A Call for True Worship

temple

The church today is fraught with a prevalence of mixtures – a mixture of good and evil; mixture of truth and falsehood; a mixture of spirits (the Holy Spirit and unholy spirits); mixture of law and grace; and a mixture of God’s children with the slaves of Satan.

These dubious mixtures are the underlying reasons behind the confusion, doubt, divisions and spiritual pollution among many Christians. The powerlessness and ineffectiveness of the Faith in this century can be traced to a blurring of spiritual lines; iron has been mixed with clay.

The enemy we were fighting on the front lines has not only entered the vineyard through the backdoor, but is also launching his missiles from within.

Even from church history, it’s clear that the core issues that prompted the Protestant Reformation – authoritarianism, image worship, relics, replacement of Christ with men, legalism – have all found their ways back into several Christian denominations today, though, in a more trendy and enticing form.

Indeed, we are fighting the same theological battles at each generation of the church. The very compromise with paganism that caused problems for first century Corinthian Christians has re-emerged as ecumenism and interfaith which is sinking some mainline denominations today.

The strange mixture of Judaism and Christianity which deceived many Christians in Galatia in the first century is still with us today as the “Sacred Name/Hebrew Roots” Movement.

The message to the church of Laodicea in the first century is still very relevant to several churches in our land today where colourful entertainment, pop psychology, syrupy “all-about-me” teachings and jamborees have drowned out the still voice of the Holy Spirit calling for repentance.

From Scripture, we see that God hates any worship that is a mixture. Jesus said “God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24). God seeks true and spiritual worship. He has no regard for those who mix their worship with the leaven of falsehood or the filth of the flesh.

In Deut. 22:9, God warned His people, “Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled.”

Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together” (vs. 10)

Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together” (vs. 11)

The principle conveyed by these prohibitions is that when we serve the Lord, we should not mix two different types of things. We are not to sow a mixed seed, which represent a message comprising of both truth and error.

To allow mixed livestock to breed can represent a Christian group aligning itself with another group that is not Christian. Mating a sheep with a goat will result in sterility and possibly a malformed creature. When a church unequally yokes itself to a false religion, even for positive purposes, it results in spiritual fruitlessness.

To wear a garment of mixed material is like living simultaneously in accord with Scripture and in accord with the pattern of the world. It’s a hallmark of spiritual confusion.

All through the ages down to the present day, people don’t always reject God outright; rather, they mix some falsehoods into their worship of God. Satan knows too well that if he can’t get you to forsake God, but encourage you to absorb some strange and impure things into your service, it will be rejected and you will lose out in the end.

Even when the nation of Israel made a golden calf they still appended Yahweh to it: “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD” (Ex. 32:5). These were the same people who had witnessed supernatural miracles by the hand of God, yet they became so blinded by the devil that they effortlessly called a debased work of their hands their God. About 3,000 of them died for this abomination.

During their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites carried the tabernacle of God, but they added “the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship” (Acts 7:43; Amos 5:26). For this, God dealt with them.

In 2 Kings 17:32-33, we read about the nations living in Bethel:

They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.”

Doesn’t that sound like many contemporary Christians from various pagan cultures? They fear the Lord in appearance, in words and even occupy high positions in their churches, yet they still send money to priests who perform pagan rituals on their behalf; they still partake in family/communal pagan rites; they still pay homage to the gods of their ancestors and participate in pagan festivals.

In the time of Ezekiel, God transported the prophet in the spirit from Babylon to see what was happening in His temple in Jerusalem. He saw “an idol of jealousy” (possibly an obelisk) right at the entrance of the gate. He “saw portrayed all over the walls all kinds of crawling things and detestable animals and all the idols of the house of Israel.”

He saw “seventy elders of the house of Israel … each had a censer in his hand, and a fragrant cloud of incense was rising” to pagan deities. He “saw women sitting there weeping for Tammuz [a fertility god] … between the portico and the altar, were about twenty-five men … they were bowing down to the sun in the east” (Ezk. 8:10-11, 14, 16).

This was a pagan gathering of a second degree. The people had turned the Temple that was once filled with God’s glory into a filthy shrine.

Mind you, all these pagan rites were being practiced while the Ark of the Covenant – the token of God’s glory – was sitting right in the Holy of Holies. What a deliberate insult to God!

To numb their conscience, these abominable practitioners were saying, “The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land,” just the same way many today who profess Jesus in the open think God doesn’t hear the strange names they chant with their lips in the corner of their bedrooms.

They think He doesn’t see the strange places they visit for power and inquiries to find missing items. They think He doesn’t know of the occult rings, ointments, books waistbands, talisman, incisions and New Age medicine they resort to when they feel God is not answering their prayers when and how they wish.

When God could no longer tolerate the defilement in His temple in Ezekiel’s time, His glory finally departed from there and His judgement descended on them (see chapters 9-11). God’s response to a defiled worship is judgement.

The inebriated King Belshazzar learned this the hard way. He held a great banquet for his nobles, wives and concubines, then gave orders for the golden goblets that had been consecrated to Yahweh and taken from the Temple in Jerusalem to be used for drinking their wine.

No, this wasn’t an ordinary banquet; it was a pagan gathering: “As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone” (Dan. 5:4).

It was a worship of mixture – worshipping demon gods using vessels dedicated to God – and suddenly, he received his sentence from above. His life was taken and his kingdom was given to another.

In the days of prophet Zephaniah, God pronounced His judgement upon “those who worship the host of heaven on the housetops; those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord, but also swear by Milcom [or Molech]” (Zeph. 1:5)

Prophet Jeremiah had to challenge the people “who come through these gates to worship the LORD” and had mixed in pagan rituals, “You are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. Will you … burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘we are safe’…? (Jer. 7:2, 8-10)

With this understanding Elijah called out to the people of God: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God follow him” (1 Kgs. 18:21)

Of course, Baal is still active and operative in our world today; he is a god with almost a thousand faces. He is in the fashion world; he’s in pornography; he is in the gay movement; he’s in the corporate world; he’s in abortion; he is in polytheism; he is in lasciviousness; he’s in erotic novels and musicals; he is in drunkenness; he’s in paedophilia; he even manifests as the false Christ in cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Catholicism etc.

In the New Testament, the church in Pergamum is a case in point. This church was located in a rich ancient Greek city which was “where Satan has his throne.”

In this city was built a shrine to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing and occult medicine, and it was considered one of the most famous therapeutic and healing centers of the Roman world.

The church in Pergamum was so invaded by pagan delusions that many believers there were eating food sacrificed to idols and embracing Gnostic teachings. Jesus’ message to them was stern and straight to the point:

“Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev. 2:16).

That doesn’t sound like the cheap grace teaching emanating from some pulpits today.

All through Scripture, we can see that God will never accept a movement, church, doctrine or religious system that is founded on imprudent mixtures. God wants His people to part ways totally with the guidelines of the god of this world. That’s why He calls His people out of false worship and pagan religions into true worship.

Samuel told the Israelites: “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you…” (1 Sam. 7:3)

This is the same admonition given to the Corinthian believers. We cannot drink from the table of the Lord and also from the table of demons. There is no agreement between Christ and Belial; no fellowship between light and darkness.

We are to renounce all evil works and links with Satan’s kingdom – no matter what “benefit” they seem to offer – and be totally committed to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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