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Individual Christians in Home and Society

Gary Fisher

The Israelites often imagined that their service to God was adequately discharged by just sacrificing some animals and participating in public worship. God's words through Isaiah undoubtedly startled those complacent Jews: "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed cattle. And take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats... I have your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts..." What a shock! The Lord Himself had commanded the sacrifices and the feast days. How could He be rejecting them? Because the wicked lives of the worshipers had made their very sacrifices abominable to the Lord.

  He counseled: "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless; defend the orphan, plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1: 1 0-17; see also Isaiah 58; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8). God refused to accept their worship because their daily lives were impure. The Lord has always demanded faithfulness in all areas of life, not just in worship.

  People seldom change. Christians often rely on the performance of certain commanded worship activities to guarantee their fellowship with God, when what He really wants is for our entire lives to be sacrificed to Him (Romans 12:1). Typically, men compartmentalize their lives: job, school, family, recreation, friends, religion, etc. Viewed this way, becoming a Christian means letting God regulate the religious aspect of life. Faithfulness to God becomes a matter of right doctrine and the correct worship procedures. Unfaithfulness is then a failure to follow specific rules related to "church" activities. Smugness and self-righteousness result, because it is relatively easy to get an "A" in this type of religion.

  But Jesus must be Lord of our whole life. Paul wrote: "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (Colossians 3:17). This verse is more than a proof text to prohibit innovations in worship, for, in context, Paul introduced the Lord into every human relationship. He told wives to obey their husbands "as is fitting in the Lord." Children should obey their parents "for this is well-pleasing to the Lord." Slaves must work "fearing the Lord." He added: "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." Even a master needs to determine his relationship to his slave by the character of the heavenly Master. (Study Colossians 3:18-4:1). James concluded that acceptable "religion" is a matter of lifestyle: "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:26--27).

  This does not mean that God is unconcerned about collective worship and doctrine, but true disciples follow the Lord in every detail of life, not just in "church" work. Jesus delineated the pattern of discipleship in terms that clearly involve total dedication to Him (Luke 9:23-24; 14:25-33). Yes, God does want us to repent of immorality and idol- worship. But not just that: In Christ, all things must become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

  Thus, those who teach the gospel must not only teach the work, worship and organization of the church, but must also "remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men" (Titus 3:1-2). God wants me to obey the government and respect its leaders; to love and discipline my children; to love my wife as myself; to work diligently on the job as if He were my boss; to care for the unfortunate. These obligations cannot be fulfilled at church. No quantity of songs, prayers or contributions can offset a failure to honor the Lord in our home or to serve Him in our society. If I do not serve God in my individual life, He will view even the worship that conforms to his prescribed rules as an abomination.

Via Christianity Magazine, December 1996

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