Thursday, April 02, 2009

Worship that Harms

Sometimes, God’s Word says shocking things. They run counter to what we think and believe. Often, we “interpret” them so as to soften the blow. But that doesn’t change the simple message of God’s Word.

For instance, look at what Paul says to the church in 1 Corinthians 11:17. “Your meetings do more harm than good.” He was talking about church, about their observance of the Lord’s Supper. Church attendance, worship, the Lord’s Supper, was damaging people more than it was helping them. It would be better not to go to church at all than to worship like the Corinthians. Their singing, their giving, their words of praise – it offended God, it did not bless him.

In fact, the problem in Corinth was so serious that Paul said God had sent stern discipline on that church. Some, according to verse 30, had become weak and sickly and some had even died. God brought lives to an end because of the abusive practices going on in the Corinthian church!

Does that shock you? We have conveniently overlooked biblical teachings like that. Our God is awesome and holy, and when we come to worship him, it should never be lightly, or lackadaisically. We must approach him with respect, with awe, with hearts yielded to his Lordship.

It is not my intent to scare you away from church. I believe in church. I do not believe people grow as healthy Christians without the support of a solid local body of believers. We are not spiritual Lone Rangers. We need each other.

But we must take God’s Word seriously. It is clearly possible that we can attend church and offend God in doing so. It is clearly possible to be active and involved in church and face his discipline. The answer is NOT to stop attending church; it is to honor God in all our actions when we attend church – to worship God the right way.

What did the Corinthians do wrong? They were divided. They put themselves ahead of the Body of Christ. They came to worship the Crucified and Risen Lord, to honor Christ’s death – and they treated one another like dirt while they were there. You cannot honor the body and blood of Christ if you dishonor the body of Christ, his church. You cannot fellowship with Christ when you are out of fellowship with Christ’s people.

I do not know how serious it was in Corinth, or how bad things have to get before God steps in with his hand of discipline. I just know that God takes it seriously when we cause or contribute to strife and division in the church.

Verse 28 is the key. “A man should examine himself before…” Before you observe the Lord’s Supper, before you arrive at church, before you enter worship, you need to examine yourself. YOURSELF. We are so quick to examine everyone else. “Mrs. McGillicutty gossips too much.” “Buford is so unkind.” We love to examine the splinters in other’s eyes. That’s not what God tells us to do. He says, “Examine yourself.”

Do you forgive those who injure you? Do you refuse to participate in gossip – on the giving or receiving end? Do you give honor and respect to one another? Are you angry and bitter against anyone in the body? Do you attempt to make broken relationships right?

Why does God get so upset about division in the church? Imagine if I spray painted graffiti on a crumbling old building. Now imagine if I spray painted the Mona Lisa. It would be a greater tragedy because of the beauty and value of what I marred.

There is nothing more beautiful or valuable than the body of Christ united, worshiping God in Spirit and in truth. It is so serious to spread division in the body of Christ because if you do, you deface a masterpiece painted in the blood of Christ.

That’s not something any of us wants to do.

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