By J Oliver Jones
I have been thinking a lot lately about all the varied things that we as believers consider to be important – in other words the things that unite us, the things that separate us, the things we believe must be done, the things we only do if we want to, and those things that are often troubling, you know, the things we believe we should do, but don’t, or else the things we believe we shouldn’t do, but do.
Some of us believe tradition is vital to worship, while some believe that tradition hinders worship. There are those who will only read from the King James Version, and others who would never use the King James if their life depended upon it! Should the pastor be a dynamic preacher and teacher who spends hours every week in preparation for each message and class, or should he be a real people person who visits all the sick several times a week, is involved in many community activities, and enjoys having folks just drop by the office for a lengthy chat, but has difficulty finding the time to study in depth for his sermons?
And we cannot begin to consider the important things of our faith without touching on the type of music the church should use – services with all hymns, services with all choruses, or blended services with a balance of the two (where sometimes neither side is happy). We could go on and on about all the things we consider to be important, even though any group of ten believers would likely not agree on the list we compile.
But how often do we stop to seriously reflect on what it is that God considers to be important – what is it that He cares about? After all, we were created by Him for His good pleasure. We were saved by Him for His glory. We will one day be resurrected by Him for His eternal kingdom. He is the Potter, we are the clay. He is the Master, we are the servants. He is the perfect Savior; we are the imperfect ones needing to be saved. What I am trying to say is simply, our lives, our worship, and our service is about Him and should never be about us. Yet we tend to make the spiritual life and walk about what we think, what we want, and what we consider important.
As I have contemplated just what it is that God considers most important, the following seven topics will be presented for your consideration: 1) our beliefs, 2) our words, 3) our worship, 4) our service, 5) our gifts, 6) our time, and 7) our faith.
I understand that this is not an exhaustive list of what God considers important. But it is perhaps a good beginning as we seek to understand more completely those things important to God. My prayer is that through these thoughts we might all become more intent on seeking His way rather than our own.
Are Important to God!
There is an old adage that says “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere!” Nothing could be further from the truth. If it does not matter what we believe, then God put a lot of time and effort into providing for mankind a Book revealing His character, His conditions, and His commands. What we believe about anything is important, but it is of supreme importance what we believe about God. A mistake here can lead to eternal consequences. A person can be sincere in their beliefs, but their beliefs can also be sincerely wrong!
How do we know the truth about God? The best way is through the revelation of Himself to us, the Bible. Now many will say that the Bible is just a good book written by men about God, but that it contains errors and is not dependable in matters other than faith. That belief is the first error leading to many more errors in what one believes. The two main reasons people make this mistake in their belief about the Bible is arrogance and pride. It is just that simple. I can say this because the Bible claims for itself to be the divine revelation from God, it is stated to be the inspired (literally God breathed) Word of God, and Jesus stated that it is the truth about God. Now I can accept (believe) this or I can conclude that I know more than God about this Book which He has given, and therefore “I can interpret” it according to “my knowledge.” After all, look how “intelligent and educated I am”!
This error in belief about God’s Word will ultimately lead to errors of belief about God, himself. Is He really holy? Would a “loving” God send a person to an eternal hell? It will lead to error about God’s law (commands). As the serpent whispered to Eve, so he will whisper to you, “Did God surely say. . .?” And of course it will lead to error in our belief about the person of Jesus. Is Jesus actually God in the flesh? Was He really born of the “virgin” Mary? Was He absolutely without sin? Was His resurrection an actual physical event, or was this just a story contrived later by His disciples? And certainly Jesus did not mean what He is quoted as saying in John 14:6, that He is the “only” way to the Father. After all, as advanced as we are in our culture, our knowledge, and our education, we must learn to be tolerant of the beliefs of others.
I will say this plainly for all to hear, “You can be as tolerant as you want to be, but that does not change God’s character or His plan. God is not a tolerant God!” “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25). So does God care about what we believe? You can rest assured that He does. What we believe determines where we will spend eternity. Being sincere about our belief is not enough. Being ignorant (unlearned) of the ways of God is not an excuse. Being tolerant of (accepting as of equal value) the beliefs of others is not honorable – it is deadly. It is time we take seriously the admonition of the Apostle Paul:
Study to show yourself approved unto God,
a workman that need not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the word of truth.
Are Important to God!
There is tremendous power in the words we speak. How do we know? As the children’s song states, “For the Bible tells me so.” Here the words of James, the half-brother of Jesus:
For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. (3:2-6)
The Bible has much to say about our words, but I want to limit my thoughts in this format to just three areas.
First, our words reveal our heart.
In Luke 6:45 Jesus is quoted as saying, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
The treasure that lies in a man’s heart will be revealed when he speaks. Are his words those that build up, or do they tear down? Does he speak words of encouragement or words of destruction? Do blessings or cursings come out of his mouth? Does he speak of the things of God, or are his words filled with earthly things? What does your conversation reveal about your heart?
Second, our words carry our faith.
Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 4:13, “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believed and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak…”
Jesus in speaking about faith is quoted in Mark 11:22-23 as telling his disciples “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”
The words, “I can’t” reveal the doubt in one’s heart. But the words, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” reveal the faith within and carries that faith to the ear of God. Are you always careful to side with God in your words and never against Him?
Third, our words determine our future.
Recall the story of the Israelites standing outside the Promised Land as found in Numbers 13. Twelve spies were sent into the land, one from each of the twelve tribes. Ten returned from spying out the land and said (in summary) “we are not able to take the land; there are too many obstacles.” These ten never went in! Two returned and reported, “We are well able to take the land that God has given to us. Let us go in at once and possess it.” These two men, Joshua and Caleb, eventually went in and possessed their inheritance, but they had to wait forty years due to the lack of faith of those around them!
The vast multitude of people sided with the ten spies and against God, all saying together, “Would to God that we had died in the desert.” That generation died in the desert. Each received exactly what they said, as their words revealed their hearts and carried forth their faith, or their lack of it. Their words set in motion events that determined their future. What future are you setting in motion through the words you speak?
In Proverbs 13:2 Solomon is quoted as saying, “A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth.” Our words are important to God. They show forth who we really are, what we truly believe, and where our words will eventually lead us. James concludes with these words:
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (3:9-12)
May those who have ears to hear,
hear what the Lord is saying!
Is Important to God!
The word worship can carry several meanings. It can be a noun referring to a particular event, such as Sunday Morning Worship. Some use it as a verb when referring to a certain action or practice, as in “I worship through my daily prayers or Bible reading.” Then to others it becomes an adjective defining a particular style of music such as worship choruses.
Webster defines worship in these ways: “1) a person of importance – used as a title for various officials such as magistrates and some mayors, 2) reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also: an act of expressing such reverence, 3) a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual, 4) extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem (worship of the dollar).” It seems all of these definitions fall short.
Wikipedia defines worship as “an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English ‘worthscipe’ meaning worthiness or worth-ship – to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.” While this is better, it still lacks the real essence of the true meaning of worship. Theopedia defines Worship as “an active response to the character, words and actions of God.” We are getting closer!
One definition I like is cited by Roy Davison. It states that worship “is to express profound and submissive adoration of God; it is a conscious glorification of God flowing from an inner attitude of lowly submission to His authority and awe at His majesty.” Another very simple definition is given by Warren Wiersbe, “Worship is the believer’s response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, body – to what God is and says and does.”
But even though I have cited this definition before, I must share again with you the quote from Archbishop William Temple who defined worship as follows: “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose – all this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.”
This definition of worship goes a bit deeper that just showing up for church service for an hour or so on Sunday morning. True worship involves giving to God all we are, all we have, and all we hope to be. It is giving Him the glory that is due to the Creator of the universe and the Savior of our souls. It involves our total surrender.
Certainly God is concerned with our worship, but not just during the hour we attend church on Sunday mornings. God is worshipped through our surrender, our devotion, our adoration, and our obedience lived out 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Everything we do in our daily routine can involve true worship – our lifestyle, the choices we make, the attitudes we exhibit, the words we speak, the time we spend in prayer and meditation – all of this is our spiritual act of worship.
In John chapter 4 we have the story of Jesus confronting the Samaritan woman at the well. The woman moves the conversation to where it is that one should worship God. Jesus replied:
Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (4:21-24)
That hour is now. God is looking for those who will worship Him based on the truth of His Word and with a life lived in submission to His Spirit.
Are you such a person?
Is Important to God!
In the September 28, 2011 Thought For Today, Romans 12:1 was looked at in depth, and then was given the “Jones Paraphrase” of that verse. While I cannot here go again into the lengthy hermeneutic of this verse, let us look at the conclusion:
King James Version of Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
Jones Paraphrase of Romans 12:1 “Because of all that has been previously declared, and in light of the cross of Christ, I entreat and implore you to offer your whole being and dedicate your whole life as a living sacrifice, a life that is voluntarily lived totally for Christ, a life that is separated from the sins of this world, and set apart unto the righteousness of God, a life so lived that it is well pleasing to God; for this is both a reasonable and a rational service to our loving God and Savior who has given for us His very life.”
The question as to whether our service is important to God is not as easy to answer as one might think. Does God really need our works and our service to accomplish His plan? Surely one who is Omnipotent (all powerful), Omniscient (all knowing), and a totally Sovereign Ruler and Judge need not depend on our feeble efforts. And we can know that because God is sovereign, His plans cannot be thwarted. But the overwhelming truth, at least to my limited ability to understand, is that God has in His sovereignty chosen to use man to accomplish that plan. So while God does not need us, He has chosen to depend on us to carry out His will.
This makes our service extremely important. It is not trivial, it is not meaningless, and it is not irrelevant. As the children of God, He has chosen to “partner” with us to accomplish His plan and His purpose for mankind! That, dear brothers and sisters, is an absolutely incredible, unimaginable, and unprecedented partnership! No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
We have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to indwell us, the wisdom of the nature of Christ to guide us, and the knowledge of the Word of God written on our hearts and minds to instruct us. In other words, we have been made partners with the one who is unlimited in all things! And not only partners, but we have been adopted into His family, made to be the heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, and then given the Holy Spirit, the seal of our redemption.
A few years ago I wrote a small booklet titled, Free To Serve God. The book was written from a viewpoint that every Christian has a desire to serve God. The very title indicates such a desire – free to serve. This is not serving out of duty or responsibility, but serving out of choice, out of desire, and out of love for a God who has provided for all our needs, even our very salvation. After this booklet was written I had the opportunity to preach a series of messages on ‘serving in the church.’ I have shared this four point outline before, but will do so again for those who might not have received it previously.
1) We are to serve in the Context of Spiritual Fruit.
2) We are to serve in the Confines of Spiritual Gifts.
3) We are to serve under the Conditions of Spiritual Warfare.
4) We are to serve with the Conviction of Spiritual Victory.
Yes, our service is important. It is important for us individually as we will become more like Christ through serving. It is important to those we serve as you may be the person God uses to represent Christ to them. It is important to the Church as it is through our service that the Church will grow and prosper as the Body. And it is important to God as He has chosen to use you to fulfill His plan. We will next look at how God gifts us for service, but until then remember the words of Paul:
And let us not be weary in well doing:
for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Everyone serves something.
Choose to serve God!
Are Important to God!
We have briefly discussed why our service is important to God, and concluded by suggesting that God does not leave our service simply up to our own discretion, but He actually gifts us for service. How appropriate that He does so, since He knows everything about us, including the perfect position for each believer to serve in the Body of Christ.
The term used for this gifting is actually “spiritual gifts” and is derived from the Greek word, “charismata” literally meaning “Gift of Grace.” These are special abilities given to every child of God by the Holy Spirit to be used in, through, and for the Body of Christ and the building of God’s Kingdom. Simply put, a spiritual gift is a Spirit-given ability for Christian service.
Every person indwelled by the Spirit has one or more of these special abilities. You may not know what your gift is and you may not be using your gift in the Church. You may not even think you have a “special ability” to serve, but the Bible says differently. And it is very important to remember that one day each of us will give an account for our life, and that account will include how we developed and used the gift God has given to us.
We should also notice that Spiritual gifts must be distinguished from natural talents. While the Spirit may give the believer a gift that will use and enhance a natural talent, at times a person finds their gift to be totally outside any natural ability. The purpose of these gifts is:
To edify – to build up the Body of Christ;
To encourage – to strengthen those within or even outside the Body;
To enlighten – to bring understanding about spiritual matters;
To educate – to teach and train members in the Body about the things of God;
To evangelize – to share the message of salvation by grace through faith with those who are lost that they may be born into the Kingdom of God; and
To expose – to discern truth from error and to reveal false teachers and false prophets Satan sends to deceive.
There is some debate as to how many gifts there are, but in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 there are listed by name at least twenty. Other gifts mentioned in the Bible can bring the total to as many as 27, and some believe there may be even more. Certainly there are given gifts to meet every need within the Church and to effectively reach unbelievers for Christ.
The Apostle Paul compares believers using their gift in the Church to the various parts of the human body. Each part (member) is separate, but all work together as one for the good of the body. If one member is not functioning as it was designed, the whole body suffers. “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12). “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26).
God has so designed the working of the Church so that every believer has a place, a work, a ministry, and a purpose. Each is important to the success of the local church and to the God ordained purpose for the Body of Christ. If you do not know much about Spiritual Gifts I encourage you to seek out more information, and if you are a pastor or teacher in the local church, help your people to discover their gift or gifts.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all . . . But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Cor. 12:4-7, 11)
So why should believers desire to know and
use their spiritual gifts, you ask?
Because it is important to the believer,
it is important to the church, and
Yes, it is important to God!
Is Important to God!
Time is, as we usually consider it to be, and as one definition is given by Webster, “a non-spatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future.” As human beings living in a material universe we are accustomed to thinking in terms of past, present, and future. Events, objects, plants, animals – all have a beginning and an end. Even we, in terms of this present mortal life, will come to an end. We are born, we live, and we die. But to truly understand time we must once again look to the Scriptures.
God existed before time. He, therefore, is timeless. We often speak of this as being eternal. Only God is eternal, existing from eternity past and into eternity future. Those of us who believe the Bible understand that man is everlasting, but not eternal in the truest sense of the word. While our spirits will live forever either in the presence of God, or outside His presence, each of us had a beginning. Our spirits came into existence at our conception traducianism), just as did our physical bodies. Our spirits have not existed into eternity past, therefore we are not eternal.
God created time for mankind. Notice that in Genesis we are told, “Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). Recall also that when Moses asked God who he should tell the Israelites had sent him to deliver them, God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). Thus we see the very name of God is eternal. This is how God knows perfectly the past, the present, and the future. This is why God’s Word is always proven to be true. The prophecies in the Old Testament were not the predictions of men; they were the proclamations of God who sees all things perfectly outside of time.
So if God is outside of time, why is it that our time is important to Him? Because now, in this mortal life, time has been given to us by God that it might be used for His glory. Time is how we measure the ongoing progression of events, our personal growth and development, and even our spiritual maturity. Time is a gift of limited endurance that He bestows so that we can chart our growth in the grace and knowledge of God. It allows us to press toward that mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. It provides the framework for our sanctification into the very image of Christ. And I believe it allows us to see the extent to which we have surrendered ourselves to God, the amount of time we devote to pursuing the spiritual things in contrast to the pursuit of the things of this world.
Many believe, as do I, that this life is actually a preparation for eternity. Our faithfulness here will determine not only our rewards at the Judgment, but our continued service in the millennia to come. What will we be doing throughout eternity? I can’t begin to tell you, but I can’t help but believe that it will be partly determined by our stewardship here – stewardship of our talents, our treasures, and even our time. God is interested as to how we spend this gift of time we have been given. It is profitable that we spend our time wisely. It is expedient that we use our time well. And it is important that we view our time as training for our eternal future in the presence of God.
And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)
God is Watching Your Time!
Is Important to God!
Hebrews 11, known as the faith chapter, begins by defining faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV). The Holman Christian Study Bible states it this way: “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” Look at the four adjectives that are used here to define faith – substance, evidence, reality, proof. Look at how faith is distinguished from hope. Hope is intangible; faith is substance. Hope longs; faith sees. Hope desires; faith obtains.
Consider what faith does. Jesus told the disciples that if they had faith as a grain of mustard seed, “you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt 17:20). Jesus said to the woman with the issue of blood who touched His garment, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well” (Matt 9:22). When the blind men came to Jesus that they might see, we are told that Jesus touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith be it done unto you” (Matt 9:29). And remember the paralytic man who was let down from the roof by his friends to where Jesus was teaching? “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you’” (Mark 2:5). Over and over Jesus addressed people as to their faith, or their lack of it. “O ye of little faith” was often repeated.
The New Testament epistles are also filled with insights concerning faith. Paul tells us in Romans 3:28 that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. In Romans 4:5 we are told that our faith is accounted to us for righteousness. In Romans 14:23 Paul informs us that whatever is not from faith is sin. Galatians 3:14 declares that we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith, and in 3:26 that we are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ. And of course that great passage in Ephesians where Paul declares, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (2:8-9).
We could go on and on with the over 300 passages in the New Testament alone that deal with our faith. Is it any wonder then that God is concerned with our faith? Should we not also be as equally concerned? So what then is faith, and why does God seems to respond to us in proportion to it?
We must understand that everything we receive is by the grace of God. In reality we are fairly helpless creatures. We cannot create the air we breathe. We cannot cause the rain to fall. We cannot even make the food we eat; we simply plant what God has created and reap the harvest He provides from its growth.
James 1:17 tells us that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above. We understand that there are some things that God gives and all men receive, regardless of faith or belief. For example, “He makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt 5:45). But those graces that God has promised to them who believe are all received by faith; again let me say, we receive from God according to our faith. Faith is the condition for our justification. Faith is the condition of our sanctification. Faith is the condition for the answer to prayer. God’s power flows through our faith!
So how does one receive faith? Again the Apostle Paul answers that question in Romans 10:17. Here we are told that faith comes by hearing the message (of Christ) through the Word of God. The more of God’s Word we hear, understand, and apply, the more our faith will grow. In other words, what we believe about the Word, and from the Word, will determine the level of our faith, and the level of our faith will determine what we can and will receive from God.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.(Hebrews 11:6 KJV)
I believe this is exactly where we began –
Our Beliefs Are Important To God.