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Pleasing God … or entertaining Him?
So let’s give us space to breathe, a time to hear God’s breath, the welcome and gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit as he ‘does his stuff’ with us. After the Word has been preached, by all means allow some to retreat into a yeshiva and dig deeper into the Word. But some of us may want to be left alone for a bit, or need a time of prayer with a friend. Or a bit of repentance may be in order. That’s something neglected, even a bit of an oddity in many churches today, yet surely it’s central to our walk with God, without which we are treading on some very shaky ground. We all slip up and sometimes we need to be nudged to ‘fess up! It is worth reminding ourselves …
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)
We are provided with a simple way of responding to these nudges:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Let’s face it, when a message is preached, God has us pinned down, we’re a captive audience. When better for Him to break through and convict us of an issue, or, to be theologically precise, sins of commission (bad things you have done) and sins of omission (good things you should have done)!
So the preacher has hit a spot. What do we do with it? Yes, the flower rota is interesting, but I’ve got issues to deal with … now! As I said before, we need space to breathe, an opportunity to be alone before the Lord, or perhaps with a trusted prayer partner. At Foundations we provide a quiet room, a place open all of the time, where you can be alone with God. We even provide a mechanism where you can “make your confession” – special paper that you can write on then drop into a goldfish bowl filled with water, where the paper dissolves, along with your confession.
There are other things that you may be inclined to do after the hearing of the Word. There can be the need for worship, for instance. This does not necessarily mean that you break into song. Something has touched your spirit and you feel the need to respond. ‘Times of worship’ have been traditionally deemed as musical interludes, led by the worship leaders on piano or guitar (or just voice). Yet here is what I wrote in Hebraic Church:
We warm ourselves up with a few repetitive choruses, perhaps with a hymn or two. Maybe some prayer and a Bible reading. When the musicianship and singing is good, we feel good. Is this because we feel entertained? Be honest. Does God feel entertained? Is this what it’s all about? Is it about the quality of the sounds we make? This sounds cynical. Forgive me. But …
We call this worship? So … what is worship?
God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)
This is the verse that underpins it all. It emphasises the absolute solid bedrock of the truth, presented to us in Holy Scripture (“sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth”: John 17:17), personified by Jesus Christ (“I am the way and the truth and the life …”: John 14:6) and illuminated to us by the Holy Spirit. Everything else follows from this.
It is where God’s people meet their God. It is not localised, it doesn’t need to be in a specifically ordained location, because God is everywhere.
And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." (Isaiah 6:3)
Let’s look at a couple of scenarios from the Gospels. Firstly, we look at the reaction of Peter and the disciples after witnessing Jesus walking on the water.
Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33)
Did they whisk out a washboard and a penny whistle from their robes and beat out a rousing chorus? Then there’s the blind man who was healed by Jesus with a lump of mud.
Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him. (John 9:38)
Did he belt out a Psalm or two, accompanied by his parents, acapella-style? Probably not.
This is an extract from the book, Livin’ the Life, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/livin-the-life-151-p.asp