacher elevates and magnifies the traditions of men as if they were the Word of God then that church or that preacher has made that worship VAIN - meaningless, futile, useless. And most definitely displeasing to God. All of that legalistic ranting and raving, all that emergent conversation, all that seeker sensitive platitudes and patronizing debases the Word of God, makes the preferences, commands, and traditions of men more important than Scripture, and therefore VOIDS worship! You will not please God if you attempt to worship Him your way instead of His. Likewise you will not please God by participating in "worship" that originates from a heart that is far from Him.

An intersting verse that touches in this topic of misplaced motives and worship is found in Ezekiel 33:30-33. There we read:

As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.

Read that again. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Did you catch that? Especially in reformed circles and in churches where we value the Word of God we need to take these verses to heart! How many run after great preaching? Seriously? How many get books, tapes, CDs, and MP3s from Bible teachers who really are good preachers and good pastors? Just as in Ezekiel's day it happens today. In some circles it is a fad to chase after good preaching.

Don't misunderstand me. I am not knocking good preaching or good preachers. But look at what the Word of God says. Even when the preaching is right and eloquent, people can still void the worship of God!

They were flocking to hear Ezekiel and they talked about him and his messages everywhere. They came to hear him preach the Word of God with boldness and accuracy. And they did so all the while claiming to agree with what is being preached, identifying themselves as God's people. They are PROUD of the fact that they desire sound preaching. And the truth is that while they sit and truly enjoy sound preaching at the very same time they do it all for self instead of for God - for in reality, they hear the good preaching but do not do what the preacher and the Word of God says!! They hear but do not do.

Those of us who work hard at rightly handling the Word of Truth must be aware of this - just because people want to hear us does not mean that they are doing what we preach! These people, Ezekiel is told, show much love outwardly but in their heart they are pursuing their own gain. It is all about ME and not at all about GOD.

That is why I will continue to preach and write and work to presuade men and women in the church that worship is about GOD. We meet to focus upon, praise, glorify, magnify, uplift, and honor God. Worship is not a time to come get, it is a time to come give. And frankly, people who choose their church for selfish reasons (even if they are selfishly chasing after good things) need to be rebuked! They void the worship of God!!

What a thought. Hypocrites love to come to church and yet they refuse to be the church. They love to hear the Word preached but hate the thought of actually doing what the preachers tells them to do! They love themselves and ultimately make their own traditions the binding scripture that they follow. In fact, we could go so far as to say that people like this really do not worship God at all. They worship an idol. They worship a false, weak, beggarly, fleshly god. They worship themselves.

Today, follow the admonition of James:

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.


Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

The Purpose of Worship by Dr. Joseph Pipa
The Puritan Approach to Worship by J.I. Packer

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

2 Comments:

Blogger Leslie said...

I linked to you from Challies.com. In case you didn't know yet, you're King for a Week.

Great post! I have thought about this myself, though not to the degree you have, particularly the part about seeking out and buying up good preaching.

Lots of good stuff here. Thank you!

10:10 AM  
Blogger Peter A. Schott said...

Ouch! This particular devotion really hit home. You've challenged me to take a hard look at how I'm applying the truths that come my way each day, especially when I do hear a great speaker.

I've been hit pretty hard lately in what I'm consuming and how I'm progressing or not progressing in my daily walk with God and Jesus.

Thank you for some great food for thought and for really driving home the point about vain worship.

In Him,

Peter Schott

2:27 AM  

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