The Two Biggest Hindrances Of Intimate Worship

The Two Biggest Hindrances Of Intimate Worship

Of course, Jesus came to die for our sins, but what if there is a much larger task He was looking to accomplish when He wrapped Himself in human flesh and bore the sins of humanity?

What does the Creator of the universe desire out of His creation?

When He formed man out of the dust, what was His purpose for us to fulfill that would take priority over everything else?

When Jesus comes on the scene, He tells us plainly what God is looking for.

“A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” John 4:23

God is looking for worshipers.

If worship is our main purpose, then we need to be highly concerned with anything that would hinder that intimate worship of the Father.

I have had several times in my life where I entered into worship and it was so uneventful I practically heard crickets chirping.

I felt like God was very distant, and I couldn’t look past my own failures and a sense that God was upset with me because of the sins I had committed.

I believe when Jesus came to earth, He was not just dying for our sins but was also systematically dismantling the two biggest hindrances of intimate worship.

Let me show you an example of this in action.

We all know the powerful story of the woman caught in adultery and the forgiveness she experienced, but I believe there is more at work in this story than we may realize.

John 8:2-11

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

We know from Romans 7:7 that the law revealed sin, and from 2nd Corinthians 3:6-18 that the law was “the ministry of condemnation.”

The law brought an overwhelming awareness of the sin, which then produced condemnation.

The Greek word for condemnation is katakrinō which means:

to judge worthy of punishment

The Pharisees, who represented the law, were declaring that the woman was worthy of punishment for not measuring up to the standards of the law and deserved to be stoned to death.

I could imagine the woman, let’s call her Diane, was standing before the Pharisees and feeling condemned like she did not measure up to the religious standards they revered so much. Diane felt rejected by the religious establishment of her day, and I would imagine she felt so ashamed she could barely show her face.

Jesus responds:

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 

Jesus was releasing the work of the cross early.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” Col. 2:13

The condemnation that came from the law was now dealt with, but there stood the King of the universe, probably about to smite her into powder for her terrible sin, right?

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.

What did Jesus just do?

He just systematically dealt with the two biggest hindrances of intimate worship.

  1. Condemnation from not measuring up to a religious standard.
  2. Condemnation from God for living in sin.

So here’s the deal.

At that moment, the woman was no longer “the woman caught in adultery.”

Her new name might as well be “Diane, The woman forgiven and loved by Jesus who will never be condemned.”

This is the exact same spiritual reality we all enter into once we believe that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead. Romans 10:9

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1

We go from being lost and condemned to forgiven and born again, free to fully worship God without condemnation, which again, is the feeling of being worthy of punishment.

But here is the problem.

It’s still possible to sin even after we step into this reality of forgiveness in Christ.

Of course, you and I know both that all too well, because we all sin even after we are born again.

When we sin after we have received the Better covenant of  forgiveness, we feel terrible, and often a sense of condemnation.

Sin makes us feel condemned, even though there is no condemnation because we are in Christ.

I want us to look at how Jesus chose to end His interaction with this woman who was now forgiven because I believe it gives us a glimpse into what Jesus was trying to accomplish for the woman, and for us today.

“Go now and leave your life of sin.”

I believe Jesus knew even though the woman was now forgiven and not condemned, if she continued in sin, she would host those terrible false-feelings of being condemned by God that would drive her away from a lifestyle of radical worship and admiring God.

I think we often wonder, “What can we say that will cause people turn from sin?”

I believe the answer is encouraging people to live a lifestyle of radical worship.

The joy of condemnation-free worship will always overpower the temporary pleasure of sin that only brings temporary pleasure and feelings of condemnation.

A radical worshiper will always run from sin because they know condemnation will come in and convince them they are not worthy to worship God, thus stripping the joy from their worship experience.

What if I told you that even the Son of God felt condemned by God when He took our sin upon Him?

We all know Jesus took our sin upon Him at the cross, even though He was righteous.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2nd Cor. 5:21

We hear Jesus make a statement that has caused quite a bit of controversy.

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Matt. 27:46

The Greek word for forsaken here is egkataleipō which means:

abandon, desert

  1. leave in straits, leave helpless
  2. totally abandoned, utterly forsaken

Why did He say that?

The Scripture is pretty clear that the Father would never leave the Son.

2nd Cor. 5:19 “…God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself , not counting people’s sins against them…

John 10:30 “I and my Father are One.”

John 10:38 “…The Father is in Me, and I in Him.”

John 14:9 “He that has seen Me has seen the Father.”

John 15:23 “He that hates me hates My Father also.”

John 16:32 “Behold, the hour has come, that you will be scattered, every man to his own, and will leave me alone: yet I am not alone because the Father is with Me.”

What if at this terrible yet glorious moment when the Son of God took on the full weight of our sin, He was simply verbalizing the false sense of condemnation that comes with sin, even for those who are righteous?

That’s how terrible sin is, it will make you feel condemned even when your not condemned.

God had already declared that Jesus was His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased.

“And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”   Matt. 3:17

That reality did not change for Jesus on the cross, but rather Jesus only thought that reality had changed because of how much sin distorted His perception of His sonship due to the blinding effects of sin.

This also happens to us when we are forgiven, yet sin anyways. We are still forgiven and still God’s beloved son or daughter, but now we don’t feel like it. We feel condemned, and like God has abandon us. That’s why it’s so dangerous to sin after we are born again.

Application:

Imagine worship is like a glass of water, and sin and religious guilt are like a single drop of red food coloring. It only takes one small drop of food coloring to turn the entire bottle of water red. That’s what happens when we sin, or feel we don’t measure up to a religious standard, our worship experience gets immersed in condemnation which robs us of the joy of intimate worship.

Written by: J.A. Hardgrave

Pharisees In Unusual Places

Pharisees In Unusual Places

Last year I preached a series at my church called “Kingdom Come.” Throughout the series, we took an in-depth look at what the Kingdom of God looks. Prior to Jesus announcing that the Kingdom of God was at hand, there came a strange man with wild hair and a very peculiar diet from a desert community who also announced that the time of the Kingdom was about to be fulfilled. His name was John the Baptist.

In one of the passages about John, he comes into contact with a group of Pharisees and Sadducees who had gone out to the wilderness to see if the claims about John were true. His interaction with them is quite alarming as well as entertaining. In Matthew 3:7-10, it says: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’”

For John the Baptist, the Kingdom of God was an announcement that the Messianic Age had come with both salvation and judgement. There was salvation offered to those who would turn from their ways and allow the Kingdom rule and reign of God to govern their lives. For those who would rely on their man-made, religious systems and ideologies (Pharisees & Sadducees), there would be judgement.

Growing up, I always associated the Pharisaical spirit as being connected to legalism. Whenever someone was being judgmental and legalistic, I have to confess that I was quick to pull the “Brood of Vipers” card and call that person out for being what I believed to be Pharisaical. However, as I began to thoroughly study the Gospels, I realized that the Pharisaical spirit isn’t so much connected with legalism, but has much more to do with self-righteousness and antagonism toward anything that looks or sounds different than its own view or perspective. Legalism just happens to be one of its manifestations.

With this understanding in mind, I’ve come to realize how often I too have been Pharisaical. I think all of us can identify with a self-righteous attitude, and we often allow ourselves to become antagonistic toward differing views and perspectives. This tendency is most evident in our current society that does most of its interactions via social media where everyone feels they have a platform to express just how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. Unfortunately, it’s often Christians who scream the loudest through their rapid finger-typing rebukes, setting the world and the Church straight… for the glory of God, of course.

I’ve surprisingly found Pharisees in just about every theological corner, ready to defend their so-called ‘right interpretation’ of things, and antagonize and harass all those who may see or interpret through a different lens. I’ve met people who are emphatic about the grace message and liberation, and yet have a Pharisaical spirit. I’ve met Pharisees who adhere to pacifism and the Kingdom message. During last year’s election season the Pharisaical spirit was rampant in both those that adhere to conservative policies and those who adhere to liberal policies.

My hope is that we as Christians can soon realize that unity does not mean uniformity nor conformity… and we will learn that we can love, appreciate, and journey in life with people who think, interpret, vote, and perceive things differently than us. We don’t have to cower on our positions, but we also don’t have to be self-righteous and antagonistic toward those who differ from us.

The Apostle Paul had to deal with this issue in Romans. Many so-called Christ followers were getting bent out of shape about what people were eating and drinking. His words in Romans 14:17-19 would do us well in the 21st Century – “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.”

I believe the greatest thing we can do for the sake of our witness in the world is not to venomously contend for what we stand for and what we stand against, but rather to be defined as a people who walk humbly and seek peace in all situations. Stand strong in your convictions, but realize that standing strong in your convictions doesn’t mean attacking those with different convictions.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

Written by: Tim Woodcock

Pressing On

Pressing On

I remember the first time I was hurt by someone I trusted and respected. They had been a source of life and love for me in my spiritual walk and they had presented themselves as someone to count on. I’d reached out to confide in them and ask for advice as I had been feeling dull and lost. The needle of my compass wasn’t staying fixed on a direction and I was slowly sailing through the fog. To add to the burden of confusion, I had been beating myself up because I couldn’t figure a way out of the fog. It was certainly a hard place to be.

The response he gave was sharp and lacking poise. I walked away carrying a second helping of condemnation in my spirit. “How could you let yourself get here, Casey? Why are you feeling this way? What did you do? Who are you? Why are you here? Just give up and disappear.” Those thoughts surged like waves against the rock face of my heart and the internal confusion compounded.

It would be neat to say that in that moment Jesus showed up in a magnificent and profound way, but He didn’t. It would make for an awe-inspiring story to say that an angel appeared before me with an invigorating encouragement, but that didn’t happen either. I stood there staring into the abyss of nothingness. I was confused, lost, and disappointed in myself for allowing myself to even get into that place. Jesus eventually did show up though. Or, I should say, He eventually appeared to show up.

Years later Holy Spirit reminded me of that event. I winced. I attempted to withdraw from the memory but He was persistent. It was painful at first but when he removed the blood stained gauze that had become glued to the wound I saw something I didn’t notice before. What I saw surprised me.

Jesus was there all along.

When Holy Spirit brought me back to that event, I saw Jesus sitting there in that moment, turned towards me, with His loving and tender gaze fixed solely on me. His eyes, oh my goodness His eyes. I could climb Everest in one go with a single glimpse of those eyes. I could endure a life of nothing but pain, hardship, and suffering if I had but one look from His eyes. I could joyfully embrace a martyr’s reward with just one eye-locked moment with Him.

There was nothing but pure love, concern, and empathy in His eyes.

I noticed something else in that experience. I noticed I hadn’t once looked toward Him. I was sitting on the couch mentally pacing around my hurt and confusion wondering what on earth was going on, and I never once looked at Him sitting there next to me. As you can imagine, that experience resulted in tears streaming down my face. Good tears. Healing tears. He was so patient with me in that moment, and in all the moments since. He didn’t rush me through it. He sat there with me. He didn’t tell me to brush it off and put your big-boy pants on. He experienced the pain with me. He didn’t tell me to hurry it up. He endured it with me. Jesus has never responded to me in the way the other man did. His love is so steady. His love is unending.

Dear reader, Jesus suffers with you. He endures with you. He walks through the pain with you. He’s there, ever-present and ever-ready, to offer His healing and empowering embrace with His gaze fixed on you.

How do you move past pain?
How do you press on from hurt?
How do you navigate out of the fog?

You look into His eyes.

Written by: Casey Bolton Crocker