No longer set apart 1
“13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
“16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
“25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (I Cor 5:13-25)
The more I read, the more I wonder. The more I wonder, the more my heart aches.
So many of today’s churches have turned away from the things of God and are, instead, embracing a form of godliness while those with discernment can see without effort that sin is rampant in those churches. It used to be that Christians were held to a higher standard than those in the world. Now? It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.
- We got rid of wearing suits and dresses so that we didn’t offend people who wanted to come to church in jeans and t-shirts instead of waiting for them to catch on to the idea of looking your best for God, to honor Him.
- We stopped using the word “sin” so people wouldn’t be uncomfortable during the message.
- We stopped preaching directly from the Word, instead using illustrations and examples. After all, the Bible is an archaic text that shouldn’t be taken as being relevant for today’s world, right?
- We stopped telling people that living together outside of marriage was sin. We didn’t encourage them to be celibate, because that might make them squirm in their seats.
- We instituted giveaways, raffles, and contests to draw people in rather than letting the Presence and Power of God draw them in. After all, the Holy Spirit isn’t relevant today; only foolish people take the Bible as literal instead of symbolic.
- We stopped having Sunday and Wednesday evening services because people are busy and expecting them to give so much time to church is unrealistic. They have so many things to do!
- We limited our services to an hour so people don’t get bored. Some folks will just flat get up and leave a service if it goes over an hour in length.
- Worship? Sure, if you can fit it into 15 minutes or 3 songs. After that, people get tired of standing up and get bored. Come on, we have to be relevant. People have schedules; places to go, things to do, people to see.
I’ve watched a number of churches that used to be full of the fire of God and the move of the Holy Spirit shrivel up and become a mere suggestion of who they once were because worship is no longer the reason they come together. Many church services today have an awful lot in common with a concert during praise and worship — a prominent worship leader, instrumentalists, drummers, back up singers, and sometimes even lights or special effects. Sometimes it’s so loud you can’t hear the person next to you singing, but everyone can hear the worship leader. This ambition, this spotlighting, goes against the Word regarding how we are to serve others.
“3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
I suggest that we get back to basics. Church should be a place for believers to gather for praise to and worship of God the Father, Jesus his Son, and the Holy Spirit. It’s not a social club, though fellowship certainly has its place. Our primary focus should be gathering together to praise and thank God for the miracle of salvation, for the things He has done in our lives and for His Presence within us. It’s about worship – corporate worship – setting aside the temporal, the day to day worries, the fusses and conflicts we deal with, and focusing our beings on the goodness and awesomeness of our mighty God. It’s a time to close our eyes, leave the worries and cares of life behind, and simply
It’s hard. I know it’s hard. We have so many things going on — work, raising children, keeping our homes clean, maintaining our cars, managing our finances, dealing with difficult relationships, health issues, parents, stress in our marriage or stressing about not being married, and so on — that it’s not easy to set it all aside and focus on our Lord and Savior. This is the purpose of corporate praise.
When there’s a group of people, from 5 to 5,000, all focused on giving God praise, something happens. Joy is infectious. Praise edifies us. It’s catching. We hear the joy around us – the hands clapping, the laughter, the lighthearted singing, the thankfulness for getting through another week – and we start to feel lightened ourselves. “A merry heart does good like a medicine.“(Prov. 17:22) No truer words have been spoken.
Once praise has helped us set aside our detailed lives, it’s time to worship. Worship is coming into the very presence of God in an intimate way. It’s opening our spirits to Him and sitting at His feet, which is the perfect place to tell Him how thankful we are for salvation, for healing, for how He has changed our lives….the list goes on and on. While worship may start with singing, it doesn’t necessarily end with singing. It often ends in prayer, whether corporate or individual; the manifestation of one or more spiritual gifts; or even a time of deep silence and communion between God and the believer. (continued next post)