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What's in Your Worship?

I think there are things in life we can, without offending God, take pride in. For example, last night, my kids got to stand on the field during a minor league baseball game during the National Anthem and represent their team, or when people tell me my children are well behaved, happy and encouraging to others. I take pride in the fact that when I hear these things, God is getting glory through them, whether or not they know it: I’m “training my child(ren) in the way he (they) should go,” as the book of Proverbs suggests. Pride, though, is a dangerous, even deadly place to be when it comes to the work of my hands. I heard actor Russell Brand speak on this recently, when talking about the 1st Commandment (“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” Exodus 20:2-3). He said, and I think astutely so, that while some deride this statement as insecure, it shows God’s understanding of human nature: we were designed for worship, and we’re either going to worship the true and living God, or we’re going to worship the work of our own hands.

I’m not sure that Mr. Brand is a Christian or not, but He makes an awful astute point, one repeated by Isaiah, who speaks of how one chops down a tree, uses half of it for firewood, then carves, decorates and adorns the other half, calling it a “god” and worships it (It’s not about Christmas trees, but creating something that we worship). Many of us don’t, exactly, do that any more, but we certainly make things and worship them. We worship relationships, such as in marriage or children, looking to people in whom we have a relationship to complete or save us. We look to homes, houses, and accomplishments, such as sports or jobs to complete or save us. We revel in ourselves, our pride, and our ways, and tell God exactly how He will behave, or we will take our toys and go home.

Loved ones, it doesn’t work that way! There is no room for pride in the Kingdom of Heaven. Just as Jesus, who is God, submitted to the Father, and the Holy Spirit, who is also God, submits to the Son and the Father, so, too, are we expected to humble ourselves and submit. It’s why God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, because there is no room in a proud heart for God to live. That pride determines every single relationship we have, believe it or not! If we humbly submit to God and lean on His grace and mercy through Christ for salvation, God works that out in every other part of our lives, including relationships!

We’re more prone to give grace and mercy, because we’ve been shown grace and mercy by humbling ourselves before Christ! If we want God on our terms, we selfishly expect and demand every relationship in our lives to bend to our will, essentially trying to sit on God’s throne in our own lives, but also in the lives of those around us. And there, in that place, it is impossible to see God, because we’ve already decided to try and occupy His seat, even if we want to invite Him in to our circle of advisors. No, loved ones, God MUST be King and Lord, and we MUST submit to Him, or else we don’t know Him (and, even scarier, He doesn’t know us!). Submission and humility is the only way to begin to see God clearly. Pride with a list of demands blocks any sort of relationship, with Him and anyone else.

Isaiah 44:9-20

All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

James 4:1-12

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

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