THE LIVING WORD TRANSCRIPT
Program Air Date – 3-25-12
LESSON TITLE: “THE FATHER IS SEEKING SUCH TO WORSHIP HIM: WHAT IS VAIN WORSHIP?”
“Love suffers long and is kind!” Do you have this kind of love this day toward God and your fellow man? Good morning and welcome to the Living Word Program. It is a great honor to have you with us this morning for this time of worship to God. Thanks for choosing to be with us!
As always, it will be our privilege today to sing songs of praise to our God and to study from His perfect Word! I hope each of us will do our part to make this time together acceptable in His sight. Now, let’s approach His throne in prayer.
So, who do you truly believe in on this wondrous Lord’s Day morning? Won’t you join in with the congregation as we sing our first song of the morning, which helps us to see where our focus should be! The name of the song,“I Know Whom I Have Believed!”
(SONG # 1)
I read a verse in 2 Chronicles the other day that reminded me of just how magnificent our God is. In Chapter 6, we see the dedication of the Temple by Solomon. What a tremendous accomplishment of great beauty and majesty this structure was. Furthermore, what a glory to God it must have been!
You might remember the construction of the Temple which is recorded for us back in chapter 3. How wondrous and impressive it must have been in size and appearance. As we read we are told of it’s worth, as so much of the structure itself was covered in gold.
In verse 4, we are told of the precious furnishings which were found in the Temple, again very lavish - no expense spared! Gold, bronze and only the best was used to make the special furniture for the house of God.
Probably, this was the most magnificent structure on earth at the time. All for the sake of God, all as an offering to the Creator! However, in all of its earthly splendor and awesomeness - we still see that Solomon realized that it was far too insignificant and small to house the true creator of the universe. Read with me his thoughts in 2 Chronicles 6:18, there Solomon said, “But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!”
Here we find that the wisest man who ever lived realized just how great and mighty God truly is. There is nothing in this life that we can every do, say or make - that will really be worthy of such a powerful and magnificent God.
Let me finish our devotional thoughts this morning by reminding us that this same God was willing to lower Himself and dwell among us on this earth, as we have described in John chapter one! In fact, we read there - that Jesus the Word came and dwelt among flesh, that we might know Him as God - the son of the almighty.
Have you forgotten what a holy, perfect and all giving creator we serve? If so, return to your belief this day and once again have the faith which proves to God and this world just how much you believe in His splendor and glory!
We are excited to have brother Brent Green with us again this morning, as our guest speaker. Brother Brent is one of our full time instructors at the Bible Institute of Missouri. It is an honor to have him with us today and to have him guide our thoughts from God’s Word.
Concerning our topic of study this morning we will again be dealing with the theme, “The Father Is Seeking Such To Worship Him.” Our specific lesson today will focus on, “What Is Vain Worship?” So, please stay with us and in a few minutes Brother Green will return with this study from God’s Word. Now it’s time to join in our second hymn of the day, the name of the song, “I Will Sing The Wondrous Story.”
(SONG # 2)
By Brent Green
What a wonderful time it is to again study the Word of God. The question for this lesson is: What is vain worship?
To begin with, let’s look at Matthew chapter 5 verse 9 where Jesus says, as He is speaking to those gathered including the Pharisees and others who are present. He says, “In vain they worship Me.” Well why would Jesus say such to these individuals? Why would He make this statement? What actions had they taken that would lead to such a strong rebuke?
Well let’s think about the word “vain” there particularly as it pertains to worship as Jesus uses it. Here in this verse the word “vain” actually means “to no purpose.” It means it has no value or it is empty. So He is describing their worship as being something that is empty, being something that is worthless, being something that is of no value. Again, why would He say such about their worship? Other synonyms that could be used for the word “vain” here in this verse, words like “futile” or “fruitless” or “that which has faults.” So something that falls short of actually having value, of actually being something that truly is acceptable in the sight of God.
When we think even further about this idea of vain, would it have a point to try to put a small bandage if you have a cut jugular? Would it be a value to try to mend or fix a hangnail if you at the same time had a broken leg? Or why would you put a new roof on a house that was about to collapse? Well we understand that those things make no sense. It is of no value in life to do those things that really are of no importance right now because the overall picture has been forgotten. We don’t understand the true meaning behind what should really be attended to. Well the same holds true here when we think about worship before God. That’s why when Jesus says here, “In vain they worship Me.” What was the point that He was trying to make? The point that He was making was that the worship that these Pharisees were offering was empty. It was of no value. Again, why would their worship be in vain?
Well to understand fully what it means to worship in vain I think it is best seen when we see what the Bible describes for us as vain worship. In other words if we want to understand what it means for the Pharisees to worship in vain, we can actually go back and look at the prophet Isaiah because that is actually the verse that Jesus was quoting there in Matthew chapter 15. To understand how the people of God of old were worshipping in vain, to understand how the Pharisees were worshipping in vain, and to think about our life today. Maybe we’re falling victim to the same attitude, to the same mindset that led these individuals in the past to worship in vain. If we want to understand what it means to worship in vain, let’s see these examples in the Bible.
Let’s look there at Isaiah chapter 29. This is actually again the verse that Jesus is quoting in Matthew chapter 15 concerning this vain worship. Let’s see what the prophet Isaiah says concerning the individuals of God’s people this day, in Isaiah’s day. There the verse 13 says of Isaiah 29, “Therefore the Lord said, ‘In as much as these people draw near with their mouth and honor Me with their lips but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandments of men.” There are three things in that verse that stand out as the definition for vain worship.
You think about God’s people in the days of Isaiah. It wouldn’t be too many years from Isaiah’s time that they would be led away into captivity. Jerusalem would be destroyed. And why would all that take place? Because the people were not serving, living for God as they should, and likewise their worship towards God had become something that was vain, empty, worthless, of no avail. Again, why was that? Well, God’s people, it was what they were doing that led their worship to be considered as vain worship. They honored God only with their lips and with their mouths. We call that today sometimes “lip service.” “Yes,” they say, “we are God’s people. We were born Israelites. We are a part of the family of God. Yes, we serve the Almighty Creator.” But their actions said something very different. They were only paying respect to God, only honoring God with their mouths. They claimed to be God’s people, yet they went and worshipped in the high places, yet they turned to idols. All of those things would indicate that they were only God’s people by the words that they said, not by the lives that they lived. So the first thing is they offered mere lip service to God.
Secondly, in verse 13 there of Isaiah 29, we see that their hearts were far from God. Just one chapter over, Isaiah chapter 30, we can begin to further understand why these people were worshipping in vain, because their hearts were nowhere near God. They were thinking about themselves, thinking about the things they wanted to do.
Isaiah 30 and verse 1, here these same people are called “rebellious children.” They say, or it is said in there that, “They take counsel but not of God.” Were they thinking about God? Well not at all. Move down to verse 9 of the same chapter and again they are called “a rebellious people, a lying children.” Where were their hearts? As far away from God as they could be. They weren’t concerned with God. They weren’t concerned about living for God or worshipping God properly. Their hearts were far away from God. Also, we see there that “they worshipped according to the commandments of men.” Not according to the commandments of the Law of Moses that was given there at Mt. Sinai, the covenant under which they were at this time. Rather they worshipped the commandments of what men devise. They worshipped the pagan gods. They followed the traditions of those who had lived on the land before them. They simply worshipped whatever they came up with themselves.
How do we know this? Also in chapter 30 again in verse 9, it goes on to say, “These are children (that is God’s people) who will not hear the law of the Lord.”
Also there in that same chapter in verses 10 and 11, he goes on to say, “Who say to the seers, do not see, and to the prophet, do not prophesy to us right things. Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get out of the way. Turn aside from the path,. Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” Again, what did they want to hear? Not the Law of God. Not God’s Word. They wanted to hear the commandments of men and that’s what governed their lives spiritually. That’s why their worship was considered vain because they weren’t following the commandments of God. That’s why Isaiah delivered such a strong rebuke to them there in chapter 29 and verse 13 because they no longer were concerned about the things of God. They only paid God lip service. They only worshipped God according to their own commandments and their hearts were far away from God.
Why would Jesus use that same verse in regard to the Pharisees even in the New Testament? Well it has to do with actions. The actions of the people in the day of Isaiah were so wicked, were so corrupt, their worship had become vain before God.
You can look at many other verses in the book of Isaiah that talk about God’s people. Going back to chapter 5 it is described there that their actions fully described the hypocrisy that they had before God, fully shows that they were vain in their worship. It says there in chapter 5 verses 11-12 that, “They followed after intoxicating drink.” They went so far as to “follow after iniquity,” chapter 5 verse 18. “They taught their own teachings,” chapter 5 verses 20-21. Even there in chapter 44 near the end of Isaiah, it says that they would cut down a tree and with half of it they would build themselves a fire and warm themselves and make some food, and with the other half of the same tree, they would carve themselves an idol. Their actions were hypocritical. Their actions before God showed that any worship, any type of homage that they would pay to God, any type of praise that they would lift up to God is in vain. Why? Because they really weren’t serving God in any way. It was empty. It was worthless before God.
How can people who do not live for God turn around and claim to worship God in some way? The impossibility is seen in the hypocrisy in those of old.
The same is true when we think about Jesus’ words there in Matthew chapter 15. How is it that this strong rebuke was retold and reemphasized to the Pharisees in Matthew chapter 15? Well their actions were really not that different from their counterparts of old, the Israelites back there in the book of Isaiah. Why would Jesus again pronounce these words and say, “In vain they worship Me.?”
Well think about the actions of these here. The Pharisees were really only giving lip service to God. They would say, “Yes we are God’s people. We’re serving God.” But I want you to think of how they truly honored even those that should’ve been closest to them. You see there in Matthew chapter 15 if you go back to verse 3 Jesus is pointing out the hypocrisy of these Pharisees. He says to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commands you honor your father and your mother and he who curses his father let him be put to death. But you say, Whoever says to his father or mother, whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift of God. Then he need not honor his father or mother. Thus you have made the command of God of no effect by your tradition.” Do you know what these Pharisees would come along and say? Well rather than having to pay honor to their father and mother, those they are supposed to be closest to in the families and help them out in their time of need, guess what they would do. Well all our gifts, all the wealth that we’ve acquired we have consecrated it to God. Therefore we don’t have to honor our father or mother and take care of them. What were they saying? “We don’t have to obey God’s law. Rather we’re just going to obey our traditions.” You see again, they paid lip service to the Law of God. They paid lip service to God. Thus, their worship was nothing more than vain as they tried to stand before God. Their hearts were far away from God. They were only concerned about themselves. Indeed, they sought their own traditions, the commandments of men. Well again, actions speak louder than words.
Jesus referred to these Pharisees on one occasion as “those who prayed on the street corners.” Yeah, they wanted to be seen by men, but their hearts were nowhere near God.
On another occasion in Matthew chapter 23 verse 27, He referred to these men as “tombs full of dead men’s bones.” Why? Because again they were not concerned truly about worshipping God in spirit and truth. So we think about what this means for us today as those of old only paid lip service, as those of old only worshipped God following their own commandments and their hearts were really far away from God.
Do we not fall prey to the same temptation today? Indeed we do. And we worship God in a way that is vain. So the words of Jesus here in Matthew 15 are still applicable today. Why is that? Because sometimes today we only honor God with our mouth and with our lips. We say, “Well yes I am a Christian and I am a follower of God,” but our words and speech don’t indicate that in the rest of our lives. We think about where our hearts are in relationship to God. They are supposed to be set on heavenly things (Colossians chapter 1 verses 1-2 or Colossians chapter 3 verses 1-2) when often they are far away from God. We go throughout this life, the days of our weeks, and we tell dirty jokes, we use profanity. We claim to be righteous, but inwardly we are very corrupt, sinning all week long and then thinking we can come together on the Lord’s Day and worship God. Where are our hearts? They are far away from God.
So we today still pay lip service to God. We still have hearts that are far away from God and we still try to worship according to the commandments of men and that worship is vain. It is worthless if it is not according to God’s standard. “Whatever you do in word or deed…” Do it how? “Do it all in the name of the Lord.” (Colossians chapter 3 verse 17) God demands that those who worship Him must “worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) So when we add things, our own inventions, mechanical instruments of music, when we change the roles and alter God’s patterns according to what He gave us in the New Testament, when we make things that we want to come up with, we invent things, our own traditions. What does our worship then become? It becomes vain. Again, sometimes even like those of old, we see today those smooth words and that flattering speech (Romans chapter 16 and verse 18), but again actions speak louder than words.
What is vain worship? Are we worshipping in vain? Well we need to think about what Jesus quoted there in Matthew chapter 15 verses 8-9, the same thing that Isaiah said of old there in Isaiah chapter 29 verse 13, we need to think about those words. Are we merely paying lip service to God? Are we worshipping God from the heart or are our hearts far away from God and are we truly those who are worshipping according to God’s standard or rather are we just worshipping according to the standard of man? You see if we are not following this verse as Jesus gave it there then our worship has become vain.
Think about our actions. How can we try to worship God if we are not living for God as we should? We go throughout this life and maybe sometimes we are simply going through the motions as we assemble there on the Lord’s Day to worship Him. In other words, yes, I have just checked the box. Yes, I have worshipped God today. I have done my duty and that’s all there is to it. Where are our hearts? Maybe we have that mindset that our minds are somewhere else. We are thinking about the lake or thinking about something else in this life and we are not truly putting our hearts in the right place.
Do you ever see those who come merely to take the Lord’s Supper and then they leave right afterwards? Where are their hearts? You see we do not need to be those who offer up worship to God that is vain, anything that would be an addition, a subtraction or a substitution to the worship that God has ascribed for us in the New Testament. It is something that has become vain, or hypocrisy, the way that we live, the way that we do not follow God’s commands pertaining to worship can cause our worship to be something that is empty, that is worthless, that is futile. But we need to make sure that our worship is proper before God.
What is vain worship? Vain worship is something we do not need to offer before God. We need to make sure it is right in the sight of God, that our lives stand behind it and testify to it, that we worship only according to the way God has commanded.
(SONG # 3 - “All The Way My Savior Leads Me!”)
Let me thank you again for choosing to be with us today for the Living Word program. I hope and trust, that together we have all benefited from this service to our Lord. Let me also invite you to join us every Lord’s Day morning at 7:30 as we give this time to our Creator.
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May we learn from our lesson today that there is such a thing as acceptable and unacceptable worship before God. Therefore, you must consider and determine, what type of worship will you give to God? Will you choose to do things His Way?