Many Christians are suffering for their faith in this world. Even in countries without active persecution, Christians are excluded and face problems for simply being faithful. God cares deeply about this. Pray to Him about this. Ask for justice to be done. You can confident God knows your situation and listens.
Ahab and Jezebel and their family ruled Israel as tyrants; we read of their exploits in the latter part of the book of 1 Kings. They were not satisfied with setting up an alternative religion to Baal instead of worshipping the true God. They went much further than this, seeking out God’s prophets to kill them (1 Kings 18:4). True believers went into hiding so that Elijah thought he was the only one left (1 Kings 19:14).
What do you think the faithful believers in those days prayed for at night? I am sure they prayed for the downfall of the rule of Ahab and Jezebel. They wanted God to get the glory He deserved from his people. They would pray that God would care for them.
Naboth was one of these faithful believers who was killed by Ahab and Jezebel (the full story is in 1 Kings 21). He stood up against a king who wanted to take his land, even though God gave it to him as an inheritance. Naboth was executed on trumped-up charges and his sons were also killed to ensure the crown got to keep his land. This act of injustice led to a promise of the fall of the house of Ahab in a bloody and terrible way.
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By Benjamin Glaser — 7 months ago
If you go and read Paul’s letters to Thessalonica (and other places) there is more spoken about the way their mutual love for him had encouraged him than any other thing they had done. For the Apostle there was always a desire to be physically present with the men and women of the local church. He is constantly hoping to go to places and see believers he had never met before. A kind of spiritual wanderlust motivated much of Paul’s missionary labors. It is worth asking the question about where this came from. Why did he think it so important, and needed, for his own well-being?
Of all people Christians should be the most concerned about personal piety. That word can be defined in many ways, but it simply means our interest in Jesus, and how we go about cultivating that faith. Lots of folks are involved in spiritual programs designed to make them better people. Yet, the follower of Christ’s way should look different both in the why we seek to be holy, and how we go about it. Our desire is not for an ever-changing scheme, but being grounded in the simplicity of the Christian faith. We should always be hopeful in answering any questions about what we believe, especially about why we do what we do. How we put that belief into practice in real life, not in our false conceptions of reality, but as things really are should be a straight-forward thing. However, that isn’t always the case for many. A false conception of their place in the Kingdom is belied by their lack of focus on a proper answer. That comes from a lack of interest in developing a right relationship with the Redeemer. Being a “God-fearer” is not sufficient, as James notes even the Devil is aware the Lord exists, that Jesus came to save sinners, and in that he still trembles. For a lively faith there needs to be some fruitful proof to our spiritual pudding. Nominal belief is a damnable offense against Jehovah God.
The Puritan Jonathan Dickinson says this:
Christianity consists not merely in speculation, but in practice. We must not only give our assent to the truth of the gospel, but give up our hearts to Christ. The faith which He requires is not a slight superficial belief that He is the Redeemer of mankind, but such a faith as will form us into subjection and obedience to Himself.
In our worship and prayer help today we are going to think more deeply about our walk with Christ and how we can improve our desire to seek holiness. The reason this matters in the eyes of the Lord is that the goal of sanctification which begins in the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is a non-negotiable in the Christian life. We are to be consistently and regularly dying to self and living to Jesus. A soul who regards the process of being made more like our Redeemer with a nonchalance gives rise to a concern that there is something seriously wrong, eternally so.
In our sermon this past Lord’s Day we heard this from Moses, “This day the Lord your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.” There I highlighted that word “careful”. We’re watchful over the things that matter to us. If you are moved by this question then I have good news for you. God has granted a way to help in the fight.
By David de Bruyn — 10 months ago
Pride obscures our relationship with God by treating God as smaller than he actually is, and treating ourselves as greater than we actually are. Pride is a distortion of reality. God can no more work with pride than reason with a lunatic. Pride is a kind of moral madness, where we see ourselves as gods with intrinsic beauty. With pride goes unbelief, which is refusing to accept what God says about us, himself and reality. We can only love and reverence God rightly if we grant to God his true place of firstness in our lives.
At the heart of reverence, or holy love, are six components: otherness, openness, submissiveness, gratefulness, childlikeness, and wholeheartedness. To rescue reverence is to understand these in turn.
What is the fundamental obstacle to knowing and loving God? Self-worship. Pride and unbelief, the two sides of the coin of Self, are at the root of every sin, and therefore at the root of fleeing from God. Stubborn independence, guiltily skulking away, and refusing to find pleasure in his beauty come from the flesh’s desire to rule. Unbelieving pride is the mother of all sins, and the root of all spiritual malfunction.
If we are to worship God by knowing him, the absolute starting point is that we recognise he is God and we are not. Christianity broken down to its first principle is this: only one God exists, and he is not us. He is not a means to our own ends. We have been created to know and love him for who he is. If we are to love God as he is, we must deny ourselves, recognising that our lives do not revolve around ourselves, since we orbit the sun that is God, not the other way around. We must turn from trying to use God, or manipulate God, and come to him to love him as our only God. We must settle on the fact that there will be only one ultimate love in our lives, and it will be God. A failure to give God his place as God is at the root of all our problems.
This foundational attitude of loving God we could call otherness. It understands that the Great Choice of life is to acknowledge God’s claim on us, go out of ourselves, as Augustine put it, and acknowledge God’s claim on us. Our fundamental posture is oriented away from self towards the other: the Great Other Himself.
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth. (Psa 115:1)
Otherness is to understand that life is not about self. Life is about going outside of ourselves to God. It is about him. He is God, we are not. He is the source, we are not. He is Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End. This is the starting point of the fear of the Lord.
A biblical word for otherness is humility.
By Carl Trueman — 9 months ago
Why do we worship? Not “we” as in some abstracted notion of the people of God but “we” as individuals. Do we worship to be made to feel good or do we worship as a response to the being and work of a holy God, and thereby conform ourselves (and understand our experiences and feelings) in light of that God? Unless it is the latter then we are allowing our own complicity in expressive individualism to drive our worship.
There is a real danger for Christians as they assess many modern developments regarding the human person—whether matters of sex and sexuality, abortion, euthanasia, or simply what we might call the generally self-centered nature of modern consumerist life. That danger is the one committed by the Pharisee in the Temple, the one who uttered the words, “I thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men.” That prayer immediately set him apart from his contemporaries and exempted him, at least in his own eyes, from the moral problems of his age.
Expressive Individualism in Contemporary Worship
If expressive individualism is the typical way in which people think of themselves and their relationship to the world, then Christians must understand that they too are deeply implicated. We can no more abstract ourselves from our social and cultural context, and the intuitions that our context cultivates, than we can leave our bodies and float to the moon. Indeed, our first thought must not be that of the Pharisee but rather that of the disciples when Jesus told them that one of them would betray him, “Is it I, Lord?” Such an approach will not only reflect and reinforce appropriate humility; it may also help to free us just a little from the culture that surrounds us. To know how the world encourages us to think and live will equip us to resist it.
Simply put, expressive individualism pervades modern Christian life. Those of us who attend churches with a traditionalist worship aesthetic would likely point to modern praise songs and worship styles as evidence for this. Many Christians view worship as a time to “express themselves”; in doing so, they highlight the benefits of “spontaneity,” or musical arrangements that play to the emotions, or lyrics that focus on first-person-singular feelings. This is low-hanging fruit to make the case that modern Christianity is deeply shaped by expressive individualism.
While the expression of feelings in worship is certainly not wrong—the Psalms are replete with such—the focus on emotions too often becomes an end in itself rather than a stage on the road to bringing those feelings into conformity with God’s Word. The inner psychological state of the psalmist is always ultimately to be interpreted through the grid of God’s revelation. Even Psalm 88, the bleakest psalm with the most painful expressions of desolation, addresses God at the start by his covenant name. The despair is still to be set within the context of God’s covenant commitment to his people. In the world of expressive individualism, however, the truth of emotions is found not in their conformity to God’s revelation but in the sincerity of their expression. When that characterizes a worship song, whether in terms of lyrics or music, it is highly problematic.
So there are legitimate grounds for seeing expressive individualism in contemporary worship.
But the situation is more subtle than that, and worship traditionalists do not have legitimate cause to reach for the words of the pharisee’s prayer simply because they are traditionalists.