Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Worship that flows from LOVE!"

Day #310:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - November 3rd

Scripture Reading:  Deuteronomy 10 - 12 ...

"What do you want from me?!"  I remember the conversation well.  How do you explain to someone whose life is a mess that they need God, that they will never find their way until they know Him and come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ?  So I answered the question the best way I could:  "I want you to know how much God loves you ... and then for you to love Him back!"  You see, that's what you and I were created to do ... to worship the LORD, our Creator, the only true God.  That's why God revealed Himself to the people of Israel, why He sent His Son and poured out His Spirit, to gather for Himself a people who would love Him, and because they loved Him, would worship Him.

In the days of Moses, that people was a remnant from Israel.  ALL of Israel was called to worship God, but only those whose hearts were touched by God's love and who loved Him back would do so.  Worship requires a relationship and that was the purpose of the Ark of the Covenant - to show the people that God was in their midst - to remind them that God had chosen them and brought them out of Egypt to worship HIM, the only true God.  In Chapter 10 Moses recounts how the Levites had been called to lead the people in worship following their worship of the golden calf.  "The LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister and to pronounce blessings in His name, as they still do today" (10:8).

The real question is not what someone else wants from you, but what GOD wants!  Moses tells the Israelites, "And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all HIs ways, to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good ..." (10:12-13).  Moses reminds them that "the LORD set His affection on your forefathers and loved them, and He chose you, their descendants, above all the nations" (10:15).  A chosen people ... chosen BY God, FOR God.  Seventy people had gone down into Egypt, and now God had kept His promise and made them into a great nation (10:22).

Why?  To gather a people who would love Him and worship Him.  There is no other religion that talks about love the way the Bible does.  That's because Christianity is not about being religious, but rather about having a relationship with the one true living God.  These people had seen God do amazing things for them and He had given THEM His law, which begins with "I am the LORD YOUR God, you shall have no other gods before me!"  So as they were about to enter the land God had promised to them and to their descendants, Moses calls them to LOVE God!

In Chapter 11, verse 13, he calls them "to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul."  He warns them to "be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them" (11:16).  Again in verse 22, he tells them "to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to hold fast to Him - then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you" (11:22-23).  God set before these people a blessing and a curse ... but only those who responded in faithful obedience would receive His blessing ... only those who loved God and who worshiped Him.  These would worship how and where God told them to worship ...

Worshiping God is easy ... if you know Him, if you love Him, if you listen to Him speaking through His Word.  It's not that He doesn't speak clearly, it's that people don't listen! Moses told the Israelites, "You must not worship the LORD your God in their way (the nations around them).  But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tries to put His Name there for His dwelling.  To that place you must go" (12:4-5).  "To the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for His Name - there you are to bring everything I command you" (12:11).  "Take your consecrated things and whatever you have vowed to give, and go to the place the LORD will choose" (12:26).

God has a chosen people today ...   His promises to the remnant of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still stand (Jeremiah 31:35-37; Romans 11:1-24).  But it was always God's intention to gather people from the nations (the Gentiles) to love Him and to worship Him.  All the sacrifices and the ceremonies of the Law showed the reality of sin and separation from God.  The Law was given to make people conscious of sin (Romans 3:20) and to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).  It is in Jesus and through HIS sacrifice on the cross that God calls all who believe today to worship Him.  The people of Israel were called to worship God at the tabernacle and then, once they had entered the promised land, to worship in Jerusalem at the temple.

When the tribes were divided into Israel and Judah, the northern kingdom of Israel began to worship on altars they built there, rather than going to Jerusalem.  These people would be destroyed and scattered by the Assyrians and their land settled by people from other nations.  These were the Samaritans of Jesus' day and they were hated by the Jews because they had intermarried and were no longer "pure" Israelites.  They didn't worship in Jerusalem ... and they didn't know God or love God.  Like many today, they had religion, but they didn't have a personal relationship with God.  But it was to a Samaritan woman that Jesus reveals God's invitation to worship ...

John 4 ...  the Samaritan woman says to Jesus, "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem" (Deuteronomy 10-12!!).  Jesus declared, "Believe me ... a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is Spirit, and  His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:21-24).

God sent Jesus to make a way for people from all nations to come to Him, to know His love and to worship Him.  Through Jesus we have access into the Most Holy Place (Hebrews 10:19-20).  The Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle was a copy of that in heaven, and Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice for sin so that all who believe in Him can approach God without fear and know Him, love Him and serve Him.  Having explained that they had been brought together with those who believed among the Jews to become "fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone," Paul says to the believers in Ephesus, "in Him you, too, are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19,22).

But why worship?  Paul says, "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).  We who believe in Jesus worship God because we love Him, knowing that He FIRST loved us!  And isn't that what God wants?  He reveals His love to us in Christ Jesus and calls us to love Him back, empowering us by His Spirit to live in obedience, for our good and for His glory!!  Praise be to God for His amazing gift of love.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength ... and worship Him with joy!!!

"Gracious, holy and loving God, to know You, to love You and to worship You is what brings joy to life and hope in death.  By Your Holy Spirit I rejoice in Your love daily and desire to worship You, offering myself as a living sacrifice through faith in Jesus.  I thank You for choosing me, for adopting me into Your family, for calling me to follow Jesus, for giving me new life by Your Spirit ... for LOVING me!!  Father, I love YOU!!!  I worship YOU!!!  Today and always, may my life be Yours, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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