Why Worship Is Despised

Why Worship Is Despised
Robert Wurtz II

Yea, before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have boiled flesh of thee, but raw. And if the man said unto him, They will surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would say, Nay, but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. And the sin of the young men was very great before Jehovah; for the men despised the offering of Jehovah. But Samuel ministered before Jehovah, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. (1Samuel 2:15-18)

The actions of the priesthood at the advent of Samuel were causing the thank offerings (worship) of the Lord to be despised by the people. They took the fat for themselves. The fat belonged to the Lord alone and was never to be consumed by the people, but was to be burned in the fire. Keil and Delitzsch tells us that the Hebrew is in the emphatic, meaning that their behavior was giving occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme (see 2 Samuel 12:14). Of all the sins that Hophni and Phinehas committed, including sleeping around with the women in the congregation, this was the greatest. 

Cause For Blasphemy

The people came to make an offering to the Lord, but what they found were a group of self-serving thieves who were stealing something that God had reserved for Himself alone. This caused the people to detest coming to worship at all, because it was all about Hophni and Phinehas. No doubt God heard the people grumbling and felt the ill feeling that these vile men were causing in the people. They were intercepting something that God alone deserved and took it for themselves. 

Modern Application

Today we don’t have priests that walk around with three pronged forks taking the fat out of the peoples flesh pans by force; we have elevated a band of singers and musicians to the power of a priesthood intercepting the glory that belongs to God alone. This is the reality in an era of electrified, entertainment driven worship. Leonard Ravenhill once said that “entertainment is the Devil’s substitute for joy.” The word “entertain” means to provide a person with enjoyment and amusement. Can you see the subtle counterfeit of God’s joy? 

There was a time when mostly of what was played on the contemporary Christian radio was referred to as “Christian entertainment.” There was no argument about it. We all just knew it was true. what happens when that music makes the jump to the worship meeting? Does it cease to be entertainment? Selah.

Understand that unless the sight and sound is pleasing to the senses, many if not most, simply cannot “worship.” Men and women approach many modern gatherings looking for a happy feeling or a sense of the presence of God and when they feel it they often praise the so-called worship team. All the while they have no real sense that mainly what has happened is that they have been entertained. Have you ever wondered why this type of phenomena has prospered in modern times? 

 Traditional Vs. Contemporary 

Today, many churches have adopted a “traditional” service and a “contemporary” service in order to stifle much of the conflict caused by modern so-called praise and worship. Traditional services usually employ the old hymns and the contemporary services the newer radio play, often Christian entertainment-based songs. That is not to say that all old hymns are good and all new songs are bad. The issue is the focus. Many songs pretend to be God centered, but are really man’s entertainment. We have to know the difference. 

As a musician myself, I can say with a great deal of confidence that few musicians want to play the old hymns. Why? You simply cannot stab the three pronged fork into the boiling pot: it comes up empty, every time. It is a hard saying, but I must say, it is because we cannot get our groove on singing and playing them. They do not entertain us. We cannot dance to them. The glory must go to God alone. Consider how well this line would fair in modern entertainment based worship:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
my richest Gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride

By now some readers are shaking their heads in half-hearted agreement. But there is no willingness to adopt change. for the same reason Christians will agree that Television is generally a bad thing, but will go back home and keep watching shows that they know do not glorify God; there is a same unwillingness to agree with the situation and turn from it. What is it? People are simply addicted to entertainment and modern worship is often the most sterile form of it.

Lessons From Hophni and Phinehas

These men used the things of God as a means to their own ends. They were sexually immoral and spiritually bankrupt, but they kept on in the service of God. When the people heard and saw their deeds they despised the worship of God. They no longer wanted to participate. You will notice from the context of our passage that God was never once angry at the people for reacting the way they did. In fact, in Isaiah chapter 1 He tells the people that He Himself can’t stand the peoples hypocritical worship. Soon the only people left are the people pleased by the same spirit that these two men were of. Not even God was there.

For all that Hophni and Phinehas did, they neither heard God’s voice-nor felt conviction. They refused to listen while Eli refused to correct them. He was content to allow the worship (thank offering) of the Lord to be despised. His sons took that which belonged to God alone and Eli overlooked it. God could not remodel this type of worship; He had to totally destroy it. He had to physically demonstrate to the people that He had left the building- carried out on the shoulders of Hophni and Phinehas into the enemies camp. All the while they deceived themselves into thinking God was still among them to fight for them. It was a rude awakening, but nothing else would have changed their minds about it. 

God’s answer to Ichabod

But Samuel ministered before Jehovah, being a child, girded with a linen ephod (I Samuel 2:18).

As today, so then, God knew that these mens day was coming. He had already raised up replacements. He was angry, but not without means. He knew that a man named Samuel and then David would set things right again. But what about Hophni and Phinehas? What about those that fornicated with them in the assembly? What about the people that struggled to worship God- even after these men were dead? Did they ever regain their desire to assemble and worship? We are not told. Sometimes the deception is so great and the wounds so deep that only time and grace can heal it. In “time” the presence and authority of God did return and the people did rejoice. No more three pronged hooks in the boiling pot… no more taking the glory (fat) by force; but a man to lead a generation after God’s own heart.   

Why Many People Are Beyond Redemption

Why Many People Are Beyond Redemption
Robert Wurtz II

I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. (Hos 5:15)

If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1Jn 1:9-10)

I have chosen these passages from both the Old and New Testament, as they capture the essence of our times. We have become a nation of people that refuse to acknowledge sin as sin. In fact, as we close the year 2013 we have watched many long held standards drop like flies in America. Homosexual marriage and practice continues to gain ground while polygamists and even pedophiles hasten their day in court to be ruled a protected demographic. The Boy Scouts of America have been infiltrated by homosexuality as the media blasts all opposition as bigots. Sadly, many professing believers in Christ, who have homosexual tendencies themselves, are coming out on the side of silence or acceptance. Add to that the fact that hundreds of licenses are being distributed in Colorado for the sale of recreational marijuana. It is only a matter of time until we are completely overrun with vileness and evil in this nation. 

What’s Wrong With It?

In 2013 there were thousands of children that were born in an era when both homosexual marriage and marijuana use was legal. Try to fathom the implications of that. From now on all children born in 2014 and beyond will grow up having no idea that these things are wrong, unless a true Christian unafraid of opposition tells them. Sadly so-called Christians will defend both of these sins- causing even more confusion. Books will be written defending mind altering drugs. Why? Because the truth is, the defenders were smoking pot and taking mind altering drugs all the while they were professing Christ and now is their chance to do it openly. Their attitude will be the same as everything else, “What’s wrong with it?”

 A Conscious Minority

Sometime in the 1980’s the late Leonard Ravenhill quoted a Christian professor who predicted that by the year 2000, “Christianity will be a conscious minority surrounded by an arrogant militant paganism.” If we were surrounded in 2000, in 2013 they launched a full-scale attack! Every moral standard is under attack. 

The early strategy is to wait out the opposition until they get tired of resisting and then slowly insert the compromise as if it were normal. Politicians know that as time passes resistance to immorality cools. They know they have stacked the school system with fallen heads influenced by devils, with only a hand full of faithful believers sprinkled in the mix. The largest generation in history is growing up with a Godless and immoral education and there are few in Sunday schools to make an impact. We are on the road to Sodom and Gomorrah; the gates are now within sight. 

Why They Are Hopeless

I found in 2013 a hostility to decency and holiness that I can only describe as vexing and angering. I am conscious of the fact that as Christians we cannot allow anger to become a force in our lives, so I must resist anger and pray for grace to tolerate the vexation. I even caught resistance among seasoned Christians and ministers in 2013- trying to cry out against the compromise that is killing us. Christianity, as it has been known since the Reformation, is completely under assault and often from within. In Catholic circles things are only worse, as a leading Gay magazine named the pope as “man of the year.”  

Until They Acknowledge

No people that excuse their sin can find redemption or forgiveness. The first step is always to acknowledge our sins. When sin is marginalized and condoned their is no hope for the person. God spoke to Israel through the prophet with these responding words, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense…” God and man can’t even talk about a way forward until man acknowledges his offenses. It is the first step. We have to let God be true and every man a liar. We have to say the same thing that God says about our conduct. It is the key to forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 tells us, If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The key word in this verse is “if”. It is conditional. Our Greek word for acknowledge (confess in the KJV) is homologeo. This is two words: homo and logos and means literally “same word.” We have to say the same thing about sin that God says about sin. We have to say the same things are sin that God calls sin. Until we do, God will “return to His place.” 

Revival in 2014

Many things have been done in the last 20 years while the churches and society nearly bled out all of its morality and sanctification. We must return to the message of acknowledging our sins and repenting of them. It is our only hope. If we continue down this road Christians will be forced underground by the militant paganism of American and Western society. They are using words now, but in time they will employ stronger measures. 

Forget everything else. We need a revival of repentance and true regeneration of sinners. The souls of the Visible Church and the western Nations are at stake. God can save by many or by few. May each of us be found on the right side of the battle field (as it were) when the Lord returns and the smoke clears. Many Christians and ministers are going to have to decide in 2014 what side they are on. Why should we use our callings, talents and giftings to defend sin and compromise- when God has given them to the churches for such a time as this?   

Carcinogenic Christianity

Carcinogenic Christianity
Robert Wurtz II

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:15-16 ESV)

Ephesians is basically broken down into two halves: chapters 1-3 are doctrinal and chapters 4-6 are exhortation. In short, God says in chapters 1-3, “I have made you a saint.” In chapters 4-6, He says, “Now, live a saintly life.” (Weust) This is why we have the use of “therefore” in Chapter 4:1 and in Romans 12:1. Paul builds his case and then calls us to action. 

When Paul was leaving Ephesus for the last time, he warned the elders emphatically and with tears that grievous wolves would come into the church not sparing the flock. He told them that among those present, some would seek to draw disciples after themselves. This was not the first time he issued such a warning. For years He lamented the destructive power of such behavior- in so much that he had here-to-for spoke these things night and day to them. When writing to the Ephesians years later, he offered precious instruction on how to prevent this type of destruction. To explain it he employed the metaphor of a human body.

Building Up Itself

I find it interesting that in modern times we have a great understanding of the things Paul spoke of. Paul would have had no such knowledge; but the Holy Spirit, who inspired these writings certainly did. As technology has increased so have the dangers Paul spoke of. His metaphor has only sharpened with time. Understand that when a body functions normally, it grows and repairs itself automatically. Cells die and are replaced, while other cells multiply to effect proper growth. However, we need to ask, what happens when a cell begins to grow and divide uncontrollably? We usually call that a tumor. What happens when that abnormal division begins to spread around effecting other parts of the body? We usually call that cancer. Paul’s body metaphor comes into view. He expounds on the importance of the whole body being under the Head (Christ) and that every joint or part must work properly for the Body to grow in love. His concern was that individuals would break off from the Head- doing their own thing becoming what we might call a “tumor” or a “cancer” to the rest of the Body.

The Carcinogen of Pride

Any time there is a platform for men and women to express their pride and ambition there is great danger. We see it in all walks of life. The churches of God are not immune to such things. Pride and ambition are like cancer causing agents in the Body of Christ. When left unchecked, people who are motivated by these realities will multiply themselves (as it were) simulating legitimate growth. We must understand that not all growth is created equal. Not all growth is healthy to the Body. A “following” is not the same thing as a ministry. Many in these last days are taking to themselves the title of minister, but are not truly under the Head (Christ). The result is the exact thing Paul warned Ephesus about:

 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
(Act 20:29-30 KJV)


False Growth

In the early days of Television Ministry, the National Religious Broadcasters held seminars to prepare TV ministers for “celebrity status.” Since that time almost all forms of ministry have been directly effected by a form of Christianity, as defined by Television. The brightest and best have been pushed to the front until Christendom is largely an expression of Paul’s great fear in Acts 20. It has gone unchallenged to the point of normalcy. In fact, many ministers have nearly reached demigod status. They are untouchable. The Christian landscape is now filled with ministries, under the names of men and women, with all of their respective alliances. A form of Christianity has emerged that is very different from the book of Acts. Multitudes have embraced the very thing Paul warned about. 

Christ’s Vision of the Church

Thousands of ministers have a “vision” for their ministry, but Christ has one vision for His Church. In His Church the Saints are endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). Why? because in the mind of God there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph 4:-6) To Christ, everyone is vitally important and functional in a real sense. There are no superstars. There are no “American idols.” As the cliche goes, there are no big “I’s” and little “U’s” (you’s). The worldly scourge of such mindsets are non-existent. What did Paul say to the Philippians?

 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. (Php 2:5-16)

Lowliness of Mind

It has been said that one of the greatest tests of our spirituality is whether or not we can esteem others better than ourselves. A Christian with a lowly mind is the enemies worst nightmare. A person serving the Lord who could care less if they were ever seen or noticed is a mighty weapon in the hand of God. Paul stated on two occasions in his epistles (Eph 4:2, Php 2:3), that we are to walk in lowliness of mind. “Trench says of this word: “The Christian lowliness is no mere modesty or absence of pretension, nor yet a self-made grace. The making of ourselves small is pride in the disguise of humility. But the esteeming of ourselves small, inasmuch as we are so, the thinking truly, and because truly, therefore, lowlily of ourselves.” The word is used in an early secular manuscript of the Nile River at its low stage, “It runs low.” Expositors defines it: “the lowliness of mind which springs from a true estimate of ourselves – a deep sense of our own moral smallness and demerit.”” (quoted in Weust) We are to have the mind of Christ in the genuine article as the antidote for the spiritual “carcinogens” of this world that lead to “cancers” that sicken and drain the Body of its vitality. 

We have to make a conscious decision to be in God’s will for our lives and not allow selfish ambition to become destructive to the Body of Christ. The world likes to manufacture idols of people. If we fall into that trap we endanger not only ourselves but they that we would seek to lead. We imperil the churches and provide for the enemy a beachhead from which he can invade the Body.   

 

Longing For Perfection

Longing For Perfection
Robert Wurtz II


Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1, 2 NKJV)

The writer to the Hebrews is bringing to bear all of the previous points he has made in chapter five in order to call believers along with himself to perfection. As was the situation then, so also today, many Christians tend to live a substandard Christian life that does not allow them to understand deep spiritual truths. They were not applying what they had learned of the elementary things and as a result were unable to comprehend in a figure “strong food.” Some actually backslid to the point that they had to be taught again. 

Longing

Lurking underneath of this phenomenon is a missing attitude that should exist in every true believer; a longing for perfection. He is saying, in effect, ” Let us go on to the stage of adults, not babes, able to masticate (chew) solid spiritual food.” (Robertson) This is the sense of the Greek word for perfection. However, within this spiritual adulthood is a desire for perfection of expression of the Christian life; that is, the person of Jesus. True believers long to express fully all the characteristics of Christ’s godly personality. We should never be comfortable falling short. 

Obstacles to Perfection

If you listen to many modern sermons and songs, you will quickly realize that the emphasis has moved away from what the writer to the Hebrews is calling for. Both sermons and songs often suggest that we are “sinking into an ocean of God’s grace.” This would be true if we were pouring the right meaning into the word “grace.” Understand that grace is more than God’s favorable attitude towards us, it is His divine enabling. James says, “He gives more grace…” What for? To enable us to function as right representations of Christ under any circumstances. This is more than God having a woolly feeling about us. Nevertheless, the sense of many of the opiate sermons and songs is that God loves us and were drowning in grace, so we need not concern ourselves about our conduct. We are numbed to the reality that God is calling us to perfection. 

Evidence of Wrong Emphasis

It seems that as time goes on many God-fearing ministers are calling for God to send a revival into our land. The trouble is that the call is going into the ears of multitudes who have no inward sense of God calling us to perfection. So the call gets spun into all kinds of weird concepts. Whereas revival in the 19th century was clearly understood to be a move of God to bring people out of sin, and into a state where they could grow up into Christ, since the 1950s there have been so-called healing revivals, Charismatic gift revivals, laughing revivals, prosperity revivals, worship revivals, biker-boot revivals, and a host of other nonsensical things. Why? Because at some point along the path, professors of Christ lost their sense of Christian perfection, and now the emphasis is on everything from physical healing to spiritual gifts. It’s almost as if God is appearing in the east, and His people are facing the west. They are looking in the wrong place for the wrong things and He is not going to bless it. 

Regaining the Desire for “Perfect” 

The writer to Hebrews calls all of us, along with himself, when he states, let us go on to perfection. This is a call to grow-up beyond the elementary things such as repentance, faith, baptism in water and receiving the Spirit. He is not saying that we should leave off preaching these things, but that as individuals, we need to grow beyond them and into spiritual adulthood. Every child has to be born and grow up into maturity, but it would not be normative to have a person stuck in infancy or childhood. This is the writer’s point. Just as you grew up as a person… grow up as a Christian. Growing up means that we are then able to understand and walk in the deeper truths of the New Covenant. 

I must make a notation here and say that if the foundation of repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands, etc. is not laid, there is no way forward. We must come fully into the New Covenant. God is not the type of person that would allow someone with the mind of a five-year-old to get behind the wheel of a car or do some other important adult things. Spiritual immaturity is one of the greatest problems for the churches today. People are simply not growing up into perfection, and as a result it is like living within a society where grown men and women have the mentality, aptitude and priorities of children. The writer gives the solution, let us go on to perfection. This implies a choice on our part. Will we keep telling ourselves that we are “drowning in an ocean of grace” excusing our immaturity, or will we honor God’s heart and go on to perfection.  


Furniture In God’s House

Furniture In God’s House
Robert Wurtz II

Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)


Over the last several weeks I taught a series entitled “The Holy And The Profane.” It was an examination of the difference between what is sanctified to God and what is common place. We discussed how in the Old Testament God taught Israel that there was a difference between the holy and the profane and that holy things were to be handled in accordance with God’s specific instructions. When men took it upon themselves to violate this rule there were sometimes devastating consequences. For example, Nadab and Abihu died immediately for offering strange (common) fire before the Lord. They were innovating in the realm of perfection. They attempted to change or improve God’s method and suffered the consequences. Uzzah is another example as well as Uziah. Belshazzar is a more shocking story as his error cost not just his life, but the political power shifted from the Babylonians to the Persians. He was weighed in the balance and found wanting. That was the consequence of flagrantly disregarding and disrespecting God.

Nevertheless, our passage brings to our minds the fact that a husband and a wife are actually “vessels” in God’s House. Our Greek word for vessel is skeuos and it is an old and common word for vessel, furniture, utensil (Matthew 12:29; 2 Timothy 2:20). Here both husband and wife are termed vessels or “parts of the furniture of God’s house” (Bigg quoted in Robertson). This is the language of priesthood and I cannot help but reference the teachings of the Old Testament Levitical system where God made clear how holy things are to be treated. The difference under the New Covenant is that we have many different examples of how the people of God are now the Temple, living stones in the Temple, or in this case “furniture” and “utensils.” 

I am struck by the fact that God seemed to always be watching over holy things in the Old Testament. The danger is that we think in terms of “things” in the New Testament, not realizing that the reality of the Old Testament is present in the New Testament. In other words, God is watching and concerned with how we behave in regards to the Temple, the Lord’s Body: that is to say, the members of the Church. How can we apply the lessons (written for our example and learning) of the behavior of Nadab and Abihu or Belshazzar to our present time and relationships? 

God said through the mouth of Peter that the stronger vessel should “give honor…” to the weaker vessel. In effect, the preceding verses tell the “weaker vessel” to honor the “less weaker” vessel (as we are all weak in our own strength) and allow Him to rightfully lead. Peter uses words like “be in subjection” and “obey.” He uses the example of Abraham and Sarah, the first storybook marriage ever recorded. Here is a man married to a woman whose name in Hebrew meant princess or queen. Imagine for a moment a conversation, Abraham calls her name “Princess…” and she answers, “…yes my lord.” He was not an overlord, but rather it is one of the first pictures of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Paul said in Ephesians that this is a great mystery. 

God has chosen, so it appears, that the marriage relationship would be a revelation of Christ and the church. For this reason (and others) Peter is careful to make sure that Christian spouses rightly reflect that relationship. If they refuse, their prayers will be hindered. What does that mean? My mind cross references to Revelation 2 where Jesus addresses, from the High Priest position, the church at Ephesus who had left their first love. He warned that He would remove their lamp stand unless they repented and turned back to that first love. God will not bless a church where love is not first and foremost and apparently He will not bless a marriage- an earthly expression of the mysterious relationship between Christ and the Church, either. That is very sobering. Apparently there is a direct connection between how we treat our spouses and how our prayers are answered. We could pray hours a day and negate them with bad behavior.

If a husband and wife are not honoring one another… God sees it. What hypocrisy would we be guilty of to honor as “holy” physical objects and then mistreat our spouse. To treat them as “profane.” We, the people, are the House of God. We are the stones, furniture, vessels and utensils. Are we Belshazzars or are we Abrahams? Are we Sarahs or are we Uzziahs? That is the great question. There is no sense in fooling ourselves. In the Middle Ages Christians built awesome Gothic Cathedrals that took a lifetime to construct, but how did they treat their spouses when they got home? What about when their loved ones were sick? What about when they were in pain or had a really bad day at work? Did they honor and love? Was their division and strife? Beloved, you are vessels in the House of God. God forbid that we would treat our fine china or silver cutlery with more respect and honor than the true vessels of God’s House. Likewise, you husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.         

   

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