Tuesday, August 30, 2011
“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear…?” (Malachi 1:6)
There is something that has been on my heart as I travel to different places and have the opportunity to visit various churches and places of worship. It appears that, in our zealousness to free ourselves from religious bondage, we have become so “free” that we have forgotten who we are and why God gave us the freedom that He has given us.
Eli was God’s leader in Israel at the time of the Prophet Samuel’s birth, and God judged him severely for his casualness toward the things of God. In fact, the judgment was so severe that there would be no forgiveness for Eli or his descendants forever (I Samuel 3:14). What was it that provoked God to such a degree? It was because there was no respect for the holy things that God had entrusted to him. Eli was more concerned with what other people thought, specifically his sons, then what God thought (I Samuel 2:29). He was gluttonous and lazy, and had no backbone to stand up and confront disorder in his camp.
Today, as you walk into churches, you will find church leaders dressed in blue jeans on Sunday morning with their feet propped up on chairs, men with earrings and jewelry sticking out of their faces, and carnal and unclean spirits all over everything. Coffee and food is served, and then brought into the sanctuary while the service is going on (I Corinthians 11:22, 34). If a pastor dare confront these things, he is immediately accused of being “religious,” or “legalistic.”
My friend, listen to me carefully, honoring the things of God and the office of God is not being religious. It is demonstrating a heart condition, just as we would present ourselves honorable before a head of state (Malachi 1:8).
The believers at Corinth were one of the “freest” groups of Christians in the New Testament, but was God well pleased with their freedom? “After all, it’s really just bread and wine; if you’re hungry just fill up on the communion bread, and if you’re thirsty, fill up on the wine!” “David ate the showbread when he was hungry so don’t be legalistic!” (Mark 2:25-26) Well, they did eat all right, and they drank till they were drunken, but did God commend them?” No, many of them died and others were sick; they brought a curse upon themselves for disrespecting the things of God (I Corinthians 11:30).
There’s nothing wrong with wearing blue jeans to church if that’s the best you have, but when it’s in the power of our hand to offer God our best, and we’re just too lazy or cheap, then we are giving Him a corrupt offering which He will reject (Genesis 4:4-5, Malachi 1:7, 14).
Honor is not something that we simply carry around in our hearts, but rather it is demonstrated by the things that we say and do. There’s more honor and respect for God in some of the churches that we condemn than there is in many of our own “Spirit-filled” churches. There’s an old saying that “If you get a Catholic born again, he’ll be the most faithful one in the church!” There is an element of truth to this statement, because as much as mainline denominations are ridiculed for being “religious” and “legalistic,” they are also taught to honor the things of God. They may not understand why, but they know you’re supposed to respect it. There’s a holy fear when many of them walk into their churches.
God will judge us much harsher because we have been given much, and to him whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48). We have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come, and yet at times we handle these things carelessly (Hebrews 6:5, Jeremiah 48:10). Am I suggesting that we condemn the man that comes into the church with long hair, blue jeans and earrings? No, absolutely not, for God has received him. However, after a year or so, and he has matured and been accepted on the usher team, then it may be time for him to put away certain worldly things, and time for church leadership to help lead him in this direction.
Many of the things we now deem “legalistic” are still very important to God when done with the right heart. Setting aside a day of worship unto the Lord, tithing and giving offerings, the way we dress and carry ourselves and the length of our hair for men; these things speak volumes to others, and they also reveal the condition of our hearts. God says, “Them that honor me, I will honor…” (I Samuel 2:30)
It is important to remember that God has given us liberty as a blessing to us, and to serve others, not as an occasion to the flesh (Galatians 5:13). This is also true of our nation, the United States of America. God gave us liberty and made us strong so that we could bless Israel and preach the gospel throughout all the nations of the world, and be an example to other nations. He didn’t give us freedom so that we could consume it upon the lusts of our flesh and neglect the very purpose that he gave it to us for.
God has called us to holiness, to be set apart for Him. He is a jealous God and wants our very best (Deuteronomy 4:24, Malachi 1:14). I feel compelled to mention that God is not looking for the best, but He is looking for our best; if we give Him our best, He will make up whatever may be lacking through grace and mercy.