“God is Love” Means What?

By S.C. Shaw

One of the most common things “known” about God is that He is love. “God is love” is uttered amongst everyone including people who don’t have any interest in following Jesus. Unfortunately, many don’t know what “God is love” means, let alone know where to begin with living in accordance with Him. If we get this wrong, it is a matter of life and death. The most dangerous thing is people having full assurance of faith when it is not secure at all. 

My heart behind this blog isn’t to crush your happiness in this ambiguous statement that “God is Love”, but it is to enlighten you to the Biblical truth behind this verse in hopes it helps you respond correctly to God in a way that does give you a life secure in His love and eternal life with Him in heaven. 

We see this famous verse in 1 John 4:7

Here’s 7-12 because context is key.

 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”

Right off that bat people fail to see that every letter/the entire New Testament was written to the church, not the individual or to the unrepentant (non-believer). The gathered body of believers is who this letter is written to and we must understand it in that context. 

With that in mind, we see that this is a letter from John encouraging believers to love one another because God is love. But still, we must ask more questions. The way God loves is much different than the way we love or even think of love. Then we must begin to know the way God loves so that we can begin to know how to understand it. We must fight the urge to simply slap our own understanding of God, love, or anything we find in the Bible with the way we choose to understand it. 

Let us begin here. We see in 1 John 4 that God is love but 4 chapters earlier we see this passage in 1 John 1. 

1 John 1:5-10

“This is the message we have heard from Him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. This can help us begin to ask the right questions and start knowing God better in hopes to understand these things. 

– “God is light” means what? 

In the Bible, “Light” represents purity, holiness, godliness etc. God is love just as much as He is light. So, His love in the light of holiness and perfection is our starting point in understanding what love is supposed to mean.

-What is darkness?

In the Bible “darkness” represents everything ungodly, sin, evil, etc. There is no evil in God whatsoever. In fact, evil is only around because it is the opposite of God. We wouldn’t know “good” unless there was bad. We know how good God is because of the evil we see. Evil is the contrast of God. To put how good God is into perspective, God is so good that He is able to use the evil man choses for good. That means that all the evil man does, God is working for His ultimate plan and ultimate goodness. That’s amazing! He is so far removed from evil that when He uses evil situations, He is able to make the ultimate ending to that situation good. And don’t ever forget that the evil doer is not simply overlooked. Evil is storing up wrath for itself and all who practice it. I am simple pointing out the powerful goodness of God. 

-Do you feel like a liar when you read verse 6? 

If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth”

We need to examine our hearts always and make sure we are walking in step with God. How do we know we are walking in step? By reading His Word, fellowshipping with other believers and growing in our faith. We must see the fruits of the Spirit in our lives (Romans 2:5). Those are “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). It’s not bad to question if we are right with God. But it can be bad to assume we are. Notice how it says “practice the truth”. We will never be perfect until we see Christ face to face. Until then it’s a practice. 

-How do we practice the truth?

“Practice” is an action word. If we aren’t able to see our faith tangibly, then I would ask if there is a true faith there at all? God doesn’t just speak, He acts. His Word demands action. His Words create and are action. Action is the most important thing in the world. Anyone can say anything. But to prove, change or respond, is to act. We can’t accurately practice the truth without knowing the Word of God. 

-How do we walk in the light?

Again, “walk” is an action word. We can only “walk in” light if we are living as Christ would have us live. What does that mean? Read your Bible. I know that can be simply a buzz word kind of statement, but it is true. If we care enough and seek to grow/mature in our faith, then we must be grounded and well versed in His Word. If we aren’t then we run the risk of falling for every wave of passion and doctrine around.  I know the Bible can be intimidating and hard to understand but this is why there are many ways to approach the Bible. Checkout this blog where I teach you how to slow down and grow in understanding intentionally. 

-Why is fellowship with one another so important?

God did not just save us out of sin, death and eternal punishment. He saved us to one another. We are the body of Christ and as such, should desire fellowship with other like-minded people. Jesus did not come to simply save YOU, He came to save the church, which is all of us who proclaim the faith. That’s not to dimmish the very real personal relationship we have with Him, but too many of us only have that individual aspect in our minds. 

-If we are cleansed from all sin, does that mean we don’t sin anymore?

We are still sinners because we are still in this world. We are still wrapped in this sinful flesh. However, we are under the blood of Christ if we are living in a life sacrificed to Him. As we mature in our faith we mature in our knowledge of sin in our lives. With that maturity comes a desire to be more like Christ. Checkout this song I wrote which is a prayer to illuminate the sin in our minds and help us run from even the temptation of it. 

-Who claims they have no sin?

The people of the world today don’t even use the word “sin” anymore. I would suggest that most people don’t even know what sin means. I would, however, claim that most of the world lives by a set of standards that they have made up in their own minds and attempt to live by. But if most people answer honestly, they will say they can’t even live up to their own moral standard. Their only goal is that their good deeds outweigh their bad ones. I love what the 1689n London Baptist confession of faith says about the worlds “Good Works”.

-If we simply confess that we are sinners, is that enough to be a Christian?

Short answer, “Yes”. But that is the first step. The demons know they are sinners too. Even the demons believe and tremble at the name of God (James 2:19). But they forever live with unrepentant hearts. We need to confess our sins, repent and live a life worthy of the Gospel. This is not done in our own power for we have none, but done with the gift of the Holy Spirit who is given to us by God when we follow Christ.  

-“If we confess and God forgives us, is that all? I’m good to go to heaven?”

This is the great dynamic of the Christian faith. Many will confess their sin, repent and attempt to live a life for Christ but will have little to know success. This is because there was no true conversion. We don’t just put on a face of godliness and attempt, out of our own power, to live for Christ. To be a “good person” is something that has never been. To be dead, and then to be alive, are two very different places to be in life. If your walk with God isn’t as dramatic as that then I would want to ask some questions. A great question to ask ourselves is “How has our life changed since following Jesus?” If there is not a real answer to that, there’s a problem. 

-Again, claiming “no sin”, what’s the big deal?

Sin is the reason why Jesus came. Sin is what has separated us from God. Sin is why Jesus (God) needed to come, die, and rise, so that He could be with His people forever. God’s desire has always been to be with His creation. He doesn’t need us, nor did He create out of any unmet needs. But He desires to share His goodness with His creation. He delights in what He has made. He is unable to have any part with us if we are covered by sin. But since Christ work on the cross, we are able to be covered by His blood and in fact we are the righteousness of Christ if indeed we follow Him. This isn’t by anything that we have done, but by His working alone. 

-How do we make God a liar? 

God is perfect and does not have the ability to sin. Lying is a sin. How do we make sense of this verse? If we claim to believe and walk with Jesus but live in a way contrary to what He commands in His Word, then His truth is made a joke to the on looking world and within us. God only speaks truth in fact He is truth. But to claim Christ and walk contrary to His teachings and commandments is to make it seem as if God is false or a liar. This is why there is so much confusion in the world today about God, the Bible, Christianity and the church.  

-We are to read His Word, but now His Word is in us?

In John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.” That verse is talking about Jesus. When we live in the completed work of Christ then we have the Holy Spirit alive inside us. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. He is the third Person of the Trinity. That means we have the very Spirit of God inside us, if you truly believe and follow Christ. 

The best response to understanding a passage like this is “Am I saved? Or “what must I do to be saved?” If those questions aren’t on your radar, then ask more questions. Sometimes we need to plant the seed and let it grow. That is fine. But there is no way to make it to heaven without the repentance and following of Christ. If you’d like to read some thoughts about that question then read here.

Closing:

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!

MisfitMinistry.com

Music StevenShaw.co

www.TheShawsMusic.com

Instagram @stevenshaw.co @fitcore @theshaws

How to Study the Bible

By S.C. Shaw

I have been preaching, teaching and coaching people in the area of God’s Word (the Bible) for many years. One of the most consistent questions or problems people have with coming to the Bible is the complexity or difficulty of understanding it. Which of course results in not reading it at all. I know this to be true because I struggled for most of my life to read through the whole Bible or even read it on a consistent basis which lead to a very shallow and weak spiritual walk for many years in my life. But when I did read the whole Bible and now read it regularly, it changed me from the inside out. 

However, this blog isn’t about reading through the entire Bible. I think most of us need to start way slower. Why? Because the Word of God is inexhaustible and only gets deeper the more you study and understand it. I am not contradicting myself here. I want to encourage you to slow down when coming to the Bible because I want every person who wants to read the Bible to be excited and encouraged to read. This is the only Word from the very real and living God. The only God. There will be no greater life changing gift than coming to Gods Word and leaving with glimpses of Gods glory more each time. Understanding our Creator more will only help with every other aspect of our life. What am I talking about? I am simply saying, read less and understand more. At least at the beginning. I am going to show you an example on how to do this. Namely, ask more questions, research the answers and grow in wisdom and not just information. This will inevitably lead to the desire and excitement for reading through the whole Bible and actually understating more of it. 

Example. 2 Corinthians 7:1 is a very powerful verse that can be studied to understand the entire Gospel story and knowing God better. Let’s get started.

Always start with context of what you are reading. Even just a verse needs to be unpacked in this way. Without context we will wrongfully take verses and start with applying them to our lives, believing it to mean whatever we want it to mean. This is the most dangerous thing you can do. We don’t change the Gospel to fit us we change ourselves (God does this work in us when we are obedient) to fit the Gospel. We need to first understand who it was written to and how they would have understood it before we can draw any life application from it. 

Therefore, 2 Corinthians is the second letter from Paul the apostle written to the church in Corinth. This church was having some big struggles. There was divisions and quarrels among them. Paul is also defending himself as there were false rumors going around about his moral character and apostleship. Paul is calling this church back to Christ. Explaining their need to repent and get back to spreading the good news of Christ. That is a quick sum up.

That leads us to,

Corinthians 7:1

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

This might sound confusing already, but that’s the point. Read a verse like this and then stop and start asking questions. 

Some translations start this verse with “Therefore, since”. But either way when we come to a passage that starts like this, we need to ask ourselves, “What’s that therefore there for?” Or “Since what?” You know something was just said in the previous passage. Back up and get some context. 

In chapter 6 we read in verses 17 & 18, the end of chapter 6. 

2 Corinthians 6:17-18

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. Therefore, go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Paul here is reminding the church (from the Old Testament) to not be in wrongful fellowship with non-believers. We aren’t to avoid the non-believer, but the relationship we have with them should be very different than the relationships we have with our local church. The church was allowing sin into their church and false doctrines to be preached. We are to minister and tell the world the truth, but we are not to allow anything aside from Christ crucified to be preached in our churches. Paul is reminding them of this. 

Now we can ask the questions from 2 Corinthians 7:1

-Since we have these promises, beloved, 

1. What promises? And why is Paul calling them beloved?

Now we can answer the first question in light of what was just explained in chapter 6. Paul’s commission to turn back to Christ because of what God has promised us since the Old Testament that was written about 1000 years before this letter. God is foreshadowing Christ in this text from Ezekiel. God promised a Savior that would take away the sins of the world. Yeshua (Jesus), God, coming in human flesh to live the perfect life, die the only substitutionary death that He could die, be raised again and now is praying for His children in heaven until He returns for us. With these promises we get an eternity of heaven and everlasting life. And Paul usually addresses the church in this way because he loves them! He planted these churches and he knows these people they are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The very same people we will be with for eternity in heaven. This is the affection we should have for our church. So then, 

let us cleanse ourselves 

2. What is it to be clean?

In its most simple forms, to be clean is to not be dirty. What is dirty? Anything that is unclean. If we wash our hands and then rub them in the mud, they become dirty. I know, I know, this is too simple. But, 

from every defilement 

3. What is defilement?

Defilement is extreme dirty. It’s like I didn’t just rub my hands in mud, I picked up sewage. Defilement is harmful. It is deadly. And even though God is the One who ultimately cleanses us, we still have action to take. We have a part in responding to Him. Example, the Bible is not going to read itself. We need to pick it up and grow in our faith and maturity through His Word. 

-of body and spirit,

4. Why body and spirit?

So, we understand cleansing ourselves and the depth of defilement but now we must be clean in both body and spirit? Why does our physical cleanliness matter? It’s more than just being clean, again, cleansed from defilement. What does the Word of God say is defiling? Sexual immorality. Our bodies were made to glorify God in everything. Mainly because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The very Spirit of God is in each believer.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” 1 Corinthians 6:18

We aren’t to just be holy and pure in our minds or hearts but with our entire being. 

bringing holiness to completion

5. Completion? We can be perfect in this life?

How can we be made perfect in this life? We can’t. But God is continually making us more like Christ. It’s called sanctification. Our holiness will be made complete when Christ comes back and gives us new bodies. You see what Paul is saying here? He’s simply reminding us of Christ’s promise that nothing can or will snatch His children out of His hand (John 10:28-30). It is God who gives the gift of belief and it is God who sustains our belief until the end. This is how and why we will be “bringing holiness to completion”. By the power of Him who has called us. 

in the fear of God.

6. We are to fear God? Why? How?

The last part of this verse almost seems random. We just had all these sweet and loving reminders and now we must fear God? The Bible tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, (Proverbs 9:10). If we don’t have a healthy fear of God, then we do not understand Him enough. He is a big, awesome and powerful God. To stand in His presence is death unless you are a heavenly being. Just the sight of Him causes angels to praise and bow in adoration. Any time we see God reveal Himself in smaller ways in Scripture, it always results in people falling to their face in fear for their lives. His presence is too much for us. But this is the same God that makes a way for us to be reconciled back to Him. He has made us and loves us. But with a healthy fear is when we begin to see ourselves in proper context of who He is and who we are under Him. That is when we know He is the One we should follow and obey. 

You see how this is starting to work? This was a quick and simple breakdown of this verse. I could preach a sermon or write a book from the truths found here. But now that we understand this verse a little better, lets read it again and feel what you gain from slowing down to understand it more. 

Corinthians 7:1

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

Every time we come to a verse or passage that we have done this kind of breakdown with, we can stop and remember all that we have learned and be able to teach ourselves/remind ourselves of the goodness of God and find comfort in His promises. As well as be able to explain in a deeper way, the truths of God. 

The other side of this is simply reading even when we don’t feel like it or understand it. Why? Because Christians have the Spirit of God living within them. That means we are reading what He wrote. And it is food for Him. Even when we don’t understand we are being blessed and strengthened. Plus, God is looking on with delight that we are being obedient to His command to grow in wisdom and maturing in the faith. 

This kind of practice will inevitably lead to a desire to read the whole Bible. Approaching Gods Word with the proper excitement and reverence. Then we will get much more from our devotion time with our Lord. 

Closing:

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!

Music StevenShaw.co

Ministry Page www.MisfitMinistry.com

You Are Not Good Enough (But Jesus is)

By S.C. Shaw

This is an interesting title, I know. It is so countercultural to make a statement like that. From birth we are taught “You can do anything you want. If you believe enough you can accomplish anything. You are enough.” Every Disney movie is based on this idea. Hear me correctly, I am not here to bash your identity, character or worth. After all, we are all made in the image of God. This blog is simply to help us think through this idea that we are in desperate need of something much more powerful than “us” in this life. 

I lead music for my church. In our youth service we are in a series with the title, “You Are Not Enough”. I added “Good” for reasons I will be explaining. I love that we are doing it. This age group is so affected by everything they are seeing and hearing. But this topic is an epidemic to all ages, and I pray this blog plants seeds of thought. 

Why is this important? 

Because even from a humanistic worldly context this idea that “you can do anything” is dangerous. But I’m not here to talk about that. What I am going to be talking about mainly is how much danger we are in if we think we are safe and sufficient in ourselves towards a God who demands perfection. I am not going to touch on the worldly aspect of this but the godly one. Our culture is so confused about who God is and what righteous requirements there are to make it to heaven. We are living in a post Christian culture and there is not much help in the area of Biblical truth out there. Here’s my small attempt to help spread truth and love from a Biblical perspective. After all, I am claiming to believe in a God who gave us a book that He is the author of, and He claims to be the only way to heaven and from escaping eternal punishment, (John 14:6). If I didn’t share this with everyone then I would be a hypocrite. Regardless of what you believe or think of me, at least hear these words as someone who is trying to save your life because that is what I believe I am attempting to do. 

What does God require of me?

The God of the Bible created everything good and according to His will, (Genesis 1:31). He Himself is the definition of goodness and perfection. He can do nothing apart from His holy and righteous character, (Matthew 12:25-28, 2 Timothy 2:13). In other words, He can’t deny Himself. He creates man and woman in His image and likeness. What does that mean? You and me bare some of who He is within us. We are not God, but we are able to experience and understand more about God by knowing who we are and being in relationships with one another. He has also given us His Word. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God used man to write down what man needed to know to know God better and live according to His will. But I’m jumping ahead. 

God created everything good and man messed it up by disobeying Him. Because Adam was our representative, we are all cursed because of his actions (Romans 5:12-21). And before you think that’s not fair just remember, Adam and Eve had a relationship with God that no other human has ever had. They walked with God and spent face to face time with Him. And they still failed. Now that we are born into this curse, we are under Gods wrath from birth (Ephesians 2:1-3). Remember, God demands perfection because He can have no part of imperfection. He is perfect holiness, righteousness and a myriad of other great things. But He still desires to be with His creation. You see the dilemma? So, what do we do? We are unable to live up to Gods standards because we are born into this curse of sin. God can’t just accept us the way we are. So, what do we do? The real question is “What did He do?”

Luckily God is all mighty, all wisdom, all power and sovereign. Meaning He knew that giving man the ability to make choices means we would ultimately mess up because we are not God. Created by a perfect God does not mean we are perfect. In fact, only God is perfect. So, God demands perfection, and we are not it. 

What was God’s plan?

God sent Himself to earth to take His own wrath upon Himself in order to make a way for some to be worthy of Himself. Why some? The Bible makes it clear that some are chosen, or elect, to receive the gift of eternal life (Matt. 22:14; 24:22, 24, 31; Luke 18:7; Acts 9:15; 11:18; Rom. 8:29, 30, 33; Eph. 1:4, 5, 11; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:10. See, also, Luke 10:21-22; John 6:37, 44, 65; 10:26; 15:16; 17:2, 6, 9; Acts 5:31; 13:48; Rom. 9:11, 15, 16; 18 11:5, 7, 28; 1 Cor. 1:27, 28, 30; Gal. 1:15; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:1-2; 2:8, 9; Rev. 5:9; 7:10-12). Sorry to overwhelm this point but I believe it to be very irresponsible and dangerous to teach anything else. Sound unfair? Remember, we are all deserving of eternal judgment because our fallen state. God was under no obligation to save anyone. He would have been just in destroying everything and starting over again. But God choses to save some. But hear this. No one who comes to Him will be denied. Anyone who calls upon the Lord for forgiveness will be welcomed in to His family, eternally forgiven of their sins and secured eternal life in heaven. The plain fact is, not all will accept that invitation.

So, God sends Himself in the form of a man He calls (Yeshua). Why a man? Because there is no forgiveness for sins without the shedding of blood. Why? Because sin leads to death and therefore death is the only way to pay for sin (Romans 6:23). Hence the continual animal sacrifices we see in the Old Testament. But the blood of goats and lambs are not enough to take away the eternal punishment that awaits the judgement for man’s sin. It was always a temporal way to cover sin. Again, God making a way for Him to be able to dwell with man even before Christ enters the scene. But this was all a foreshadowing of Him who was coming. We need an eternal sacrifice to secure us for eternity. Only God is eternal. But God can’t die. God must come as a man in order to live perfectly, die perfectly, be raised again and ascend to heaven to secure His children forever. But Jesus didn’t forgo His deity. He was 100% man and 100% God while on this earth. He is the second person of the Trinity. Yeshua is His name, or Jesus for the more recent of understanding. 100% man because God can’t die and there must be bloodshed. 100% God because only God can live a perfect life as a man in order to be the perfect substitute for sinful man. Only God is enough to take on the sin of all who would believe, die, be raised and ascend to His Throne in Heaven. Only God can take God’s wrath and survive. Only God can raise people from the dead. Is this starting to make sense? God alone can make a way for people who are dead in their sin, back to Himself, accepted as holy and righteous before Him (Ephesians 2:1-10). Only God is powerful enough make this happen. And He did. Jesus is our perfect substitute. He lived and died perfectly to save us. He rose from the grave and is back in heaven praying for His children every day. 

Why does this matter to you?

This truth is important to all because there are only two kinds of people. People going to heaven and people going to hell. What is hell? Hell is a place made for Satan and those who follow him. God desires no person to be there (1 Timothy 2:3-4), but He is also not going to force anyone to follow Him. Hence the ability to make choices. God is just and allows people to make their choices and our choices have an eternal consequences. That means the way you take this message will matter forever. I’m not assuming your eternity in this blog, but I am talking about the truths that do concern your choices. This is a choice we must all make for ourselves. There is no salvation based on your family, where you grew up or political party you hold to. This is a response to the love Christ has shown us on the cross. God becoming man and offering us forgiveness by His work alone. God deserves nothing less than a life completely submitted to Him. 

You are not good enough to enter heaven. But Jesus the Christ was, and He offers His perfection on anyone who chooses Him over all else. 

If you want to know more then continue reading here.

Closing:

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Music StevenShaw.co

Ministry Page www.MisfitMinistry.com

What is The Church?

By S.C. Shaw

What is the church, what is the point, why should we care and the dangers of not knowing the answers to these questions? There are some fundamental truths about the church we need to remember or “going” to church will mean very little and make no impact in the world for the sake of Christ. This isn’t something that only the weak or immature Christians have trouble remembering, this is something we need to preach for ourselves all the time because it is easier to live with the wrong mind for church. 

What is the Church?

The church is God’s people as a whole, both worldwide and locally. The body of Christ is what the Bible calls the Church. Or the gathered people of Christ. The Church is not a place you simply go when you feel like it. It is not a building or location you must attend to do “church”. We do not meet because we are commanded to go to church. We are the Church, if in fact you are a child of God, and as so we are commanded to meet together because we are the church. We aren’t commanded to go to church but to gather as the church. I know this sounds so simple, but most of us approach the church building, house school or wherever your church meets, with this wrong mindset. But this is how and why we have such a lackluster church gathering every Sunday across America. People coming to an event called “church” that they feel free to come and go as they please with no conviction of what it all means to the glory of God. Church is treated like a grocery store where one can pick and choose what they like or dislike. Where you can go to a different church each Sunday just to make sure you get your fix. But the sweet life you are missing when you get this wrong. Yeshua (Jesus), has so much more in mind when we are called to gather as the church.

What is the point?

So with this new understanding of what the church is, I hope it helps this section make more sense. If the point of church isn’t just a place we go to, but a group of people we belong to, then what’s the point? Why has God commanded us to gather? Or better, together. Why can’t we just have a relationship with God and not have to deal with all the sloppy relationships? Does God really command us to meet together? Hebrews 10:25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Ephesians 5:19 “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,”

If these were the only two verses referring the church gathering together it would be plenty to know we are to meet and worship in One voice to our good God. But we see throughout the Bible, God’s people meeting together and see that any follower of God by himself is never condoned or considered a good thing. 

God has given us each other as a gift. We will be strengthened, refined, encouraged and grow in Spirit and in truths as we “deal” with one another and grow in friendships. Families are messy. The church is our eternal family, and it is filled with broken people just like you and me. My pastor always says “If you’re looking for the perfect church, you won’t find it. And if you do, they probably won’t let you join.” It’s funny but it’s true. 

We are not only gathered together for the betterment of each other but also to worship God with one voice. 

Why should we care?

At this point I think it should be obvious why we should care about the church. But I am a slow learner and I’m guessing there might be a couple more out there that needs repetition to learn. 

What all this is pointing to is the fact that we cannot be alone. There is no such thing as an alone Christian. There are no Rambo Christians. When you meet one of these people, they tend to be a little off. Their theology is all over the place, they’re usually a little aggressive when their doctrine is called into question. And or they are being swept up by eve4ry new age idea out there. We need other like-minded and fellow believers to keep us in check. We both serve and get served at church. We need correction and give correction. We give and receive encouragement. Not even God Himself in human form was alone. Jesus surrounded Himself with people. All of us are a far cry from being like Jesus. But we are called to practice and become more like Him every day. 

This is something that shouldn’t take lots of effort. In fact, if we are growing closer to God then the natural desire is to be with Gods people. To be excited to share in worship to the God who saved us. To need one another to help grow our faith. Now I don’t think for a second that this is normal or easy at first. But that is a natural response to knowing God more and understanding scripture better. 

What are some dangers of denying this?

Here’s what I see in churches today. I am a worship leader and pastor. I lead at many different churches all around Southern Orange County. What I see more than anything is the grocery store church goer. What I wish I saw more of is a group of Gods people gathering to raise our knowledge and affections towards Him. We aren’t most concerned with Gods glory; we are most concerned with checking a box of church attendance each week. And it’s not all our fault. The church is doing a subpar job at helping us understand this. Some churches are doing a better job than others but it’s a point being missed all too often. 

So what?

I don’t think anyone blog post is going to convert somebody’s lifelong idea if what church is. But I do pray that this has planted a seed. I hope you begin to read you Bible more with the eyes of the church. The entire New Testament was written to the church. I pray you desire to be part of that family. The church needs more people that get this. That are willing to love until it hurts. And it’s going to hurt. But it will also be a blessing to you and your church. This is our eternal family that God has chosen since before one second of time was created. Let us go and enjoy it!

I wrote a more in depth look at what the church is and means biblically here.

Closing:

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Music StevenShaw.co

Ministry Page www.MisfitMinistry.com

Triumph Over Sin

By S.C. Shaw

I have been a Christian for most of my life. I was a terrible Christian for along time, but still a Christian. One thing that I have noticed is whenever myself or anyone I know has had a spiritual victory, been saved, prayer, reading the bible, victory over sin, is always followed up by attack. You may have experienced this already. Or maybe you have and didn’t know you were in an attack. After Jesus started His ministry, he has a huge spiritual victory, and it’s time to start his ministry. The time for Christ testing is now.

Matthew 4:1-11

The Temptation of Jesus

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,

lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God

and him only shall you serve.’”

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.”

Let’s break this down:

Matthew 4:1

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Why is He being led to the wilderness? Let’s get some context, back to Matthew 3

(Matthew 3:16-17)  

The Baptism of Jesus

“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said,“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

This is the “real” start for Christ. The beginning of the end to sin for those who would believe. This is the start of the most amazing event to ever come to history as we know it. 

Back to the story.

V1. Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Immediately He was taken to the wilderness. It almost seems like He was rushed to go. Christ is finally ready to start His ministry and He gets taken away. Why?

Why must Jesus be taken away to be tempted/tested in the wilderness? Let’s get to the miracles already, right? Jesus has been waiting patiently for God the Fathers perfect timing. Now, 30 years later, Jesus is ready to start His ministry.

This was the final testing for Christ to prove His worthiness to be our substitute. Jesus was already perfect and worthy to follow through with the Fathers will, but God is a God of details, and God is all about teaching us about His character. He is showing us how worthy and holy His Son is. God is giving us guidelines to live our lives more faithfully, to look to our perfect example on how to live. 

I thought of this passage for along time as “poor Jesus, what a difficult test for him”. But as I studied it, something became very clear. Jesus was going to this testing with full confidence. I think Satan didn’t want anything to do with it. The devil knew he wasn’t going to win. And Jesus knew He would win. Jesus walked into that wilderness eager to prove to all creation of His worthiness and perfection. Jesus came in on the offense. A fight between Jesus and Satan is like a fight between a boot and an ant. No contest.

V2. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. “

Why forty? You think that this was a coincidence that God is mirroring some Old Testament events? The Israelites were wandering the wilderness for 40 years. They were tested there. They were hungry. They were lead by the Spirit just as Jesus was. There are many similarities here. But the biggest one is, where the Israelites failed, Jesus was determined to obey. 

Also, fasting always comes with a time of great testing. Fasting is a great way to focus on prayer. Fasting makes you weak and strong at the same time. As you grow weaker physically, you are growing stronger spiritually. 

The word “temp” in the original Hebrew means both tested and tempted. As God the Father is using this time to test Christ, Satan is using it to temp Jesus. God can never temp you, but He will test you. What Satan means for evil, God plans for good. 

V3. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 

You see what Satan did there? “He tries to plant doubt, “If you are the Son of God”. We saw in chapter 3 that God spoke to Jesus and proclaimed His Son ship. But Satan wants to plant any doubt he can to attempt the sin of Jesus. But as we will find out, Jesus is much more powerful than any temptation. 

Satan is temping Jesus right where His gifts are. Jesus has the power to turn whatever He wants into whatever He wants. Jesus is hungry, He’s physically weak. He knows that He’s able to turn those stones into bread. How does Jesus reply to this?

Jesus looks the devil in the eyes, punches him and He defeats the devil just like that! ….

Is that what happened?

No, Jesus used the Word of God to strengthen Himself and defeat His enemy. 

V4 But He answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

I love this. Do you realize what He’s saying here? First off, He’s quoting the Old Testament. But what does it mean? Is it bad to eat? Is it a sin to be hungry? No!

Jesus is using Scripture to defend His Father and ultimately Himself because He is God. “Man shall not live by bread alone”. God made food to be a blessing for us. He could have made a square block that had every nutritional value our bodies needed. We could have no taste buds and just ate to live. God could have done that. But He didn’t. He created flavors, so many flavors, so much goodness that no one will ever be able to enjoy all in this life. What a good God. 

But what Jesus is saying here is, “I trust my Father in heaven and if He wants Me to die, no amount of food can keep me alive. And if He wants me to live, no amount of fasting can kill me”. He’s proclaiming His trust and power in the God of heaven. 

V5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple. 

V6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,

lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Satan is misquoting scripture. Now Satan is temping Jesus with the very power Jesus just uttered in the last verse. “Your God is powerful, then show it.” They are at a populated city where Jesus would become famous if He jumped off the temple and God slowly guided Him down safely to the ground. Jesus would have an instant following. Sound good right? But How does Jesus reply?

V7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 

What does that mean? Would God not have caught him? I thought God was all powerful and would keep you alive if He wanted to? To contrast verse 1. Putting God to the test isn’t some ultra way to prove your trust in God. Like going out to the desert and sitting there with no food or shelter, praying to God “I fully trust you to provide for me”. That’s not trusting in God, that’s being irresponsible with the life God has given you. For example, people have tested God in this way in the past. They have jumped off a high place with full trust that God will not let any harm come to them. You know what happened? They died. Putting God in a place that He should not have to be. Making God something He’s not. Making God do something He doesn’t.  

Also, You will always be tempted where your gifting’s are. If you are smart you will be tempted to be boastful. If you are an artist, you will be tempted to use your art to glorify yourself instead of God. Satan will use your gifts against you. Again, what God has planned for good, the enemy will try to use for evil. 

V8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 

V9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 

Finally we get to the heart of what Satan has wanted this whole time. He has wanted to be head honcho since we was an angel in heaven. This is why he was cast out. Now he gets to challenge Jesus to get what he wants. But of course Christ would not and could not do this. 

V10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God

and him only shall you serve.’”

Jesus is answering in the same way we should all face temptation and idolatry. We should not be making anything more important in our lives than God. But how hard is that for us? Our hearts are idol factories. What is an idol? Anything we put before or ahead of God. 

V11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

God brings triumph to those who remain faithful in testing. When we triumph over temptation God sends us extra blessing. We are drawn closer to Him with every victory. We are not and cannot earn our salvation with our works, but we can receive blessing from God for our faithfulness to His calling. 

When we go through trials, suffering, persecution, temptation and all other forms of seemingly bad things, know that God is working those things for good. He is growing your faith and character. When God calls you to something, just know there will be testing. God’s calls are big and always out of the realm of our strength. God is strengthening you, not to be strong in your own efforts, but being made able to be stronger in him. Knowing how to call upon His power for His glory alone. All the great men and women of God went through lots of testing before they were able to accomplish the plans God had for them. But these are all blessings.  

Remain faithful to God. Jesus was tested and proven to be our rightful sacrifice. We have every right to draw near to God because of Jesus. We have no salvation to earn for ourselves. The work has been done by Christ alone. But now we are called to a new life. To walk in a way that is proof that you are a child of Gods. But remember, this is not out of your own efforts. You draw near to God and He draws near to you! 

Closing:

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Music StevenShaw.co

Ministry Page www.MisfitMinistry.com

The Gospel for the Post-Christian Culture

By S.C. Shaw

I recently went to a conference with some leaders with my church. We learned some interesting statistics about our new Post-Christian culture. I wasn’t even aware that this was such a major thing of our time. We learned how the next generation of people are growing up in a world completely oblivious to the bible and the gospel in general. The only upside to this is the excitement that can come from someone hearing the amazing saving grace of God for the first time without bringing any false or just messy life stories to the gospel from their past. My attempt in this blog is to breakdown the gospel story as simple and short as I can for those who just don’t know. 

Here’s how I would explain the gospel story to people who know very little to nothing about Jesus Christ. 

The God who created everything in this world and the whole universe has created you and me. He created man and woman very different and special from all His other creations. He made them that they may be in perfect fellowship with Him forever. God wasn’t in need of anything or lonely. In fact God is so powerful and mysterious that He is Three in One. He is One God but with three very distinct persons or essence. I know that is hard to understand, but if God could be fully understood what kind of God would He be? We will never fully understand Him.

Everything we need to know about Him and His saving grace, He has given to us in His Word, the Bible. But this awesome God creates us because of His overflowing love and creativity. He simply wants to share Himself with His creation. One of the most amazing mysteries is that God has given us the ability to make choices. What God wants more than anything, what He values above everything else in His own glory. That sounds weird and egotistical I know. But remember, we are not talking about a person. We are talking about the God who has not only made all things but upholds, rules and is in control of all things. The words for that are “sovereign and providence”. That’s a good word to know. So, what else can be above God’s glory? It is only right to put His glory first. Why does this matter? Because God creating us able to make choices means; one, this shows His power and glory, two, man and woman choosing to love and obey Him is more glorious than God just making mindless robots. And notice how I’m not using the term “free will” but able to make choices. I think the idea of free will is different and not a correct term for free agents able to make choices. But that’s a whole other blog topic.

So God makes both man and woman. He creates them special, meaning they possess certain qualities and characteristics of God Himself. God made them in His image or likeness. Not bearing a physical resemblance, God is all Spirit. But we are able to know Him and understand Him more than all the rest of creation. We share similarities with God. Mainly, made for fellowship with Him but with one another as well.

There is another side of this story. That is the side of evil. Lucifer was the most beautiful angel in heaven. So much so that Lucifer wanted to be like God. He wanted to be worshiped. So God, protecting His own glory, cast Lucifer out of heaven along with some of the angels that wanted to follow him. Now called Satan, the Devil, the Tempter, the Deceiver and many other names. Lucifer would be apposed to God forever. 

I tell you this because God gave rule and dominion to Adam and Eve (the first man and woman). They had free reign of it all except for one tree they were not to eat from. Why did God do this? Because God must test man to know if they will choose Him or not? Turns out, the first test was failed by our representatives, Adam and Eve. They had a relationship with God that no one else in this world has ever experienced and they still failed. How did they fail? Satan came to them when they were in the garden and tempted them to eat of the tree God had told them not to. To make a long story short, they ate and they broke the relationship they had with God. They now know sin and have cursed all of creation with them. Doesn’t seem fair? Remember, they were far closer to God than we can ever be this side of heaven. No one would have done any better. The represented us wholly and completely. God in all His perfection can have no part in sin. Sin is the opposite of who He is. That is why the covenant was broken. Darkness, evil and sin entered to world and God must make things right again. How? By destroying sin and sinners. 

After that the world was in chaos. Now sin in abundance entered through this one sin. God makes promises and covenants to people He sees are seeking after Him. God showing undeserved grace and mercy on us from the start. God pours out His graces on His people over and over again as His people struggle with sin and idolatry over and over again. God gives them His commandments, ways to atone for their sin by imperfect and continual sacrifices through the blood of animals and other sacrifices. 

Fast forward to the New Testament (the second grouping of books 400 years after the Old Testament ends. God’s perfect timing has come for the truth and final redemption for His people. He sends Himself in the second person of the Trinity, comes to earth as Yeshua or as we know Him best (Jesus the Christ) the man. This man is 100% God, and 100% Man. God is doing the impossible to bring His beloved rebellious people back to Himself. God again constantly showing His people grace and mercy. Why would He do this? First, because He made promises in the Old Testament (the first grouping of book in the bible that ends 400 years before Jesus enters the scene). Second, God saves us because saving us shows His glory even more than destroying us would. Even though He would still be just and glorified if He did destroy us. Once Adam and Eve sinned, God had every right to kill off His rebellious creation and start over again. But He doesn’t. Instead He has planned since before He created the world, that He would save us. That’s right, God not only knew that man would sin, but He is working out all of history for His ultimate plan of glory and our ultimate good. Again, hard to understand fully I know. 

Jesus comes and is getting ready to start His ministry after 30 years on earth. He works hard and is growing in who He is, but His ministry has not started yet. There’s some cool stuff that happens but it is not till Jesus is 30 years old that Jesus actually starts His ministry. Jesus starts His ministry by getting baptized. It’s a great example of how the new Christian should start their walk with God. Baptism isn’t a means of salvation. Just like Jesus was already God and already perfect in His life, and yet He still gets baptized to start His ministry. We are saved by God and have full assurance of heaven before we are ever baptized. But just like our lives will look very different after following Jesus. Baptism is just an outward sign to everyone of your inward conversion. Just a little side note.

Let’s continue with the life of Christ. He performs many wonders and awesome things (you should pick up a bible and read John to read about Jesus life). But we are in summary form here. Jesus finds men to follow Him on His journey. These 12 men walk with Jesus for His entire ministry. Which is only 3 years. 

At 33 Jesus and His ministry are going to come to and end. One of His disciples named Judas, betrayed Jesus for a little money. Another example of a man in a position closer to God than we will ever get in this life and still chooses evil. He makes a terrible decision. Anyway, Jesus is turned over to the authorities and is crucified. But Christ crucified was always Gods plan. Crucifixion was the worst way someone could experience death. Jesus, after being beaten a lot, is hung on a tree and dies. But that’s just the beginning of the story. After three days Jesus is raised from the dead by God. He was confirmed dead by professional killers. In fact, if they were unsuccessful in killing someone, they in turn would be killed. Needless to say, they took their killings very serious. Failure wasn’t an option.

Jesus was dead for 3 days and He rose. The whole point of Jesus dying was so He would rise. This is what secures the believers eternal life with Him. We die to ourselves and rise with Him. Not only a new life here on earth but an eternal life with Him in heaven. When Jesus rose, He made Himself known to over 500 eyewitnesses and the world would never be the same again. 

Much happened after all this, but this is where I would encourage you to start reading the Bible. Once Jesus ascended back up to heaven, His people’s ministry exploded here on earth. Jesus sent His Spirit down to dwell within His those who choose to follow Him to give them all the power and wisdom they need to make more disciples. Christians aren’t special except that we admit our sin and failures, rely on God’s grace alone and He empowers us to do good, gives us a secure place of eternity with Him and the desire to be steadfast till the He returns. 

I pray this was simple and clear enough for someone who has never heard the gospel. My goal in everything is to have more people hear this amazing grace story of Christ and the salvation He offers to all. You can choose to believe or deny, but you need to know what the truth is before you decide. Please don’t hesitate to contact me and ask questions. 

I wrote a more extensive blog on the fuller Gospel story you can read here if you are intrigued. The Good News

Closing:

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

Music StevenShaw.co

Ministry Page www.MisfitMinistry.com

The Little Things Matter Most

By S.C. Shaw

The Christian needs to be more focused on the little things in our day, because that is what consumes our minds more than anything. Let me define “little things” first. I’m talking the boring, mundane, the unnoticed, and the seemingly unimportant things that happen on the day to day. These are the things that will reveal your true faith in Christ. 

Most of us will not be of much importance in the world’s eyes. We won’t cure diseases or become famous. Most our names won’t be known for our great work in the world, but Christ knows and sees all we do at every moment we do it. Therefore, we need to glorify God in all we do from the moment we step off our bed in the morning to the moment we lay down at night. Praising Him for His common graces on the world, as well as the much bigger graces He has shown to His children. 

How do you react when someone cuts you off while driving? How do you treat your parents, spouse, teachers, or friends when no one is watching? What goes through your mind when you see an attractive person? There are a million little things that come across our days that will either give us the opportunity to glorify God or shame our faith. But we rarely take notice of these things. We are overly focused on the big things alone. The big sins, the big project, the next church service, the missions trip you’ve been planning for months. All the while we’ve neglected our own bible reading, refraining from gossip, averting our eyes from lust, or just simply overly self-focused. I’m not minimizing all the big “good” things that we do to glorify God, but church services and mission trips are not the only times we glorify God and live like a disciple of Christ. 

So what do we do? Pointing out the problem is easy. How do we refocus our hearts to set our eyes to Christ so much so that our “little” sins become bigger things and our “big” sins become more obsolete? Practice makes perfect. Like Paul refers to the athletes training and discipline it takes to be ready for their sport. How much more should our every day be enveloped by the things of God. Don’t wait till you finally feel ready to do a good work for Christ. Don’t wait for those big opportunities to glorify God. The big things will mean very little unless the little things are made real big. Not neglecting the big things, but seeing all things as big things: Sin, service, giving, other people, our thoughts, our hearts and God. All things that can seemingly be small in our minds while less important things consume us all day, everyday.

As you start to focus on the small things, you’ll fail much, but never give up. You’ll get better and better until it becomes habit to react well, through the power of the Holy Spirit to honor God in all you do. 

For more Chris centered everything visit www.MisfitMinistry.com

Closing:

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!

Understanding Worship (The way God intended)

By S.C. Shaw

When you hear the word “worship” what’s usually the first thing that comes to mind? Better yet, in what way do you hear the word worship used most?

Music right? “the worship was great, the worship wasn’t great, I think the worship went too long etc.” We are singing music to God, about God and to encourage and strengthen the saints (that’s you and I if you are in Christ). But it’s just music. In fact the term “Christian music doesn’t make any sense. But anyway… I’m going off topic. 

Even those who know better, still can’t help but think music first when we hear “worship” and then quickly move the mindset to whole life of worshiping God. Or the various aspects that can be incorporated into a “worship” service. I bring this up because worship in the bible looks very different than just music. And even more so, looked very different in the old covenant and more specifically to the Israelites. They were given the biggest form of worship ushered in by God since the garden. God again was going to dwell with His people. It’s going to look much different since the fall, but still, God making a way to be with His people is the point of our worship. 

Before we start let me define worship the way I want you to hear it in this blog. 

Worship:

A life fully dedicated, fully sacrificed, fully faithful, fully joyous and fully loving to the God who created you and sustains you. Not perfect, but striving by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Only an entire life of worship can be delighting to God. 

And of course we sing praises to Him because of all the goodness that He is. 

I’m not negating that music is a powerful way to “worship” the Lord. It’s one of the most powerful ways I’m willing to argue. But to see worship as God see’s it and the way the Israelites knew it, should help us with our daily and continuing worship in our lives. 

Worship is God’s idea, and if we can begin to understand it like God planned it, then we can begin to live out the life God has planned for us. 

Intro:

From the beginning God has always desired to be with His people. He doesn’t need us, but He loves us. We don’t fill a missing part of God. God is simply delighting in His creation from His overflowing love and glory. He wants to share Himself with people He has chosen, for His glory and our good. 

How do we know this?

God creates life, He creates the world, He creates Eden, all for man and God to dwell together. But man wanted more, and man rebelled against Gods commands. 

But God is merciful and continues His plans, rather than destroy them.

God ushers is a covenant! A promise to the people He’s chosen, a contract if you will. 

“You do this, I do that” says God. “If you obey me, then you will be kept”. Let’s do a quick overview after the fall. God creates a covenant with Noah, then with Abraham, then gives promises to Isaac, and He turns Joseph’s tragic story into a redemptive victory for all of Egypt. Then God’s people multiply greatly, then they are enslaved, and again, God turns a tragic story into a redemptive victory story. God is good and in control and is able to do anything He desires. And He desires His people. He fights for them and they win in Him.

Author Mike Cosper says:

The story of worship as told in the bible defines worship in a radically different and surprising way. It’s a story that surprises us because we discover that it doesn’t primarily feature us. The star of the story is God, who is at the center of all worship but is also at its origins in history and its origins in our hearts.

It’s all about God!

Worship is God’s idea, and if we can begin to understand it like God planned it, then we can begin to live out the life God has planned for us. 

The Israelites weren’t the first of God’s people to worship, but they were the biggest. 

The story of the Exodus is the premiere foreshadowing of Christ through the redemption of God’s people. In the wilderness, the people of God were shown how to worship, serve and atone for their sins. Just as the law was an example of God’s grace because it (instructed them how to live for God and it showed Gods heart for perfection, holiness and purity), now God gives specific instructions on how to live with God. He tells them how to create a temple, a dwelling place for God among His people, how to appoint priests for His glory and their good, how to sacrifice as to bring peace with God through His instruction.  

Little review: 

Up to this point we have had a lot of events take place since the Israelites were freed. To put it simply: God saves them out of slavery, then they start their complaining, then God’s grace, more complaining, more of God’s grace. They receive God’s law, and now know Gods standards of living a holy life. They now can attempt to live right. God has instructed them to build a dwelling place for Himself to be with His people. 

Exodus 25:1-9

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breast piece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.”

Let us pause for a sec. If you are like me then it is really easy to lose focus when talking about such foreign things to our day. I used to feel like this stuff didn’t really matter. Not that it didn’t matter in history or in theology, but just didn’t matter to me now. When we get into the Old Testament, the Passover, the temple, we tend to have a sense of disregard or distance from their story. 

It’s much too weird to relate to us now. But we need to see that the Israelites worship means much for us today. 

So let us not go blank or wipe away the context of what we are hearing right now. 

I pray I show you Christ in all of this, but if I fail, let the Holy Spirit guide your mind to pictures of Christ throughout this whole blog.

In Exodus 25 we get to see the God of details. God is all about the details. The tabernacle or temple, is God’s way to be with His people in their ordinary lives. God starts with an offering time. Notice it’s not out of obligation but out of “every man who’s hearts moves him” v.2. A beautiful picture of worship through offering.  

2 Cor 9:7 

Each must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 

God not only wants us to give but give with a heart of thanksgiving. 

Exodus 25:10-16 

“They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.”

The Ark of the Covenant: Or Chest Inside the Most holy of holies

After all offerings are gathered, God first gives instruction on how to build the ark of the covenant. I thought it was weird that the ark is mentioned before the tabernacle. Especially because in the sequence of building, the tabernacle will be built first to house the ark.  I believe the writer is starting with the most holy piece of this whole structure known as the ark that the tabernacle will hold. 

Author Peter Enns says:

“The ark is the supreme post Sinai symbol of the Presence of Yahweh.”  

The ark is the only furnishing in the most holy place. In this most holy place the ark is the focus of God’s presence with His people. The point of contact between heaven and earth. The tabernacle is the earthy symbol of heaven. 

Exodus 25:17-22

“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”

Cherubim: On the ark

The Ark is covered with images of cherubim which is a symbol of God’s heavenly dwelling. The cherubim are believed to have human faces but winged bodies. 

They are a symbol of the function of guarding the temple. There can be no images of God so they are instructed to put the closest thing to God on the ark, which are these angels. 

Footstool:

God’s location, in the most holy place, is not in the ark, but above it. 

Some scholars regard the ark and it’s pieces as God’s throne and footstool. 

This is why we refer to this as the mercy seat. The lid of the box or a more literal translation is the covering. The metaphorical propitiation that separates the dangers of God’s law with the grace or covering of God’s mercy.  

God isn’t dwelling inside the ark, God’s law resides there. 

Peter Enns 

“God’s supreme self-revelation to his people, is kept inside the ark also indicates that the ark is the center of gravity of God’s presence with his people.” 

The Table: In the holy place. V.23-25

“You shall make a table of acacia wood. Two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a molding of gold around it. And you shall make a rim around it a handbreadth[d] wide, and a molding of gold around the rim.”

The table’s one function was to hold the bread of presence. This section about the table is a little mysterious. Even the name, Bread of presence most likely means, Bread in the presence. Not to be confused with the bread having some kind of magical presence of God. We aren’t given much more info on what exactly takes place at this table. It could be as simple as the priests sharing in fellowship in eating together. 

The Golden Lampstand: Or Candlestick v.31

“You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it.” 

The lampstands are made of pure gold, unlike what we have heard so far, acacia wood covered in gold. There is no clear or symbolic meaning to these lampstands. 

It simply says in verse 25:37, “light the space in front of “. Are these lampstands simply to add a warm glow in the holy place? Although the matter of tending to the lamps is serious business. The priest would tend to them day and night. 

There are lots of theories about what all this symbolizes but the bible just is not clear on this. Some say it’s a symbol of Israel being a light to the gentiles or God’s light for His people or even later symbolizing Christ being the true light to the world. 

It could be as simple as the priest needing light to do their work, as the tabernacle would be pitch black inside the heavy curtains. 

Author Peter Enns says:

The fact that there is mystery may be precisely the point. What the lampstand represents is something God may or may not be pleased to reveal. And even if such significance is hidden from Israel, it has no bearing on how they are to behave. 

The lampstand is to be made as he said and the light is to be kept burning. 

Tabernacle: Temple, Tent Ch 26

The tabernacle is basically a series of curtains and frames.

In the tabernacle there are the outer tent and the inner tent, the holy place and ultimately the holy of holies where God would uniquely make is presence shown. Many religions at this time met in temples. But this was to be very different. 

This is where the God of all creation was going to meet with humans face to face. 

G.K. Beale speaks on the language of the bible and “how the temple echoes descriptions of life in the garden. The continuity is no accident. These two places serve the same purpose. God choosing to be with his people and allowing his people to enjoy Him.”  

Back to the tent:

The curtains were made of fine linen and colored yarn. The curtains, like the ark have Cherubim worked into them. Again, a reminder that the tabernacle on earth represents the heavenly tabernacle. It’s structured in a way of lesser to greater degrees of holiness. With all the precise details God lays out to make the tabernacle, we must not disregard them as just God being into details and commands. I believe this to be a symbolic re-creation of creation itself. Using Gods beautiful creations, fine fabrics, precious metals and stones just reiterate the goodness of God’s created world. You can see this as, in the fallen world, God is creating another Eden in a sense. “A building project that is nothing less than a return to pre-fall splendor.” 

God is creating a place free from sin and containing His holy presence. Again this is just one thought of what the “Tent” can mean.  

The Tabernacle was the place that God’s appointed priests would be able to come and make sacrifices for their people. They would sacrifice on their people’s behalf as well as on their own. After all, they were imperfect people as well. This form of sacrifice and worship was a continual process of atonement. Notice as we move on, there are no seats in the tabernacle. The priests work was never complete there.

The tabernacle was also an invitation to the broken world that needs to return to their Creator.  

Pause:

Do you ever get frustrated like me and think as I read this kind of stuff in the bible, “Why all the details? Why is God so choosy about every little detail? Can’t He just come and appear to whom He pleases however He wants? Just build a tent and let that be the place for God, after all, isn’t God glorious enough by Himself?” Then we have to stop and ask, “But what is this telling us about God?” And then actually ask, “why does He desire this stuff in this way?” I believe it to be a process first and foremost. It’s God using every means possible to ensure that we know He cares, that He deserves the best, at this time, the sacrifices needed to be made to appease Him, and to echo through the ages of how this all points to Jesus. And last but not least, God is giving His people the blessing of being able to worship! God is so glorious that He must have much preparation in order to be in His presence. Plus, it needs to be safe for man to come to Him. Remember, before Christ, no man can just come to God. This is another grace we get to glory in on this side of the cross. 

Worship: 

The Alter of Burnt Offerings: Ch 27

At this point I’d like to point out something. God seems to be giving His instruction from most important to less important, most complex to less complex. First comes the Ark which is the holiest part, lampstand in the main part of the tent, then God’s instructions go from parts of the tent and goes to the tent it self. Once outside the tent we get the alter in the courtyard. The symbolism is clear. The closer we get to Gods presence the more holy and perfect we see him. The alter is to make the physical sacrifices for God. 

The Courtyard: Ch27: 9

“You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side the court shall have hangings of fine twined linen a hundred cubits long for one side.”

This was the biggest part of the tabernacle. The tent of tabernacle was much smaller than this outer area that sacrifices would happen and where the people could be.

Oil for the Lampstand: read v. 20-21

“You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.”

Again, there is much thought about what the oil symbolizes here but there’s nothing explicitly explained in the bible. One thought I did like that would go along with the Lampstand was the oil representing the Holy Spirit. But more important than assuming meaning or placing meaning where it shouldn’t be, let’s ask this question then. What is the Tabernacle?

What is the tabernacle? 

What God is revealing about Himself through the tabernacle is God is at the center of all of it. God saying, “I am your God and you are My people. I will raise you up as an example to all the world, so that everyone knows you are loved, you are Mine, and you too can be My children.” God was never under any obligation to save them or even be with them. He has every right to leave them in their suffering and eventually death, but He doesn’t. He, out of His own good will, dwells with them, saves them and calls them home.

What does is represent for the people of Israel?

Israel’s worship was their sacrifice. And this wasn’t just one type of sacrifice for one type of sin. There were sacrifices for dedication of priests, dedication of the temple. 

There were the everyday sacrifices and the special once a year sacrifices. There were sacrifices for the priests and sacrifices for the poor, for the sick, for the healed, for the children and babies. Worship in Israel was bloody and costly. In this day wealth was measured by flocks and fields. What God demanded of them was a sacrifice of their hearts over and over. There was a clear, strong and bloody reminder of the high cost of their sin. 

Why did the Israelites need it?

Without this holy place there would be no way to atone for their sins. There would be no meeting with God. And their lives would spin wildly out of control without the hope that God is giving them.

Why did they build it?

Their first act of worship was following God’s instructions to a tee. Taking pride in every skillful work they did with the skill God had supplied in them.

Why should I care today? Hebrews 3:5-6

“Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. 

And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” 

We live today in the New Covenant of grace brought in by Christ work on the cross. 

God no longer lives in places made by hands. God dwells inside of His children. But just like the 10 commandments, being able to see God’s heart in what the tabernacle symbolizes making our response to God much more meaningful today.

What does worship mean both in the Old Covenant (OC) and New Covenant (NC)? 

Worship virtually means the same thing for both the OC believer and the NC believers. We have been called by God. We have been shown mercy and grace. We have been supplied with everything we need and now we live our lives dedicated to making Him known. For His glory and our good. 

As I was preparing for the end of this blog and was reading through some of Hebrews, I found myself getting caught up reading Heb 9-10. I couldn’t stop because it was so good. I’ve read it before and even spoke on it a couple years ago. But to be so enveloped by the OC ways of worship and then to be able to read, “But Christ”, literally brings tears to my eyes and breath to my lungs. I want to share that with you guys, so we are reading selections from both chapters right now. 

Heb 9-Heb 10:

All of Ch 9

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,  then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 10:1-4

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Ch 10:9-18

then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,” then he adds,

I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Ch 10:19-25

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

As Mike Cosper says:

“This is the song of Israel. It begins with starlit hope or patriarchs as they sing bleary-eyed songs of their promised future. It becomes a slave song, sung in chains of Egypt, and evolves into the road song of a tribe in the desert. Once they settle into the promise land, it becomes a declaration: “God lives in Israel! It’s a violent song, written with fire and bloodstains, and it’s a song of failure and reconciliation. The song of Israel is a broken one. The worship of us today is imperfect and looking forward to God’s return. Yet even with all our imperfections then and now, and rebellious habits, God still continues to call us to Himself. To invite us to worship Him.”

So what? How does this change how we approach worship?

First I pray you begin to think of worship as much more than just singing or various elements the church does on a Sunday. And move to see that God’s plan for your worship has been developing since the dawn of creation. God has always been at the center of His creation and has been working for our salvation from the fall. 

Technically the gospel starts in Chapter 1 verse 1 of the bible. 

In the beginning of verse 1.

Gen 1a

In the beginning, God…

Beginning of what? The story of His rebellious creation that He will love and bring back to himself through His own sacrifice. 

Derick Zeulner says:

“God cares passionately about his people being able to worship him properly, if you think a lot of detail and effort went into preparing the tabernacle, think about how much more went into sending of Jesus, his life, his death and his resurrection so that you may be ushered, not into the outer courts, not the holy place, or even the holy of holies with the footstool of God… but into the very presence of God… a life of worship lived unto him.”

We were made for worship. Our lives aren’t complete without worship. In this life there are many things you can worship, but all lead to an empty and unsatisfying life except worshiping the One we were made by, for and through, God. Only worshiping the One who created you for worship, has lasting joy and everlasting life. 

Worship is God’s idea, and if we can begin to understand it like God planned it, then we can begin to live out the life God has planned for us. 

Next blog will be on how these truths should affect our corporate worship. If you would like to read on musical worship now here are some previous blogs.

Worship Intensive

Humanistic Worship vs Biblical Worship

Why We Worship God

What is Congregational Worship?

Closing.

Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

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