Archive for October, 2013

Worship In The Shadow

The Word of God, at its very beginning, speaks of mankind as being created in the image of God. But what is meant by that phrase? I believe there is a clue or two in the original Hebrew of the text. The word translated as “image” is “tzelem” which comes from the word “tzel” which means “shadow”. So there is a definite connection, since whenever rays of light fall on something it casts a shadow, which is a type of image. So according to the Bible, we are in the image of God in the same way that our own shadows look like we do in a way.

Another connection can be seen when, in Exodus 31 God appointed a person named Bezalel to create the Tabernacle and its furnishings. His name in Hebrew, Betzalel, literally means “in the shadow of God”. The Tabernacle was used to facilitate the worship of a God by the ancient Israelites. When a human worships the God of the Universe, it is as though he or she were standing in the shadow of God, who dwells in unapproachable light.

which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (I Timothy 6:15, 16 NKJV)


But how does this apply to us today? In Hebrews 1:3, the author describes Jesus as the “express image of His person”. We are in the image of God in the same way a shadow shows His image, but Jesus is the express image. It’s the difference between a shadow outline and a photograph. While people can and should be able to tell that God is with us, they will only get a clear and detailed picture of God when they see Jesus. And that biblical imagery should carry over into our worship today. When we worship God, we stand in His shadow as those who are created in His image and looking upon Him who is the perfect picture of the Father.

There are some things that are true when that standing occurs. For one, in order to worship in the shadow of God, like we were created to do, He blocks our view of other things. Those lesser things may be visible in our peripheral sight, but our focus will be on the One who overshadows us. Worship occurs when we “fix our eyes on Jesus” and give our while attention to Him. As we habitually do that, we will slowly but surely be changed ourselves into clearer images of Him.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18 NKJV)

This may be bold, but I believe it is accurate. Anything that does not point us to Jesus and cause us to focus on Him is less than true worship. In the modern church over the past few decades, there has been a restoration of the truth about the joy of The Lord in Worship. What we need now is a restoration of the awareness of the awesomeness and glory of the One who alone is worthy of our adoration and worship. In doing so, we fulfill the destiny of why we were saved in the first place.

And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (I Corinthians 15:49 NKJV)

So next time you spend time in worship of God, whether alone, as a family, or with other believers, I would encourage you to focus on the One in whose shadow you stand. Contemplate the brightness of His glory, the perfection of His holiness, and the enormity of His power, and realize that as you stand there, He gazes back in love to you and knows your name, your thoughts, and the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30). Know that He alone is worthy of worship, and look away form those things which have become idols in your life. Let no rival thrones survive as you gaze upon His majesty. Fix your eyes upon Jesus and from your heart, and love The Lord your God with all your might, mind and strength. You will be ruined for cold ceremony or dead rituals. But you will be worshipping in Spirit and in truth.


The Dangers of Tradition

Jesus was famous for the gentle and merciful way he treated sinners. When lost souls trapped in sin and dead religion or no religion came to him, Jesus reached out and confronted them with a demonstration of the love of God. The same cannot be said regarding the way he confronted false religious teachers. The self-righteous were confronted with the Law of God as gently as someone with a sledgehammer. Why? Because that is what was needed to break away the layers of self justification and righteousness from outward acts. Such was the case in Mark chapter 7.

The Pharisees and scribes had come up to Galilee to try and openly discredit Jesus’ teachings before they spread all the way to Jerusalem and exposed their dead traditions. There are a few things I would like to point out from this encounter. I’m sure there are more there.

He said to them, “ All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God ), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:9-13 NKJV)

The first thing Jesus does is to quote the Law of Moses, which they could not deny. Jesus didn’t quote their rabbis, the Talmud, or the Mishnah. He only gave authority to the Law. In fact, Jesus affirms here that the writings of Moses are the Word of God. He starts of with “For Moses said” and in verse 13 calls it the Word of God. He thereby affirms the dual authorship of Scripture by saying that Moses was writing God’s words. The same things is stated by Paul when writing to Timothy.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 NIV)

These are not the word of Moses that God had breathed on. These were God’s word breathed into Moses and onto the page.

Concerning the subject of his rebuke, The Lord has always put a strong emphasis on the necessity of honoring, or caring for, ones parents in their latter years. It was part of the Ten Commandments. In fact, one could be put to death for failing to care for their parents. Jesus even tended to this necessity while hanging on the cross when he commissioned John to care for his mother Mary. But the Pharisees and scribes had a tradition that said that if someone dedicated money to God, even all of their money, then it could not be used for anything other than gifts to God at the temple. This was very profitable for the ruling religious leaders at the temple! So if your parents needed assistance, all you had to do was say that the money had been dedicated to God (aka Corban) and you were released from that obligation.

Jesus confronts this error and brings them back to what the Word said. They were to honor their father and mother. For those who may read this and have a church that demands tithing, here is an experiment you should try. Ask your pastor or elders if it is okay to take part of your tithe and use it to aid your needy or ill parents. If they tell you that doing so would be a sin, run because they are declaring part of your money as Corban and are nullifying the Word of God. If they are godly, they should tell you that tithing is not a New Covenant law, or at least to go ahead and give your parents or a sick relative the aid and comfort they need, but to also pray that The Lord would enable you to continue giving at the same level.

You take a look at what I have written here. Test it and hold to what is true. Then act accordingly.


Does Worship Ever End?

The Word of God is replete with commands to worship God. In the Ten Commandments ( the actual Law, not the movie), a command is given to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. That day, from creation onward, was set aside as God’s special day which was reserved for worship. Now, under the covenant sealed with the blood of Christ upon the cross, we are in a kind of perpetual Sabbath. We no longer follow the Sabbath, which was a shadow of things to come, but follow Christ.

“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16, 17 NKJV)”

We have ceased from our own works and and now spending every day doing His works, which is the very reason we are saved.

“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9, 10 NKJV)”

Well that is great and all, but it does bring up a question. When do we worship? Glad you asked?

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1 ESV)

So it looks like there is still a requirement for us to offer a sacrifice, but now, that sacrifice is ourselves! Good thing it’s a living sacrifice! There is no day restriction for this. Our act of worship is the offering of our lives, not a set of rituals, ceremonies, or acts of worship performed according to exacting specifications anymore. Now, everything we do is done “in the name of The Lord”, not just when we assemble, but all the time!

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17 NKJV)”

So am I saying that there is no longer any need to assemble together? Wrong! We are told by word and example to gather together to teach and encourage one another. The earliest Christians in Acts 2 gathered every day, while later they gathered on the first day of the week. Romans 14 makes it clear that we have leeway on what day, or days, we gather. All days are alike, because all days are days of worship where we are doing everything in a way that brings glory to God. In fact, there is no scriptural authority for calling our meetings “worship services” at all. Our living sacrifice is our service of worship. Nor are we given a list of what can be designated as worship and precisely how it is to be done. “Decently and in order” is a guideline that is very general in nature in many ways.

So are we supposed to worship God? Yes. When? All the time! Do we have authority to stop worshipping? No! How do we live/worship? In love, decently, and orderly! Do we have the scriptural authority to divide our lives between worship and non-worship? No! Does the Bible contain a command, example, or inference for everything we can do in our lives 24/7? Of course not. Just keep it encouraging, loving, decent, and do go wild about it. We are free to worship in a way that is guided by the Spirit and focused on the Truth — Jesus.


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