Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
We don’t like to be weak. Admitting weakness means admitting we are powerless. It means that we have to accept that we can’t fix our problems on our own. As humans we sometimes don’t like to admit that we need help. It’s in our nature to try and take care of our own problems.
The problem is that if we want to have a relationship with God, we have to admit that we are weak. We must come to terms with the fact that we are helpless without God. Sin has separated us from God. We are weak, but the Spirit helps us with this weakness. Paul uses the word astheneai, meaning a “lack of confidence or feeling of inadequacy.” The Spirit restores our confidence through prayer. The Spirit takes the inadequate, and makes it adequate.
Our weakness is taken away by the Spirit, and the only hurdle left is our own humanity. We need to understand that we can have confidence in prayer. We should also accept the fact that we need God’s help. How wonderful that our God can hear us even with our weakness!
If we are honest, some days it is easier to worship with focus and enthusiasm than others. We’re human and we struggle. With mental preparation and prayer, we can minimize the frequency of such times, but they happen to the best of us.
Have you ever thought about God getting tired of the worship brought by His people? I don’t mean worship done incorrectly and according to the will of men which violates what He commands. Apparently, He rejects such worship (Mat. 15:9). I don’t mean the idea that He gets bored and had rather skip a Sunday here and there. No such picture is ever painted of God.
But through the prophets, He repeatedly talks about being weary of the worship brought by His people.
“I have had enough…I take no pleasure in…your worthless offerings…an abomination to me…I cannot endure…They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them” (Isaiah 1:11-14).
“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies…Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps” (Amos 5:21,23).
“Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you” (Malachi 1:10).
Each prophet is dealing with specific circumstances prompting such a response from God, but it should cause us to take notice that just coming into the “meeting house” and going through the motions does not equal acceptable worship. Neither does simply following the New Testament pattern for the acts of worship. You will find in each of the passages above that the people were at the right place offering the right sacrifices on the right day led by the right people. The problem was either one of attitude, hypocrisy, or outright worldly living. Jeremiah documents how the people lived just like the world for the rest of the week, then filed into the temple to sing, “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!” (7:4-10).
Worship is a special privilege, to come into the presence of our Maker and Savior. At our best, we worship Him with sin and weakness in our lives. He knows that and the cross proves that He knows it. He is not expected sinless perfection, but He is looking for characteristics in our worship just beyond doctrinal accuracy. He wants:
Feeling (Psalm 95:6; John 4:24).
Engagement (Matthew 15:8).
Effort (Hebrews 13:15).
Gratitude (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:16-17).
Thoughtfulness and Intentionality (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
Devotion (Acts 2:42).
Consideration of one another (Hebrews 10:24).
It is such a blessing that God communicates with us not only about the “what,” “when,” and “who” of worship, but also the “how” and “why” of it. When we are assembled for worship, He tells us what worship should look like. Between the assemblies, He tells us what a life looks like that partners with that worship.
God speaks of the various sacrifices of His children being a “fragrant aroma” to Him (Philippians 4:20; ). He likens the prayers of His faithful people to incense (Revelation 5:8; 8:1ff). Jesus assures us that true worshippers offering true worship are highly sought after by God (John 4:23). That’s the aim, isn’t it? The idea of presenting God with both a worshipper and worship which enthuses Him is the pinnacle of excitement!
Next Sunday, before we come together in worship, we can read Psalm 95, Psalm 96, Isaiah 6, or a similar chapter which reminds us of Who we get to worship. Today and every day, let us strive to build on the most recent worship we have offered by a life of faithful service and sincere devotion. That will set the table for worship God can’t wait to receive!
I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today.
This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.
Friend or Foe
This is how you know you’re with him: he gave us his spirit.1 Loved ones, don’t believe every spirit, but really put them to the test to see if they came from God. You’ll need to test them because a whole lot of fake teachers were sent2 to the world.
This is how you know if a spirit came from God: every spirit that comes from God will acknowledge that Jesus was sent to earth as a human. If a spirit refuses to acknowledge this, it isn’t God’s. In fact, it’s the spirit of Jesus’s enemies. You heard that the spirit of Jesus’s enemy was coming — it’s here now.
Young ones, you are from God and have already beaten these spirits. How? Jesus is far more powerful than his enemies, and he’s with you. These enemies come from the world, so they talk like it — and the world listens to them. But we came from God. If you know God, you’ll listen to us. God’s enemies are the ones who don’t listen to us. This is how you can tell the difference between a legitimate spirit and a fake one.
1 In this context, πνευματος is used to mean something like “ethos” or “system of teaching”. God sent a legitimate belief system, then Satan counterattacked by sending a ton of illegitimate information to make truth more difficult to find.
2 This is further evidenced by εξεληλυθασιν in 4.1 and εληλυθοτα in 4.2. The former describes false teachers sent to earth. The latter describes the one true teacher sent to earth.
In Romans 12:6-8, Paul lists some marvelous gifts that help us be living sacrifices that overcome this world (1-2) who don’t think too highly of self (3). These gifts include such beautiful attributes and actions as proclaiming the gospel (6), service (7), teaching (7), exhortation (8), giving (8), leading (8), and mercifulness (8). Who could fail to see the value of these gifts, on full display and at work in the body of Christ?
That being said, let’s be reminded that the following are not gifts:
Outbursts of anger
Pride and boasting
Too often, these drain the life of a congregation and are a drag on its attempted works. God is not glorified and the body is not edified. In Paul’s discussion about some specific gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, the word edification repeatedly comes up as rationale for the exercise of those gifts (14:3-5,12,17, 26). Gifts build up by design.
It’s proper and necessary for us to gauge our actions, to see if we are living as Paul urges the churches of Galatia: ” Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another” (Gal. 5:24-26).
God desires us to find our gifts and place in the body and pursue using them for His glory. The “non-gifts,” He wants us to crucify! They take no talent, but they rob us of peace and joy.
I’ll be repeating the book of II Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today.
This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.
Message is Credible
Family, you have to make sure you’re in a good place when it comes to your relationship with Jesus. If you’re practicing all those qualities we just talked about, you’ll be ok. You’ll make it to eternal life. You know this stuff already, but it’s always a good idea to remind you. You’re already in a good place, but as long as I’m alive, I’ll keep reminding you. I’m going to die soon. Jesus made that clear to me. Because of this, I want to make sure you’ll remember everything I taught you. What we taught you originally is still valid. Jesus is powerful and he’s coming back to us. We weren’t duped into believing an intricate lie. We were firsthand witnesses to his superior nature! One time, the ultimate power – God – validated this by saying, “This is my son. I love him and I think very highly of him.” He said that right in front of us while we were with Jesus on a mountain. His voice came from the sky. This made us confident that we have the right message. Since we’re confident in this message, you should be, too! Focus on what we’ve told you like you’d focus on a light source in a dark room. Hang onto this until the end, when everything will be light and darkness won’t exist. It’s very important that you understand something: we don’t get to decide what a prophecy means. No human has ever produced a legitimate prophecy. Those came from men who were influenced by God’s spirit.
Each Sunday, Christians come together to worship our Creator. But before we can properly worship God, we need to know what He wants from us. We can’t just come together and do what we think God would want. There is no guesswork required because God has plainly told us. This isn’t an article on our singing, taking the Lord’s supper, or reading scripture. But worship requires knowledge, and this knowledge will help us to properly prepare when we come together.
If our knowledge is lacking, what happens? In Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu offered God something He did not ask for. “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord” (1-2).
Depending on your translation there are several different interpretations of what they offered.
None of these translations speak well of their actions, and we read the consequences of their actions. They offered God a sacrifice without proper knowledge. Some would say that how God responded was uncalled for, and while His actions may seem extreme, there are several facts we learn about Worship.
We learn that when God tells us how to do something, we better listen. We learn that proper knowledge of how to worship is essential. We learn that God takes worship seriously.
I’m thankful that God doesn’t deal with us today in the same way. The times that I’ve caught my mind wandering in the songs we sing, or when I loose my train of thought during the Lord’s supper, I’m sure that God has had plenty of opportunities to strike me down.
Leviticus 10 is a sobering reminder. And we need to ask ourselves, “Are we offering strange fire to God?”
We can avoid doing this by having the proper knowledge of what God has commanded.
It’s not about what we think sounds good, or what we think God would like.
It’s about our Creator. We don’t need to guess; He has clearly told us. In John 4:23-24, Jesus in speaking with the Samaritan woman says, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews, But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”
What does God want us to know about worship? The people God seeks to be His are the ones who worship in Spirit and Truth.
The word Spirit literally means, “As the source and seat of insight, feeling, and will.”
Basically what Jesus is trying to convey is that:
When we sing, we sing with feeling
When we pray, we pray with feeling
When we remember Christ, we feel the weight of the sacrifice.
When we read God’s word, we do it with feeling.
God wants our hearts to be in worship.
A knowledge of God helps us accomplish this command. Which is exactly why Jesus says to worship in spirit, but also in Truth. Our emotions and feelings are based on the truth that God has revealed. The truth that comes from divine inspiration. If we worship in spirit and neglect the truth, we are offering strange fire. If we worship in truth alone without emotion, we are offering strange fire to God.
In order to worship, we must have a knowledge of what God wants from us.
It hurts and it’s hard to become attached to anyone who isn’t living faithfully because they’re lost. That means they’re not going to heaven. Sometimes lost people pretend like that’s not their reality by distracting themselves with things that make them feel like they’re not lost (Ecc. 2.24-25).
There’s a good chance that you know people who aren’t going to heaven and many of you love people who aren’t and we’ve got to convince them to hear Jesus out.
What can we do?
We can simplify spiritual concepts so that people can understand a message that they desperately need to hear.
Please don’t let anything get in your way of going home. If you think something might be in your way, God can use us to help you. There are more things to fear than Covid, vaccines, tornados, elections, and riots.
Everybody responds to the invitation that Jesus extends. Many choose to say no— but nobody ever regrets saying yes.
To you, responding might be a personal resolve and commitment to christ.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
From the title, one might assume I am writing an article about hell. While it is true that God’s Word describes hell as eternal torture for disobedient spirits, my topic is something else entirely. You see, I have become more aware of a disparity between those three parts comprising my singular being with each passing birthday. There is my intellect that still recalls youthful exuberance. In my mind, I can still free climb Mount Yonah in White County, Georgia. My body snarkily responds, “Are you crazy?” And then there is that part of me that will never die. Yes, my spirit. My spirit becomes tired. Not only do I crave to be clothed with my heavenly habitation (2 Corinthians 5.1ff), but I also want to leave this body that is subject to the temptation of sin (cf. Romans 7.14-8.1). I grow weary of hurting God.
Fortunately, God created the “inner man” with the ability to experience daily renewal (2 Corinthians 4.16). Yet, this renewal will not occur if I am passive, sitting around waiting on God. Yes, He provides the inner man with strength through His Spirit (Ephesians 3.16). But you and I must engage in spiritual service, thereby enabling this renewal (Romans 12.1-2). This service requires that we strive for mastery over the boorish flesh holding our spirits prisoner. If we indulge our flesh, we will reap corruption (Galatians 6.8). Conversely, if we sow to the Spirit, we will reap eternal life. This choice makes all of the difference.
So, to facilitate our daily renewal, our mindset plays a crucial role. Following Paul’s exhortation to “be anxious for nothing,” he reminds us that we have better things upon which to meditate (Philippians 4.6-8). In addition, we must follow David’s example of hiding God’s Word in our heart to prevent sin (Psalm 119.11). Thus fortified from within, we positively affect our actions (cf. Proverbs 23.7; Matthew 15.18-20). The execution of this task comprises the majority of our battle against the whims of our flesh. When successful, we maintain a tender heart that retains awareness of sin and prompts swift repentance when we occasionally stumble.
Yes, we are all tortured spirits imprisoned by crude flesh. But “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7.25a NASB1995) His blood will offer continuous cleansing as long as we walk in fellowship with Him (1 John 1.7).
Most of us have favorite songs and hymns. My favorite category of hymns is songs about the cross. I love the somber, dramatic feel of Beneath the Cross of Jesus, a hymn penned right after the close of the Civil War by Elizabeth C. Clephane and one set to the music we sing with it by Frederick Maker a dozen years later in 1881. The cross of Calvary is treated as a metaphor of protection for one in a wilderness. One might envision the wandering Israelites making their way to the Promised Land and apply that, figuratively, to our journey through this world of sin toward heaven. But the song will change scenes multiple times until, in the last verse, it is a most personal challenge to each of us to be faithful disciples of this crucified Lord.
The first verse introduces the foot of the cross as a shadow of a mighty rock where we find relief and a home to rest in from trials and difficulties while pilgrims in a weary land (the world). We might easily think of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Some songbooks have a notation to define “fain,” a word used in the first line. It means “gladly.” I am happy to shelter behind Christ’s cross in adversities.
The second verse builds upon the metaphor of the first verse, then subtly shifts to an event from the book of Genesis. The cross is, again, a shelter and refuge. But, then, he shifts to an allusion to Jacob’s dream (Genesis 28:10ff). He has left his father’s house and his brother’s wrath and beds down near Haran. He lays down, using stones for a pillow, and falls asleep. Moses writes, “He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants” (12-13). This is where God reaffirms the promise He had made to Jacob’s grandfather and father to make of them a great nation. It symbolized hope, reward, and heavenly assistance. The song writer says the cross is just like the ladder in Jacob’s dream, except that I ascend to heaven by way of the cross. Again, Clephane uses a poetic, if obscure word, in this verse: “trysting.” The word means “meeting.” At the cross, God’s perfect love and justice meet. His love is shown and His justice satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice.
The third verse becomes a straightforward look at a literal remembrance of the graphic, horrific suffering of Jesus on the cross. She focuses on what our reaction should be–a smitten heart, tears, and a proper conclusion. How great is His love! How unworthy I am that He would demonstrate it to me (cf. Romans 5:8).
The last verse is the challenge to respond to that sacrifice. We are to live in the shadow of the cross, daily reflecting upon it and letting it affect how we live. We are to ignore all else to focus on Him. Clephane seems to allude to Paul’s words in Galatians 6:14, if ever so subtly. Too, there’s a challenge to not be ashamed of Jesus and the cross, but reserve our shame only for the sin in our life that made the cross necessary.
It is beautifully and intricately woven. Despite some unfamiliar, even archaic, poetic words, it is powerfully written. What a great song to prepare our minds for the Lord’s Supper or to sing when our motives gets clouded and our priorities get muddled. May we take the time, when we sing it, to consider the truth it teaches and the challenge it contains.