GOOD NEWS FOR A MODERN WORLD
HOW CAN YOU RECOGNIZE TRUE WORSHIP?
December 5. 2012
It is very important for all of us to be able to recognize true worship and true religion. Otherwise, we will not be able to truly benefit ourselves in the way the Father wants us to, or be fit for the Father’s purpose. As Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman:
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
– John 4:23-24
Unfortunately, true worship and true religion have been grossly misunderstood. As a result, rather than being a facility to promote brotherly love and unity, the search for true worship and true religion has resulted in divisions and condemnation. It has given rise to the ideas of religious superiority and clergy/laity distinctions, rather than spiritual equality and divine fraternity.
We believe a return to the proper understanding of true worship and true religion, as demonstrated and explained by Jesus Christ, will heal the division, unify the children of God, and reverse the gross stagnation of the true good news of the Kingdom.
Is There Only One True Religion?
Yes! It is the religion of Jesus! Not a religion about Jesus, but the religion of Jesus – the religion Jesus himself practiced of selfless service to mankind and whole-souled devotion to the Father. Remember, while he is our Creator and the son of God (Colossians 1:15-16), he also lived among us as a human son of man.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
– John 1:14
As a son of man, Jesus was obliged to worship the Father in the way a man worships Him. So, one may ask: What religion was Jesus? For that is the religion we should want to belong to.
We know that he was not Baptist, Lutheran, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, Mormon or any other denomination. Such religions are offshoots and derivatives of Jesus’ religion. They are various expressions of how Jesus’ religion is understood by some. Even the whole of Christianity is preceded and superseded by Jesus’ religion of ‘spiritual and true worship.’ Do we get the sense of that?
Each of these denominations is an attempt at understanding and practicing the religion of Jesus. Yet, for the most part, they are religions about Jesus. In other words, instead of looking to how Jesus worshiped, they focus on worshiping Jesus. They promote his divinity – his miracle working – and overlook his humanity – his faithfulness, his loyalty, his complete trust in the Father.
As our Creator, Jesus does accept our petitions – our prayers for help. But he does so in order to equip us to better worship the Father:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
– John 14:12-14
But he himself does not want to be worshiped. When Satan tempted Jesus to seek worship for himself:
“Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
– Matthew 4:10
How unfortunate that many have sacrificed Jesus of Nazareth to even the wonderful concept of the glorified Christ. The humanity of Jesus must not be taken away from struggling man. Both aspects of our Creator must be given equal honor. He belongs to us, just as we belong to him.
Jesus of Nazareth was a religious man who, by faith, achieved the knowing and the doing of the will of God, which is to uplift and serve mankind. The people heard him gladly because he was one of them, an unpretentious layman. Yes, the world's greatest religious teacher was indeed a layman! At his baptism, the Father acknowledged:
“And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
– Matthew 3:17
If we are to be approved, we must to follow his example of faith.
“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
– Matthew 10:38
To ‘follow Jesus’ means to personally share his religious faith and to enter into the spirit of his life of unselfish service of man. It should not be the aim of kingdom believers literally to imitate the outward life of Jesus in the flesh, but rather to share his faith; to trust God as he trusted God; and to believe in men as he believed in men.
Through his life example, he demonstrated true worship and true religion. In speaking to the apostle Thomas:
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:6
Thus, one of the most important things in human living is to find out what Jesus himself believed, to discover his ideals, and to strive for the achievement of his exalted life purpose. Of all human knowledge, that which is of greatest value is to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it.
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
– John 17:3
That, dear brothers and sisters, is true worship and true religion!
What Did Jesus Say about False Christians?
Jesus did not say one word about ‘false Christians,’ nor in any of his teachings did he ever condemn the sheep. The only people Jesus ever condemned were ‘false teachers’ – those who took it upon themselves to be religious leaders of men, but who were intentionally misleading them. He said:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
– Matthew 7:15-20
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
– Matthew 23:13
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
– Matthew 23:23-24
Jesus never condemned people for being mistaken or misled; though he did warn them of the dangers of blindly following after men:
“He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
– Matthew 15:13-14
When Jesus saw those who were misled, instead of ridiculing or reviling, he felt pity for them, and sought to help them by sharing the good news of the Kingdom:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
– Matthew 9:36-38
As followers of Jesus, and sharers in his religion, we should respond to people who we believe are being misled in the same manner as Jesus did – with a sincere desire to help them – not condemn them as false brothers.
Recognizing True Worshipers
One might think that there are certain acts or certain doctrines that identify true worshipers. One might have a list of such things and decide to measure others by these standards. However, in many cases, the list of so-called ‘identifying marks’ do not necessarily mean the bearers of these ‘marks’ are true worshipers.
For example, people can respect the Bible, honor God’s name, preach about the kingdom, avoid entanglements with the world, and love members of their own religion. These are fine and honorable acts. Yet a person can perform all of these acts, and still not be worshiping ‘with spirit and truth.’ (John 4:23-24)
For the most part, these are social acts – acts that placate our fellow believers. But they are not necessarily acts of true worship and genuine religion. We are reminded of what Jesus said to the Jews of his day, quoting from the prophet Isaiah:
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”
– Matthew 15:8-9
True worship is heartfelt communion with the Father. It is a whole-souled consecration to doing the divine will. And it is summed up in these two commandments:
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
– Matthew 22:37-40
True worshipers are identified by their fruits. (Matthew 7:16-20) If they are truly worshiping with spirit, they will exhibit the fruitage of the spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
– Galatians 5:22-23
And if they are worshiping with truth, they will be true to what they believe, not hypocritical. The life they live in private is the life they live in public. And they will be hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and thus open to a constant refining of their faith.
Fore mostly, they will be imitating Jesus and practicing his religion of whole-souled dedication to the Father and to the doing of his will.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
– Colossians 3:23-24
In essence, true worshipers recognize the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, they teach the same message of entry into the Kingdom of the Heavens as Jesus taught, and they follow the Christ ‘wherever he goes.’ (Revelation 14:4)
Identifying True Religion
If you can understand the above factors, you can identify the true religion. It is the religion Jesus practiced of selfless service to mankind and whole-souled devotion to the Father.
Today, all Christian denominations are seeking to follow Christ to the best of their ability. Some have truer facts in their belief system than do others. But all of them are offshoots and derivatives of the true religion of Jesus.
What is now needed is a turning to the religion of Jesus instead of practicing a religion about Jesus. True religion today must adopt the same beliefs and teachings that Jesus himself held nearly 2000 years ago. Doctrines may be refined, and facts may be updated, but true worship and true religion remain unchanged.
To the extent that our doctrines need refinement, true worshipers are open to that refinement. They know that coming to an accurate knowledge of truth is a gradual process – and some are further along in the process than are others. For this reason, Jesus counseled:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
– Matthew 7:1-5
He also counseled:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
– Matthew 7:7-8
That being the case, true worshipers must be humble and understand that they do not know it all. They will need to make progressive adjustments in their beliefs, though their heartfelt worship and selfless religion will remain unchanged and steadfast.
True worshipers are willing to make those adjustments. They have a keen desire to please the Father and are willing to be molded by the Spirit of Truth, knowing that there is always more to learn:
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
– John 16:12-13
So, as long as there is breath in our bodies, there is an opportunity to turn to true worship and to the true religion of Jesus Christ. When we do, we will be able to identify ourselves as true worshipers of the Father who practice the true religion of brotherly love and selfless service to mankind, no matter what offshoot or derivative we are associated with.
“Your Brothers in Faith”