Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship

Originally published April 27, 2018

Social media is a strange universe to live in. There’s a lot of stupidity, but there’s also a lot that can be learned from various trending issues.

Such was the case recently when Christian social media was up in arms (and rightly so) about Cory Asbury’s worship song Reckless Love, and whether or not churches should use it in their worship services. Discussion centered around the use of the word “reckless” to describe God’s love for us and whether or not that was a semantically and theologically appropriate adjective. “Relentless” was suggested as an alternative lyric. “Reckless” was defended as an appropriate lyric. And then Cory Asbury’s explanation of the song came to light and did further injury to his doctrinal cause.

It was all a very interesting and helpful discussion, but, to some degree, it was a rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

‘Cause we’ve hit the ice berg, folks. And the ship is taking on water.

Focusing on the word “reckless” missed the point – at least the big picture point. You see, Reckless Love was produced by Bethel Music. And Cory Asbury is a “worship leader, songwriter and pastor” with the Bethel Music Collective. Prior to joining Bethel, he spent eight years as a worship leader with the International House of Prayer (IHOP).

Why is this important? Because Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, and IHOP are, functionally, ground zero for the New Apostolic Reformation heresy. Heresy. Not, “They just have a more expressive, contemporary style of worship,”. Not, “It’s a secondary theological issue we can agree to disagree on.” Heresy. Denial of the deity of Christ. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Demonstrably false prophecy that the head of IHOP, Mike Bickle, has publicly rejoiced in (He estimates that 80% of IHOP’s “prophecies” are false.) And that’s just the tip of our metaphorical ice berg when it comes to the NAR.

IHOP and Bethel are, by biblical definition, not Christian organizations and certainly not Christian churches. They are pagan centers of idol worship just as much as the Old Testament temples of Baal were. The only difference is that, instead of being creative and coming up with their own name for their god, they’ve stolen the name Jesus and blasphemously baptized their idol with that moniker.

The point in this whole debate is not the word “reckless”. The point is that Christian churches should not have anything whatsoever to do with idol worshiping pagans as they approach God in worship. Yet Sunday after Sunday churches use Bethel music, Jesus Culture music, Hillsong music, and the like, in their worship of God.

And it’s not just that churches are using music from the temples of Baal in their worship services. We have women who usurp the teaching and leadership roles in the church that God has reserved for men – many even going so far as to preach to men and/or hold the position of “pastor”. We have men setting themselves up as pastors who do not meet the Bible’s qualifications. We have churches that let anyone – Believer or not – participate in the Lord’s Supper. We have pastors who welcome false teachers and their materials into their churches with open arms and castigate anyone who dares point out the false doctrine being taught. We have preachers who have forsaken God’s mandate to preach the Word and use the sermon time to talk about themselves, deliver self-help tips, or perform a stand up comedy routine.

And everybody seems to think God’s up there in Heaven going, “Cool! Whatever y’all want to do in the name of worship is just fine and dandy with Me. You do you.”

Well, He’s not.

God demands – and has every right to do so – that He be approached properly. In reverence. In awe. In holy fear. With clean hands and a pure heart.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 24:3-6

Let’s take a stroll through Scripture and be taught by those who learned that lesson the hard way…

Cain

Most of the time, when we read the story of Cain and Abel, we focus on the fact that Cain killed his righteous brother. But we tend to gloss over the event that precipitated the murder. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s.

Scripture doesn’t tell us why God found Cain’s offering unacceptable. The Levitical laws delineating offerings and sacrifices hadn’t yet been given, and even if they had, grain offerings and other offerings of vegetation were perfectly appropriate if offered at the right time and for the right reason. Was it because Cain had a wrong attitude or motive when he gave his offering? Or maybe because he offered God leftover produce instead of his firstfruits? We don’t know. What we do know is that God had a standard of how He was to be worshiped, Cain violated it, and God expressed His displeasure.

Aaron and Israel

It’s shortly after the Exodus. The Israelites have seen God perform ten – count them – ten plagues on Pharaoh for his idolatry and failure to bow the knee to God’s command to let Israel go. They saw God destroy the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea. And now, their fearless leader, Moses, has trekked up Mount Sinai and is late getting back. The people are worried and restless.

Does Aaron lead them to pray? Trust God? Be patient? Nope. He fashions an idol for them – a golden calf. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he wasn’t even creative enough to come up with his own name for this idol. He stole God’s character and work and blasphemously baptized the idol with that moniker. He led the people to worship the false god as though it were the true God. (Does that ring any bells?)

“These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.

Surely God gave them a pass, right? I mean, Moses broke the tablets of the Ten Commandments when he came down from the mountain before they even had a chance to read the first and second Commandments that prohibited what they were doing.

Uh uh. God told Moses to get out of the way so He could fire bomb Israel off the face of the Earth and start over with him. It was only after Moses pleaded with God to stay His hand that God relented and allowed for the lesser punishment of having the Levites kill 3,000 of them with the sword and sent a plague on the rest of them.

Doesn’t exactly sound like an “anything goes in worship” kind of God, does He?

Nadab and Abihu

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

Are you seeing a pattern here? God is so not OK with people approaching Him irreverently, via idol worship, or in any other way He deems inappropriate that He’s willing to kill them.

Saul

God sends Saul and his army on a mission to defeat the Amalekites. His instructions are simple: completely destroy everything. “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

But Saul’s a smart guy, see? He knows better. He goes in and destroys all the worthless stuff, but saves the good stuff for himself. It’ll be OK with God, he reasons, because he’s going to take some of the really nice sheep and make a big, showy sacrifice. Like a rich man pitching pennies to an urchin shoeshine boy.

And when Samuel confronts Saul about his rebellion, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”, Saul has the temerity to say, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.” Because he was going to perform an act of worship. And the fact that he was doing it his way instead of God’s way didn’t matter. In Saul’s mind, it was the outward act that counted and God should have accepted it.

God didn’t see it that way:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

God is not pleased with worship offered by hands dirtied with sin and rebellion. Saul paid the price: his throne and God’s favor.

Uzziah

Uzziah started off well as king of Judah. He listened to the counsel of Zechariah, obeyed God, and prospered. But after a while, prosperity can make you proud, and that’s just what happened to Uzziah.

He became so proud, in fact, that he took it upon himself to enter the sanctuary of the temple and offer incense to God on the altar. That was a position of leadership restricted to the priests. Uzziah had never been installed as a priest because he wasn’t biblically qualified to hold the office of priest, much like many who take on the role of pastor today.

Bravely, Azariah and eighty of his fellow priests stood up to the presumptuous king – at the risk of their lives, but in defense of proper worship as commanded in God’s Word – rebuked Uzziah, and kicked him out of the temple. “You have done wrong,” they said, “and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.”

Well! Uzziah was hot with anger. How dare these mere priests stop him – the king whom God had blessed and prospered – from worshiping God any way he wanted to!

Guess who God sided with? The priests who were upholding His Word and His standard of worship. God struck Uzziah with leprosy for the remainder of his life, which exiled him from the palace and a royal burial, and effectively ended his reign.

The Pharisees

Hypocrites! Blind guides! Fools! Blind men! Greedy! Self-indulgent! Whitewashed tombs! Lawless! Serpents! Brood of vipers! Murderers!

How would you like to be dressed down like that by Jesus? You’re teaching the Scriptures. You’re tithing to the nth degree. You’re traveling over land and sea to proselytize. You’re behaving with outward righteousness. You’re memorializing the prophets. As far as you can tell, you’re doing pretty well with this holiness thing.

And here comes the Messiah – the One you’re (supposedly) doing all of this for – and He shames you. Publicly. He exposes your blackness of heart to the commoners you want looking up to you. All because God’s way is for you to worship Him in spirit and in truth, but you insist on doing it your way- for all your deeds to be seen by others, and because you love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

You’re approaching God in arrogance and selfishness, and He will have none of it. You won’t die to self, so He – if only temporarily – kills your pride.

The Corinthian Church

You’ve probably never seen a Lord’s Supper as messed up as the way the Corinthian church was doing it. Some people were going without while others were getting drunk. The “important” people got to go first while the poor and lower class went to the back of the line. People were using the Lord’s Table as an opportunity for selfishness rather than putting self aside and focusing on the fact that the purpose of this meal was to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

That wasn’t acceptable to God. He didn’t want the church observing the Lord’s Supper just any old way. It was dishonoring to Christ and shameful to His church.

So God declared that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

 

“But all of that was back in Bible times!” you might protest. “God isn’t killing anybody these days for worshiping Him improperly. In fact, some of the worst violators of God’s Word are rich ‘Christian’ celebrities!”

That’s right, they are. Exactly like God said they would be: “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” And woe betide them when they stand before Christ in judgment. Because judgment is coming for them:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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 7:21-23

God is high and He is holy, and so are His standards for those who approach Him. He expects His people to obey His Word about how He is to be worshiped.

“I, the Lord, do not change,” God says in the Old Testament. The New Testament tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God hasn’t mellowed out or calmed down or gotten more tolerant. The God who poured out His wrath on those who blasphemed Him with unbiblical worship in the Old Testament is the same God we worship this side of the cross. Nothing escapes His notice. He doesn’t let sin slide. Whether in this life, or the next, or both, there will be a reckoning for unbiblical worship.

When it comes to worship, God is not a “whatever” kind of God.

Obedience

Obedience Is Better than Sacrifice

Saul was a lousy king. There are just no two ways about it. He was a crudmuffin.

In 1 Samuel 10, Saul gets his first instruction as king. God didn’t ask him to go out and perform some fantabulous deed of derring do, He told Saul to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to arrive and tell him what to do. Just…wait. That was it.

But Saul started getting nervous. He didn’t wait. He acted. He unlawfully took matters into his own hands and offered the burnt offerings and peace offerings.

In 1 Samuel 15, God told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Everything. Every living creature and all their stuff. All means all.

Strike number two for Saul- he destroyed all the worthless stuff and all the people, but he saved the king and all the valuable stuff.

Here’s the interesting part, though. When Samuel showed up and said, “Why did you disobey the Lord?” Saul said, not once, but twice, “I did obey the Lord.”

Why? Because Saul was going to offer some of those sheep he spared in a grand and showy sacrifice to the Lord. He was going to “do great things for God” and, in his mind, that was far better and more glorious than simple obedience to God’s explicit command.

Know anybody like that in the church today?

Women, who, rather than obeying God’s simple command not to teach or hold authority over men in the church, take matters into their own hands and become pastors or teach men in hopes of “doing great things for God.”

Pastors, who, rather than obeying God’s simple command to preach the Word in and out of season, employ theatrics, silliness, and worldly or sinful tactics to build gargantuan churches to supposedly honor God.

Churches and Christians, who, rather than obeying God’s simple command to avoid false teachers and false doctrine, join with them in the name of so-called Christian unity or ministry.

God doesn’t want the great deeds, ministries, or sacrifices you dream up “for Him.” He wants a heart that’s completely His. A heart that loves Him enough to do His bidding even when it’s small and doesn’t bring you any glory. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it’s hard.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

And that’s exactly the message Saul got that fateful day when he lost the throne:

And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23

Worship

God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship

Social media is a strange universe to live in. There’s a lot of stupidity, but there’s also a lot that can be learned from various trending issues.

Such was the case recently when Christian social media was up in arms (and rightly so) about Cory Asbury’s worship song Reckless Love, and whether or not churches should use it in their worship services. Discussion centered around the use of the word “reckless” to describe God’s love for us and whether or not that was a semantically and theologically appropriate adjective. “Relentless” was suggested as an alternative lyric. “Reckless” was defended as an appropriate lyric. And then Cory Asbury’s explanation of the song came to light and did further injury to his doctrinal cause.

It was all a very interesting and helpful discussion, but, to some degree, it was a rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

‘Cause we’ve hit the ice berg, folks. And the ship is taking on water.

Focusing on the word “reckless” missed the point – at least the big picture point. You see, Reckless Love was produced by Bethel Music. And Cory Asbury is a “worship leader, songwriter and pastor” with the Bethel Music Collective. Prior to joining Bethel, he spent eight years as a worship leader with the International House of Prayer (IHOP).

Why is this important? Because Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, and IHOP are, functionally, ground zero for the New Apostolic Reformation heresy. Heresy. Not, “They just have a more expressive, contemporary style of worship,”. Not, “It’s a secondary theological issue we can agree to disagree on.” Heresy. Denial of the deity of Christ. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Demonstrably false prophecy that the head of IHOP, Mike Bickle, has publicly rejoiced in (He estimates that 80% of IHOP’s “prophecies” are false.) And that’s just the tip of our metaphorical ice berg when it comes to the NAR.

IHOP and Bethel are, by biblical definition, not Christian organizations and certainly not Christian churches. They are pagan centers of idol worship just as much as the Old Testament temples of Baal were. The only difference is that, instead of being creative and coming up with their own name for their god, they’ve stolen the name Jesus and blasphemously baptized their idol with that moniker.

The point in this whole debate is not the word “reckless”. The point is that Christian churches should not have anything whatsoever to do with idol worshiping pagans as they approach God in worship. Yet Sunday after Sunday churches use Bethel music, Jesus Culture music, Hillsong music, and the like, in their worship of God.

And it’s not just that churches are using music from the temples of Baal in their worship services. We have women who usurp the teaching and leadership roles in the church that God has reserved for men – many even going so far as to preach to men and/or hold the position of “pastor”. We have men setting themselves up as pastors who do not meet the Bible’s qualifications. We have churches that let anyone – Believer or not – participate in the Lord’s Supper. We have pastors who welcome false teachers and their materials into their churches with open arms and castigate anyone who dares point out the false doctrine being taught. We have preachers who have forsaken God’s mandate to preach the Word and use the sermon time to talk about themselves, deliver self-help tips, or perform a stand up comedy routine.

And everybody seems to think God’s up there in Heaven going, “Cool! Whatever y’all want to do in the name of worship is just fine and dandy with Me. You do you.”

Well, He’s not.

God demands – and has every right to do so – that He be approached properly. In reverence. In awe. In holy fear. With clean hands and a pure heart.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 24:3-6

Let’s take a stroll through Scripture and be taught by those who learned that lesson the hard way…

Cain

Most of the time, when we read the story of Cain and Abel, we focus on the fact that Cain killed his righteous brother. But we tend to gloss over the event that precipitated the murder. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s.

Scripture doesn’t tell us why God found Cain’s offering unacceptable. The Levitical laws delineating offerings and sacrifices hadn’t yet been given, and even if they had, grain offerings and other offerings of vegetation were perfectly appropriate if offered at the right time and for the right reason. Was it because Cain had a wrong attitude or motive when he gave his offering? Or maybe because he offered God leftover produce instead of his firstfruits? We don’t know. What we do know is that God had a standard of how He was to be worshiped, Cain violated it, and God expressed His displeasure.

Aaron and Israel

It’s shortly after the Exodus. The Israelites have seen God perform ten – count them – ten plagues on Pharaoh for his idolatry and failure to bow the knee to God’s command to let Israel go. They saw God destroy the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea. And now, their fearless leader, Moses, has trekked up Mount Sinai and is late getting back. The people are worried and restless.

Does Aaron lead them to pray? Trust God? Be patient? Nope. He fashions an idol for them – a golden calf. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he wasn’t even creative enough to come up with his own name for this idol. He stole God’s character and work and blasphemously baptized the idol with that moniker. He led the people to worship the false god as though it were the true God. (Does that ring any bells?)

“These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.

Surely God gave them a pass, right? I mean, Moses broke the tablets of the Ten Commandments when he came down from the mountain before they even had a chance to read the first and second Commandments that prohibited what they were doing.

Uh uh. God told Moses to get out of the way so He could fire bomb Israel off the face of the Earth and start over with him. It was only after Moses pleaded with God to stay His hand that God relented and allowed for the lesser punishment of having the Levites kill 3,000 of them with the sword and sent a plague on the rest of them.

Doesn’t exactly sound like an “anything goes in worship” kind of God, does He?

Nadab and Abihu

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

Are you seeing a pattern here? God is so not OK with people approaching Him irreverently, via idol worship, or in any other way He deems inappropriate that He’s willing to kill them.

Saul

God sends Saul and his army on a mission to defeat the Amalekites. His instructions are simple: completely destroy everything. “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

But Saul’s a smart guy, see? He knows better. He goes in and destroys all the worthless stuff, but saves the good stuff for himself. It’ll be OK with God, he reasons, because he’s going to take some of the really nice sheep and make a big, showy sacrifice. Like a rich man pitching pennies to an urchin shoeshine boy.

And when Samuel confronts Saul about his rebellion, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”, Saul has the temerity to say, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.” Because he was going to perform an act of worship. And the fact that he was doing it his way instead of God’s way didn’t matter. In Saul’s mind, it was the outward act that counted and God should have accepted it.

God didn’t see it that way:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

God is not pleased with worship offered by hands dirtied with sin and rebellion. Saul paid the price: his throne and God’s favor.

Uzziah

Uzziah started off well as king of Judah. He listened to the counsel of Zechariah, obeyed God, and prospered. But after a while, prosperity can make you proud, and that’s just what happened to Uzziah.

He became so proud, in fact, that he took it upon himself to enter the sanctuary of the temple and offer incense to God on the altar. That was a position of leadership restricted to the priests. Uzziah had never been installed as a priest because he wasn’t biblically qualified to hold the office of priest, much like many who take on the role of pastor today.

Bravely, Azariah and eighty of his fellow priests stood up to the presumptuous king – at the risk of their lives, but in defense of proper worship as commanded in God’s Word – rebuked Uzziah, and kicked him out of the temple. “You have done wrong,” they said, “and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.”

Well! Uzziah was hot with anger. How dare these mere priests stop him – the king whom God had blessed and prospered – from worshiping God any way he wanted to!

Guess who God sided with? The priests who were upholding His Word and His standard of worship. God struck Uzziah with leprosy for the remainder of his life, which exiled him from the palace and a royal burial, and effectively ended his reign.

The Pharisees

Hypocrites! Blind guides! Fools! Blind men! Greedy! Self-indulgent! Whitewashed tombs! Lawless! Serpents! Brood of vipers! Murderers!

How would you like to be dressed down like that by Jesus? You’re teaching the Scriptures. You’re tithing to the nth degree. You’re traveling over land and sea to proselytize. You’re behaving with outward righteousness. You’re memorializing the prophets. As far as you can tell, you’re doing pretty well with this holiness thing.

And here comes the Messiah – the One you’re (supposedly) doing all of this for – and He shames you. Publicly. He exposes your blackness of heart to the commoners you want looking up to you. All because God’s way is for you to worship Him in spirit and in truth, but you insist on doing it your way- for all your deeds to be seen by others, and because you love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

You’re approaching God in arrogance and selfishness, and He will have none of it. You won’t die to self, so He – if only temporarily – kills your pride.

The Corinthian Church

You’ve probably never seen a Lord’s Supper as messed up as the way the Corinthian church was doing it. Some people were going without while others were getting drunk. The “important” people got to go first while the poor and lower class went to the back of the line. People were using the Lord’s Table as an opportunity for selfishness rather than putting self aside and focusing on the fact that the purpose of this meal was to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

That wasn’t acceptable to God. He didn’t want the church observing the Lord’s Supper just any old way. It was dishonoring to Christ and shameful to His church.

So God declared that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

 

“But all of that was back in Bible times!” you might protest. “God isn’t killing anybody these days for worshiping Him improperly. In fact, some of the worst violators of God’s Word are rich ‘Christian’ celebrities!”

That’s right, they are. Exactly like God said they would be: “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” And woe betide them when they stand before Christ in judgment. Because judgment is coming for them:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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 7:21-23

God is high and He is holy, and so are His standards for those who approach Him. He expects His people to obey His Word about how He is to be worshiped.

“I, the Lord, do not change,” God says in the Old Testament. The New Testament tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God hasn’t mellowed out or calmed down or gotten more tolerant. The God who poured out His wrath on those who blasphemed Him with unbiblical worship in the Old Testament is the same God we worship this side of the cross. Nothing escapes His notice. He doesn’t let sin slide. Whether in this life, or the next, or both, there will be a reckoning for unbiblical worship.

When it comes to worship, God is not a “whatever” kind of God.

Gospel, Old Testament, Salvation, Sin, Sunday School, Types and Shadows

Boldly Approaching the Throne: Shimei ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 5-25-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 21 ~ May 18-24
1 Chronicles 21-22, 2 Samuel 19-24, Psalm 26, 40-42, 57-58, 61-62, 64, 5, 38, 95, 97-99, 30, 108-110
Boldly Approaching the Throne: Shimei

Background:
As we read last week in 2 Samuel 12, while David repented of his sin with Bathsheba and God forgave him and did not punish him with death, there were still many consequences that naturally followed as a result of his sin. God said to David in 12:11, “Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house.” We have seen that vividly fulfilled through the actions of two of his sons: Amnon, who raped his sister Tamar, and Absalom, who murdered Amnon and then attempted a coup. In chapters 13-19, we saw Absalom endear himself to the people and begin trying to take David’s throne by force. David gathered those who were loyal to him and fled Jerusalem. Finally, Joab, commander of the army, killed Absalom, and David returned to Jerusalem and was restored to the kingship. Today, we are taking a look at Shimei, the two very different ways he approached the throne (David), and the types and shadows in his story that show us Jesus and ourselves.

2 Samuel 16:5-13

The First Bold Approach: Curses!
Shimei was a member of Saul’s extended family. Even though Saul had repented to David a few times, he was ultimately David’s enemy. Saul had tried to murder David several times, and David had spent years on the run from him. Shemei took this family enmity upon himself and also considered David to be an enemy of Israel since David had taken Saul’s place as king, and because of the sins Shemei perceived David to have committed.

Notice that, while some of the things Shemei said were swearing-294391_640 (1)accurate [“you are a man of blood” (7-8- God Himself had said this. It was the reason He gave for David not building the temple. But God was referring to David being a warrior, not a murderer, as Shemei implied.), “the Lord has avenged you” (8- probably referring to the deaths of Abner, Ishbosheth, and Uriah- we know that what was happening was due to the Bathsheba incident), and “the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom” (8- they didn’t yet know that this was only true temporarily)], the way and context in which he said these things was twisted, and didn’t correctly represent everything that had happened.

It’s not a coincidence that Shimei was throwing rocks at David and his men (sometimes you’re in danger just because of who you’re hanging around with!), nor were the rocks primarily a weapon of convenience. David was guilty of adultery and murder. What was the penalty for these crimes? Death. How was it usually carried out? Stoning.

Shemei only spoke and acted only from his own viewpoint and opinions. Though he claimed to understand what God was doing with David, Shimei did not know God and never brought out what God had said in His word about David rightfully being king, or God’s forgiveness, or God’s rejection of Saul. In Shemei’s eyes, he was right and David was wrong. As a result, he rejected and rebelled against David. It was treason– a crime, ironically, worthy of the death penalty.

Son of David
Can you think of another King, established by God, who was rejected and cursed by His enemies–enemies who thought they knew what God was really up to? How about Jesus? Let’s take a look at some of the things in this story that foreshadow the life of Christ.

v.5- Who’s your daddy? (John 8:44)
Shimei was of the house of the enemy, Saul, who had tried numerous times to murder David. When the Pharisees were plotting to kill Jesus, He said to them, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning,”

v. 5-8- Haters gonna hate (Isaiah 53:3, Matthew 27:38-44)
Shemei cursed David continually and leveled false and twisted accusations against David. Isaiah tells us, Jesus “was despised and rejected by men.” We see throughout the gospels that the Pharisees ignored what Scripture said about the Messiah and falsely accused Jesus of things like breaking the Sabbath, breaking Levitical laws (such as touching lepers and dead bodies), and blasphemy (claiming to be God). Finally, at the cross, we see them (much like Shimei did to David) hurling abuse at Jesus.

v. 6-
Stoned
Shemei attempted to execute David for a capital crime. The Pharisees, via the Roman government, executed Jesus for a capital crime (blasphemy). Interesting fact: if it had not been against Roman law for the Jews to execute criminals themselves, Jesus would have been executed by stoning. The important difference to remember here between David and Jesus is that David was guilty. Jesus was not.

fog-258224_640Left and Right (Luke 23:33, John 15:18-20)
Shimei was not just trying to execute David, but also the criminals (in his eyes – guilty by association) on his right and on his left. Jesus was executed between two criminals, “one on His right, and one on his left.

We can also look at David’s mighty men as Jesus’ disciples, and, by extension, us. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes you can be in danger just because of who you hang out with, and Jesus made this clear in John 15. He said that if the world hates us or persecutes us to remember that it is because of Him.

v.9-10- Off with his head (John 18:10)
Abishai wanted to take off the head of David’s enemy. Peter, less of a swordsman than Abishai, I’m sure, attempted to take off the head of one of Jesus’ enemies. Neither David nor Jesus allowed his enemy to be beheaded.

v. 10-11- God’s will (Isaiah 53:10, Matthew 26:39, Galatians 3:13)
David wasn’t sure whether or not God was cursing him through Shimei. Jesus knew “it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” When Jesus asked in the garden for God to “let this cup pass” from Him, God said no. “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” Galatians tells us. It was God’s will for Christ to be cursed for us.

v. 12- The reward (Philippians 2:8-10)
David hoped God (lit.) “will look upon my affliction” and repay him with good for this cursing. God did repay Jesus with good for being cursed on the tree of Calvary for our sake:

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

v. 13- Forbearance (Isaiah 53:7)
David did not retaliate or even speak to Shimei, but bore his cursing patiently as he walked along the road. Jesus did the same with those who lashed out at Him as He walked the road to the cross:

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

v.14- Crossing over Jordan (Luke 23:43)
The Jordan River was the last hurdle the Israelites had to conquer before entering the Promised Land. “Crossing over Jordan” is often used as a metaphor in songs (especially spirituals, e.g. “Wayfaring Stranger”) for dying. After David’s “near death experience” he wearily came to the Jordan and refreshed himself. King Jesus reached the “Jordan” weary from the cross, and “refreshed Himself” later that day in Paradise.

She-you, She-me, Shemei
If David represents Jesus in this story, who does Shimei represent? Us. Before we were saved, we were Shemei, born into the house of the enemy. We only saw things from our own sinful perspective. Even though we might have thought we had this God thing all figured out, we didn’t know Him and were unable to see or understand His ways. While we might not ever have literally said anything bad about the Lord as Shimei did with David, our sin rained curses down on Christ and made false accusations against Him. We lived our lives in rebellion against, and rejection of, the King. It was treason– a crime worthy of the eternal death penalty. But Jesus, in His kindness, mercy, and grace, bore it patiently and did not strike back at us.

2 Samuel 19:16-17a, 18b-23

The Second Bold Approach: Taking His Life in His Hands
The first time Shimei approached David, it was in arrogance and self-righteousness. This time, he humbles himself. The first time he approached David, Shimei didn’t see him as king. This time, Shimei knows David is the king. Shimei knows all about a king’s power, the power over life and death. Shimei isn’t throwing stones now; he’s throwing himself at David’s feet. He isn’t cursing; he’s repenting. Pleading, even. “Please don’t hold me guilty. Please don’t take what I did and said to heart.” He’s no longer accusing David of sin, he’s confessing and taking responsibility for his own sin without making excuses. All he can hope for is David’s mercy.

Abishai is right in wanting to put Shimei to death. He deserves it. The law demands it. Abishai knows it. David knows it. Shimei knows it. But even though Shimei– the one worthy of death—had tried to kill David (whom God had said would not die 12:13)—David extends mercy, grace, and pardon to him. David knows he’s king and knows the extent of his power, and he uses that power to forgive.

David and Shimei, Jesus and Me
As with Shimei, God awakens us to the fact that we have sinned against an all powerful King, the holy God of the universe. Now we know He’s the King. We know about God’s power—the power over life and death, and eternal life and death. Instead of approaching Him in arrogance and self-prayerrighteousness as Shimei did with David at first, we humble ourselves. We throw ourselves at Christ’s feet in repentance. “Please don’t hold me guilty. Please don’t take what I did and said to heart.” We confess our sin and take responsibility for it with no excuses. All we can hope for is Christ’s mercy. We deserve death. God’s law demands it. We know it, and God knows it. But even though we—the ones worthy of death—put Jesus on the cross with our sin, He extends mercy, grace, and pardon to us. Jesus knows He’s the King and knows the extent of His power, and He uses that power to forgive.

Idolatry, Old Testament, Salvation, Sunday School

The King and I(srael) ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 4-13-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 14 ~ Apr. 6-12
Judges 19 – 1 Samuel 17
The King and I(srael)

Up until now, Israel has been under the leadership of Moses, Joshua, and a string of judges, including current prophet/judge, Samuel. But some of the elders have decided it’s time for a king. Why? Let’s take a look.

1 Samuel 8; 10:17-24

Why did Israel demand a king?

The cycle of the judges:
Israel was in a cycle in which: they would have a judge for several years and everything would go smoothly for them. throne1God would give them victory in battle (or peace), their harvests would be bountiful, etc. Then, the judge would die, Israel would get into idolatry again, things would go badly for several years, they would cry out to the Lord, the Lord would raise up another judge, and the cycle would start all over again.

Israel likely thought it was the lack of succession from one judge to another that was the cause of all the turmoil, and that if they had a kingship (with built in succession) the chaotic years would cease, and things would go smoothly from there on out. What they failed to realize was that it was their obedience to God that brought peace during the lives of the judges, not a seamless changing of the guard.

The appearance of strength:
Another reason Israel may have wanted a king was that it gave the appearance of strength to other nations. Without a king, neighboring nations probably viewed Israel as weak and vulnerable, leading to more attacks. Of course, this would lead Israel to depend more on the Lord, and that’s exactly what He wanted.

“Everybody else is doing it”:
Finally (8:5), they wanted a king “like all the nations.” Whether this was because they admired the other nations’ structure of government, economy, large armies, etc., or, because Israel wanted to look more prestigious (or stronger- see above) in the eyes of other nations, they were blind to the fact that they would have had things so much better under God’s Kingship.

 

Why didn’t God want Israel to have a king?

God was already their king.
Israel didn’t need a human king. God was far more capable than any human king of winning battles, providing for them, ensuring a good economy, establishing and enforcing law and order, etc.

God wanted Israel to look to Him for everything.
We tend to look to the President and Congress for worshipgovernance, the grocery store for food, our jobs for paychecks, our doctors for healthcare. God wanted Israel to look to Him for every aspect of their lives: government, provision, health, food, everything. Because He is sovereign over all that happens on earth and in heaven, He wants us to recognize that we should be looking to Him for these things as well. He wants us to realize that we are completely dependent on Him.

Israel’s desire for a king was another rejection of God, which brought Israel ever closer to severe judgment. (Isaiah 28:21, Ezekiel 18:23,32, 2 Peter 3:9)
Even though Israel deserved judgment for her many rebellions against God, judgment is a last, undesirable resort for Him. Isaiah tells us that judgment is God’s “strange work”. Ezekiel reminds us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Peter writes that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Small rebellions can lead to bigger rebellions. A loving parent knows this and tries to keep this from happening by disciplining his child. With a small rebellion, we might start out with a small discipline, such as taking away dessert. As the rebellions get bigger or more frequent, bigger discipline, stock_scales_justice2such as spanking or grounding might be appropriate.

Most children learn to control their behavior through these moderate forms of discipline, but a few may eventually become so destructive, addicted, or abusive that parents have to go to the extreme end of “tough love” by throwing them out of the house or turning them over to the authorities. It’s all done in love and all in an effort to bring the child home. This is exactly what was happening with the Israelites.

This is why God did everything necessary to keep Israel from His severe judgment. He carefully and specifically laid out the Law, promised them blessings for obedience and described the consequences for disobedience in gory detail, made examples out of people who disobeyed, offered forgiveness for repentance, gave them (initially) good and godly leaders (Moses, Joshua, the judges), and performed miracles to help them believe in Him. All this in an effort to stop their slide into total rejection of Him and the consequence of final judgment.

 

One last chance (8:10-18)

Israel could never say she hadn’t been warned. In these verses God told them directly and specifically exactly what their new king would be like, how he would treat them, and the consequences that would follow: confiscation of private property, slavery, God turning a deaf ear to their pleas for help. But still they demanded a king. This king God had just described. They were at the point of no return, and they plunged ahead despite the warning. Why?


Hearts of Stone (Ezekiel 11:19, Romans 1:22-25)
Just as a small rebellion can lead to bigger and bigger rebellions, a small hardening of the heart can eventually lead to a complete hardening of the heart.

In the movie Frozen, Elsa (the snow queen), accidentally frozen-anna-elsashoots an icicle ray (or whatever you call it) at her sister’s (Anna) heart, which causes Anna’s heart to slowly begin freezing bit by bit. If Anna doesn’t receive “an act of true love” before her heart completely freezes, she will turn into an ice statue forever.

This is similar to what was happening with Israel. Their continual rebellion was hardening their hearts against God bit by bit, until they would eventually be completely hardened against Him. Romans tells us that when people persist in ungodliness despite the many opportunities for mercy, grace, and salvation God has offered them, He eventually “gives them over” to a hardened heart. He gives them what they want: life without Him.

 

What does all this have to do with me? (Isaiah 55:9)

Everything. We are just like Israel in so many ways. We’re born into this world having already been shot through the heart with Satan’s “icicle” of sin, the sin nature we inherited from Adam and Eve. We spend our lives rebelling against God, our hearts slowly hardening, bit by bit, looking for another king (usually ourselves), so we can be just like everybody else, because what the world has to offer looks desirable to us.

But God doesn’t want us to have another king, because He’s already THE King, and He’s far better and more capable than any other king we could put on the throne of our lives. He wants us to look to Him for salvation, provision, comfort, strength, everything. So, God extends grace and mercy to us in a variety of ways, some pleasant, some not, to turn us towards the cross and Christ for salvation. He does this so that we can repent and turn to Him instead of facing the final judgment of hell in eternity.

Sometimes, we also see a similarity to Israel’s demand for a king in our prayer lives. We can ask, beg, and plead with God for things He doesn’t want us to have, and even get mad at Him when He doesn’t give us what we want. We must always keep in mind that His ways are higher than our ways and that what He wants for us is always better than what we want. Let us never get to the point in our prayer lives where our will is more important to us than God’s will. Israel’s way was, “No! But there shall be a king over us!” Jesus’ way was, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Let’s take our example, not from Israel, but from the the King of Israel, King Jesus.