Thursday, April 11, 2013

What Does God Really Want From Us?

Ceremony and Ritual; live rock bands and rocking out in the pews; orchestra performances; impassioned preachers. Sound familiar? If so you've attended one of the mainstream religions popular today. But are grandiose demonstrations what God and his son, Jesus, want? Notice what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7, verse 21: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.” What does that mean, “to do the will of the Father”? At another event in Jesus’ life, he was talking to a woman and indicated that the place of worship was not as important as the practical application of Bible principles. He said that true followers would “worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23)

“Spirit and Truth,” what does that mean and how is that linked with “the will of the Father”? First off, unlike what you may have heard, the word “spirit” is not something spooky, mysterious or vague. In the original languages of the Bible, “spirit” literally translates as “breath” or “wind.” In the context of this verse, it means to take God’s word in the spirit (intent) it was spoken (breathed). It also means that true worship is not showy, but rather modest and humble. Many people try to contort and convolute what the Bible teaches by taking verses out of context, apply absurdly ridiculous literal interpretations (see "Additional Notes" below), and enforcing rules and practices that God never intended. Back when Jesus walked on earth, the religious leaders of that time put a heavy burden on people by having them follow petty rules that actually worked against what God intended.  

Jesus also mentioned that true followers would worship “in truth.” Quite simply, that means that both our beliefs and our actions would be in harmony with what God really wants from us--and that is "the will of the Father." After stripping away all the fluff, all the ceremony and ritual, all the rules—what does it really come down to? Jesus does not leave us having to wonder without an answer. Jesus said it all comes down to two simple, but challenging obligations: 1) love God with every fiber of our being, and 2) love other humans as much as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:35-40) Why is it a challenge to do these two simple things--because we are imperfect. In our relationship with God, all of us admittedly fall short of total obedience and trusting him completely. In dealing with others, we tend to not be as loving to them, not be as forgiving to them as we are in overlooking our own faults.

There are other specifics that the Bible outlines that are demonstrations of Matthew 22:37 such as what exactly is entailed in 1) personal Christian activity, 2) congregating as a brotherhood, and 3) our relationship with those who don't believe the same as we do. But that is not something I want to include in the scope of this article; this is intended as a clear & concise overview.

But coming back to the religion you belong to…Do yourself a favor—list on a piece of paper all the things you do in your church as part of your worship; all the rules you can think of that you must obey; all the religious holidays you observe. Then, see if you can find those things in the Bible. If not, you've got some soul-searching to do.

Two other related articles:
What Are the Defining Characteristics of True Christianity?

Additional Notes:
I recently read a comment by an online preacher claiming two verses in the book of Job posed an impossible-to-understand contradiction. According to the King James Version (KJV), one says that Satan caused the trials on Job but another says that God brought the trials. What he refused to do was consider the context. Per the NWT, here are the two important verses involved. In the first instance, the narrator correctly identified Satan as causing the issue. The second instance was from the viewpoint of Job's relatives. Remember--Job never was told by God that Satan was doing this to him.

So taken in context of the whole Bible, the point was that Satan was guilty of the cruelty AND that the only reason God permitted this trial was to demonstrate that we humans do have the physical, mental and moral capability of being loyal to God even in adversity. But because that preacher wanted to take Job 42:11 literally and only by using the rendering of the KJV, he closed his mind to the most sensible conclusion.

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