Saturday, November 7, 2015

John 4:24 Neither location nor ceremony important

Quoting Jesus: “God is a Spirit, and those worshipping him must worship with spirit and truth.” The circumstances surrounding that statement involved a Samaritan woman that Jesus engaged in a conversation. She raised one of the differences between her beliefs and those of Israelites. Jesus’ response involved two key points recorded in the 21st and 24th verses. (Other translations) In verse 21 Jesus indicates that the location is not important to true worship. In verse 24 he indicates that sincerity, obedience, and understanding the true essence of a personal relationship with our Creator are the key elements to true worship in a manner that God approves.

Focus more closely now on verse 24 and consider: How does a person worship "in spirit"? According to the actual Greek text, the word "pneumati" (as used in verse 24) can have two meanings. The first is a personage (God, the demons, spirit beings). The second is a dominate disposition (meek, haughty, etc.). A current-day example might be when someone says: “You have a very kind spirit.”

In context of the scripture, to worship God "in spirit" would be to demonstrate the qualities of a true Christian such as recorded at
Galatians 5:22,23. (Note that none of the things listed in Galatians have to do with ceremony, ritual, or formalistic worship.) In contrast, the religious leaders in Jesus day were more concerned with outward appearance than with sincere devotion.

So how then do we worship "in truth"? With ceremonial and ritualistic forms of worship stripped away, what is left is realizing that the only truth is found in God's own word. For those living today, that "truth" can only be found in the Bible. So-called "truth" beyond that is not what God has sanctioned, no matter how good it sounds. Why is that significant? Because the Bible itself says that God’s word is all a true Christian needs to serve God properly.

Related articles:
What Does God Really Want From Us?
True Righteousness - Romans 14:17

Monday, November 2, 2015

True Righteousness - Romans 14:17

In the 14th chapter of Romans, Paul discusses both religious ceremonial practices and the mundane of whether certain foods might be considered inappropriate (because they had been previously used in pagan sacrifices before arriving at the public meat market.) One interesting point is made in verse 17, “For the Kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit.(Other translations)

If we get the full impact of what Paul is saying, if we can extrapolate the principle that is being conveyed, we should come to the conclusion that any ritual, religious or otherwise, is not what is important. What earns us points with God is "righteousness." Thus, if you take all the motions that are common today, whether it be the way a person walks, the way they perform certain gestures, the officious-sounding words they use, or any other such thing, it all amounts to nothing in the sight of God. True righteousness is a condition of the symbolic heart and a mental resolve to obey God and love fellow man. (The Christian ministry is part of our loving our neighbor.)

Does God Discipline Non-Believers?

So I have considered if God tests us and if God punishes us through natural disasters. However the idea of God disciplining humanity in general is a bit different. In today's society, for anyone other than the parents to administer “discipline” in the form of punishing their own children is frowned upon. School authorities are delegated a certain degree of authority in that regard but physically touching the child is condemned.

The Bible uses the word discipline to encompass not only correction and chastisement, but also for gentle instruction. It is applied to actions God takes towards believers, not to those who are non-believers. This can be better understood when we realize that, in the Bible sense, discipline and disciple are related words. God's teaching and direction are intended to make us faithful followers (aka disciples) and therefore "disciplined" in the ways of righteousness. This is a teaching method that is usually gentle but sometimes much stronger. Perhaps the closest to this concept is that of an “academic discipline.” Obviously, non-believers reject any such discipline – teaching, molding, correction or otherwise.

However, even estranged imperfect humanity is God's creation (offspring of Adam), not just believers. God does not desire anyone to be destroyed but wants them to gain everlasting life. Both the proclamation Jonah was sent to deliver to Nineveh and the public preaching done by Christians today demonstrates that God does at very least provide warning so that those that heed the warning might live. Just as parents are known to warn a disobedient child as a form of discipline, in that sense God likewise disciplines before taking the next step. If those not obedient to God turn around from their godless ways (as in the case of Jonah’s Nineveh), God is merciful. If however, they reject even the warning, it will turn out badly for them, just as in the days of Noah.