VALLEY REFORMED CHURCH
Savoring God through literacy in His literal Word
Self-Worship of the Most Unlikely Type
his is a very delicate subject and the message can be easily misunderstood. Therefore, allow me to say what I am not saying before I talk about this important issue.
• I am not saying that we should not have a realistic view of our fallen and sinful nature prior to our regeneration.
• I am not saying that we should not view our flesh as being unregenerate.
• I am not saying that we should not be aware of our inability to please God on the basis of our activities in the flesh.
• I am not saying that we should not do constant introspection in an effort to control the flesh and bring it in line with the Spirit.
• I am not saying that we should not actively and consistently ask for hidden/unknown sin or areas of deception to be exposed.
• I am not saying that we should not actively and consistently confess, surrender and repent of our sin.
• I am not saying that we can or will ever reach a state of sinless perfection, nor am I saying that we should try.
• I am not saying that we should not be humble or to ever consider ourselves worthy of salvation.
• I am not saying that we should ever think we can accomplish any good thing on our own or from our own perceived sense of goodness.
• I am not saying that our requests to God should not be within His will.
• I am not saying that God is not in control or that we can move Him to do something He had not already planned to do.
• I am not saying that God will answer every request we make in faith, just because we make the request in faith.
By Bob Martin | Nov 22, 2011 |
I guess this could be the end of the article, because now that I have said all that I am not saying, what is there left to say? Actually, what is left to say is very important, because it is one of the many ways our object in worship can be misplaced.
We are all aware that Satan is constantly on the prowl tempting true believers with thoughts and suggestions for sinning. He tried this with Jesus. He kept suggesting “what ifs” until he realized that he wasn’t going to have any success. Jesus did what we have to do in order to be successful; He stuck to the Word.
Now to the meat of it. People of the reformed persuasion, those who have a Biblical and correct view of God’s sovereignty in salvation and a correct view of their inability to achieve salvation for themselves by their own works or goodness, often have a “worm’s view” of themselves that sometimes results in misplaced worship. Let me illustrate this by this example.
I attended a reformed Church where a particular brother always asked me how I was doing, to which I always replied, “Good.” He always replied, “Only God is good.” I always responded that I was aware of that, but that in Christ, because of Christ and through Christ, I was doing well/good. As far as I know, he never accepted my response as being a valid response from a true believer who understood his own unworthiness in the kingdom of God. The other interesting observation of this brother was that he never expected anything of temporal worth to be given to him by God, nor did he, as far as I know, ever ask. Why would God do anything good, more than salvation, for a “worm”?
On the other hand, there are those, especially in the Word of Faith movement, who believe that God is wringing His hands and hoping that all who are without Christ will be convinced of His love to the point that they “claim” what God is so passionate to give them; pretty much whatever they ask for in faith.
Possibly in an effort to avoid this mentality, the reformed person accepts that God is in complete control to the point of not asking for anything, thereby never having to exercise faith at all. That mentality might look something like this: “I am a worm, a no-good worthless sinner, and all I deserve is condemnation and hell. I will never ask God for anything good, but will instead accept all that He sends my way, either good or bad.” While the preceding statement is partly true, we do not deserve God’s mercy, grace, or goodness; it is wrong to not ask.
Jesus said that we are not to worry about what we need:
Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV) "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
This seeking first the kingdom of God requires absolute faith. Jesus was the one who said, “According to your faith be it done to you.” (Matthew 9:29) And, it was Jesus who said this:
Matthew 21:22 (ESV) "And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
James reminds us to ask in faith, without doubting:
James 1:6-8 (ESV) "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."
If in my “worm mentality” I focus on the fact that I am underserving to receive anything from God, then I have effectively made myself the object of my worship. You may not agree with this and it is very subtle. But anything that takes your focus off of His provision and ability and replaces it with your unworthiness, is misplaced worship and it is wrong.
When we focus on our unworthiness, we fail to focus on His worthiness. We fail to ascribe and apply the effectiveness, sufficiency and finality of His provision on the cross. We fail to realize that although unworthy and deserving of eternal punishment, God chose us by His grace, out of millions, to be His adopted children, and as such, righteous in Christ.
God made us worthy in Christ! To view ourselves as otherwise discredits the work of Christ on behalf of we who are chosen. To say that Christ’s blood has not made us worthy is to trod under foot the blood of Christ.
To constantly praise and thank Him for what He has done is to focus on Him. To constantly live in the realm of my unworthiness focuses on me….self-worship…the subtlety of Satan. Paul said:
Philippians 4:13 (ESV) "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
This was not an inflated statement by Paul of his own self-worth or his own ability, but rather a statement of focus on the all sufficiency of Christ. Because of Christ’s great power and provision, I can do all things in His strength.
I pray that if this is an area of struggle for you, God will enable you to see this and ensure that your worship is focused on Christ and His ability, not your own inability or unworthiness to receive.
This next area is even more subtle than the first and this can occur when we concentrate on introspection. If “fruit” is any indication, the majority of Christians do not struggle with this one, although they should get close to it. The true believer desires to be closer to God, filled with the Spirit, walk in the Spirit and be free of worldly idols and encumbrances, but we should pursue this while being keenly aware of our standing in Christ.
I can best illustrate this by telling a personal story. Several years ago, I was confined to the house in the middle of winter. I was able to spend a much greater amount of time in study and especially prayer during this time. I recall being mindful that even stopping for a meal caused a temporary interruption in my time with the Lord. My primary focus was to draw closer to God and to discover any sin or habit or behavior that would detract from my walk with Him. Over time, I became especially burdened that the Holy Spirit was not revealing anything to me, not that I felt I had reached a state of perfection, but because I knew I remained sinful. This burden remained with me for several months and I spent even more time in introspection and prayer.
One day I went out to the shop to do something and out of the clear blue, the Holy Spirit spoke to me in a way and with a message that was unmistakable. He showed me that for all of the time I had invested in seeking hidden sin in my life, I was effectively engaged in self-worship, because my whole focus was on me, my sin, my unworthiness, my inability to draw closer to God. It was like switching on a light bulb. I immediately realized that I had been subtlety led by Satan to a place of spending every waking hour thinking about myself, instead of thinking about Christ. It was subtle, because it is good to do introspection. It is good to ask the Spirit to reveal areas of sin and deception, but my worship was misplaced when I continued on in that frame of mind.
I had to change my thinking and trust and exercise the faith that if I focused on Christ, on what He had already provided; my acceptance by the Father and my righteousness in Christ, then I could engage in true worship.
What a relief I felt when He showed me this, but at the same time, I felt I should have seen this coming; another attempt by Satan to focus on my inability instead of Christ’s ability! This is probably why Paul encouraged us to focus our thinking:
Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV) "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
Have you ever given any thought as to the effectiveness of the Monks? Unless they were publishing messages or writing books of instruction and encouragement, what good were they? They existed solely for their own edification. They were viewed as holy, but how did they contribute to life in the Body? I suggest that they didn’t and when we engage in self-worship by focusing all of our attention on ourselves, albeit in an effort to be conformed more into the image of Christ, we do not contribute anything to others in the Body of Christ.
In summary, we are chosen people of God. God, for His own glory and purpose has hand-picked a few people to walk the narrow road with Christ. He did this in part, to receive our praise and thankfulness and our utter dependence; our worship. When we focus on His provision, His payment and His ability to supply our every need, our worship will be rightly placed on Him and He will do His work of prompting and conviction as He sees fit. By our surrender and repentance and by our approaching Him in faith for what we need, we will worship Him in his glory and for His majesty.
As we conduct our transient life here on earth, we continue to do introspection in humility and in an environment of thankfulness, because we do not deserve to have been adopted into the family of God, but our focus must be on Christ, not on ourselves. He is our hope and ‘Christ in us’ is the great mystery of the gospel!
Colossians 1:27 (ESV) "To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Hebrews 3:1 (ESV) "Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,…"
Bless you today as you worship Him!