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New Years Restitutions-h

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A little old man was seen every Sunday morning walking to church. He was deaf, so he could not hear a word of the sermon or the music of the choir, or the hymns sung by the congregation.

A scoffer asked, "Why do you spend your Sundays in that church when you can't hear a word?"

He replied, "I want my neighbors to know which side I'm on!"

Worship in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Worship is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure.  For some it is a weekly jaunt to church. For others, occasional visits to special services. Some, with a bent for Christian entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies and conferences.  We go to see a new personality, to hear a new truth, to get a new experience and so, somehow, expand our otherwise humdrum lives.  We'll try anything -- until something else comes along.

Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play and to play at their worship.  As a result, their meanings and values are distorted.  Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.

   -- Gordon Dahl

Matthew 5:17 ¶ "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.  18  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  19  Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  20  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.  21 ¶ "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, {Exodus 20:13} and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'  22  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother {Some manuscripts brother without cause} will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, `Raca,' {An Aramaic term of contempt} is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.  23  "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  24  leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

1.     Worship was never designed to be a spectator sport.

q      Cheap truth and costly truth.  Cheap truth is truth that demands nothing from it’s hearers.

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.  G. K. Chesterton in  What's Wrong with the World.  Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no.

One who trusts in Christ alone [will] completely give up his idols, horoscopes and other such practices of his old life that go against Christ's Lordship.  When a true believer is made aware of any area of his life that is not yielded to Christ, he will yield it.  When he is made aware of a Christian principal to be followed, he will follow it whatever the cost.

So when a new believer finds out that a follower of Christ should love his enemies, he will do so, even though that seems sheer folly in today's society.  When he finds out that a follower of Christ cannot pay a bribe, he will stop paying bribes and pay dearly for it as far as his success in society is concerned.  When finds out that a follower of Christ treats both high and low caste people, both rich and poor people as equals, he will do so, however hard that may be for him.

q      There are times when our response is more important than our presence.

The particular application to me here is that sometimes there are more important things than going to church.  There are times when being in church is not the most “religious” thing that you can do.

There are those who cite church attendance as the ultimate example of faithfulness.  I certainly appreciate people attending church services and thank God for our attendances this year.  But it may not do a lot for the kingdom for us to drag our bodies to the house and think then that this is the representation of what it means to serve God.

Our Lord did not say to His disciples: "I have had a most successful time on earth. I have addressed thousands of people and been the means of their salvation; now you go and do the same kind of thing." He said: "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet." We try to get out of it by washing the feet of those who are not of our own set. We will wash the heathen's feet, the feet in the slums; but fancy washing my brother's feet! My wife's! My husband's! The feet of the minister of my church! Our Lord said "one another's feet."

n      Oswald Chambers in The Love of God. Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 10.

q      Worship awakens our hearts to the will of God.  It is a stimulation of our spiritual sensitivity.  I find that the things that God speaks to me about today are of a different nature than they were when I first became saved.  It was entry level stuff back then.  Now it is a very fine tuning that God gives.

They bring their bodies to the house of prayer but not their souls. They worship with their mouths but not in spirit and in truth.

They are sticklers for early morning communion with God but they take no thought about keeping their hearts with all diligence.

They boast of their orthodoxy but disregard the precepts of Christ. Multitudes of professing Christians abstain from external acts of violence, yet hesitate not to rob their neighbors of a good name by spreading evil reports against them.

They contribute regularly to the church but shrink not from misrepresenting their goods and cheating their customers persuading themselves that business is business.

They have more regard for the laws of man than those of God for his fear is not before their eyes.

n      Arthur Pink

At the turn of the century, James Burns wrote the book Revivals: The Laws and Leaders.  In the opening chapter he discusses "laws" of revival, as well as the "laws" of the absence of revival.  "The first tendency," he writes, "Is for the doctrine of the church to lose its power of convicting the conscience, convincing the mind, or moving the heart."  He goes on to point out that spiritual decay brings with it a formality of worship in which the "ritual" is so exalted that it crushes the spirit.

q      Closeness to God highlights our need over our sufficiency.  The most truly spiritual people that I have encountered in my life are those who would be relatively unaware of the depth of their own experience.  (Brothers look alike until they get close together)

q      The closer we get to God the more sensitive we become to others.  You cannot grow close to God without growing close to people.  You treat them like fine china with kindness, tenderness, gentleness, respect.

A church usher was instructing a young successor in the details of his office.  "And remember, my boy," he concluded, "that we have nothing but good kind Christians in this church until you try to seat someone else in their pew."  Kindness is not an artificial shallow niceness or unreal feeling or weakness.  Kindness is that spiritual grace which flows from spiritual strength and maturity.  David in Second Samuel 22:36 KJV, in speaking of God says, "Thy gentleness hath made me great."  Only the strong can be gentle.  God is great enough to be gentle.  How about you?

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong.  Because someday in life you will have been all of these.

n      George Washington Carver

Kindness in words creates confidence.

Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.

Kindness in giving creates love.

2.     There are times when God’s pleasure would have us to reach out to someone else in love before we reach out to Him in love.

When I first read this portion of scripture I skipped through to the end of the thought believing that the sense of it was that I could not worship God if I held resentment in my heart against someone else.  This instance deals with things that we have forgotten because they are not issues of our bitterness but issues of someone else’s lack of forgiveness.  That’s always the way that it is when we refuse to forgive.  We hold onto things that other people forget about and thus victimize ourselves.  We are the ones who suffer for our lack of forgiveness.  Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

The primacy of our interpersonal relationships over our acts of worship.  Why would that be?  I believe it is because relationships are fundamental to the advancement of the kingdom of God.  Learning how to live with people is something that we have hoped God would supernaturally bestow upon us when we come to him and so we have not consciously assigned it as a deliberate and intentional priority.

It may be something that you are over but it may be something that someone else is not over that makes it impossible for God to receive our worship.  We get distracted over a variety of things in our worship.  This is the one thing that makes it impossible for God to receive our adoration or our gifts.

q      The primacy of our interpersonal relationships over our acts of worship.  Before we come to Him to worship, our hearts must be clear.

q      This was not an issue of personal forgiveness for the worshipper but a matter of forgetfulness.

q      The things that we give God are not as important as the state of our relationships with men.

q      The things that we do for God are not as important as the state of our interpersonal relationships with men

3.   What are the chief elements of reconciliation with your fellow man? When have you done “as much as lieth within you?”

o       Someone else’s problem with me is my responsibility.  Accepting personal responsibility for our lives is one of the most difficult messages in the world to hear.  Once we hear it then it is slightly easier to implement. It is my responsibility because I am the one in the position to see someone else’s need.  Regardless of whether or not a person has the wrong perspective it is your problem if you wish to see it solved.  The one who is holding the offense against you is too blind to ever recognize the poison that they embrace.  You alone hold the keys to freedom for that person.

q      The needs of others are more important than my pride.  It's my pride that makes me independent of God.  It's appealing to feel I am the master of my fate; I run my own life, I call my own shots; I go it alone.  But that feeling is my basic dishonesty.  I can't go it alone.  I have to get help from other people, and I can't ultimately rely on myself.  I am dependent on God for my very next breath.  It is dishonest of me to pretend that I am anything but a man, small, weak and limited.  So, living independent of God is self- delusion.  It's not just a matter or pride being an unfortunate little trait and humility being an attractive little virtue, it's my inner psychological integrity that's at stake.  When I am conceited, I am lying to myself about what I am.  I am pretending to be God, and not man. My pride is the idolatrous worship of myself, and that is the national religion of hell.

q      My response to God’s prompting is more important than someone else’s response to me.

q      When you know of no other thing that you can do then your responsibility is over except to continue to treat the person with acts of kindness.  You will ultimately win your enemy in this manner.

In matters of forgiveness, as in all other virtues, the first step (forgiving) is comparatively simple compared to the second (reconciling). Hell is always waiting for the rebound. The only prevention of the rebound is perseverance. The first moment of forgiveness is nearly always confused with other things--affection, delight, honor, pride, love of power; some good, some bad, all distracting. ... But then directly afterwards, the good elements withdraw and leave the reconciliation to its own serious energy; and if that energy is too weak, it will break. ... Nothing is achieved at once.

Charles Williams, Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3.

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