Prescribed & Personal Worship

But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put His Name there for His dwelling (Deuteronomy 12:5).

THE place—not a place.

The Old Testament physical practices always point to the New Testament spiritual practices:

  • We cannot worship like everyone else does—You must not worship the Lord your God in their [pagan] way (v. 4) 
  • We cannot worship God like it’s always been done before—You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit (v. 8) 
  • We cannot worship God in a way that is cheap and convenient—Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please (v. 13) 

Go to THE place the Lord will choose (v. 26). 

The exclusivity focus is on the Person not the place or the practice.

Jesus said, “Not here or in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth” (John 4:20-24). And He made clear that He is THE exclusive way to the Father (John 14:6).

The apostle Paul noted that the day of the week or the type of food doesn’t matter in our worship practices; THE focus on Jesus is what matters (Romans 14).

So worship of God is both prescribed and personal:

  • Prescribed in that it’s only THE work of Jesus that makes worship possible. 
  • Personal in that I worship God as me—as He created me—not by following a formula. 

Paul went on to say in Romans 14 that we shouldn’t judge the sincerity of another person’s worship. If they are glorifying God—great! If not—they will have to stand before THE Judge.

We only have access to God through THE High Priest Jesus Christ. Let us always make sure that He is THE focus.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Nothing Left Undone

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Nothing Left Undone

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool. (Hebrews 10:11-13) 

     You see the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice rests in this: that the priest offered continually, and after he had slaughtered one lamb, another was needed. After one scapegoat was driven into the wilderness, a scapegoat was needed the next year, but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, did what thousands of scapegoats never did and what hundreds of thousands of lambs could never effect. He perfected our salvation and worked out an entire atonement for the sins of all His chosen ones.

     I infer that His work is finished from the fact that He is described here [Hebrews 10:12] as sitting down. Christ would not sit down in heaven if He had more work to do. …

     But do you think my Savior would sit still if He had not done all His work? Oh no, beloved. He said once, ‘For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns’ (Isaiah 62:1). …

     Oh, if the last thread had not been woven in the great garment of our righteousness, He would be spinning it now. If the last particle of our debt had not been paid, He would be counting it down now. 

     Oh, glorious doctrine! This Man has done it. This Man has finished it. This Man has completed it. He was the Author. He is the finisher. He was the Alpha. He is the Omega. … You are accepted perfectly in His righteousness.… ‘By one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:14). 

From Christ Exalted

Friend, Jesus has left nothing undone that would keep you from God’s full favor! 

Christ’s work on the Cross and His resurrection from the grave have removed every impediment that would keep you from God’s presence. Not sin’s condemnation, nor chaotic world affairs, nor the clamoring or godless people, nor anything you can imagine can hinder God’s favor. 

Cling to this: He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Prayer Expectations

Many of our prayers could be much bolder and much more specific than they are. Why is that? Because how we view God is going to determine what we pray and what we expect after we pray.

When we pray, we approach an All-Loving Father, and we approach an All-Powerful God. I have found that typically people get warmed by the idea of Father and get scared by the idea of God. They say things like: “What if my prayers don’t hallow God’s name? What if He’s mad at me? What if I pray an improper prayer?” 

God wants us to come to Him in prayer, so He makes Himself very accessible! The Father is both Father and God; the Son is both Friend and King; the Spirit is both Comforter and Convictor. We get ALL of this in One God. 

Charles Spurgeon had this word of encouragement: “If You are my Father, then You love me. If I am Your child, then You will regard me, and poor though my language is, You will not despise it.” Jesus came to earth fully God and fully man, making Him our perfect intermediary (see Job 9:32-35; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:25). And the Holy Spirit helps interpret our groaning prayers (Romans 8:26-27). 

Have you ever noticed that neither the prophets of the Old Testament, nor Jesus in the Gospels, nor the apostles in the New Testament ever prayed, “God, if this is Your will please do such-and-such”? They simply prayed. Or more accurately, they prayed so boldly and specifically it almost sounded like a command: “Stand up” or “Be clean” or “Go, your prayer has been answered.” 

When you and I are praying to an All-Loving and All-Powerful Father, with Jesus interceding for us, and the Spirit helping us, we too can pray these bold and highly specific prayers. 

After all, if you don’t pray specifically and expectantly, how will you know when your prayer is answered? 

I find John Piper’s acrostic very helpful in praying these bold and expectant prayers. He calls it APTAT: 

  • A—Admit I can’t do anything without Christ. This hallows His Name. 
  • P—Pray for help to do it. 
  • T—Trust a specific promise of God to help me (two general promises are found in Isaiah 41:10 and Romans 8:32). 
  • A—Act. Do the things I need to do: apply for the job, ask forgiveness, schedule a meeting. 
  • T—Thank Him when I’m done. 

Two final thoughts—

  1. Make prayer more of a listening relationship than a talking relationship. 
  2. Give yourself some grace as you are maturing; don’t expect immediate perfection. Start praying and then let the Father, the Son, and the Spirit help you mature in your prayer life. 

I hope you can join me this Sunday as we continue to work on our plans to pray.

Links & Quotes

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“The whole duty of the Christian can be summed up in this: feel, think, and act in a way that will make God look as great as He really is. Be a telescope for the world of the infinite starry wealth of the glory of God.” —John Piper

It’s pretty sad—and quite telling—when Planned Parenthood’s arguments for abortion sound eerily similar to pro-slavery and pro-Nazi arguments of the past.

Seth Godin reminds us that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Check it out! I also really liked Seth Godin’s warning about getting caught up in the Black Friday hype.

“Things will all work out” and “You can do anything you set your mind to” are just two of the seven sentimental lies you might believe.

Eric Metaxas shares about a “crisis of despair” where the church is desperately needed.

What a comfort we can have in this—“This very day I am being saved by the eternal intercession of Jesus in heaven. Jesus is praying for us and that is our salvation [Hebrews 7:25]. We are saved eternally by the eternal prayers (Romans 8:34) and advocacy (1 John 2:1) of Jesus in heaven as our High Priest. He prays for us and His prayers are answered because He prays perfectly on the basis of His perfect sacrifice.” —John Piper

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks a vitally important question: How’s your prayer life?

[VIDEO] A great look at competitiveness from John Maxwell—

Christians As Priests

Priesthood of ChristiansThere are some extraordinary pictures in the Old Testament that take on new life when viewed through the lens of Jesus Christ. One picture is how God chose the Jewish people out of all the people on earth, how He then chose the tribe of Levi to serve as His priests, and then how He chose Aaron from the Levites to be the high priest.

The Jewish people, the Levites, and then Aaron became God’s special possession because He chose them; it’s not that He chose them because they were special. God did this to give us a picture of what He wants to do with all of us.

Although the Levites were chosen as priests, God tells all of Israel—

You will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:6)

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. That the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:6)

When the Apostle Peter is speaking to New Testament Christians, he uses the same type of language. He calls all Christians:

Christians are ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ that are to carry out their priestly roles while on Earth. 

Peter also talks about where Christian priests are to minister. In the Old Testament, the priests had a set location where ministry was done. But Peter says we are living stones built on the Living Stone (2:4). That means that the place of worship today is not brick and mortar, but flesh and blood.

Christian priesthood is mobile, adaptable, empathetic, and responsive to the the needs of the people.

If you are a Christian, here are some good questions to ask yourself:

We will be continuing our series about how citizens of Heaven should live on Earth (a series we’ve called Aliens and Strangers) this Sunday. If you don’t have a home church in the Cedar Springs area, please come join us. If you cannot visit us in person, you can watch our Periscope broadcast (just search for user @craigtowens).

Links & Quotes

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Kevin DeYoung has an amazing post—40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags.

“The more people talk about their worldview, the more open and confident they are in making their case, the bolder they become. The bolder and more outspoken they become, the more a ‘spiral of silence’ begins to engulf those who believe otherwise. No one wants to be thought of as holding to a ‘minority position’ on anything, so, rather than speak up in the face of many who are doing so, most will remain silent. This is where the Christian community finds itself at this time, trapped in a spiral of silence before a blustering but empty secular and unbelieving worldview. So it is very important that believers in Jesus Christ make the best use of every opportunity to talk about what is good and pleasing to God.” —T.M. Moore

“Being infinite, God is inexhaustibly interesting. It is impossible, therefore, that God be boring. His continual demonstration of the most intelligent and interesting actions is volcanic. As the source of every good pleasure, He Himself pleases fully and finally. If that’s not how we experience Him, we are either dead or sleeping. It is therefore astonishing how little effort is put into knowing God. … Let us pray that our infinitely great God would open our eyes and hearts to see Him and seek to know Him more.” —John Piper

“The Lord doesn’t want our victory to be merely a one-time experience. His goal isn’t for us to emerge from a crisis, saying, ‘Thank God, I kept my faith through that.’ Yes, you may have made it through that one. But, like victorious Israel at the Red Sea, another trial will eventually come and it may be a different kind of test altogether. Living in God’s rest is a way of life. He wants us to be maintained by His peace and confidence in all our trials, knowing our High Priest is touched by the feelings of our infirmities.” —David Wilkerson

“Part of God’s fullness which He communicates is His happiness. This happiness consists in enjoying and rejoicing in Himself; so does also the creature’s happiness.” —Jonathan Edwards

Jeff Bonzelaar has a fascinating look at the difference between self-esteem and God-esteem.

Eric Metaxas tells an inspiring story about churches making a difference in their community.

[VIDEOS] Bobby Conway at the One Minute Apologist has two videos worth your time—

An End To Tears

No more tearsI was asked the age-old question: Why is there suffering and pain? This is usually accompanied by the other often-pondered question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

I’m not sure that I can answer that one, because I’m not a “good” person. I’m a sinner. I’ve messed up more time than I can count, and it is only by God’s mercy that His righteous judgment hasn’t consumed me.

Here’s what I do know:

  • God loves me so much that He sent His Son to rescue me—John 3:16-17
  • I am of immeasurable value to my Heavenly Father—Luke 12:6-7
  • Suffering on earth is temporal; rewards in Heaven are eternal—Romans 8:18
  • God develops something in my through suffering that I could learn in no other way—Romans 5:3-4
  • God can be glorified through my suffering if I will let Him—John 9:1-3; 11:3-6

I also know that Jesus is Perfection. If anyone ever deserved to not have anything bad happen to them, it was Him. And yet He was rejected by His family (Mark 3:21), betrayed by one of His companions (John 13:21), abandoned by all His followers (Mark 14:50), and even felt the sting of God forsaking Him (Mark 15:34).

What makes this even more startling to me is that He knew all of this was coming (Isaiah 53:3; Luke 9:22; Matthew 26:54-56). But He went through all of that pain because His suffering meant He could become the prefect Intercessor and Mediator for our suffering (see Hebrews 5:7-9; 4:14-16).

Jesus us told us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

And the last book in the Bible promises that eventually God’s children will have every tear wiped away! There will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, and no more pain! (Revelation 21:4)

In the midst of your pain, hold tightly to the One Who loves you so much and is interceding for you!

If you are near Cedar Springs this coming weekend, and you don’t have a home church, I would love for you to join us as we continue to learn about the greatest words ever spoken.

Links & Quotes

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Some good reading this weekend:

“It is bad to pursue something good negligently; it is worse to expend many labors on an empty thing.” —Hugh of St. Victor

A ground-breaking scientist of the 16th and 17th centuries who was (gasp!) a Christian: William Harvey.

Could the IRS do anything to make itself more unpopular?” Yep! Read more in New IRS Revelations.

“In the worst temptations nothing can help us but faith that God’s Son has put on flesh, is bone, sits at the right hand of the Father, and prays for us. There is no mightier comfort.” —Martin Luther

“Most of us are like the disciples. We see one miracle, and we are satisfied to talk about it for the rest of our lives. Yet, if we really knew God and let Him be God to us, we would ask Him for so much more.” —David Wilkerson

Great (not!): States Face Overwhelming Reality Of Obamacare.

Gratitude is a “chosen attitude.” Read more in Dr. Tim Elmore’s post The Inverse Relationship Between Gratitude And Entitlement.

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