Vain Worship

God would rather the doors of our churches be shut than for us to offer up shallow forms of worship and praise to him, which may stir the emotions, but not produce changed hearts, minds, and lives for Jesus Christ. It is better to have no sacrifices, than to have vain ones (See: Malachi 1:10).

The Lord Jesus led me to read Hebrews 12 (vv. 1-4 ESV).

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… v. 1

We have a very disturbing situation, at least here in many of our churches in America. It is one, in fact, of grave concern. Not only have so many churches and their pastors gone the way of the world, turned the church into a business, and are running it and marketing it as such, but they have diluted the gospel message to make it more appealing to human flesh.

What this means is that they are giving their listeners the idea that faith in Jesus Christ does not have to result in changed lives. In fact, many of them are saying that God does not even require repentance or obedience, and that he is pleased with them no matter what they do. All they have to do is say they believe in Jesus, and heaven is guaranteed them, no matter how they live their lives from that moment on, so they say.

Thus, sinful behaviors and addictions are running rampant in many of our churches, including among the leadership, and not many are even blinking an eye, it would appear. There is not much of a distinction, either, between the world and the church anymore, as so many who profess the name of Jesus live not much differently from those who make no profession of faith in Christ, at all. And, this is normal in so many congregations.

Yet, instead of confronting sin, and calling for repentance, and for obedience to Christ and to his Word, many are coddling the unrepentant, and they are making a way for them to continue in willful, continuous, addictive, and sinful lifestyles, for they don’t want to offend them or make them feel bad about their sin. Some are even telling them, while they are engrossed in sin, to just claim who they are in Christ, which then just subdues or eradicates any sense of guilt or shame they might have had for their sin.

But, God is giving us a much different message. He is saying we must lay aside (get rid of) every weight (encumbrance) and sin, which so easily besets us, or which clings so closely to us. For, this is why he gave his life up for us, that we might die with him to sin. Thus, He doesn’t coddle us in our sin, nor does his grace make provision for the flesh. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts), and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return. He said, in fact, that if we walk (conduct our lives) in sin, we will die in our sins, not have the hope of eternal life with God.

The other half of this is that Jesus died, not just so we can die to sin, but so we can live to his righteousness. This is why we need to lay aside sin (all sin) which so easily clings to us, so that we can run the race he has marked out for us, i.e. the Christian life, our walk in the Spirit. If we don’t put off sin, how can we walk in holiness and righteousness? We can’t, for the two are in conflict, one with the other. So, if we remain addicted to sinful practices, then how can we also worship our Lord in spirit and in truth? Won’t he see our worship of him as disingenuous?

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. v. 2

This is not about performance, though, or about a set of rules we have to follow, though we definitely have those, nor is this about us just trying hard not to sin. This, as well, is not about behavioral modification. This is about faith in Jesus Christ which results in changed hearts and lives. This is about loving God, and thus walking in obedience to him, because we love him, and so we honor him, we revere him, we respect him, and we obey him.

When we truly believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we die with him to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. This is what it means to be “born again” of the Spirit of God. We no longer walk like we did when we didn’t know Jesus, but now we walk according to the Spirit, and daily, by the Spirit, we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh.

Notice that it says here “by the Spirit,” for we can’t change our own hearts, and we can’t, in our flesh, be conformed to Christ’s likeness. We do, nonetheless, have to cooperate with the Spirit’s work of grace in our lives. Over and over again in the New Testament we are told what WE must do to inherit eternal life and to live lives pleasing unto God.

Surely this heart change is of the Spirit of God, and not something we can bring about in our own flesh, but faith in Jesus means we turn our lives over to him, and we submit to his lordship over our lives, and we walk in his ways and in his truth, and we no longer live to gratify our sinful flesh. And, all this is possible because of what Jesus did for us in taking our place on that cross, and in putting sin to death, and in being resurrected from the dead victorious over sin, hell, death and Satan, on our behalf.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. vv. 3-4

Jesus Christ, although he was fully God, yet he was also fully man when he walked this earth. Thus, he suffered like we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He had to resist Satan, flee temptation, and draw near to God the Father, too. So, he knows what we are going through. We are not alone.

When he knew that it was time for him to be put to death, his flesh struggled with the thought of it, for he knew the suffering he must go through in order to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. But, he resisted the temptation to yield to the flesh, and he submitted to the Father’s will. And, he did resist sin to the point of shedding his blood on a cross so that we could go free from sin.

So, although he does sympathize with our weaknesses, he makes no provision for the flesh. He doesn’t demand sinless perfection, though, otherwise he would not have had to die for our sins, if we could obey with absolute perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2). But, he does demand that we walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, if we want to have eternal life with him in heaven (Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 8:1-17).

So, those of us who are in Christ Jesus, by faith in him, have no excuse for still walking according to the flesh and living to fulfill the desires of our flesh. We have no excuse for continuing in sinful addictions, for Jesus Christ set us free from slavery to sin. We have no justification, either, for covering up our sins with lies and deceptions, and for choosing our sinful addictions over God and over the people God has placed in our lives for us to love with Christ’s love, especially if we have been Christians for many years.

So, the encouragement here is to trust Jesus Christ with our lives, to rely on his strength and power to overcome sinful addictions, and to believe that he has truly set us free, and that Satan no longer has power over us, that is, if we are truly in Christ, by faith in him. Thus, we must put off not only the sin, but all which leads us into sin, so that we can run the race God has for us. Many continue in sin, because they continue to make provision for the flesh.

The Battle for Truth
An Original Work / May 18, 2013

Based off Malachi 1-4

Truth is marching, truth is marching.

I love you. Honor me.
Tell the truth. You’ll be free.
Sing My praise all your days.
I will give all you need.

Truth is marching, truth is marching.

Turn from sin; cleansed within.
Stand in awe of My Name.
Teach what’s true. Walk in peace.
Follow Christ, in His ways.

Truth is marching, truth is marching.

Show to God faithfulness.
Do not be adult’rous.
Do not shed shallow tears.
Do not be insincere.

Truth is marching, truth is marching.

I have sent messengers,
Who have giv’n my address.
They call for repentance,
And they warn of judgment.

Truth is marching, truth is marching.

I, the Lord, do not change,
So return – blessings gain:
Healing comes; joyfulness;
Freedom from your distress.

Saturday, December 9, 2017, 7:33 p.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for dying on a cross so that we can go free from sin and walk in your righteousness. Amen.

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