Wisdom, Children and the Dark
Stephen Hawking turned 70 on Jan.8, 2012. This man is considered to be "...one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein."(Calgary Sun-Jan.9) He has led an extraordinary life. Almost 20 years after his birth, he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig`s disease. He was not expected to live past his twenties.
Since that time he has been confined to a wheelchair and can only communicate via an electronic voice synthesiser; however, he "...has broken frontiers in research into theories of time, space, relativity and black holes."(Calgary Sun- Jan.9) In 1988, he published an international bestseller "A Brief History of Time" which was no small feat for a book about physics. He is currently a Cambridge University professor and researcher.
In May 2011, Mr. Hawking was reported to have made comments concerning Heaven in a newspaper interview. He maintains that " ...there is no heaven or afterlife...That is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark...".(Calgary Sun-Jan.8) The implication is that people who believe in an afterlife have the intellectual maturity of a small child.
As a Christian, I am one of those people who believe in the existence of Heaven and Hell. I admit that I was tempted to respond to Mr. Hawking`s comment with indignation. I started to feel angry that this man considered me to be a simpleton for my belief; however, I was reminded of several Bible passages concerning wisdom, children and the dark.
The Bible offers a warning to those who will find themselves to be the object of someone`s disdain. In 2 Peter 3:3, 5a the writer states:
First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions ... They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago...
Romans 1:19-22(in part) states:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse...but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools...
I am not quoting these passages in an attempt to insult scientists. I am grateful for science. It is a blessing from God. The pursuit of knowledge leads to the truth; however, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:1, knowledge can also lead to arrogance. This is something that can afflict anyone including Christians. This sport of hurling contempt at each other does not lead to a full understanding of the truth.
As for children, they are often afraid of the dark. They are rarely afraid of learning. At first every concept is welcomed and accepted as being the truth. As we grow older we process all this information along with reality and find that not all things are true. Another thing that seems to happen as we get older is that we lose that enthusiasm for knowledge. We get, as is said, stuck in our ways and refuse to budge out of our ruts. In Matthew 18:1-4 Jesus responds to a question that was asked by His disciples:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?" And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them, and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.
Did Jesus mean that we should remain ignorant as children? No. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about giving up "childish ways" in order to mature in the Christian faith. He also admitted that, at that time, he only knew "...in part."(1 Corinthians 13:11). The key word to both these passages is "humble". As Christians we are not to have the brain of a child but the heart of one.
Concerning the dark, it is unnatural to be always in the dark- physically and metaphorically. All life needs some amount of light in order to grow. A person who does not have a lot of knowledge is said to be in the dark. Also to be experiencing hardships in one`s life is described as having dark days. The dark is a scary place but having knowledge of the truth will help one navigate through the shadowy landscape. Jesus taught His believers in John 8:31-32(in part):
Jesus then said..."If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
The cult of self esteem tells us that everyone needs approval and praise. People like to feel important and that they are special. This feeds our sense of self worth according to the world. Some Christians have seemed to accept this concept and feel the need to incorporate this into their faith. The question I ask is: Should Christians be seeking this kind of approval? Is this a Scriptual concept?
Matthew 6: 1-5 Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them;
otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is heaven.
When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you as the
hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured
by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give
alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing; that your
alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand
and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by
men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
The passage above certainly flies in the face of today`s cult of self esteem. Of course we are all to do good to our fellow man for this is a noble pursuit. In this age of reality TV and celebrity fund raising, however, we must let as many people know of our good deeds as is possible. If others see and approve of our "alms" then we will feel important and special. Someone might ask what is wrong with that? Well Scripture seems to teach that we are to help out our fellowman but that we are not to put the focus on ourselves in any way. We are not to use someone`s misfortune or our piety to elevate ourselves in the eyes of others. It isn`t about us. It is about being faithful servants and seeking the approval of our Master.
When we love God with all of our being, desire is to worship Him. To worship means to adore and literally “to kiss, like a dog licking His master’s hand”. In this verse, we see that God is in charge. He is the Master and Lord. It makes sense then that Christians are to worship God in the way that He desires.
There are different ways for man to worship but only one kind is acceptable before God and that would be the way He desires. Jesus said in Matthew 15:9 and Mark 7:7 that it is in vain to worship God using traditions of man. Vain worship is without purpose before God.
In Acts 17:23, the apostle Paul walked around Athens amidst their idols, noticing the one altar “to the unknown God. ” Paul told the Greeks that they were worshipping a God that they did not know, thus they were ignorantly worshipping the true God. God does not want people to be worshipping Him when they do not really know Him. The only way to really know God is through His Word. Paul needed to teach the Athenians, Acts 17:19-25; 27-32.
Another type of worship that God doesn’t want is “will worship”. The American Standard Bible states this well, Colossians 2:20-23. “ If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ (which all refer to things destined to perish with the using)-in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” This is a type of worship that is based upon man’s will or self-will. It feels good to deny self according to one's own thoughts but this is really self-indulgence as God did not ask for it. It does not hold up what the Son of God did in putting to death the flesh.
There is a terrible type of worship in Mark 15:19, when the soldiers cruelly mocked Jesus. They bowed down to Him but they did not mean it at all. It was all in jest. This type of mockery is still being done by people in the world who use the name of Jesus for profit.
An important thing to consider in worshipping is God is to realize the differences between the worship in the Old Testament and the New, something which was brought up in earlier lessons. The Israelites worshipped God with animal sacrifices on the Sabbath (ie Saturday) and on specific feast days such as the Passover. Incense was offered up and praises were sung accompanied with harp and lyre. The methods of worship in the Old Testament are not necessarily the same as in the New Testament. We have to keep this in mind as we divide the Word of God, 2 Timothy 2:15.
Then there is the worship which glorifies the Godhead, John 4:24, “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” John 6:63 and John 17:17 emphasize that Jesus’ Word is Spirit, life and truth.
Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, teaches us how to worship God.
Now we will look at 5 specific ways to worship God:
1.Studying, teaching and learning the Scriptures is a way to worship God. Multitudes came to hear Jesus speak. Jesus, after one hard teaching, saw what He knew would happen. Some of his followers would leave Him, John 6:57-69. Jesus’ Words are living. Studying these Words will lead to eternal life but we have to be able to stay with Him even when the teachings become difficult and hard to bear. After Jesus ascended into Heaven, the Apostles continued to teach. The Jewish leaders as with Jesus did not want to hear or believe and locked them up, Acts 5:17-33. The Apostles bravely taught the truth. Hearers have to listen and not be like the rulers whose indignation shut up their hearts to believing. Thus studying, teaching, listening and learning go together and are a part of kissing the Master’s hand.
2. Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs praises God and is also another method that we teach one another. Colossians 3:16. Ephesians 5:19
3. Prayer is very important in the worship of God. In Acts 2:42, we read of the early Christians continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. The Bible has many passages which commands Christians to pray. 1 Timothy 2:8; Philippians 4:6.
4. Giving is a way of worshipping God. We see good works being done and money being shared within the church, Acts 4:34-37.
5. The Lord’s Supper is the greatest way to worship God for it is by remembering His death that the Christian recalls their own sin and the price that was paid for it. Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-34.
These are all ways to worship God and they are to be done with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We can do some of these items alone or with a few but it is the great gathering on the Lord’s Day, Sunday, that I want to address right now.
As Christ’s church, we have tried our utmost to strictly adhere to the directions of the New Testament. We have examined when we should gather together as a group or assembly in order to worship together. The church of Christ has looked at how the apostles and other holy people in the New Testament conducted themselves so as to have good examples to follow. Paul told his young helper Timothy to be a good example in 1 Timothy 4:12-13. Paul himself said to follow his own example, 1 Corinthian 11:1-2.
1. We see that Paul was teaching on the Lord’s Day in Acts 20:7. This first day of the week, Sunday, was the day that the saints had gathered to break bread and hear a sermon.
2.In Colossians 3: 15-16, we realize that the Christians are singing together. Once again they are gathered together as one body and the Word is dwelling in them richly, growing within them as they sing their hearts out to God. In the church of Christ, as we find no example of musical instruments being used, we sing only acapella or without instruments. There is no organ, piano or guitar used only the voices given us from God. Yes, instruments were used in the Old Testament and are mentioned as being present figuratively in Heaven, but in the pages of this present Christian age there is no mention so for this reason, we sing using our voices only.
3. Prayer is to be done at all times. Prayer is a vital part of our worship to God on Sunday.
4. Doing charitable works is to be a part of any Christian’s life but the gathering for the work of the church is done only on Sunday for us. We use the example in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, as giving for the collection for the saints on the first day of the week. There is no specific amount no give except to give cheerfully and as one has been prospered, 2 Corinthian 9:7.
5. The most vital part of the Lord’s Day gathering is the Lord’s Supper in which we have a portion of unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, non-alcoholic grape juice. This occurs once a week as we read in Acts 20:7.
The men are the leaders and teachers in the church of Christ as 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Women are allowed to teach the children and other women, 2 Timothy 1:5 and Titus 2:4-5. Women respectively speak in Bible classes but do not take over the class as the teacher is in charge.
John 4:24, “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.”
I come here as an ambassador for Christ and His Word. Please continue to study these verses for yourself for God calls each person through His Word. My words mean nothing, only those of Jesus Christ and His inspired followers of the New Testament.
This evening I was talking to a woman that said she believed that the Ten Commandments brought light into the world and that it was this light that would judge us at the end of time. I didn’t know how to respond at the time for I know that many people believe that the we are to follow the Ten Commandments today.
Jesus lived under the Mosaical Age while on earth. He taught the people the most important message that God wanted them to learn and live by, which fulfilled all the Laws and regulations and could be summed up in one word..... love!
As we have learned, loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength is the first commandment and in order to love God totally we have to be willing to obey Him just as a child obeys their parent and shows them love, trust and respect for their authority.