Sunday, February 27, 2011

Allow Me To Ask You For The Third Week: Why Are You Going To Church?

So , we are all getting ready to go to Church to worship the Lord Jesus Christ who gave up everything so that we could be reconciled with the Father. How's your heart? Are you ready to engage with all our brothers and sisters? Are you ready to pray for a world on fire with sin and death? Are you prepared to pray for your enemies? I wonder. We may not think of ourselves as religious, or exclusive, or even as a sinner but often times we are. We stick to what we are familiar with and are often judgemental of the rest. Perhaps you don't feel it but this separates us from the one we claim to love with our entire being and the one for whom we are leaving our homes to worship this morning.

The psalmist certainly realized his sin when he allowed the actions of other people to separate him from the God of all things. A heart that is filled with bitterness, hatred, jealousy, even just a little bit, is a barrier to the love, joy and peace of Jesus:

Surely God is good to Israel,
   to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
   I had nearly lost my foothold. 
For I envied the arrogant
   when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
(Psalm 73:1-3)

A slippery place indeed because it is never solid ground on which we stand when he take our eyes off of Jesus and look around us. It can cause us to be puffed up, thinking more highly of ourselves and allowing it to become a barrier between us and God. We are no different then the people around us except for the one important fact that we have accepted God's grace. But it can also cause us to become envious, even jealous. Look at what this psalmist was looking at:

From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
   the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
   in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
   and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
   and drink up waters in abundance.
They say, “How can God know?
   Does the Most High have knowledge?”
This is what the wicked are like—
   always carefree, they increase in wealth.
(Psalm 73:7-12)

Whoa! Do you see that? He has actually becoming jealous of them, of their supposed freedom. He is envying them and look what it lead to:

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; 
   in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 
All day long I have been plagued; 
   I have been punished every morning. (Psalm 73:13-14) 

Wow, that really is slippery ground to be standing on yet most of us end up there at one time or another, especially if you are young. We look at the time we are spending, investing in our relationship with Jesus. We could put that to better use watching TV, going out with friends, doing what we want to do. Are we just wasting our time? Yes, if that is all it is to you. If it is just a religious engagement, just activities void of purpose, something that everyone else does, then yes, you are wasting your time. If this is your attitude, the only way it can be corrected is if you are renewed in that relationship, renewed in the Spirit, renewed in purpose. Look at why the psalmist says he ALMOST slipped:

When I tried to understand all this, 
   it was oppressive to me 
till I entered the sanctuary of God; 
   then I understood their final destiny. (Psalm 73:16-17)

It is amazing how perspectives are changed after spending time with Jesus. The lost are never to be envied and we should never be jealous of them and they should never be the source of bitterness which causes a barrier in us, because their final destination is eternal death:

Surely you place them on slippery ground; 
   you cast them down to ruin. 
How suddenly are they destroyed, 
   completely swept away by terrors! 
As a dream when one awakes, 
   so when you arise, O Lord, 
   you will despise them as fantasies. (Psalm 73:18-20)

But being in the presence of Jesus does more than just open our eyes to the plight of the lost around us, it also reminds us who Jesus is for us:

Whom have I in heaven but you? 
   And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
   but God is the strength of my heart 
   and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)

The difference in this psalm and in our understanding of God's plan is Jesus Christ. We do not celebrate the destruction of sinners but instead we partner with Jesus to fight for them. Because of Jesus we have realized the Father's love for everyone and our purpose is to be engaged with sinners so that they will know Jesus and be reconciled with the Father.

As we head off to Church today we do so because we need to be renewed in our love for Jesus and in our purpose in this world. We need to be reminded of his love so that love will compel us to press on in the battle we have been called to. In worship we are reminded of God's glory, power and love so that our tiny problems are put into perspective. This ensures that we will not be overwhelmed in the battle but instead will stand victorious with Jesus. Look to your heart this morning and do not allow anything to remain that would become a barrier to his great love. It is not about church and church activities; it has always been and will always be about relationships. Love the Lord your God with your entire being and love your neighbour as yourself.

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