Why Do We Do the Things We Do During Church Services?

WHAT MAKES OUR WORSHIP SERVICES GENUINE?

black-and-white-shake-hands

I was saved, became a true believer in Christ Jesus in 1972.  Almost 43 years ago this August.  My knowledge of church doctrine began and grew, increasing over the years.

And then, in 2006, my spiritual life took a 180 degree turn. [See my blog: My Spiritual “Rabbit Hole” and Taking the “Redpill” https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/my-spiritual-r…ng-the-redpill/]

Our Freedom of Worship and Praise Can Pose Perils–

WORSHIP must truly be worship!

TRUE WORSHIP isn’t religious excitement, nor appeals to the flesh.  Our worship services may take undesirable directions–there may be formality with lack of spiritual liberty, or there may be lack of scriptural order and control.

Spiritual leaders are responsible in bringing people into God’s presence and making them realize “God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth”  (John 4:24 NIV).  But formality can develop in the ritual of the informal church.

Meaningless HABITS can be hard to break–

Neither Pentecostal routine nor ecclesiastical liturgy is TRUE WORSHIP.  When we in the Pentecostal churches, or any Christian church throughout the world, follow an order of service that degenerates into meaningless habit, they have nothing more than ritual.

The apostle Paul outlined a beautiful WORSHIP PATTERN for the church:  “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church”  (1 Corinthians 14:26 NIV).  

Notice TWO important words in Paul’s instructions: “everyone” and “all”.  

Furthermore, he said:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16 NIV).  

Yes, while sitting, or standing in church during church services, we too can be the “spiritual leaders”.

We are told to EXHORT, urge one another, and not to forsake “giving together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching”  (Hebrews 10:25)

CONGREGATIONAL WORSHIP DESCRIBED:

Our church services then, should all be based on scriptural instruction; that all members of the whole body of Christ should SHARE in worship as the Holy Spirit indwells them, and then yielding to Him.  Then people who fill the church pews are no longer spectators, wondering how they will be entertained.  They become “spiritual leaders.”

QUESTION:  So why then, do we do what we do on Sunday mornings?

Assessing Praise & Worship On Sunday Mornings at Church –

Have we become so self-serving that a fellowship time, or lack of it, is a make or break thing for people in going to church?

What about where we put the offering, if we include it at the end of the service, as some would suggest, should I be so offended that I don’t go back to THAT church?

Her is another issue to think about.  I know a good number of people who HATE to sing, so should we do away with singing because so many people cannot carry a tune and they are afraid someone might hear them?

I once had a pastor who said he was tempted to put up tables in the foyer of the church.  A TABLE with hearing aids, for those who couldn’t hear; cotton balls, for those who said the music was too loud; binoculars, for those who couldn’t see, etc.  In other words, “no excuse tables”– for people who needed an excuse for not attending the praise and worship services.

Excuses are always present…

I think any excuse could be made for not going back to church: the PREACHING is too long…or too short; the MUSIC is too loud or too soft; there are too many gray hairs…or young people…oh, and I cannot deal with perfume, I wish people would quit wearing  it.

Even JESUS didn’t have everyone stay…He laid out the cost, and many left…so, a more important question to ask ourselves is,

WHAT MAKES OUR WORSHIP GENUINE?

“Worship is not dependant upon environment and circumstance but most people are not oblivious to environment.”  ~ G. Raymond Carlson

Real, Genuine, Heartfelt, and Relevant Worship at Church Services –

“MEET & GREET” Purpose, or is there a specific purpose?

In a recent Twitter poll (not scientific), asking first-time church quests, what factors made them decide not to return.  The surprise factor was the number one issue–Don’t like the time spent of stand and greet one another. *[See all 7 Answers to Twitter Poll–by Thom S. Rainer @ Christian Post Contributor]  

According to the Twitter responses and comments, many quests really don’t like it, so much so that they will not return.

So what is it about this “stand and greet” time that many guests don’t like?  

#7 Answer: Not only do some guests dread the stand, meet, and greet time, so do some members –

“I visited the church and went through the ritual of standing and greeting, but many of the church members looked just as uncomfortable as I was. We were all doing a required activity that none of us like.” 

My views are mixed about the practice.  Would I not attend church because of the practice? No! But I do have issue with the timing, the placement in the order of the service, the interruption in my spirit after praise, more than the actual practice.

So I decided to ask my pastor for his views, his desires, within church services, why we do what we do on Sunday mornings

[PASTOR KYLE HOPKINS – Lead Pastor at Valley Church, located in Nooksack, Washington.]

I believe that everything has a practical purpose, but also a deeper spiritual purpose. i.e. the Meet & Greet:  It practically serves a purpose, causing people to get to know each other, meet someone new, say “hello”, etc…  It spiritually is an opportunity for us to speak into someone’s life, give a word of encouragement and share a message of knowledge/discernment; to briefly connect with someone who the Spirit would lay on our heart to meet up with them, pray for them, etc…  The order is usually where does the Spirit want to lead us and practically, what makes sense to get us there. Like a piece of music, there should be a rhythm, a flow.  I think it’s good for every service gathering to have a crescendo, building to a place that God desires to lead us during that time.

2 Timothy 3:5 (KJV)

“…having the appearance of godliness…”

ENTER HIS COURTS WITH PRAISE – Psalm 95 – “O COME,…”

The first thing I consider when driving to church on Sundays, listening to PRAISE MUSIC on the car’s CD player is, “whom is it I coming to see?”

We are supposed to be coming into the presence of the living God, the Author and Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe; the God who was, and is and always will be.

We are coming into the presence of the God about whom the songwriter said,

“Before the hills in order stood or earth received her fame,

from everlasting thou art God

and to endless years the same.”

THE FIRST THING to consider about being in our church services,  in whose presence are we standing?  Why are we even here for one hour or so?  If we are attending church weekly, just to fill up a hour or so once a week… then leave and continue living in a godless world, forgetting who we are in Christ...then are we missing the point?

Let’s go over the Church Bulletin!

There are other aspects in the order of church services that vary from church to church.  But let me throw one more element of ‘why we do what we do’ and the religious placement where it’s found.

The Tithes and Offerings…

Psalm 96:6-8 NIV Bible:

[6] Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and glory are in His sanctuary.

[7]  Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

[8]  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; …

Now see the flow, the “rhythm” of the elements place in order.  No interruptions that I can see.

“…bring an offering and come into His courts”  (verse 8 b.).

The OFFERING was given after the glory was given to His name–the BLESSING then the GLORY.

The Placement of “things we do” is Important on Sunday’s –

Although our singing can and should be the beginning to PRAISE–but it will not produce WORSHIP.  And isn’t that what we are to suppose to be here for?  The MESSAGE is important, but is it the point of our attendance?

John MacArthur gives this helpful clarification (on qty.org. “Messiah: The Living Water,” part 2):

“Worship, by the way is not music.  Worship is loving God…Worship is honoring God…Worship is to know God for who He is, adoring Him, obeying Him, proclaiming Him as a way of life.  Music is one way we can express that adoration.”

After all that is said concerning the answers to the question, “Why Do We Do the Things We Do…?”, I had to ask a follow-up question…“How much cultural freedom has been substituted for TRUE WORSHIP in our church services?”

Almost every Sunday morning after singing praises to my God, there is a sense of infilling of the Holy Spirit, a continuance of PRAISE so that I can fully WORSHIP HIM.

This is probably a poor analogy, but it is like God’s Spirit has inflated [“infilled”] my spirit with His breath, like the filling up of a balloon.

Balloon-blowup

And then, STAND, MEET & GREET time begins, and afterwards…I feel like a deflated piece of latex.

deflated-balloon-628x363-628x330

Is what we do, when we do it, a PRIORITY on Sunday mornings? The more important question becomes, “Is what we’re doing, worshipping in spirit and truth?

If your answer is “yes,” then forget all that I’ve said.  If your answer is “no,” then it’s time perhaps, to change the order, the placement of traditions on Sunday mornings, or whenever you are in WORSHIP & PRAISE.


 PHOTO CREDITS:

Hand shake–Christian Post photo insert by Thom Rainer.

Other Photos by Google Search Images [Balloon images].

BIBLE CREDITS:

As noted– New International Version (NIV), King James version (KJV).

“Soul Fasting” (Part Two)

“SOUL FASTING” or “TRUE FASTING” (Part One continued) :

CONTINUING in Jeremiah 58 verses 6-7 (NIV).

[6]  Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  [7] Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood? 

With the title, as The WORD Detective, I like to break down sentence structures in the Bible while I study and meditate on God’s Word for a perspective blog-POST.  Verse 6 & 7 is but one example.

INFINITIVE VERBS–

An infinitive verb is a verb with the word “to” in front of it (eg. “to loose”, “to set”, “to share”, etc.) showing action.  (See Footnote [i])

In Verses 6 and 7, I learned through and by my investigation, the importance of TRUE FASTING and the desired outcomes of my actions.  Yes, there should always be an outcome from FASTING!

My whole outlook into God’s desires  has changed my point of view towards the practice of FASTING.  Not of my desires, or the churches desires, or someone elses, but God’s desire through my fasting can and will be accomplished.

We cannot be saved by deeds of service without FAITH IN CHRIST; but our faith lacks sincerity if it does reach out in compassion.

The PURPOSE of Soul Fasting–

The FOUR INFINITIVE VERBS in Verses 6 & 7, all pertain to LIBERATION.  God says He wants our service to go beyond our own personal growth to acts of kindness, charity, justice, and generosity.  FASTING should be more than what we don’t eat.  It is obvious that this type of FAST is not a ritualistic one but for spiritual strength, bringing liberation to God’s people (the Church).

Have you ever felt “liberated” after you’ve fasted? The few times that I have fasted, LIBERATION never entered my mind.  Counting the hours so I could end my fast was all that I desired.

THE FIRST DESIRE OR PURPOSE–

The first desire of “soul fasting,” which honors God, is to loosen the bonds of wickedness (“chains of injustice”); while in our FASTING, that God would open the wicked bonds that have been placed upon you or someone else or a congregation.

Unchain the binding yoke
Unchain the binding yoke

The SECOND CLAUSE, to “untie the cords” or undo the bonds of the yoke, indicates the people who are mutually beneficial to one another, are to FAST that this oppressive yoke of burden, misguidance or direction over us is broken.

God tells His people, “If you want to FAST the way that pleases Me, start getting right with your brothers and sisters that sit next to you, in front of you, and across the aisle from you every Sunday.”  [“I don’t smoke and I don’t chew. And I don’t associate with people who do!”].

The NEXT CLAUSE, to let the oppressed go free while we are FASTING; to pray for those who are oppressed in whatever form (socially, culturally), will be set free to serve God.

The statement “break every yoke” pictures the complete destruction of the means of oppression.  Those who are then freed by God can then spread the freedom to others.

The results of “soul fasting”, pursues and continues in VERSE 7

Not only does it require God’s POWER to enact justice, it also enacts God’s POWER to enact FAVOR, BLESSING, BENEVOLENCE to those around us.

“NO NEGLECT HERE!”

God’s people were not to neglect each other.  When someone shared with one in need, it was a reminder of everything one owned belonged to the LORD.

FASTING THAT CHANGES THE HEART:

“SOUL FASTING” changes the heart and make it compassionate.

“YOU” is singular.  The statements in VERSE 7 are directed to each person, to each of us.

Notice that you are to DIVIDE YOUR BREAD with the hungry of the same food that you are eating.  We must deny ourselves, that we may SHARE with that person that’s hungry.

stock-photo-breaking-bread-close-up-180998312
Dividing your BREAD with the hungry

Second, you and I are to provide lodging to those that do not have a house–provide shelter for the cast out poor, forced from his/her dwelling, turned out of house and home.

Third, we are to provide clothing for those who lack them.  “OUR OWN FLESH” probably refers to close relatives (Gen. 37:27).  God expects us to see the situation of our family and to take care of them.

My son once told my wife and I, that in our old age, if we can’t take care of ourselves, we could come and live at his house.  Now I don’t know how our daughter-in-law feels about that proposed idea, but the compassion of family is there.

God’s people SHARE with those who lack the basic needs of life.  Those who know in their own lives the compassionate blessing He brings, should in turn extend it to others.

These acts on behalf of others becomes the outward evidence of inward faith and righteousness (Job 31:17-20; Ezek. 18:7, 16).  JESUS identified with the hungry and naked (Mt. 25:36).

“TRUE FASTING” is to be concerned with more than our physical and spiritual benefits.  God wants us to go beyond concern of our own spiritual growth.

“SOUL FASTING” is more than NOT eating.  It is the emptying of SELF in order to find what we need in Christ Jesus, in order to please God with word and deed.

THE PRECIOUS PROMISE, Verses 8-12:

VERSE 8 begins to set forth some BLESSINGS upon a life that becomes right with God:

“Then your LIGHT will break forth like the dawn, and your HEALING will quickly appear; then your RIGHTEOUSNESS will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard” (NIV).

God offers PRECIOUS PROMISES for those who FAST in TRUTH--“Soul Fast”.  To be changed and have the situation changed to those in need of change.

God wants me to know that He will honor those who TRULY FAST in order to honor Him.

FOUR BLESSINGS ARE PROMISED–

LIGHT, HEALING, GUIDANCE and PROTECTION.

I don’t know about you, my desire is to have these four blessings in my life.  It’s not a wish, but a PROMISE to us who observe the TRUE FAST.

The FIRST PROMISE of LIGHT that comes is when we are focusing our life on SELF, resulting in DARKNESS.  Unless JESUS is the center of our interest, LIFE, in and of itself, is heading towards darkness.

The next BLESSING is…your recovery will speedily spring forth.  This recovery indicates to us HEALING or RESTORATION when unconstrained speed of LIGHT is accentuated.

The peoples RIGHT BEHAVIOR causes the righteousness of God to protect and guide them on their way.

The Advance Guard and the Rear Guard is in Place–

As the advance guard and the rear guard provide protection, so the RIGHTEOUSNESS and the GLORY OF GOD (revealed in the manifested presence), will guard against whatever came against God’s people.

Thus, REPENTANT people are surrounded by divine protection.

If the people had inner RIGHTEOUSNESS (revealed in outward acts of justice and mercy, vv 6 & 7), then…the LORD would BLESS them (Deut. 28:1-14) with LIGHT, HEALING (spiritual restoration), RIGHTEOUSNESS (high standards), and PROTECTION from trouble.

OTHER CONDITIONAL PROMISES, Verse 9:

Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say; Here am I.

Under these conditions, the FAITHFUL BELIEVER could call upon God and expect answered prayer.

They had been trying to use God while at the same time, oppressing the weak and needy.  God thus was holding back His response (the COMPLAINT of vv. 1-3).

Selfish Religious Activity…

Our “selfish religious activity” will certainly have a hindrance to our PRAYERS (59:1-2).  God is ACTIVE for His people when they are ACTIVE for others.

Other Problematic Areas, (Verse 9 b.)–

If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk.

The FIRST of the problematic concern is the need to remove the yoke.

Pointing a finger of accusation and blame at another or gossiping maliciously (speaking wickedness) about another is SINFUL and it pushes God away from the accuser–the one who is doing the “finger-pointing”.

Having a critical spirit towards others during my life has been a spiritual burden over the past years.  All my “trying not to…” hasn’t worked.  So when these feelings overcome me today; criticizing others and pointing a finger, I REPENT, letting the POWER OF JESUS who is inside of me, live through me.

The Conditions for the BLESSING to continue, Verse 12:

Living as a BUBBLING SPRING!
Living as a BUBBLING SPRING!

And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the DESIRE of the afflicted, then your LIGHT will standout in the darkness of your gloom as midday.

In verses 11 & 12, the BLESSINGS are continued:  Our LORD promises GUIDANCE, SATISFACTION, STRENGTH, and REFRESHING (like a spring).

Oh, to be GUIDED continually by God through the decisions of life; to be SATISFIED  when the world around us is on fire with thirst.

To be PLEASING and ATTRACTIVE like a well-watered garden to those around us.

To be FOUNTAINS OF JOY and COMFORT to the dry and weary soul around us.

All this and more for fulfilling certain conditions God gives us through the prophet.

And, there is even more, Verse 12.

RESTORATION and the REBUILDING of the RUINS OF MAN–

God promises to His compassionate people, that RUIN and DESTRUCTION can be overcome from His Blessed People.

Though the SIN of the fallen race eventually destroys everything it touches, God is greater than our sin.  He gives us the POWER to restore and repair what has been ruined (friendships, family, new relationships, etc.).  [See Footnote [ii]].  Oh, to be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets where people dwell.  God will enable us to put back together that which was ruined and broken.

To Fast or Not to Fast?

I hope that you just might have a better understanding of the FASTING pleases God.  The TRUE FAST, the “Soul Fast”.  So ask yourself before you deny yourself food, and that is what the Hebrew word som means: “abstaining from food and drink in the ritual sphere of Israelite worship.” [See Footnote [iii]].  Remember, JESUS own “FASTING” in the wilderness prior to the beginning of His public ministry is noted in Matt. 4:2. 

So the question isn’t “To fast, or not”, but what is the condition of our heart, mind and spirit (our souls) before, during, and after we FAST?

 

FOOTNOTES:

[i]     http://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/infinitive_html.

[ii]   Oswalt, NIC, 507.

[iii]  Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words.

Photo Credits:

All from Photo Pin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“MASQUERADE” – Removing the Masks of Religion!

SCRIPTURE TEXT:

[3] “[The acts of the hypocrite’s worship are as abominable to God as if they were offered to idols.]  He who kills an ox [then] will be as guilty as if he slew and sacrificed a man; he who sacrifices a lamb or a kid, as if he broke a dog’s neck and sacrificed him; he offers a cereal offering, as if he offered swine’s blood; he who burns incense [to God], as if he blessed an idol.  [Such people] have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations;  [4] So I also will choose their delusions and mockings, and I will bring their fears upon them–because when I called, no one answered; when I spoke, they did not listen or obey.  But they did what was evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight”  (Isaiah 66:3-4 AMP).

Well, after a month and a half, and my last three posted blogs, I find myself in the last chapter of Isaiah.  You might be asking yourself, as I found myself asking,  ‘Why these particular verses of the last chapter?  The Religious Ways of Man?’

WITHOUT A HUMBLE SPIRIT:

ADVENT

FIRST of all, the focus is NOT on HUMILITY, or even definitions of WORSHIP, but more about “the WHY’s” of our worship; why we do the things we do.

Often over the years, I have wondered why Christian denominations practice their rituals of worship without any Biblical understanding.  Christmas Advent Candles, Lent, Ash Wednesday, Church fasting, and Communion…on the first Sunday of every month, are just some examples.

Now I’m not saying that these religious events are out-of-order in the Church, but has religion and religious acts, for the sake of ‘just doing it because of tradition become hateful and distasteful to God?  There becomes a ‘honor with lips, but the heart holds up’ (Mark 7:6) that shows up in our private and corporate ways of worship.  Now that I got that off my chest…that’s where I want to begin.

Hypocrisy is Rebuked – Isaiah 66, verse 3.

The language seems specifically chosen for the purpose of offending religion in that day, even in our day.  Strange comparisons in verse 3 indicate people’s religious sacrifices and offerings were but an external ritual.

WHAT IS HYPOCRISY IN WORSHIP ?

Lets start out with Stephen D. Renn’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts:  The Old Testament word for Hypocrisy, Hypocrite in the Hebrew Language is haneph [Strong, 2611]. 

The noun occurs thirteen times and refers to people who are “profane,” “godless,” or “hypocritical” (cf.  Job 8:13; 17:8; 36:13; Prov. 11:9; Isaiah 9:17; 33:14). 

In Isaiah 66, the term is used by the Amplified translators use of Brackets [  ]; contain justified clarifying words or comments not actually expressed in the immediate original text, as well as definitions of Hebrew and Greek names.  This idea was intended to achieve the greatest possible clarity and understanding in their reading of the text.  The Amplified Bible is what I choose to read and study for this Blog.  I am NOT necessarily endorsing the translation as the only accurate translation, just my personal choice.

The New Testament word is hypokrisis [Strong 5272, 5273].  In the Greek text, the term refers to the practice of dissimulation or hypocrisy, with the Pharisees being the target of Christ’s public condemnation during His earthly ministry; hypokrisis occurs seven times and is translated “hypocrisy” in all but one text, James 5:12, where it is translated as “condemnation.”  It is also found in Matt. 23:28; Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1; Gal. 2:13; 1 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 2:1.

In Mark 7:6-7, JESUS is speaking to the “religious leaders” of His day:

“[6] Excellently and truly did Isaiah prophesy of you, the pretenders and hypocrites, as it stands written:

These people [constantly] honor Me with their lips, but their hearts hold off and are far distant from me.

[7]  In vain (fruitlessly and without profit) do they worship Me, ordering and teaching [to be obeyed] as doctrines commandments and precepts of men.”

The Strange Comparisons of Isaiah 66:3–

The words Isaiah uses, indicates the peoples religious sacrifices and offerings of that day were but an external ritual; a tradition of religion.  Their proud sacrifices were but external compliance to man.  In their hearts…they still served themselves.

Since there was no change in heart [“heart condition”], their tithes and offerings had become an abomination to God, as murder was and perverted as offering unclean animals (Lev. 11:7).  In reality, they were going do it their way (Isaiah 53:6; 65:12), rather than the Lord’s way.  Frank Sinatra would have been proud!

What God Desires–The Lord’s Way.

God tells us, in Hosea 6:6, what He desires:

“For I desire and delight in dutiful steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings.”

Anything, and I mean “anything” we give to God, not accompanied by a heart of mercy and obedience isn’t acceptable.  Our society that we live in and work in, urges us to be assertive; follow our urges and fulfill our desires.

Don’t let your freedom and right to choose lead you away from God’s pathway of eternal life.  God looks for a heartfelt obedience      (2 Chronicles 16:9; 1 Samuel 16:7).

Why God Despises Their Worship–

“So I will choose their delusions and mockings, their calamities and afflictions, and I will bring their fears upon them–because when I (God) called, no one answered; when I spoke, they did not listen or obey.  But they did evil in My sight and chose that in which I did not delight”  (Isaiah 66:4).

Their refusal, in responding to God’s call to come and listen to Him, brought about harsh judgement in the last four lines of verse 4.  It is almost identical to Isaiah 65:12 based on people’s choices.

People in Israel (the congregation), professed to know the Lord in their doings.  But actually, their doings, their play-acting— were evil because they did not choose God’s way.  And since they have chosen their way, God will choose their punishments; they will become victims of nameless fears which haunt their subconscious minds.

“SPIRITUAL HEART DISEASE” CAN BE PREVENTED!

Taking the Holy Spirit’s Lead–

“Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word:  Your brethren who hate you, who cast you out for My name’s sake, have said, Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy!  But it is they who shall be put to shame.  [6] [Hark!]  An uproar from the city!  A voice from the temple!  The voice of the Lord, rendering recompense to His enemies!  (Isaiah 66:5-6 AMP).

The Holy Spirit will lead you in worship.

He will put aside the masks of power, position, pride from your heart in order to humble yourself under God’s mighty hand.  Resist manipulation in the temptation to use your power, position of authority and pride to manipulate people to your advantage.

The apostle Peter wrote, 

“Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you”  (1 Peter 5:6 AMP).

Ask the Lord to help you put aside your dependence on your power, position or pride; enabling you in the best of ways.

UNVEILING THE FIVE MASKS  OF “RELIGIOSITY”:

Masquerade

1.  The Mask of “Legalism”–

The Holy Spirit sends discouragements to those who try to hide behind the “Mask of Legalism”.  Paul wrote to the church at Colossae:

“If then you have died with Christ to material things and have escaped from the world’s crude and elemental notions and teachings of externalism, why do you live as if you still belong to the world?”  (Colossians 2:20).

“If then you have been raised with Christ, aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  [2] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above, not on the things that are on the earth”  (Colossians 3:1, 2 AMP). 

2.  The Masks of “Super Spirituality”–

YES, the Holy Spirit takes us to task with this “chameleon” camouflage we put on at times.  JESUS said to the super-religious of His day,  “You are the ones who declare yourselves just and upright before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is exalted and highly thought of among men is detestable and abhorrent (an abomination) in the sight of God”  (Luke 16:15).

* Ask the Lord to teach you how to be more responsive to His correction when you lean towards Pharisaic spirituality.

3.  The Hiding Behind “Frantic Activity” Mask–

Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia addresses the congregation on this very issue, saying to them,  “know that man is not justified by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.  [17] If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin?  Absolutely not!”  (Galatians 2:16-17 NIV).

* Ask Holy Spirit to find your satisfaction by obeying the will of God, instead of trying to impress people with your church related activities.

4.  The Popularity Mask–

JESUS said,  “Woe to (alas for) you when everyone speaks fairly and handsomely of you and praises you, for even so their forefathers did to the false prophets”  (Luke 6:26 AMP).

* Ask the Lord to help you from hiding behind the “Mask of Popularity”, choosing instead… the of pleasing God, regardless of whether or not it pleases people.

5.  The Holy Spirit Counsels Church Leaders In Hiding Behind the Mask of “Super-Rationalism”–

Paul wrote to the Assembly of Corinth:

“And my language and my message were not set forth in persuasive (enticing and plausible) words of wisdom, but they were in demonstration of the [Holy] Spirit and power [a proof by the Spirit and power of God, operating on me and stirring in the minds of my hearers the most holy emotions and thus persuading them],  So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men (human philosophy), but in the power of God”  (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 AMP).

* Ask the Lord to help you rely more on the Holy Spirit’s empowering rather than human wisdom.

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart write:

“Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted

throughout history or are we acting today.  Christianity stands or falls

on the person of Jesus and Jesus was not a hypocrite. 

He lived consistently with what He taught, and at the end of His life

He challenged those who had lived with Him night and day,

for over three years, to point out any hypocrisy in Him.

His disciples were silent, because there was none.

Since Christianity depends on Jesus, it is incorrect to try

to invalidate the Christian faith by pointing to horrible things done

in the name of Christianity.”

(Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions

Skeptics Ask About the Christian Faith ~ Here’s Life Publishers 1980) pg. 128.

THE CHURCH IS A WORK IN PROGRESS– (and so are its members):

Like a cathedral, it may take decades or centuries to complete.  The process is long and difficult at times but someday…it will be complete, standing as a testimony to the power of Christ that will transform lives for the better.

Until the Church and all the followers of JESUS are glorified there will be, unfortunately, hypocrites in the Church.  That doesn’t negate Christianity or the claims of Christ.

A Fitting CLIMAX to the Book of Isaiah–(Isaiah 66:6):

” [HARK!]  An uproar from the city!  A voice from the temple!  The voice of the Lord, rendering recompense to His enemies.”

The disgrace of the proud and the JOY of the faithful is announced from the Church.  The thought that God Almighty will lift up the humble and judge the wicked is a fitting climax to the Book.

The hope of God’s people, not in the externals of religion (the “masquerade”), but in repentance and faith (the removal of the “MASKS”) and the power of God to enable us to live truly righteous lives.

Faith and power comes from the listening to and obeying God’s Word (Romans 10:17-18).  Even in the climax-ending to The Phantom of The Opera, the Phantom’s mask is gone; removed to reveal all his external flaws, his ugliness.  But Faith removes the mask and unlike the Phantom, reveals the beauty of Christ Jesus in who we want to be.

The Phantom’s Mask
The Mask Removed

Note: Photos from The Phantom Of The Opera was provided by ALL MOVIE PHOTO.com/