Thanksgiving and Worship
Although thanksgiving and worship are separate responses; they are interrelated. It’s impossible to worship without a thankful heart; but one who has a thankful heart towards God is worshipping Him.
JUDAH FREED FROM SLAVERY
In our study of the book of Ezra we’ve been observing the children of Judah who had been enslaved by Babylon, but who were now set free and encouraged to return to their Homeland by Cyrus, the Emperor of Persia.
Cyrus, who may have been aware of God’s call on his life from learning of Isaiah’s prophecy of him, even calling him by name two hundred years before he was born, (Isaiah 44:23-28 and 45:1-13). was now anxious to fulfill that call on him by freeing the Children of Judah to return to their homeland.
Or perhaps Cyrus was not aware of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning him. Perhaps he was just carrying out his own will. Regardless, Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water, He turneth it whithersoever He will.”
Cyrus did not command them, but encouraged those who were willing to return home. Ezra 2:64 records that a remnant of 42,360 people who had a heart for God and for the land God had promised their forefather, Abraham, returned.
As Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness; so the faithful remnant returned, believing God and it was counted to them for righteousness. They returned to their homeland and to Jerusalem which lay in shambles from Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction seventy years earlier.
They knew, only too well, that it would require hard work to rebuild; but to the remnant, it was worth the effort. To them, life was not worth living apart from God and from fellowship with him, as they had sung in Psalm 137 while enslaved in Babylon
Now that they had returned; their sadness and depression had turned to joy and gladness and as Isaiah 35:10 says, “sorrow and sighing fled away.”
They returned to Jerusalem to concentrate their attention and efforts to re-establish their worship of God by rebuilding the temple. They were determined to do things right according to the Law of Moses.
THEIR FIRST CONCERN
According to Ezra 1:1 and 3:1 in the seventh month of the first year of Cyrus’ proclamation of freedom, the Children of Judah set up their altar first. The altar was the place where animal blood sacrifices were made as an atonement for their sins. These sacrifices foreshadowed the perfect blood sacrifice of Christ at the appointed time. Until the sin problem is resolved, there is no need to attempt to worship God. It is impossible.
CHRISTIANS MUST REPENT
Before we as Christians can worship, sin has to be dealt with first. We must confess as we come to God in brokenness over our sins with a desire to be cleansed and freed from its power. Too many Christians come to God with a careless attitude, about their sins. “After all, no one is perfect!.” What a sick excuse to keep on sinning! They continue in their sins, excusing them with the excuse, “I’m justified. God only sees me in Christ’s righteousness; therefore I can continue in my sins.” Though that is a wonderful truth for the Christian, such excuses to continue in sin are horrible and insulting to our holy God.
To such, God warns of woe in Amos 5:21-27 and 6:1-6. That woe is a warning of trouble and sorrow to follow you throughout your life if you insist on continuing in your sins while at the same time pretending to worship God.
In II Chronicles 7:14 God details the kind of response He expects from us before He will forgive and cleanse us of our sins and revive us and heal our sin-sick nation. He addresses Christians; not the heathen.
which are called by My name
shall humble themselves
and seek my face,
and turn from their wicked ways;
I will hear from Heaven,
and will forgive their sins,
and will heal their land.”
THE SAMARITAN WOMAN WAS SAVED
No one, including the Samaritan woman of John 4, can worship God until the sin problem is settled by coming to Jesus as Saviour. This woman came to Jesus with academic questions about worship. Jesus brushed the worship conversation aside and concentrated on the woman’s real need of dealing with her sins and finding forgiveness through Jesus.
She responded in faith to Christ and went out sharing the good news of Jesus throughout the town. Through her testimony of a changed life, many Samaritans came to Christ.
DOES YOUR WORSHIP OFFEND GOD?
To go through the motions of worshipping God while still holding on to our sins is offensive to God and we deceive ourselves. Repeatedly through the Gospels Jesus pronounced woe on hypocrites who went through the motions of worship while holding on to their sins. Listen to Him dress down the Pharisees in Matthew 23. No harsher words were ever spoken by Jesus.
To claim to worship God while still holding on to, feeding on and loving this Satan-dominated, contaminated, perverted world system with its filthy movies, videos, and web sites is to deceive ourselves and insult and offend our holy God.
God confronts us through the prophet, Amos, in Amos 5:21-24, ” I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in incense in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from Me the noise of thy (worship) songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
In Revelation 2-3 Jesus warns of woe on the churches of Asia Minor, (representing the churches of the Church Age) We are warned of our sins and warned to repent or else He will deal with us harshly.
QUIT TRYING TO TWO-TIME GOD!
Dear Christian friends, you and I cannot continue to serve Satan and allow his sin-contaminated world system to corrupt our minds and attempt to serve Christ as the same time anymore than you can attempt to have two girl friends or two wives at the same time. He desires all of your love or nothing. He will not put up with our divided hearts. It’s either Christ or the world system. Jesus said so in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13 We must choose.
We cannot allow movie and rock stars to have a part of our lives, or they will consume all of our life and love.
We cannot devote hours devouring R & X rated movies at the theatre or on our television or listening to Satanic-inspired music on our I pods without that garbage taking away our appetite for the Word of God and our love for Christ.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold fast the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (the things of this world).” If you want to argue about that, argue with Jesus. He’s the One who said it in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13.
God wants all of you or nothing. He’s not satisfied to have an hour or two of you on Sunday. Only after sin is dealt with can we start building the proper foundation for life. Have you set up an altar in your heart to love and worship Christ with all your heart?
THEIR SECOND CONCERN
In the second year, Ezra 3:8-11 tells us, they laid the foundation of the temple and began praising the Lord and giving thanks for the progress.
Can you say honestly that Christ is the foundation of your life? Is Christ what life is all about, as far as you are concerned? Can you say with Paul, in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain?”
Are you aware of the solemn fact in I Corinthians 3:16-17 “That you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? Are you aware of the fact that if you continue to defile your body, His temple, that God will destroy you?”
WHEN DOES THE WORSHIP BEGIN?
You and I cannot lay the right foundation in our lives until we have set up the altar of our hearts to honor and worship Christ alone. Ezra 3:10 says that “When the foundation was laid, then the worship began.” Only when sin is confessed are we capable of praising and thanking God for His goodness and mercy.
All other efforts to worship God are a farce. It is all meaningless and God is not impressed with it. In fact, if offends Him.
When we have surrendered our hearts and lives to God and we have turned our backs on the sinful, contaminating world system; then and only then does true worship begin. Only then can we prove to ourselves that His will is good and perfect. Only then will we be worshipping God in spirit and in truth. Our worship of God through our daily lives will shine out to those around us and our worship will be seen and heard by those around us and our godly influence will be felt by those afar off.
Are we submitted to Christ as Lord of our life? Have we purposely turned our heart away from the contaminating world system and from the sinful desires of our flesh? Is our heart an altar where Christ alone is worshipped? Only then will we have a heart that worships Him with thanksgiving.
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