For about two months we have focused on the concept of worship. These were our emphases in our lessons:

In these lessons I hope you took note of something frequently appearing in our readings: acceptable worship depends on who we are as a person. There has always been a powerful bond between worshipping God and personal behavior. Take careful note of that bond as read together Amos 5:14-27.

Seek good and not evil, that you may live; And thus may the Lord God of hosts be with you, Just as you have said! Hate evil, love good, And establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the Lord God of hosts May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, the Lord, "There is wailing in all the plazas, And in all the streets they say, 'Alas! Alas!' They also call the farmer to mourning And professional mourners to lamentation. "And in all the vineyards there is wailing, Because I will pass through the midst of you," says the Lord.
Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light; As when a man flees from a lion And a bear meets him, Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall And a snake bites him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, Even gloom with no brightness in it?
"I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. "Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. "Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. "But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves. Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus," says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.

According to Israel, things were wonderful! Prosperity was everywhere! Luxurious living was common among the wealthy! They were so secure in their lifestyle that Amos' prediction of an exile was unthinkable! In their circumstances, there was no way they could experience an exile! They were on top of things! Life was good and secure! They had "a handle" on everything!

They thought if they could go through the proper ceremonies in worship, God did not care how they lived. That was idolatry at its worst!

Oh, but God cared deeply how they lived! Basically God made two observations. (1) You live very wickedly as you take advantage of others. (2) Your "correct" worship deeply offends Me.

Their "correct" worship offended God because of their evil behavior.

Now I would like for you to read with me Matthew 23:25,26.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also."

  1. What we do in our daily behavior must arise from who and what we are.
    1. There are not two separate issues in life.
      1. Worshipping and how we worship is not separated from who we are as persons.
      2. No one, not even the person who has been baptized into Christ, can separate how he/she lives as a matter of daily behavior from worshipping God.
      3. Worship cannot be separated from behavior.
      4. Behavior cannot be separated from who and what we are inwardly
    2. Any attempt to separate those two realties [the lifestyle we live and our worship] is merely a human, artificial, meaningless separation.
      1. We cannot rebel against God in our lifestyles and honor God in our worship.
      2. To attempt to do so is to insult God!
      3. God knows what is on the inside of a person.
        1. If the lifestyle of person does not match his/her heart, God is not deceived.
        2. God is truly honored in a person's worship only if that person honors God in his/her life.

  2. Think about Jesus' statement in Matthew 23:25,26.
    1. The context:
      1. The time of Jesus' death is very near.
      2. Jesus has spent his entire ministry trying to "get through" to Israel as a nation and to Israel's leadership.
      3. From early in Jesus' ministry, the religious leaders known as the Pharisees were committed to trying to discredit and destroy Jesus.
        1. Jesus was committed to teaching them.
        2. They would attack Jesus; he would ask them to think about specific scriptures.
        3. They would attack Jesus; he would perform a miracle to verify that God sent him.
        4. Every time he tried to open their eyes, they simply became more angry.
      4. Why did they hate him so much?
        1. His knowledge of scripture and knowledge of God led him to completely different values and conclusions.
        2. He repeatedly told them that God's number one priority was people.
        3. They concluded that God's number one priority was "correctness."
        4. And they defined "correctness" as being their conclusions.
    2. As Jesus nears the end of his physical life, he declares the Pharisees failures.
      1. Remember who the Pharisees are.
        1. They have an earned reputation for beings experts in the details of scripture, the Law, and approved custom.
        2. Jesus himself said in the beginning of this passage:
          Matthew 23:2,3 "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them."
          1. "They know scripture."
          2. "They do not know God."
          3. "Listen to them when they speak from scripture, but do not follow their lifestyle."
      2. They had lots of knowledge, but their motives were horrible.

  3. These people were obsessed with religious appearance.
    1. They were not concerned about who and what they were, but how they appeared to others.
      1. As a result, it was "what showed on the outside to others" that got all their attention.
      2. They were concerned about being "correct" outwardly.
        1. "You must not eat anything but kosher food."
        2. "You must go through the proper ceremony and ritual of washing your hands prior to eating."
        3. "You must wear tassels on the hem of your garment."
        4. "You must wear phylacteries on your forehead and arm."
      3. Thus people could see them doing all these "correct" externals and say, "My, how religious they are!"
      4. Yet, they could do all these externals to appear very religious in others' eyes, and be rotten on the inside.
        1. They could be filled with motives of greed and lust, but that did not matter.
        2. They could be controlled by hate and malice, but that did not matter.
        3. They could take advantage of defenseless widows, but that did not matter.
        4. They could take bribes, but that did not matter.
      5. People could see the food they ate, see them wash their hands, see their tassels, see their phylacteries; but they could not see their greed, their lust, their taking advantage of the helpless, or the bribing.
        1. They thought what people could not see was unimportant.
        2. However, they were deceived.
        3. God saw, and God is as concerned with internals and with externals--in fact, externals are meaningless if they do not reflect internals.
      6. Listen to the words of Jesus:
        Matthew 6:1-6 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

Focus yourself on being, and the doing will honestly reflect who you are.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 21 March 2004

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