Spiritual Adultery, A Look at Worship by Mike Ratliff

This is another great article on worship from Possessing the Treasure, soon to be a series.

Spiritual Adultery

September 8, 2010 — Mike Ratliff

by Mike Ratliff

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 ESV)

Worship is that vital part of the relationship between God and His people that we see so often corrupted and wrongly focused in our time to the point that the end result is that even if people believe they are “worshiping” God they are actually guilty of spiritual adultery. The division line between what true worship is, that which glorifies and pleases God, and that which is no more than spiritual adultery is actually very easily drawn. Those on the side that is “friends of the world” and are, therefore, making themselves enemies of God, are part of “systems” whose values, loves, and deeds are wholly at odds with what pleases God (1 John 2:15-17). Carefully read James 4:4 (above). Those whom James was accusing were betraying Christ and following after the world by embracing the worldly way of treating people because they were being motivated by the things of this world in this rather than the mandates of Christ. One way that “churches” do this in our day is to seek to meet people’s felt needs first rather than preaching the truth of the Gospel. In these churches, the focus becomes all about the people in “worship” instead of about God and His glory. How can that be called “worship?”

The Greek word in the New Testament most often translated as “worship” is προσκυνέω or proskuneō. This verb describes the action of “kissing toward, kissing the hand, bowing down, or prostrating oneself.” While those are simply actions describing what people do in worship and are not holy in and of themselves, the New Testament writers chose to use this word to describe how believers are to bow down and worship God. There are no commands in the New Testament for us to physically worship God this way, but the idea of doing so in our hearts most certainly is. I try to have a one-on-one worship time with God every morning before breakfast. I’m sure most wouldn’t consider it to be very much, but that’s okay. I read some Greek, translate it,  and meditate on what it really means then I pray. I write down what I pray. This takes between 15 to 30 minutes. I take longer on weekends. In any case, I also read through the Bible every year, but in writing these posts I probably read through the New Testament several times a year. The focus of all of that is for God to be glorified in and through me no matter the cost. I am His δοῦλος.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)

This is the disciple’s life. It is not one of doing something to get something from God. It is simply a life of obedience as a δοῦλος of Christ who lives for eternity. This life is simply that part of salvation that we call our sanctification. By the way, a δοῦλος is a slave or bondservant. This is a life that has a heart set on worship. None of us are perfect. We all sin and I am the first to confess to you all that I do not maintain this full spirit of being a δοῦλος through all circumstances, tests, and trials. I fail at times, but God is patient with me and as I grow in maturity, I learn to put to death those things in my life that distract me. I turn from evil as Job did. I become that living sacrifice who is being transformed through the renewal of my mind thereby knowing what the will of God is. Through this, I also pray for God to use me in His Kingdom and what I have discovered is that He uses me to open His Word and teach others in the Kingdom what is true and warn them of what pretends to be true, but isn’t and about those who claim to be His servants, but who are only wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Many churches today are built on meeting people’s felt needs. That is foreign to Sacred Scripture. That is commanded no where in Sacred Scripture. Instead, our thoughts should be set on worship of God. Here is a quick survey of the New Testament examples of how important God considers worship, that is, true worship His way.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2 ESV)

What was the wise men’s first concern when they came to visit Jesus? They came to worship Him.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:8-10 ESV)

Never take for granted what an important spiritual battle this was! What was the central or core issue at stake here? It was worship.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:1-3 ESV)

What did Mary do here? What was here main focus? Here main desire was to worship our Lord Jesus Christ!

Go read John 4:1-45, which tells of our Lord’s encounter with Samaritan woman at the well. After dealing with her salvation, he immediately began discussing worship. In Paul’s brief ministry to the Athenians before departing for Corinth in Acts 17, the key issue he discussed with them was worship.

For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh– (Philippians 3:3 ESV)

Here we have Paul defining to the Philippians the characteristics of the true Christian, which is that they worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. In other words, true worship is spirit-filled and all about the glory of Christ Jesus and has nothing to do with the works of the flesh.

And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:9-11 ESV)

If you are truly in Christ then you will be part of that eternal worship in Heaven. I yearn for this my brethren. What we have looked at in these verses is the opposite of Spiritual Adultery because its been all about Christ and His glory and not about us. We must be very careful how we worship. God will not tolerate the worship of a false god. God will not accept the worship Himself in the wrong way, such as worship that is “self-defined,” as illustrated by Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2) and Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:1-9). God will not accept the worship of Himself with the wrong attitude, such as ritual, habit, and tradition (Mark 7:6; Amos 5:1, 21-23).

In the days to come I will nail down further what is true worship and what is counterfeit. I am sure that there will be some who will disagree, but when we boil it all down, it really isn’t about us at all my brethren. It’s about God and His glory. When that changes then Spiritual Adultery is already in process.

Soli Deo Gloria!