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Worship in Spirit and Truth

2 Samuel 6:

 1 Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand.

 2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name, the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim.

 3 So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart.

 4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark.

 5 Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the LORD on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals.

 6 And when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.

 7 Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.

 8 And David became angry because of the LORD's outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day.

 9 David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?"

At first glance, many people are bothered by this hard passage. Many times I have heard people ask why God killed Uzzah for trying to keep the ark of God from falling? However, this passage contains a powerful truth that should not be missed. Uzzah putting his hand to the ark is the consequences of the real failure occurred before oxen stumbled. Let’s look back to Exodus 25:

 12 "You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side.

 13 "And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold.

 14 "You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them.

 15 "The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.

In unmistakable terms, God commanded that the ark be treated as holy and only use the poles to carry the ark. The ark was a representation of a holy God who is to be feared. The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. When that fear is lost, people begin to make their own rules. Instead of loving God and being loved by God, people reduce God to a level where they feel that they can determine what is acceptable based on their own will. Wisdom then falls and foolish actions take its place. Only when God is enthroned in our hearts will we truly understand and enjoy fellowship with Him. Once we push aside His commandments, we begin to be our own god and attempt to make Him our subject. To fear God is not to be afraid of God, but to stand in awe of Him. Ironically, those who do not fear God are the ones who end up being afraid of God just as David was here. After Uzzah died, David was afraid. Yet, throughout most of David’s life, he feared God and as a result, he was not afraid. He had confidence in God and felt a closeness to God that is unmatched in the scriptures. He was blessed and at peace. The depth of his love for God and his ability to see God’s love for him was born out of that fear of the Lord that was established in David’s life.

Instead of being placed on a cart, the ark of God was to be carried with honor by the tribe of Levi. The Levites were set apart by God to do this service. Look at Deuteronomy 10

 8 At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister to Him and to bless in His name, to this day.

Also in unmistakable terms, God commanded the Levites to be bearers of the ark of God. Yet Uzzah and Ahio were tending to the ark when it was being carried. Uzzah and Ahio were relatives of King David who was from the tribe of Judah instead of Levi. From the beginning, the ark of God was treated with complete disregard for what God has commanded.

This becomes a great object lesson which confirms what we are commanded today. Look at John 4

 23 "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.

 24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

In our modern culture, people disregard what God has declared as truth and it is replaced with human wisdom. No longer to people fear God or have any regard for what He declares to be true. Modern theologians argue that all roads lead to God. All religions are equal and are different ways to worship the same God. God becomes subject to religion instead of worshippers becoming subject to God. All religions focus on some type of worship and some type of spiritualism. However, worshipping in spirit is meaningless unless truth is embraced. God doesn’t call us to approach Him in a spiritual worship. God calls for a spiritual focus with a foundation based on truth. The problem for many is that the Bible draws clear lines that do not allow tolerance of other religions.

What has God revealed?

Good intentions are not what God has said He will honor. In fact, the Bible gives several examples where God rejects good intentions because men rejected obedience. David had good intentions. He led a national parade with music, singing and dancing. He thought he was honoring God and his whole intention was to bring the ark of God to place it in what David considered to be a place of honor. What David misunderstood is that God is honored by obedience and reverence. In the end, God honored David’s effort, but only after David honored God’s commands. Any effort to honor God without obedience is still a dishonor regardless of what type of worship we perform. Good intentions only produce godly results when obedience to God is the primary focus. Therefore we must take care to understand how God has revealed Himself and His will.

Spiritual worship without truth is not of God. When we tolerate error so we can have worship, our emotions become the object of our worship. David’s thirty thousand soldiers and possibly a hundred thousand others singing, shouting, and rejoicing with great music did not impress God because His truth was neglected. Modern ideas of truth also do not impress God. Postmodernism teaches that everyone has their own truth. What is true for you may not be true for me. We all must find our own truth and we are the ones who determine what truth is. Everything is tolerated except what doesn’t tolerate this way of thinking. Ironically, many people who deny scripture may use the Bible. However, the Bible provides a very narrow view of truth. You cannot choose your own truth and stand in God’s will at the same time. The Bible narrowly defines truth in John 14:6

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

This single statement forces a choice. Either all religions are wrong except salvation through Jesus Christ, or the Bible is wrong. There is no middle ground. Christians who believe this are often called intolerant – and rightly so. With all the sincerity we can muster, we can acknowledge other ways to God, but that does not make them true. We must either deny the Bible or accept that Jesus is our truth. Jesus also warned that those who attempt to find salvation without Christ are thieves and robbers. Look at John 10:

 1 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

 2 "But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

 3 "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

 4 "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

 9 "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

 10 "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

 11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

Once again the Bible affirms that Jesus is the ONLY way to salvation. Jesus is the door, He is the shepherd who leads the sheep to the door, and we must enter Him to find heaven. It is true that there are many voices calling with promises to success and salvation. However, Jesus makes it clear that those who belong to Him will hear His voice. We will all follow the voice of the one we want to follow. Those who want heaven on earth will follow leaders who promise this. Those who want to be their own saviors will follow works-based religions that fulfill this desire. Those who want a godless universe will follow anyone who offers a godless worldview. In the same principle, those who want God will hear Him and come into the fold. Even though there are countless voices competing, we will ultimately seek out the voice we desire. Remember, the Bible tells us that God seeks us first. We all will hear His voice and will recognize it in our heart of hearts. We will only be drawn to His call if we want Him. It is not a desire for heaven that draws us to Christ. It is a desire for God Himself.

Jesus also revealed another truth about Himself in John 6:

 33 "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

 34 Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always."

 35 And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

 51 "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."

Only through the cross can we find the bread of life. On the cross, Jesus’ flesh was broken. It was here that He became our sin so that we could become His righteousness. Unless someone believes and takes that gift from the cross, the promise can’t be inherited. Is that exclusionary? We are all excluded from the right to live in the presence of a holy God. We all have sinned. Pride, lust, hate, envy, dishonesty and many subtle deceptions of sin have already excluded us. The truth of the cross is that we do not have to be excluded. Anyone who receives Jesus Christ, enters the door of eternal life and we become acceptable before God.

Look at some of the other truths of Jesus:

John 8

 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

John 11

 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live."

Only through Jesus Christ can we live in the light. Only in Christ do we have the promise that we will live with Him and be a part of His resurrection. In John 15, Jesus said:

 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

Either Jesus is the truth, or this is a lie. Judgment is the destiny of this world and this flesh. However, in Jesus Christ we are forgiven and set free. Many don’t understand this basic principle. Forgiveness without judgment is not possible. God declared the wages of sin to be death. God will not and cannot violate His own nature. It is God’s nature that determines right and wrong. We are created in His image for the purpose of a relationship with Him. Anything that violates God’s nature is sin. Disobedience of any kind puts us in direct conflict with God’s nature. Those who say, “Why doesn’t God just forgive everyone and take us to heaven?” are really asking, “Why doesn’t God change His own nature instead of requiring us to change ours?”

There are certain things that God cannot do. God can’t change; God can’t sin; God can’t lie. Because God can’t violate His own character or nature, this excludes us from fellowship with Him and destines us for judgment. God’s mercy does not nullify God’s justice. Instead, God’s mercy paid the penalty demanded by justice. Jesus suffered and died on the cross for one reason: to satisfy the penalty demanded by your sin. The gift of Jesus Christ is that He took your sin – all of it – and nailed it to His cross. In exchange, He offers His righteousness to you. It is the righteousness of God that makes you acceptable, not your own righteousness. When someone accepts this gift, they are completely justified and forgiven. God can forgive you because He bore the penalty in your place. Sin was judged and punished on the cross. However, we each have the choice to refuse this gift and demand justice instead of mercy. No one is judged for their sins. Our sins will be judged, but we can escape that penalty or we can be judged with our sins. Romans 3:25-26 tells us that Jesus became the propitiation of our sins so that God could be just – or punish sin – and He could be the justifier – or the one who declares us just – of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The word ‘propitiation’ means the one by whom we become consistent with the character of God so a sinner can be blessed and forgiven. The problem with all other religions is that there is nothing that can propitiate our sin. Good deeds don’t make us righteous any more than a murderer can be pardoned by giving to charity. When someone is declared guilty by the legal system, all the good deeds in the world do not count toward innocence. 30 years of driving under the speed limit does not wave the penalty of one speeding ticket and good deeds don’t wipe away sin.

How have we responded?

Do we hold to the truth God has revealed? Or do we stand in God’s place and determine for ourselves what truth should be based on what we want it to be? Are we conforming ourselves to God’s character, or are we demanding that God change His character to suit our desires? Does God really mean what He says? John 8 says:

 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

 32 "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

We are already bound by our own nature that is contrary to God. Only when we submit to Jesus Christ can we be made free. Years ago I was stationed in Panama. The idea of freshly picked coconuts was tempting, so I slipped into the jungle for a quick trip. As I went from tree to tree searching for a coconut, I soon realized I was lost. No one knew I was gone, it was over 100 degrees and I had no water. When I realized how dire my circumstances were, I began to pray for a way out. The thought then occurred to me to listen for the tide because I could follow the water’s edge to get back. I listened for water in a jungle filled with screeching birds, calling frogs, insects and other animals. It was too noisy to hear anything. I remained still and listened. After a while, there was just enough of a lull in the noise to hear the faint sound of water in the distance. I began to walk toward the sound until I could hear it clearly. I fought through dense thickets and several obstacles. However, I knew that freedom was at the water. If I had not found the water I would likely have dehydrated long before I would have been found. This event reminds me of a wonderful illustration found in John 4:

10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."

 14 "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

Jesus said that His sheep will hear His voice. Even in a noisy world with all the challenges that crowd us from hearing Him, if we are listening, we will hear God’s call. Only the living water through Jesus Christ can give us life. Without Him, we are lost in the world. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, it only takes faith (trusting in Him) and repentance – turning from your life, laying it down and submitting to Him. If you want a relationship with Christ, just say this simple prayer. The prayer is not magic and there are no formulas to faith. The words are only to guide you to surrendering to Christ. Just say a prayer like this:

Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner because I have lived life in disobedience toYou. I confess my sins and ask for you to forgive me of my sins. By faith, I give you my sins, failures and my life. By faith, I open the door of my heart and invite you in. Please be Lord of my life and I will serve you with my life. Thank you for forgiving me of my sins. Amen.

If you prayed this prayer and truly surrendered to Christ, it is important to follow up with commitment. Obedience is the evidence that we know Him according to scripture (1 John 2). The first act of obedience is baptism. The Bible tells us that baptism is a public identification that we are dying to ourselves and are raised up by Him into a new life He created for us. Prayer and studying the Bible are also acts of obedience as is becoming a part of a local body of Christians in a local church. It is important to establish ourselves in a church that stands firm on the whole word of God. Living out the Christian is the most challenging, yet rewarding lifestyle anyone can have. It isn’t a life based on this world, but a pilgrimage to heaven where we fulfill God’s purpose in our life along the way.

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