Coincidence? Respected fellow-blogger David Bolton (‘Christ-Centred Christianity’) has just commenced a teaching series on ‘Worship,’ simultaneous to our unpacking this vital subject in our local house church. He kindly referred me to T. Austin-Sparks’ (the British evangelist and author, 1888-1971) who stated that ‘Worship is the Critical Issue of the Universe!’ Austin-Sparks refers us to the Bible’s fascinating ‘final utterance’ on worship penned by the Apostle John in the Revelation 21:22 (‘The New Jerusalem’), ‘I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb’ (NRSV). The implications for our/the universe’s worship of God, our ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church) and eschatology (doctrine of ‘The Last Things’) are earth-shaking: Christ is our temple on earth and in heaven, and his people, indwelt by his Spirit, are his ‘portable temples’ (Gr. naos = ‘shrine’) in the present world, individually and corporately (1 Cor. 3:16-17 & 6:19). Breath-taking!


Our chief calling in life is to worship the only true God! Matthew makes this abundantly clear in his record of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ question regarding the greatest commandment: ‘”‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This the greatest and first commandment…'” (Mt. 22:37-38). The godly A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) once remarked, ‘My ambition is to love God more than any of my generation!’ By the way, he defined worship thus: ‘to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that majesty which philosophers call the First Cause but which we call Our Father Which Art in Heaven.’ Even in his day Tozer was appalled by the superficial corporate ‘worship’ taking place in many churches – how much more we in this day of mega-churches and smaller versions in our egoistic ‘all about ME’ society!

Worship simply must become the focus of our life. We’re all aware of the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s ‘the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy (!) him forever.’ The Church Father Augustine wrote, ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.’ In the ‘Good News According to Paul,’ i.e. his Roman Letter, the Apostle commences with mankind’s innate need to worship someone or something (Rom. 1:18-32). In a nutshell, God has made himself known to every human being: via his creation, humanity’s conscience and supremely through the revelation of his Son born into the world. However, down the ages, humankind has chosen not to honour God or give him thanks, exchanging the splendour of the immortal God for images of humans, birds, animals or reptiles… they have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is to be praised forever!

Today still, people will exchange the liberty of Christ in worship for the bondage of religion and religious acts. It has been pointed out that one of the biggest problems facing the Church in the past and today is the externalizing of worship (cf. David Bolton’s latest blog), i.e. relegating worship to a particular time, place, ritual (e.g. the eating of/abstinence of certain foods), etc. In the 1960’s a genuine spiritual revival broke out in Kwazulu-Natal Province. There were conversions aplenty, healings, exorcisms, etc. I visited the Mission a number of times in its earlier years. But gradually, over the years, a hierarchical and legalistic structure overtook the life of Christ, even to the extent of persecuting those who left the group and sadly, reported instances of sexual abuse. I believe that another deception in our time has come via the Hebrew Roots Movement, obsessed with the Torah, Jewish ceremonies and diet, etc – I’ve mentioned this life-sapping heresy a number of times in recent years. Now we are not saying we can’t make use of Christian symbols, such as the Cross, in our worship. We are simply saying that worship is essentially an inward thing, a matter of mind and heart. If anybody made this abundantly clear it was Jesus himself in his dialogue with the Samaritan woman, as recorded in Jn. 4:19-24: “The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.'” Madame Guyon (1648-1717) (dismissed by the Roman Catholic Church for ‘heresy’ and imprisoned by the King of France in her latter years) defined worship as essentially being about God’s holy and delightful presence: she wrote of this in a little poem, Content:

‘My Lord, how full of sweet content,

I pass my years of banishment!

Whe’er I dwell, I dwell with Thee,

In heav’n, in earth, or on the sea;

Whe’er I dwell, I dwell with Thee,

In heav’n, in earth, or on the sea!’

In all this, let’s not neglect to appreciate how much our Almighty Father longs for our worship! ‘The Father seeks such to worship him…’ (see Jn. 4 above). Contemplating this, my mind went the Parable of the Prodigal Son (I prefer to call it ‘The Story of the Waiting Father’), in Lk. 15:11ff: “So he (the lost son) set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him…” (v. 20). In our retirement village, two doors away, there is an elderly lady always on the look-out for her visiting daughter. I park my ancient SUV under a car-park tree in front of her cottage. Often, on hearing the sound of its rather noisy diesel engine, she’ll peep through her door or bedroom curtains – could it perhaps be her daughter’s car?? Coming back to the lost son, I can imagine the Father looking out for me and thinking to himself, ‘I wonder if Erroll’s coming to visit today? I wonder if he’ll make time today, just for me??’ And so he looks for your intimacy as well, on a daily basis, no matter where or what time or under what circumstances! Know that however faltering, it’s infinitely valued and enjoyed by our God and Father!

Until next time, d.v, for PART 2…


[Matthew’s Sermon On The Mount Venue Today – Overlooking the Sea of Galilee]


We surely all desire true restfulness in these days of great restlessness, right?? Please patiently track with me as I unpack this biblical principle and its implementation…

(1) Our first key-scripture is Mt. 5:5/NRSV, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ This forms part of Jesus’ radical ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ more particularly his ‘Beatitudes.’

Perhaps we did not realize that these words first occur in the OT and in David’s Ps. 37:11, ‘But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.’ It’s worth reading the preceding verses as they constitute a build-up to this conclusion. Someone has suggested that ‘meekness’ in this psalm may be summarized as ‘humble dependence on God the Father with nil arrogance toward our neighbour’ – I like that…

The Beatitudes capture and express the essential kingdom-life of Jesus, which we are called to ingest and digest and display on our earthly journey, by the empowering of his life within. They proceed from the fullness of the Godhead, were perfectly embodied in Jesus’ person and actions, and are are now urged upon all Jesus’s followers. In Mt. 5 Jesus’ teachings are aimed at Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, while in Lk. 6 they seem aimed at kingdom ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders,’ i.e. anyone who would follow him. On this it is interesting to read Dallas Willard’s ‘take’ on the Beatitudes, and his definition of a disciple as an ‘apprentice’ [1] – no matter how long we’ve been serving Jesus, we shall always remain apprentices/learners, even to the end! Also, bear in mind that when the Bible speaks of ‘meekness’ it does not imply ‘weakness’ (‘remember the children’s hymn, ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’??), in fact it requires the utmost strength and self-control under the mighty power of Christ, indwelling his people!

Matthew’s and Luke’s ‘meek’ is like a many-faceted diamond, waiting to be studied from different angles. It has been variously translated, often substituting ‘humble’ for ‘meek’ (e.g. the NLT). ‘Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth’ (CEB). ‘The meek and lowly are fortunate! For the the whole wide world belongs to them!’ (LB) ‘You’re blessed when you’re content with who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that cannot be bought!’ (MSG paraphrase). It’s worthwhile pointing out that ‘blessed’ means more than ‘happy’ (makarios): in Luke 6 it can even be rendered ‘lucky’ in the sense of being fortunate. We all know that happiness can vary according to our mood and circumstances – ‘blessed’ really refers to the believer’s ultimate well-being, to that distinctive spiritual enjoyment shared only by those who share God’s life in Christ.

(2) Our second key-scripture is Mt. 11:28-30/KJV, ‘Come to Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.’ These words follow on Jesus’ prayer of thanksgiving to the Father in Mt. 11:25ff.

Mt. 11 beautifully clarifies that it is meekness that leads to restfulness! We see these twin-graces amply manifested, throughout the NT, in the person and attitudes and actions of Jesus. Here Matthew is addressing Jesus’ disciples who were struggling with the yoke of the Pharisees’ legalistic teaching (cf. E. Peterson’s paraphrase in his ‘The Message’) or burdened under the yoke of hardships of different kinds. Matthew promises that all who come to Jesus will find in him both a personal relationship and relief from burdens that would ultimately crush them. Henceforth any follower of Jesus is not called to do and perform in order to find acceptance and rest in Christ, but fully rest in him and his unfailing companionship. What an unspeakable blessing, as many saints and hymn writers have testified over the ages!

Note also, for the apprentice of Jesus, it’s not a matter of caring about ‘greatness’ in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. Meekness means not being fooled by ourselves and not worrying about what the ‘world’ thinks/says of us – as long as the Lord himself is pleased with us. No longer do we have to defend ourselves, but rest happily in God’s defence of us (cf. Rom. 12:14-21): note, any un-forgiveness or anger or bitterness toward others stirs up restlessness rather than restfulness! Meekness means no more pretence, artificiality and hyprocisy. Every believer and every Christian leader needs to seriously grapple with these issues – authenticity (a rare gem in today’s ecclesia) will always come to our rescue and bring us peace in the midst of the battle.

(3) Finally, some personal application…

a) Meekness means becoming like trusting ‘little children.’ The spiritual and ethical standards are so high that to live them out meekly in Christ’s kingdom at present is well-nigh impossible, except by the very Christ-life within us!

b) Meekness demands ‘moment by moment’ surrender to Jesus our Saviour and Lord. You may recall Dr. Andrew Murray’s favourite convention song, ‘Moment by moment I’m kept in his love, Moment by moment I’ve life from above, Moment by moment till glory doth shine, Moment by moment, O Lord I am Thine!’

c) Meekness demands a radical faith in Christ’s gracious acceptance of our surrender. He shelters us under the wings of his love. I believe it was Wayne Jacobsen who related the story of a fireman damping down smouldering stumps after a ravaging fire. He saw a black lump before him, kicked at it with his boot, only to reveal a mother-hen burnt to death but from under her wings her little chicks appeared, safe and sound!! That’s a picture of Calvary, of Calvary atonement and love. That doesn’t imply licence on our part to live as we please, but inspires us to a life of eternal gratitude to Jesus and trust in his sovereign love!


[1] Cf. Dallas Willard’s classic, ‘The Divine Conspiracy.’

[2] I found Allan Halton’s blog on Mt. 11:28ff, ‘The Easy Yoke,’ insightful. Well worth a visit: he blogs under ‘The Mending Feast.’