How can we worship if we can’t come together?

One of the greatest opportunities waiting for us amidst this COVID-19 crisis is the chance to redefine, or better said, rightly define some words that have tragically lost their meaning in our culture. 

Let’s start with “church.” 

The church, when rightly defined, has never been a building. 

It has never been a place, or even a gathering of people (more on that in a minute).

The church is a people called by God “out of darkness and into His marvelous light.” The church is “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession that proclaim His excellencies” (1 Peter 2:9). 

We are trying to convince Merriam Webster of this and invite you to join us in signing the petition over at change.org.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross to save a building. He died to save a people. A people called to know Him and enjoy Him. A people who make Him known. Or, said another way, the church is a people created to worship Him.

“Worship” is the next word we need to rightly define. Worship was never intended to merely refer to an hour-long gathering once a week. Worship was meant to be a way of life. In Hebrew, worship most often meant the act of bowing down when encountering the true and living God. This bowing was not simply a physical act, but rather a maintained posture of humility. It implied the ongoing response of “leaning not on our own understanding,” This kind of worship produces a complete and continual “in all our ways” response of “acknowledging Him” (Prov 3:5-6). 

When we rightly view worship like this, it’s makes clear are not forsaking God when we can’t assemble together in corporate gatherings. Instead, we forsake God when we honor Him in some moments but deny Him in others.  

When “worshipers” gather to sing to God on Sunday and then seek something completely different Monday through Saturday, it only manages to confuse an onlooking world. Worship, rightly defined, includes not just a singing tongue but a sacrificed life. A true “living sacrifice” shows itself a worshipper twenty four hours a day, seven days a week in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity .

Some of Jesus’ strongest words of rebuke were for those “worshippers” who honored Him with their lips while their hearts were far from Him (Matt 15:8). Jesus calls that vain worship, or worship not rightly defined.

None of this means we should not gather together as often as possible to encourage each other and spur each other onto love and good deeds. But the call in Hebrews 10:24-25 “to not forsake our assembling together as is the habit of some” is not satisfied only by a short weekly gathering. We are commanded by the same author to “encourage each other day after day” (3:13) and even that implies that once a day is not enough. Our encouragement, love, and care for one another ought to be constant and defined more by diligence than by which days it occurs. One of the great benefits to this season of separation is it will surely produce a greater appreciation when we next have the privilege of being together. I know I for one am already longing for the whole body to be together again. 

Meanwhile, in this season and out, all of us should find time daily to be alone with the Lord and reading, meditating on, and living out the Bible. After prioritizing time alone with our savior, we must then continue ministering, fellowshipping, enjoying, and serving together as much as possible. Remember that wise men seek solitude. Fools isolate. Wise men understand worship is an everyday AND all-day activity. Fools think it is only one hour a week. 

For years I have driven this point home at Watermark by ending every corporate gathering with the statement “Have a great week of worship.” Today is just another opportunity to worship even if we can’t all be together. COVID-19 then is a great opportunity to redefine truth, share truth, and walk in truth like our Savior intended us to all along.

Let’s be the true church and make sure we are participating in true worship every minute until we can all enjoy our time together again. Let’s go church. This is OUR time, just like yesterday was and tomorrow will be.

Should I Worry About the Coronavirus?

Note from Todd: Since this article was originally published, authorities have increased their concern and I agree that our vigilance in preventing the spread of COVID-19 should appropriately increase as well. The heightened concern, however, only makes the truths below more important.

Respect for others who are more susceptible to illness (including the elderly and immune deficient) should cause us to operate with prudence and compassionate care, all the while modeling the strength and hope characteristic of those who know Christ (Proverbs 24:10).

Christ followers should also model compassion for those who choose to respond differently or react more strongly to circumstances and events (Proverbs 18:2). Be gracious toward others. Continue to lead and minister in ways that express your God given gifts. Recognize there is some subjectivity in responding to this crisis, even among those who are listening to and seeking God’s wisdom.

Because Christians are citizens of Heaven, filled with the strength and peace of Christ, we should be the best citizens on earth. I pray that the principles below will help you do that.

With the recent increase of coronavirus cases outside of China, many believers across America are wondering about how to respond in faith to the increasing alarm. What would God have me do in the face of a growing international health crisis? Should our churches close their doors for fear of spreading illness? Should I take my kids out of school? Do I cancel travel plans? What is my responsibility to help a panicked world? 

Let’s start by reminding ourselves of what we already know. Worry is not our friend and panic is not our way. Solomon reminds us, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (Prov 24:10). May it never be said that the people of God are governed more by fear than faith. 

Corrie Ten Boom, along with other ‘faithful from among the nations,’ led courageously in the face of the pandemic of the “Nazi virus.” She reminds us that, “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength.” If the world needs anything in the midst of crisis, it’s people who are strong, not sick. Worry accomplishes nothing, except sickness of the heart and head. It has long been said, 90% of the things we worry or become panicked about never happen and the other 10% we cannot control anyway.

While we “remain on alert” against viruses of doctrine or disease, let us “be strong” and “act like men” (1 Cor. 16:13). Worrying about the coronavirus will not change your circumstance or lower your chance of infection. It will not help you fight off illness or move you to action. Worrying about COVID-19 (or anything else for that matter) will only increase trouble. People in terrible situations are better off than people who incessantly worry about terrible situations. Rather than worrying and being anxious, Jesus calls us to respond with prayer and trust in Him (Matt 6:33-34; Phil. 4:6). We need not worry because we know the one who gives us victory over sin and death (1 Cor. 15:55-57).  

Remind yourself continually that it takes the same amount of energy to worry as it does to pray. One leads to peace, the other to panic. Choose wisely. 

As believers, if we worry about anything, we should be “worrying” about how to love people well. The Psalmist encourages us, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Ps. 37:3). Peter reminds us to press on in the midst of facing every evil, whether persecuted by others or burdened by pandemics, we should trust in the Lord knowing that, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:17). Worry is common to man. Suffering and facing troubles and threats with courage is our calling.

Throughout history, Christians often stood out because they were willing to help the sick even during plagues, pandemics, and persecutions. They loved people and were not afraid of death, because they knew “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  By stepping into the mess of sickness and disease, they were able to demonstrate their faith to the world. So, rather than asking “How do I stay healthy?”, we should be asking “How can I help the sick?” We should be the ones running to help, not hiding in basements.

Prayer-infused confidence, compassion, and selflessness should mark how we interact with and talk about the coronavirus. Why? Because our Savior put on flesh (John 1:14) and stepped into our sickness, sin, and death. He healed the sick and cared for the hurting. In following Christ, we are to do likewise.

None of the above means we are reckless. The love of Christ and God’s Word do not praise careless risks, they promote obedience. Loving the sick doesn’t mean we have to intentionally infect ourselves (Prov 22:3). If infection becomes a legitimate risk (at the moment, the CDC says that the virus is not communally spreading in the U.S. and the health risk is considered “low”) then responding to the coronavirus likely means taking small practical steps like reminding one another to wash our hands, sanitize, and stay home if we are sick. We don’t overreact or panic, but we operate with prudence, and with the conviction that one way of caring for others will be not carelessly spreading the disease ourselves. 

Instead of asking if you should cancel your church services, first ask instead, “How can we care for those who are at risk?” As others get sick, care for them. Are most of you still healthy? All the more reason to gather for thanksgiving and prayer. Seek appropriate medical care as symptoms present themselves and don’t forsake caring for one another. Follow the example of those who before you acted faithfully. In 19th century England, when thousands were dying of cholera, Charles Spurgeon still entered homes to care for people. Jesus’ church in Wuhan China, the epicenter of the virus, are faithfully leading even today.

Finally, as you watch the world react to crisis and the current reminder of all our mortality, do not neglect to share the hope that you have (1 Pet. 3:15). Share how Jesus rescues you from the sickness of sin and the penalty of death. Share that your hope is not found in remaining healthy this side of heaven. Remind others that good health is only the slowest path to death and judgment.

We all have to face death eventually and thanks to Jesus, we can face it with confidence. Like Paul, we can remember that to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). We truly have nothing to fear. Not from the coronavirus, the Ebola virus, natural disaster, or anything else. Press on friends. Pray for the sick. Walk in strength. Love the brotherhood. Do good to all men. Use your health to serve, not to hide. Jesus is sovereign over it all. And like I’ve often said before, we are immortal until the Lord is done with us.  

Does Matthew 5:29-30 Literally Mean We Should Gouge Out Our Eyes If They Cause Us To Sin?

Does Matthew 5:29-30 Literally Mean We Should Gouge Out Our Eyes If They Cause Us To Sin? I answered that question on this week’s episode of Real Truth. Real Quick.

Show Notes: 

Principles:

  1. The Bible should not be interpreted literally; it should be interpreted correctly.
  2. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching about “Kingdom righteousness, Kingdom living, and He is emphasizing how you don’t want to miss out on the Kingdom.
  3. We won’t be admitted into heaven by mutilating our flesh. We are made righteous by trusting in the work of Jesus on the cross.
  4. We must take the war against sin seriously.
  5. While we shouldn’t cut our eyes out, we should cut our eyes away from things that cause us to lust.
  6. If we got to heaven by chopping off those things that cause us trouble, then we would have to cut out our heart.

Scripture:

“If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you;  for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:30

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

“And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” Mark 7:20

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,…” Mark 7:21

“deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” Mark 7:22

“All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”   Mark 7:23

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.”   Romans 3:10-11

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’”   Luke 9:23

“I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?”   Job 31:1

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”   Galatians 2:20

Additonal Resources:

Is There Such A Thing As Unforgiveable Sin?

Are There Different Levels of Sin?

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What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, “Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead” In Matthew 8:22?

What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, “Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead” In Matthew 8:22? I answered that question on this episode of Real Truth. Real Quick.

Principles:

Principle 1:
When we prioritize things of this world over knowing and following Jesus it does not go well for us.

Principle 2:
It does not bring blessing when we try to work Jesus into our worldly interests. This is being double – minded.

Principle 3:
We should not prioritize our personal interests or our family’s interest over our commitment to Jesus.

Principle 4:
We are to honor our father and mother, but we are not to honor them more than we honor Jesus.

Scripture:

Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” Matthew 8:19

Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Matthew 8:20

Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” Matthew 8:21

But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:22

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” Exodus 20:12

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26

Check out the show notes for a link to the previous episode:
What Does Jesus Mean When He Says to Hate Your Family in Luke 14:26?
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Need hope and perspective? Consider the position of Jesus’ father, Joseph

That makes whatever we are facing seem a little less overwhelming, doesn’t it? 

Need hope and perspective? Consider the position of Jesus’ father, Joseph

That makes whatever we are facing seem a little less overwhelming, doesn’t it? 

Whatever challenges you face as you head into 2020, but I am certain they are not as great as the one Joseph faced over 2000 New Years ago. 

“Hey Joseph, there’s a bit of a situation with your fiancé, Mary. Now don’t freak out—and don’t break up—but let’s just say she’s coming with some baggage. The kind that will arrive in about nine months. By the way, His name is Jesus, and He’s the Son of God.”

Makes whatever we are facing seem a little less overwhelming, doesn’t it? I know you have real issues: broken families, failing health, addictions, unemployment, overwhelming debt, or a host of other problems. But understanding the significance of the news Joseph received in Matthew 1 can provide us a lot of perspective, and a lot of hope. And who couldn’t use a little more of both as 2020 comes crashing onto the scene?

Want some perspective? There is nothing you or I are going to face this year that the good hand of our sovereign Lord doesn’t already know all about. And just like God brought comfort to Joseph in the midst of his confusion, he wants to bring comfort and assurance to you. Your situation might be a result of man’s (or your) rebellion more than God’s revelation, but take comfort in knowing that whatever your situation, the Lord wants to bring insight, wisdom, instruction and peace into your heart as you deal with it.

Need some hope? How about the hope of knowing that the result of Joseph facing his challenge with grace ended up being part of God’s provision to bring grace into the world. Aren’t we glad that this unplanned pregnancy didn’t meet a tragic end, and as a result we can enter into today, tomorrow and even death pregnant with hope?

This year I resolve to know more about God’s perspective and hope than ever before. I invite you to join me. Check out jointhejourney.com and jump into his word daily with me.

Are There Different Levels of Sin?

Are There Different Levels of Sin? I answered that question on this episode of Real Truth. Real Quick.

Principles:

  1. There are certainly different consequences to certain wrong behaviors.
  2. We don’t go to heaven because of what we do or don’t do. We go to heaven because we trust in what Christ has done.
  3. All sins separate us from God. All sins demand a gracious work  from a gracious Savior.
  4. A sin is a sin when talking about what separates you from God, but ammends often look different depending on the harm done to the other person.

Scripture:

“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people,  but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”   Matthew 12:31

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” James 2:10

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” Isaiah 59:2

“…and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ 

shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” Matthew 5:22

“or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”   Matthew 5:48

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” James 2:10

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;…” 1 Thessalonians 4:3

“…not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;” 1 Thessalonians 4:5

“and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also  told you before and solemnly warned you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:6

“And in as much as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,” Hebrews 9:27

“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel.” Proverbs 18:19

Additional Resources:

Is There an Unforgivable Sin? https://youtu.be/-YgJbxQJbys

Is There Such A Thing As An Unforgivable Sin? – Version 2 https://youtu.be/DtyqK8ilGa8

Does A Person Who Commits Suicide Go To Heaven? https://youtu.be/ylRE0kLz8p4

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Can You Be a Christian and Not Be Part of a Local Church?

Can You Be a Christian and Not Be Part of a Local Church? I answered that question on this episode of Real Truth. Real Quick.

Shownotes:

Principles:

  1. You can be a Christian and not be part of a local church, but you will not become like Christ in the way God intends through the means of grace that God intends until you are part of a local body.
  2. You do not go to church: you become a part of a church.
  3. The Church is a source of sanctification, protection, and a source of glory to Him.

Verses:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…” Romans 12:10

“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

“…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…” Ephesians 4:12

“…for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9

 “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” Colossians 1:18

“…being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3

Other Resources:

How Do I Become a Christian?

Why Did Todd Wagner Write the Book “Come & See”?

What Does the Bible Say About Covenant Membership And Church Discipline?

What Are Altar Calls, and Are They Biblical?

What Are Altar Calls, and Are They Biblical? I answer that question on this week’s episode.

Show Notes:

Principles:

  1. Altar calls are not unbiblical, nor are they a required biblical act.
  2. Don’t measure the effectiveness of your preaching by the immediate emotional response of the people.
    • Matthew 13:5-6
    • Matthew 13:7,22
    • Matthew 4:18-19
    • Matthew 16:13-17
  3. If someone can convince you of something, somebody else can convince you differently.
    • 1 Corinthians 2:1-4
  4. Good preaching is faithful to the text and tells people the truth about who they are, who Jesus is, and the necessity to respond to Him.
    • Galatians 5:19-20
    • Galatians 5:22-23
    • Acts 2:36-38
    • Romans 10:9-10
    • John 16:8
  5. Pastors are called to make disciples who then identify with Christ through baptism, and to teach disciples everything that Jesus commanded.
  6. You aren’t saved because you come to an altar call, you are saved by a deep, heartfelt belief in who Jesus is and His provision for sin.

Helpful Resources:

1. Can I Lose My Salvation?
2. Can I Believe In Jesus and Not Be Saved?
3. How Do I Know If I am Saved?
4. (SERMON) Salvation

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Is the Enneagram Helpful, Harmless, or Heresy?

Is the Enneagram Helpful, Harmless, or Heresy? I answer that question on this week’s episode of Real Truth. Real Quick.

Show Notes:

 

1. Is There a Biblical “Right and Wrong” On Everything?
2. How Do I know If I Have the Holy Spirit in Me?
3. What is The Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

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What Is “Join The Journey”?

What Is “Join The Journey”? I answer that question in this week’s episode.

Show Notes:

1. Is It A Sin Not To Read Your Bible?

2. What Book of The Bible Should I Read First?

3. What’s The Best Bible Translation?

4. The Bible (SERMON)

Sign up and learn more at www.jointhejourney.com

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