Worship, Our Adoration Changes

We cannot speak about Worship without talking about idolatry.

Your idols suck. God doesn’t suck.

The idols you are laboring over are sucking the life out of you. God is the only master who pours life into you.

Psalm 135:15-18(HCSB)The idols of the nations are of silver and gold,made by human hands.16 They have mouths but cannot speak,eyes, but cannot see.17 They have ears but cannot hear; indeed, there is no breath in their mouths.18 Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.

Isaiah 44:9-10(NLT)How foolish are those who manufacture idols. These prized objects are really worthless. The people who worship idols don’t know this, so they are all put to shame. 10  Who but a fool would make his own god—an idol that cannot help him one bit?

Idolatry leads to slavery, that’s why people are addicted, perverted, indebted.

See, idols lie. They promise things that only God can deliver and they do so to enslave us, and that’s why the worship of God is so important because that alone free us.

All of life is ceaseless worship. This means that while worship does include corporate church meetings, singing songs, etc, it is not limited by these things, defined just as these things, or expressed only in these things because worship never stops. Rather, we are continually giving ourselves away or pouring ourselves out for a god, person, cause, experience, achievement, or status.

YOU ARE ALWAYS WORSHIPING

Human beings are unceasing worshipers. We are not created to worship, but rather we are created worshiping. Everyone worships all the time. Atheists, agnostics, Christians, and everyone in between are unceasing worshipers. Everyone, everywhere, all the time, is always worshiping. Everyone worships all the time. Atheists are worshipers. Buddhists are worshipers. Agnostics are worshipers. Christians are worshipers. People who are living are worshiping. Everyone who’s living is always worshiping, pouring themselves out for someone or something. That’s what we were made to do. That’s what we always do. The only difference is who or what we worship, when or how we worship. The question is not, do we worship? The question is, is our worship to God or is our worship to something other than God, namely idolatry?

“The opposite of Christianity is not atheism, “but idolatry.

Because here’s the problem: You don’t have an adultery problem; you got a worship problem. You don’t have a greed problem; you got a worship problem. You don’t have a coveting problem; you have a worship problem. And if you would worship God, then that would fix all your other problems. And God wants that freedom for you, and God wants that freedom for your family, and God wants that freedom for your legacy.

Let’s look at worship in our culture. If you imported a Hebrew from 3,000 years ago to a football game where people were dressed up like animals, had their faces painted, took parts of an animal and barbecued it as a sacrifice at the tailgate party and saw them all dressed the same with their arms outstretched trying to affect the outcome of a game like pagan priests who are doing some sort of mantra, would you not assume that they would think that it was a religious gathering?

Everyone Worships, the question is what are you worshipping?

What you glory in you will sacrifice for. If you glory in God you will sacrifice all other aspects of life to make sure you are in His presence. 

Worship is a lifestyle. People don’t have sin problems they have worship problems. People continue in their sin because they fail to worship the God of scripture.  The highest we take people most of the time is into sin management.

1 John5:20(ESV) And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

 It is such a detestable sin that God says to run from sexual immorality and idolatry

1 Corinthians 6:18(HCSB) Run from sexual immorality! “Every sin a person can commit is outside the body.” On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. 19 Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 10:14(HCSB)14 Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.

God so hates idolatry He equates those who enter into idolatry as whores and spiritual adulterers.
Ezekiel 6:8 (ESV)“Yet I will leave some of you alive. When you have among the nations some who escape the sword, and when you are scattered through the countries, 9 then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the Lord. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.”

Spiritual adultery is unfaithfulness to God. It is having an undue fondness for the things of the world. Spiritual adultery includes any form of idolatry. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel tried to mix the worship of other gods such as Baal with that of God (Judges 3:7 (ESV) 7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. In doing so, Israel became like an adulterous wife who wanted both a husband and another lover. In the New Testament, James defines spiritual adultery as claiming to love God while cultivating friendship with the world

James 4:4–5 (ESV)4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. The person who commits spiritual adultery is one who professes to be a Christian yet finds his real love and pleasure in the things that Satan offers. For believers, the love of the world and the love of God are direct opposites. Believers committing spiritual adultery may claim to love the Lord, but, in reality, they are captivated by the pleasures of this world, its influence, comforts, “fun”, and so-called freedoms.

Idol worship robs God of the glory that is rightfully His, and that is something He will not tolerate Isaiah 42:8 (HCSB) I am Yahweh, that is My name;I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols.

Even today there are religions that bow before statues and icons, which is a practice forbidden by God’s Word. The significance God places upon it is reflected in the fact that the first of the Ten Commandments refers to idolatry: Exodus 20:3-5(ESV) “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”.

Idolatry extends beyond the worship of idols and images and false gods. Our modern idols are many and varied. Even for those who do not bow physically before a statue, idolatry is a matter of the heart—pride, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, a love for possessions and ultimately rebellion against God. Is it any wonder that God hates it?

SO what draws us to idolatry? Ultimately, the answer to this question is “sin.” It is the sin nature of man that causes us to worship modern idols, all of which are, in reality, forms of self-worship. The temptation to worship ourselves in various ways is a powerful temptation indeed. In fact, it is so powerful that only those who belong to Christ and have the Holy Spirit within them can possibly hope to resist the temptation of modern idolatry. Even then, resisting the worship of idols is a lifelong battle that is part of the Christian life. Philippians 4:6-7(HCSB)Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Understanding modern idols can help us to understand why they prove to be such a powerful temptation. An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that tugs at our heart more than God does, such as possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/drugs/gambling/pornography, etc. Many of the things we idolize can be very good, such as relationships or careers. Unfortunately, God is often shoved out of the way as we zealously pursue our idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these idolatrous pursuits leaves us with little or no time to spend with the Lord.

All the various forms of modern idolatry have one thing at their core: self. We no longer bow down to idols and images. Instead we worship at the altar of the god of self.

We worship at the altar of the fulfillment of the self to the exclusion of all others and their needs and desires. This manifests itself in self-indulgence through alcohol, drugs, and food. Here in the USA we have unlimited access to alcohol, drugs (prescription drug use is at an all-time high, even among children), and food. Obesity rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed, and childhood diabetes brought on by overeating is epidemic. The self-control we so desperately need is dismissed in our uncontrollable desire to eat, drink, and self medicate more and more. We resist any effort to get us to curb our appetites, and we are determined to make ourselves the god of our lives. This has its origin in the Garden of Eden where Satan tempted Eve to eat of the tree with the words “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). This has been man’s desire ever since—to be god and, as we have seen, the worship of self is the basis of all modern idolatry.

All idolatry of self has at its core the three lusts found in 1 John 2:16 (ESV)“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” If we are to escape modern idolatry, we have to admit that it is rampant and reject it in all its forms. It is not of God, but of Satan, and in it we will never find fulfillment. This is the great lie and the same one Satan has been telling since he first lied to Adam and Eve. Sadly, we are still falling for it. Even more sadly, many churches are propelling it in the preaching of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel built on the idol of self-esteem. But we will never find happiness focusing on ourselves. Our hearts and minds must be centered on God. This is why when asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, Matthew 22:37 (ESV)“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. When we love the Lord and others with everything that is in us, there will be no room in our hearts for idolatry.

Idolatry is when there is confusion between the Creator and the created. This is what Romans 1:25(HCSB)25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen. Of these people he says, they exchange the truth of God for the lie. The truth is there’s the Creator, the created. God created us to worship the Creator.

Idolatry is what happens when we worship the created, sex, money, fame, glory, power, prestige, whatever the case may be, instead of the Creator. This is common in Wicca. This is common in Prosperity Gospel,and many who follow the wolves of TV preaching, have fallen prey to lies of that idol.

So, why is worship better than idolatry? Here’s how he says it: Exodus 20:5-6, “For I the LORD your God.” OK, alcohol is not your God. Sex isn’t your God. Fame isn’t your God. Pleasure isn’t your God. Your spouse isn’t your God. Your children are not your God. Your marriage is not your God. Your beauty is not your God. The car you drive, the clothes you wear, the house you live in or other people’s opinion, they are not the Lord. They’re not the sovereign. They’re not in control. They’re not in charge. He is.

Romans 12:1-2(NLT)12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Also in the passage is a description of the manner of our worship: “give your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.” Giving our bodies means giving to God all of ourselves. The reference to our bodies here means all our human faculties, all of our humanness—our hearts, minds, hands, thoughts, attitudes—are to be presented to God. In other words, we are to give up control of these things and turn them over to Him, just as a literal sacrifice was given totally to God on the altar. But how? Again, the passage is clear: “by changing the way you think.” Renewing the mind – Metanoia in the greek means; change of mind it is where we get the word repentance. We renew our minds daily by cleansing them of the world’s “wisdom” and replacing it with true wisdom that comes from God. We worship Him with our renewed and cleansed minds, not with our emotions. We see this all the time as people don’t come to church, they don’t worship unless they “feel” like it, their favorite song is played, or their favorite worship leader is leading.

We are not to let our worship be dictated by our feelings or our emotions.

Emotions are wonderful things, but unless they are shaped by a mind saturated in truth, they can be destructive, out-of-control forces. Where the mind goes, the will follows and so do the emotions. 1 Corinthians 2:16(HCSB) tells us we have “the mind of Christ,” not the emotions of Christ. Worship to God is holy and sacred.  To pervert and corrupt it with entertainment and what we can “get out of the service” in trying to please and gratify ourselves is nothing short of blasphemy!  The sacredness of true worship must not be sacrificed on altars of entertainment-oriented quartets, choirs, and other entertainment groups.  We are as Hebrews 13:15(HCSB) says to 15 Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.  In worship we must be the participants, not the observers.  We want to please and entertain ourselves.  In Galatians 1:10(HCSB) the question is asked, For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.  Worship is God-centered not man-centered.  When our worship is to please God instead of ourselves, then and only then will our worship be much more meaningful and spiritually uplifting to us and acceptable to God.

When people seek an “emotional high” from worship and don’t get it, they are disappointed and start blaming the songs, the worship leader, the preacher, etc.  The world wants their worship service to be “more entertaining”, thus they are failing to worship God in spirit and in truth.  Where in the Bible can we go to show that our worship is designed to please the worshipper.  The desire to have an experience or an encounter along the lines of mysticism also gives little regard to what God says in the Bible.

Our worship to God requires commitment on our part.  People had rather worship Christ as a baby in a manger than Christ as their crucified savior.  Their worshipping Christ as a baby in a manger requires no commitment on their part.  They feel they can put Him in a box and live the rest of the year as they please.  But worshipping Christ as our crucified savior requires commitment, a complete change of our life, and a willingness to do all that He says. Jesus says in Matthew 10:37-38(HCSB) 37 The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Christ must be first in our lives, and this requires that we be committed to Him.

“From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols. Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God. John Calvin, Institutes, 1.11.8

This quote is often used when discussing the issue of idolatry in the Christian heart. The argument usually goes something like this: Our hearts are perpetual idol factories, always leading us to worship something other than God. Therefore, we must be constantly evaluating our hearts to ensure that we are not drifting into idolatry.

Matthew 15:19(HCSB)18 But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies.

Proverbs 4:23(HCSB)Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.

Psalm 26:2(HCSB) Test me, Lord, and try me;examine my heart and mind

Your idols suck. God doesn’t suck.

The idols you are laboring over are sucking the life out of you. God is the only master who pours life into you.

Psalm 51:10-13(HCSB)God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.11 Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.12 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.13 Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.

John 10:10 (HCSB)A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

One way of viewing abundant life is to see when people have been changed by the power of Christ; they live different lives, which affects all aspects of their experience.

Galatians 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.

Abundant life is not about what we have. It’s not about what we get. It’s not about what we claim. Ultimately, abundant life is about what we receive as a gift from the Lord and to live knowing we are stewards of the blessings of God.

Remember when I quote John Calvin about our hearts being idol factories? Left to ourselves we will continuously make idols unless we do a transference of ownership of our hearts.

Is your heart under new ownership? If you are still churning out idols without rebuke, without battle, then that tells you something. You haven’t been bought yet. You’re still an idol factory. You need a new owner.

You need Jesus.

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The Need for a ‘Missional’ Church

The Need for a ‘Missional’ Church

The missional Church is concerned with meeting the needs of others and discipling the lost. Most churches now are nothing more than fancy buildings for people who talk the same,act the same, like the same music and movies to have a place to gather and make themselves feel good about themselves.

What we have done as “The Christian Church” is made the people we are supposed to be evangelizing, our enemies. We would rather stay away from the dark than shine a light in it. Because what most churches peddle is nothing more than humanistic self-help repackaged with a sprinkle of Jesus ontop. The culture around us doesn’t want any part of that. They are hungry for real, authentic Christianity. We build up walls and create Christian bubbles to protect ourselves from THEM. We have christian movies, music, coffee shops, clothing, restaurants, books,tv stations, cartoons,vernacular,etc. We created a closed off Christian culture that is very hard for the average non believer to come to Christ and learn. Because we were never to do that!!! We were always made to GO, GO and Make disciples.
Matthew 28:18-19(HCSB)18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We like to believe this doctrine of salvation that Romans speaks of Romans 10:13(HCSB)13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But who will tell them?

Romans 10:14-15(HCSB)14 But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!

Here in America is the only “mission field” that we scold people for being like the culture. Every other country in the world we send missionaries to learn the culture of the people and preach the gospel to those people. We need to learn what it is to meet people where they are and say “Come up Here”!!

Below is an excerpt from Tim Keller on his writing on a Missional Church.

In the West for nearly 1,000 years, the relationship of (Anglo-European) Christian churches to the broader culture was a relationship known as “Christendom.” The institutions of society “Christianized” people, and stigmatized non-Christian belief and behavior. Though people were “Christianized” by the culture, they were not regenerated or converted with the Gospel. The church’s job was then to challenge persons into a vital, living relation with Christ.

There were great advantages and yet great disadvantages to ‘Christendom.’ The advantage was that there was a common language for public moral discourse with which society could discuss what was ‘the good.’ The disadvantage was that Christian morality without gospel-changed hearts often led to cruelty and hypocrisy. Think of how the small town in “Christendom” treated the unwed mother or the gay person. Also, under “Christendom” the church often was silent against abuses of power of the ruling classes over the weak. For these reasons and others, the church in Europe and North America has been losing its privileged place as the authority of public morality since at least the mid 19th century. The decline of Christendom has accelerated greatly since the end of WWII.

The British missionary Lesslie Newbigin went to India around 1950. There he was involved with a church living ‘in mission’ in a very non-Christian culture. When he returned to England some 30 years later, he discovered that now the Western church too existed in a non-Christian society, but it had not adapted to its new situation. Though public institutions and popular culture of Europe and North America no longer ‘Christianized’ people, the church still ran its ministries assuming that a stream of ‘Christianized’, traditional/moral people would simply show up in services. Some churches certainly did ‘evangelism’ as one ministry among many. But the church in the West had not become completely ‘missional’–adapting and reformulating absolutely everything it did in worship, discipleship, community, and service–so as to be engaged with the non-Christian society around it. It had not developed a ‘missiology of western culture’ the way it had done so for other non-believing cultures.

One of the reasons much of the American evangelical church has not experienced the same rapid decline as the Protestant churches of Europe and Canada is because in the U.S. there is still a ‘heartland’ with the remnants of the old ‘Christendom’ society. There the informal public culture (though not the formal public institutions) still stigmatizes non-Christian beliefs and behavior. “There is a fundamental schism in American cultural, political, and economic life. There’s the quicker- growing, economically vibrant…morally relativist, urban-oriented, culturally adventuresome, sexually alternative, and ethnically diverse nation…and there’s the small town,family, religiously- oriented, white-centric other America, with its diminishing cultural and economic force….Two nations…” Michael Wolff, New York, Feb 26 2001, p. 19. In conservative regions, it is still possible to see people profess faith and the church grow without becoming ‘missional.’ Most traditional evangelical churches still can only win people to Christ who are temperamentally traditional and conservative. But, as Wolff notes, this is a ‘shrinking market.’ And eventually evangelical churches got comfortable in the declining, remaining territories of “Christendom” will have to learn how to become ‘missional’. If it does not do that, it will decline or die.

We don’t simply need evangelistic churches, but rather ‘missional’ churches.

The Elements of a Missional Church

1. Discourse in the vernacular.

• In ‘Christendom’ there is little difference between the language inside and outside of the church. Documents of the early U.S. Congress, for example, are riddled with allusions to and references from the Bible. Biblical technical terms are well-known inside and outside. In a missional church, however, terms must be explained.

• The missional church avoids ‘tribal’ language, stylized prayer language, unnecessary evangelical pious ‘jargon’, and archaic language that seeks to set a ‘spritual tone.’

• The missional church avoids ‘we-them’ language, disdainful jokes that mock people of different politics and beliefs, and dismissive, disrespectful comments about those who differ with us.

• The missional church avoids sentimental, pompous, ‘inspirational’ talk . Instead we engage the culture with gentle, self-deprecating but joyful irony the gospel creates.

Humility + joy = gospel irony and realism.

• The missional church avoids ever talking as if non-believing people are not present. If you speak and discourse as if your whole neighborhood is present (not just scattered Christians), eventually more and more of your neighborhood will find their way in or be invited.

• Unless all of the above is the outflow of a truly humble-bold gospel-changed heart, it is all just ‘marketing’ and ‘spin.’

2. Enter and re-tell the culture’s stories with the gospel

• In “Christendom” it is possible to simply exhort Christianized people to “do what they know they should.” There is little or no real engagement, listening, or persuasion. It is more a matter of exhortation (and often, heavy reliance on guilt.) In a missional church preaching and communication should always assume the presence of skeptical people, and should engage their stories, not simply talk about “old times.”

• To “enter” means to show sympathy toward and deep acquaintance with the literature, music, theater, etc. of the existing culture’s hopes, dreams, ‘heroic’ narratives, fears.

• The older culture’s story was–to be a good person, a good father/mother,

son/daughter, to live a decent, merciful, good life.

• Now the culture’s story is– a) to be free and self-created and authentic (theme of freedom from oppression), and b) to make the world safe for everyone else to be the same (theme of inclusion of the ‘other’; justice).

• To “re-tell” means to show how only in Christ we can have freedom without slavery and embracing of the ‘other’ without injustice.

3. Theologically train people for public life and vocation

• In ‘Christendom’ you can afford to train people just in prayer, Bible study, evangelism–

private world skills–because they are not facing radically non-Christian values in their

public life–where they work, in their neighborhood, etc.

• In a ‘missional’ church, the congregation needs theological education to ‘think Christianly’ about everything and work with Christian distinctiveness. They need to know: a) what cultural practices are common grace and to be embraced, b) what practices are antithetical to the gospel and must be rejected, c) what practices can be adapted/revised. Receive, Reject, Redeem

• In a ‘missional’ situation, lay people renewing and transforming the culture through distinctively Christian vocations must be lifted up as real ‘kingdom work’ and ministry along with the traditional ministry of the Word.

• Finally, Christians will have to use the gospel to demonstrate true, Biblical love and ‘tolerance’ in “the public square” toward those with whom we deeply differ. This tolerance should equal or exceed that which opposing views show toward Christians. The charge of intolerance is perhaps the main ‘defeater’ of the gospel in the non-Christian west

4. Create Christian community which is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive.

• In Christendom, ‘fellowship’ is basically just a set of nurturing relationships, support and accountability. That is necessary, of course.

• In a missional church, however, Christian community must go beyond that to embody a ‘counter-culture,’ showing the world how radically different a Christian society is with regard to sex, money, and power.

• In sex. We avoid both the secular society’s idolization of sex and traditional society’s fear of sex. We also exhibit love rather than hostility or fear toward those whose sexual life patterns are different.

• In money. We promote a radically generous commitment of time, money,

relationships, and living space to social justice and the needs of the poor, the

immigrant, the economically and physically weak.

• In power. We are committed to power-sharing and relationship-building between

races and classes that are alienated outside of the Body of Christ.

• In general, a church must be more deeply and practically committed to deeds of

compassion and social justice than traditional liberal churches and more deeply and practically committed to evangelism and conversion than traditional fundamentalist churches. This kind of church is profoundly ‘counter-intuitive’ to American observers. It breaks their ability to categorize (and dismiss) it as liberal or conservative. Only this kind of church has any chance in the non- Christian west.

5. Practice Christian unity as much as possible on the local level.

• In Christendom, when ‘everyone was a Christian’ it was necessary (perhaps) for a church to define itself over against other churches. That is, to get an identity you had to say, “we are not like that church over there, or those Christians over here.”

• While we have to align ourselves in denominations that share many of our distinctives, at the local level we should cooperate and reach out to and support the other congregations and churches in our local area. This will raise many thorny issues, of course, but our bias should be in the direction of cooperation.

issues. If these marks are not there it will only be able to include believers or traditional, “Christianized” people.

There will be a difference between Churches and Country Clubs. and the church that is missional will be set apart from a church that is only concerned with filling pews or chairs.

Adoption, our status changes

 

Justification,Adoption, regeneration and sanctification.

Our sin has separated us from God, and the consequence of sin is death
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Biblical salvation refers to our deliverance from the consequence of sin and therefore involves justification from sin.

Justification We are saved from the PENALTY of Sin.

What does the term “Justified” mean? The Bible meaning of the word is to be totally blameless and totally guiltless–to be able to stand before God clean and pure in every way. Ephesians 2:8-9(HCSB)For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.Remember our helpless position before God–as “children of Wrath,”Ephesians 2:3(HCSB)We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.

Our Father, however, has devised a plan and made a way for us to stand righteous before Him. He has sent His own Son as a Sacrifice on our behalf, and those who believe in Him shall have everlasting life, and shall be seen as righteous in God’s sight. Ephesians 2:4-5(HCSB)But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!

Romans 3:23-24(HCSB)23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

This righteousness we receive is imputed righteousness–that is a theological term which means removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time declaring a sinner righteous through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. God legally declares us to be righteous because of Christ’s work on the cross.

This is Justification, to stand before God with all debts paid, and clothed in the righteousness of His only Son, Jesus Christ. To be able know that you have “peace with God”–there is no more war between you and the Almighty.

Romans 5:1(HCSB) Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

J.I. Packer wrote; Paul teaches that the gift of justification brings with it the status of sonship by adoption (i.e., permanent intimacy with God as one’s heavenly Father, Galatians 3:26(HCSB)26 for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.;

Galatians 4:4-7(HCSB)When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

In Paul’s world, adoption was ordinarily of young adult males of good character to become heirs and maintain the family name of the rich who were childless. Paul, however, proclaims God’s gracious adoption of persons of bad character to become “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” Romans 8:17(HCSB)17 and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ—seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Justification is the basic blessing, on which adoption is founded; adoption is the crowning blessing, to which justification clears the way. Adopted status belongs to all who receive Christ John 1:12(HCSB)12 But to all who did receive Him,He gave them the right to be children of God,to those who believe in His name,. The adopted status of believers means that in and through Christ God loves them as he loves his only-begotten Son and will share with them all the glory that is Christ’s. Here and now, believers are under God’s fatherly care and discipline and are directed, especially by Jesus, to live their whole lives in light of the knowledge that God is their Father in heaven. They are to pray to him as such, imitate him as such, and trust him as such, thus expressing the affectionate instinct that the Holy Spirit has implanted in them.

Adoption and regeneration accompany each other as two aspects of the salvation that Christ brings John 1:12-13(HCSB)But to all who did receive Him,He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God., but they are to be distinguished. Adoption is the bestowal of a relationship, while regeneration is the transformation of our moral nature. Yet the link is evident; God wants his children, whom he loves, to bear his character, and takes action accordingly.

First adoption is “from Him”—from God. “In love he predestined us for adoption.”Ephesians 1:4-5(HCSB)For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will,

So adoption was part of a God’s plan. It was his idea, his purpose. It was not an afterthought. He didn’t discover one day that against his plan and foreknowledge humans had sinned and orphaned themselves in the world, and then come up with the idea of adopting them into his family. No, Paul says, he predestined adoption. He planned it. The misguided but popular concept that all people are children of God and can truthfully call Him “Abba Father” is simply not true. Just as children do not choose to be adopted or choose who will adopt them, neither do Christians choose to become children of God. Instead, God chooses them. He predestines them “to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will”, having been chosen by God from “before the foundation of the world”

And if we ask when this predestination happened, verse 4 makes that plain: “He chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless in His sight.” Before the creation of the world, and before we existed, God looked on us in our need, and he looked upon his Son crucified and risen as the all sufficient atonement for our sin, and because of that he chose us to be holy and blameless. And to that end he “predestined us for adoption.” It happened before the creation of the world.

So the first thing you need to know about your adoption into God’s family through Christ is that God chose you and predestined you in love for adoption before the foundation of the world. God’s love for you and its expression in your adoption into his eternal family of joy did not start in this world. It reaches back to eternity. So when Paul says, “From him are all things” Romans 11:36(ESV)36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen., he includes our adoption, and means that before the foundation of the world he predestined you to be his child.

Therefore your adoption is not based on your fitness, your worth, or your character. It is rooted in God’s eternal purpose and grace. And that means that your adoption is not fragile or flimsy or uncertain. God will not adopt and then find out that you are not worthy and unadopt you. He knows we are unworthy. And he chose us and predestined us for adoption. This is firm and sure and unshakable. He reached down when we were at our worst to make us sons and daughters.

Before the foundation of the world God saw that we would be sinners and planned the death of his Son so that our sins could be forgiven and God’s wrath removed. Through that we were adopted.

1) Not all people are God’s adopted children.

The blood of Christ covers the sins of all who believe Romans 3:25(HSCB)25 God presented Him as a propitiation[a] through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. Therefore believers in Jesus are adopted, and no others. If we talk about God being the Father of all mankind, we speak very loosely and are not talking truly about those who are saved.

The benefits of being adopted children of God are many. Becoming a child of God is the highest privilege and honor that can be imagined. Because of it we have a new relationship with God and a new standing before Him. He deals with His children differently than He deals with the rest of the world. Being a child of God, adopted “through faith in Christ Jesus” is the source for our hope, the security of our future and the motivation to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” Ephesians 4:1(HCSB)Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received,. Being children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords calls us to a higher standard, a different way of life and a greater hope.

Hebrews 12:5-7(HCSB)5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or faint when you are reproved by Him,6 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves and punishes every son He receives.7 Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?

Because of that new relationship, Christians may sin, but they cannot be comfortable or content living a life of habitual, ongoing sin. If people are living a life enslaved to sin and are comfortable in that sin and without the discipline of God upon them, then we know they are “illegitimate and not sons” Hebrews 12:8(HCSB)8 But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. In other words, they are unbelievers.

2) We were not cute little orphans that God was attracted to; we enemies in rebellion against God.

That is who God decided before the foundation of the world to adopt. Romans 5:6(HCSB)For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. Our adoption is not fragile or flimsy or uncertain. God will not adopt and then find out that you are not worthy and unadopt you. He knows we are unworthy. Romans 5:10(ESV) “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” And he chose us and predestined us for adoption. This is firm and sure and unshakable. He reached down when we were at our worst to make us sons and daughters.

So our adoption is not based on our being worthy or cute or attractive. It is based on the free and sovereign grace of God planned before the world and bought for us by the blood of Christ.

Adoption is a grace beyond and above justification. In justification, God acquits sinners of all the charges against them. Indeed, he goes further still and declares that in Christ their righteousness meets the highest possible standards. They are as righteous as Christ himself 2 Corinthians 5:21(ESV)21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. There is not a stain on their characters. We are saved from the PENALTY of Sin.

At this point, in normal human systems of justice, the accused is then simply free to go, and both he and the judge hope they will never see each other again. But the divine judge not only acquits. He invites the sinner home — and not just for an evening. He adopts us as his own forever, tells us we are to call him “Father,” and pronounces us lawful heirs to all he is and to all that he has.

Paul is the only New Testament writer who uses the term adoption, but he is not the only one who speaks of believers being God’s children. John also highlights it, particularly in 1 John 3:1(ESV)See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. “See,” he exclaims, “what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” Yet while they speak of the same subject, the two apostles use different language.

Change in Status

The word adoption, like the word justification, refers not to a change in our disposition and character, but to a change on our status. It speaks of a revolution in our relationship with God. As unbelieving sinners, we were utterly alienated from him: total outsiders, as far as his family was concerned. Now we belong, and by using the term adoption, Paul is using formal legal language to remind us that our membership of our new family is absolutely secure. It can never be undone.

He is committed to us. He has given us his name.

He has said, in effect, “From now on, you have nothing to worry about (Matthew 6:26). I will care for you (1 Peter 5:7), and if you do ever find yourself overtaken by anxiety, come and talk about it to me at once (Philippians 4:6–7). Always remember that I am your home, and that I will never disown you; and should you ever go astray, I will always take you back (Luke 15:20). My love will never let you go.”

Divine adoption, then, secures what no human adoption can secure. It is always accompanied by a radical and total transformation at the very core of our being. Not only have we a new status. We are new people Ephesians 4:24(HCSB)24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

Should we, then, just sit back passively and let grace do its work? Indeed, the seed that God has implanted in us won’t let us sit back, nor will the hope that God has given us. The assurance that our destiny is to be “like him” impels us to set about purifying ourselves, and to do so with the utmost rigour, satisfied with nothing less than to be as pure as God himself (1 John 3:3).

While we may be sure that adoption gives God immense satisfaction, he never adopts in order to meet some need of his own. He adopts us because he loves us, not because he needs us.And far from exploiting us and subjecting us to a life of hard work, he showers upon us every spiritual blessing and fills our lives with the melody of joy and salvation.

God adopted us in our unworthiness to make his grace look great. You were adopted for the praise of the glory of his grace. God’s action in adopting us is radically God-centered and God-exalting. I know that many hear this and think it is not loving. How can God’s seeking to exalt himself be loving? The answer is that the glory of God is what we were made to see and enjoy for all eternity. Nothing else will satisfy our souls. Therefore if God does not exalt himself for us to admire and enjoy, then he is unloving. That is, he does not give us what we need.

We are adopted by God not so that we will rejoice that God made much of us. We are adopted by God so that we will enjoy making much of God’s grace as our Father forever. We are adopted so that in this family the Father and the unique elder Son, Jesus Christ, will be the source and focus of all our joy. We are adopted “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” It will take an eternity for the glory of that grace to be fully displayed for finite people. Therefore, we will be increasingly happy in God for ever and ever. That is the final meaning of adoption.

Freedom in Christ

Everyone is a slave in the spiritual sense. We are either slaves to sin, which is our natural state, or we are slaves to Christ.

Romans 6:16(HCSB)16 Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey—either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?

John 8:34(HCSB)34 Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.

The writers of the New Testament willingly declared their status as slaves of Christ. Paul opens his letter to the Romans by referring to himself as a “slave of Jesus Christ” Romans 1:1(HCSB)Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news— and his letter to Titus by calling himself a “slave of God” Titus 1:1(HCSB)Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to build up the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness,. James opens his epistle the same way, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” James 1:1(HCSB)James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: To the 12 tribes in the Dispersion.Greetings..

We read about freedom, dream about freedom, rejoice in the notion of freedom, teach, advocate, and hope for freedom, but what do we mean by freedom?

Freedom means many things to many people.  We can view freedom politically, as having the opportunity to vote for particular ideas, people, or parties which best represent our views.  Closely tied to this is the notion of freedom of speech, where one has the liberty to voice their personal opinion or perspective. Others understand freedom in a financial context, where people seek to free themselves of financial debt, outstanding credit, and burdensome loans.

What does true freedom look like?  Does it look like a voter’s ballot or someone walking out of prison?  Is it seen in being able to buy anything I want or in the fact that I don’t owe a thing to anyone?  Of course, it’s crucial to define what we mean by freedom so that we know what we’re looking for, what we’re hoping to attain.

Say a child runs outside and climbs a tree because he wants to get away and be free.  In his effort to be free, the boy wanders out onto a tree limb, turns around, and begins severing the last connection he has with the world — the limb.  Having sawed through the limb, the boy quickly realizes that he not only failed in achieving his goal of complete freedom, but discovers that what he was seeking wasn’t true freedom at all.  In his effort to achieve freedom, the boy finds himself in a worse situation then before — broken limbs and all!

Two sides of the freedom coin

Freedom is a basic human desire, so we would expect to read about it in the Bible. While the Bible speaks often of freedom, its focus is most frequently related to the spiritual freedom a person can experience in Christ.

Not surprisingly, the Bible says quite a bit about freedom, despite any impressions we might have about it being merely a book of restrictive rules. In reality, if we are willing to consider it, the Bible can help us distinguish between what it means for us to be free from something and to be free to do or be something. Freedom from and freedom to are two sides of the freedom coin.

It is interesting that many of the freedoms we seek today are seen as ends in themselves, as a final goal to be attained.  It’s as though we think that once our particular freedom is achieved, all our problems will be solved.  Why?  Because we’ll have freedom!  But freedom from what?  And freedom to do or be what?

For example, let’s say that we’re in deep financial debt.  We realize our desperate state and begin to strategically work our way out of financial bondage.  It may take months, years, or even decades, but eventually we hope to balance our budget and move from being in the red to black.  But, even if we accomplish our goal and attain financial freedom, particularly freedom from debt, have we really attained true freedom?  In other words, does having no financial debt necessarily mean that we have attained financial freedom?

Not really.  See, our hearts, which drove us into debt in the first place, remain unchanged.  It may be the case, and unfortunately it often is, that as soon as we get out of debt, we plunge right back into it.  Why?  Because our hearts see and desire something it cannot live without.  So we buy it, and Bam!  We’re in debt again.  So, if our hearts are not changed, neither will our behavior change.  That’s why the Bible says that true freedom begins in the heart. We act on our thoughts and behave according to our desires. Psalms 51:10(HCSB)God, create a clean heart for me

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Ezekiel 11:19-21(HCSB)And I will give them one heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove their heart of stone from their bodies and give them a heart of flesh, 20 so they may follow My statutes, keep My ordinances, and practice them. Then they will be My people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts pursue their desire for detestable things and practices, I will bring their actions down on their own heads.” This is the declaration of the Lord God.

Interestingly, the Bible likens the human heart to a tree, in which,
Matthew 7:17-18(HCSB)17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit.;

Matthew 12:33-35(HCSB)33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. 35 A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil..  The source of our actions is the heart.  If it’s bad, the fruit (our actions) is bad too.

Of course, it’s always good to be out of debt, but to simply balance the books is only a outer remedy.  It is merely treating the symptoms rather than dealing with the disease. True freedom is only achieved when our hearts are changed, not when the books are balanced.

The same can be said for political and verbal freedom.  Both are significantly good and should be advocated and protected, but they are outer freedoms in comparison to true freedom.  True freedom occurs only in the heart when it is changed and made new. 

2 Corinthians 5:17(HCSB) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

What then is this “true” freedom?

There is a debt that every human has, a disease that we all suffer from, which no human strategy can ever conquer or cure. It is not a bondage to external things primarily, though it does work its way out in external expressions.  No, our problem is much deeper.  It is bondage of the will, a captivity of the soul, a deadness of heart.

The Bible tells us that we were made by God to honor Him and delight in Him forever.  Yet, we chose to sin and rebel against God by abandoning our created purpose of worshiping Him in order to do our own thing and pridefully make a name for ourselves.  This rebellion against God, known as the Fall, caused mankind to fall from the innocence in which they were created and become corrupted by sin.

Due to our sin, we have all received the consequential penalty of sin, namely spiritual and physical death.  Death reigns in all of us so every one of us is spiritual dead (separated from God) and will also die physically one day.  Not only this, but throughout our life, the effects of sin infect everything we do.  The stains of sin are permeate through each one of us, distorting the way we think, what we desire, and how we behave.  All of our thoughts, feelings, and actions are tainted by our sin.

Yet, in all of this, the human heart remains free.  Free to choose whatever it desires. But here’s the catch — the human heart is corrupted and enslaved by evil.  So, the only thing it desires is evil.  All our thoughts, words, and actions are tainted in various degrees with prideful sin and rebellion against God.  So even though we are free to choose, we only freely choose sin all the time. Jeremiah 17:9-10(HCSB)The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?10 I, Yahweh, examine the mind,I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve

Ultimately, the final consequence of our sin against God is hell, a state of total and unending disconnection and separation from God, a place of unhindered and perpetual bondage to unrestrained evil, horror, and suffering resulting from everyone doing all their selfish and sinful hearts desire, no matter what harm it may cause to others.

Yet, God in His love sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to come to earth and willingly die in the place of sinful humans like us to absorb all our sin, rebellion and wrongdoing.  Therefore, all who entrust their complete life to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins will be saved from their bondage to sin and given eternal life in Him and enjoy an intimate and personal connection and relationship with God himself.

This is true freedom.   And true freedom only exists in Jesus Christ.  How does it happen?  God changes our heart by His Holy Spirit.  God makes us spiritually alive by giving us a new heart. This heart desires to love God.  Jeremiah 24:7(HCSB)7 I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am Yahweh. They will be My people, and I will be their God because they will return to Me with all their heart. It sees Jesus Christ as beautiful and desires to love Him as the Lord and Savior of our life.  By faith, we give our life to Jesus and receive His forgiveness and freedom from sin. Ephesians 2:8-9(HCSB)8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 

First, freedom in Christ is seen in contrast to the bondage of sin.

Romans 6:20-23(ESV)  “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In other words, sin enslaves people for spiritual death and eternity apart from God. Knowing Christ provides freedom from the control of sin and eternal life with Him.

A person who has experienced true freedom in Christ is called to live as His servant. The apostle Paul was an example of this, as many of his letters began with the introduction of himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1). We are set free to serve Christ. This seems like a paradox to the non-believer, yet the freedom found in Christ gives the believer a desire to live for Christ as a servant.

Yet this freedom does not mean sin is completely removed. Paul spoke of his ongoing struggle with sin (Romans 7:15-20(HCSB)15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. 19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me., yet also noted that sin no longer controlled him.

He was now a person who sought to live a transformed life because of his new life in Christ. This included put off old habits and developing new patterns that honored God (Ephesians 4:22-32(HCSB)22 You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; 23 you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; 24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. 25 Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the Devil an opportunity. 28 The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. 29 No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. 30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him[h] for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ..

In short, we experience true freedom in Christ by knowing Him, walking in His ways, and engaging with the changes He makes in and through our lives as we focus on service to Him and to others. This freedom transcends the human freedoms desired in this world, providing peace in this life and freedom with Christ forevermore. Not only this, but we are now free to do the very thing we were created to do — to honor and enjoy God forever.  And this joy in God is from our heart — our new heart given to us by God.

This is true freedom.  This is grace.