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Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
Welcome to HBS and thank you for “dropping by.”
Have you ever been asked a question and had so much to say in response to that subject that you didn’t know where to begin or end? That’s where I’m at with Romans 12:1; that’s one. The second item I want to mention before starting is I know some people will be disappointed with parts of this lesson or all of it while others may be taken aback by it. So I want the group to be aware that I am not anti Church. The Church is of God and exists ultimately for His glory and to make known His eternal purpose to the nations.
However, the churches by and large do not practice the principle of “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4), as God intended. Instead, since they follow the many differing traditions of men, endless disagreements separate, divide, and create more and more churches of men. They do not “walk together,” as one because they do not “agree”—either with each other or with God!
You’re not going to hear sermons on this subject, not that this is a sermon. I’ve been around awhile, and I’m telling you honestly some of the things I’m bringing to your attention today I’ve not heard one sentence on from the pulpit. It’s like the 800lb gorilla in the room no one wants to talk about. But at HBS, were going to discuss the Truth.
Please open your Bible at Romans 12:1
Last week I ended our lesson with this statement: Israel’s acceptable worship was at the Temple in Jerusalem, performing the prescribed rituals, as God ordained them. This is what the LORD God had commanded them to do, so this is what they did.
However, Paul writes, “Your worship, the worship God has commanded for the members of the Body of Christ, in this Dispensation of Grace, is to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy (set apart), acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. But, down through the centuries God’s Church, with a few exceptions, has ignored Romans 12:1’s teaching and they’ve copied the Jews religious system instead minus the animal sacrifices.
God clearly marked the change in the dispensations with an exclamation point. This was done when He permitted the Jewish Temple to be destroyed by the Roman army under General Titus in 70 AD. This fulfilled prophecy effectively denied the Israelites access to Him through their religious rituals, and the Jews have been without temple worship ever since (Matthew 24:1-2). However, Christendom has built their own lavishly decorated imitation temples with altars and railings and even a little box within the altar they call “the tabernacle” where many believe God lives.
Cathedrals and great churches first arriving on the scene in the Constantinian Period were built for the express purpose of worshiping God with special furniture, holy relics, accompanied by religious rituals performed by the priesthood, and calendars listing holy days and seasons. Even “Bible believing Christians” have not escaped the error of this wrong worship with their “morning, and evening worship services,” their religious rituals, holy days, and holy seasons.
I was baptized into and spent the first 17 years of my life entrenched in the Catholic faith. I was an altar boy for three of those years. My church home’s ceiling soared high above my head; so high in fact to see the ceiling fully I would have to lay on the floor, flat on my back to take it all in. But the main altar is what grabbed your attention the moment you entered the building; it was massive and ornately decorated. There were two smaller altars off to the sides and they too were magnificent. The altar railing was made up of white marble as was the altar floor. Statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the saints were arrayed around the sanctuary, with contrasting marble columns, and gold accents, the sweet smell of incense permeated the building, and an assortment of candles were stationed everywhere you looked; it was beautiful and extremely impressive.
I’ve traveled to Vatican City and to St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, Italy. I’ve studied this church’s history, and observed firsthand the wealth that’s attached to this particular church group, so this is my testimonial on the subject.
They early church fathers spared no expense while constructing these cathedrals and lesser buildings with the intention of producing a “wow” effect within people. They expected the masses to experience a “sense” of awe, as if they were coming into the very presence of God. The solemn High Mass on Christmas Eve produced this affect within me every time so I’d have to say they succeeded.
Churches are still utilizing this principle today. They’re erecting Megachurches with the capability of seating thousands. They ensure that they have a church choral group
completely decked out in brightly colored robes in place. An orchestras and band playing Christian standards and songs selected from the top 40 contemporary Christian music list is also essential. The wooden pew is gone and has been replaced by plush seating throughout. They aim to cater to the need of the individual and the family. One church I attended had a Starbucks in the front lobby… They’ll tell you that this is all about worshiping God, but is it? Many of these activities have an entertainment characteristic.
I spoke to a pastor of a non-denominational church after Sunday “service” one day. They had a dynamic rock band with a lead vocalist that could have won American Idol, strobe lights, professional speakers, and a sound system you wouldn’t believe existed in a church. He said he wanted the people who visited his church and the regulars who came every Sunday to enter and leave with but one word on their lips and that was “Wow!” I had to admit I was impressed with the band and the singer, but my question to him was, “What about the message? Doesn’t all of this glitz and glamour overshadow God’s Word?” He disagreed with me. He said it was the overall package he presented that mattered and not just one feature of it. He told me God was in “all of it…” Really…?
Would you be surprised if I told you that this attitude feeds one of the major concerns in the church today? Too many churchgoers have an entitlement mentality instead of a servant mentality and statistics prove this out.
Because the entitlement mentality (what are you doing for me) exists in the church today people are leaving one church after another, searching for the “right” church for the wrong reasons.
Here are a few quotes taken from exit interviews of people who left local congregations:
“The worship leader refused to listen to me about the songs and music I wanted.”
“The pastor did not feed me.”
“No one from the church visited me.”
“I was out two weeks with an illness and no one called me.”
“They changed the times of their worship services and it messed up my schedule.”
“I told my pastor to go visit my cousin and he never did.”
Did you catch the central theme in these comments? They all centered on “me.” The church didn’t fulfill their need/desire. Today people expect their church to respond to their needs as if it were a country club…“Oh Cabana Boy!” This is occurring, in part, because they are not being introduced to the knowledge of the truth while they’re attending church.
Paul teaches us that the primary role of the church is proclaiming the Word of God and not to supply a building for the purpose of worshiping God.
This Truth may shock some of you but this is what your Bible says and so does mine: I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). In the end, no other definition, devised by men, is acceptable. This definition of the Church Jesus Christ built will guide us throughout the remainder of this lesson. The Church God designed has and teaches “the Truth.”
Therefore, when looking for a church, and people use a wide range of criteria in evaluating them today (like a Starbucks in the main lobby), but only one reason should guide them. The most important reason in selecting a church home rests in the strength of their preaching and teaching of God’s Word. Why do I say this, I didn’t. Scripture beat me to it: "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" (Matthew 4:4)
If the Bible is being taught accurately (rightly divided for instance) by the church then the congregation will be strong, the people will mature in their faith, and the church’s ministry will grow. Of course, the opposite is also true and is closer to reality.
Getting back on point: is it anything goes when it comes to acceptable worship in the Dispensation of Grace or do we listen to God and base our worship of Him on what He has revealed to us in this book?
Paul spoke of a temple that would make any church building constructed by man pale in comparison, but reflect on the fact that he wrote to Gentile Believers in the Dispensation of the Grace of God and I’ll paraphrase, “Brethren, that’s not your worship, your worship is simply to present your bodies a living sacrifice.”
Our worship today doesn’t instruct us to travel to a certain building, regulated by a certain day of the week, on certain holy days of the year for God’s “earthly people” Israel that was appropriate and acceptable. But God has set His “heavenly people,” the Body of Christ, free from that kind of worship. Now we can worship God any time and in any place. We can worship Him continually 24/7/365.
We don’t need the priesthood, a building, or a special day. Our worship service is not just one hour on Sunday, it’s a life dedicated to Him in thanksgiving and worship: Through Him then, let us continually offer up a (living) sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of (what) lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16)
We can worship the Lord Jesus Christ while sitting in the church building, or roller blading down the street, driving our car or sitting in heavy traffic, washing the dishes or preparing a meal, putting on our shoes in the morning or setting our alarm clock before retiring at night, - at any time in any place worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ is alright, for He is worthy!
1: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Paul begins this chapter by pleading with the members of this congregation in Rome, in love not under the Law, to present their bodies a living sacrifice voluntarily. This is the first thing I want you to understand; it’s not a command. The word beseech clearly indicates this. The Law was strict, so strict in fact if someone walked too many steps on the Sabbath they were stoned to death for that mistake. But in God’s Dispensation of Grace should you decide not to praise Him with your lips or offer aid and assistance to people with needs, God’s not going to strike you down, or withhold salvation from you. Serving others is your reasonable worship but no one is going to drag you kicking and screaming to the altar of sacrifice.
Paul is literally begging these Jews and Gentiles to unite as members of Christ’s Body, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your (plural) reasonable (worship) service. Paul’s not addressing individuals there’s definitely a corporate dimension to this call. He’s addressing every Believer for we are the Body of Christ: Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)
The Lord Jesus Christ communicated this call as One who volunteered His life on our behalf: who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
What many people miss is that Jesus Christ showed us how to love others. He volunteered His life so that we could be free not just from our sin and the second death but to serve Him and each other in ways that would prompt people around us to utter but one word from their lips, “Wow!” Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2:3-5).
When we give thanks and worship the Lord by presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, it’s not what we can do for Him necessarily, but what He can do in us, and through us. This worship is holy and acceptable unto God because it is the worship of His Son living in us. It is “worshiping God in the Spirit.” (Philippians 3:3)
What Does This Book Say?
Back when I was teaching in the Children’s ministry there was a Christian phrase that was so popular it could be found on t-shirts, bracelets, and bumper stickers. It was WWJD or What Would Jesus Do. I altered this phrase one week when I adopted it for one of my Bible lessons I titled, what would Jesus desire. The gist of my lesson was if you’re totally committed in understanding what Scripture says, then you’ll begin by investing more of your time in the study of God’s Word. Then instead of putting your faith in something you’ve heard, something you read somewhere, or guessing, or hoping it all works out right in the end, you’ll know what Jesus desires.
When the church meets in a building, if it’s not for worship, what is the purpose?
Paul wrote that when the church comes together, “Let all things be done for edification (Oikodome in the Greek language meaning: building up, edifying, promoting another’s growth in Christian wisdom). (1 Corinthians 14:26b)
The church does not meet solely for worship—for our worship is to apply Romans 12:1. Believers meet for the purpose of edification, and building up one another, so that the members can go back to their homes, jobs, and schools, and worship the Lord there all week long in accordance with the teaching of Romans 12:1.
Of course, one aspect of “presenting our bodies a living sacrifice” is to be present and participate in the meetings of the church for the encouragement and enlightenment of the fellow members of the Body of Christ.
As we have seen, acceptable worship in the dispensation of Grace is not the emotional experience of an individual seated in a great “sanctuary” observing some ritual or listening to the church choir sing. Worship is not limited to a certain time, day, or place, regulated by the church calendar, but is the nonstop opportunity of the Believer, in response to the mercies of God, who is then motivated by their love of God to thank Him and to serve Him continuously: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; (Galatians 5:22).
Time for edification by illustration: last week Dylann Roof entered a church in Charleston, S.C. with hate in his heart and gunned down 9 people in cold blood. He’s been apprehended by the authorities and will stand trial for his actions rest assured. The important thing to take note of here, which the world-at-large has ignored for the most part, is that while the majority of America was spewing hatred in response to his actions, the victims family members gathered at the site of the shooting praying for one another and for Mr. Roof. They expressed in unison to the city of Charleston and to the media, in the midst of their grief, that they had forgiven Mr. Roof for taking the lives of their loved ones and were praying for his salvation.
These people of faith took a stand for what they believed. They could have surrendered to hatred. That would have been easy. But instead of joining the crowd, instead of conforming to the patterns of this world, they obeyed God and the teaching of Romans 12:1. They offered this young man their kindness and their sincere forgiveness, which was their reasonable (worship) service.
Please take note; this was the “right response.” Why can I say this? Jesus set the bar. One of Jesus’ final 7 statements from the Cross before He died was this: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Is it easy to show kindness and to forgive someone who has taken the life of your mother, your father, your brother, or your sister? No, it’s not easy but it’s your reasonable (logical) service in light of God’s mercies. Their act of unnatural love should have forced the world to sit up and take notice, but they were absorbed by their hatred.
Learning to love the way Jesus Christ loved others is going to take time and some effort on our part, but as we continually pray asking the Holy Spirit to lead us, to guide us, and to help us do the things God desires we will arrive at that place God wants us to be and that is like His Son.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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