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Testing True Worship

Michael Beck Michael Beck

“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” (John 4:23)

Hosea told his generation that the spirit of fornication in their midst kept them from a return to the true worship of their God. “They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.” (Hosea 5:4)Any generation or person who allows a spirit of fornication to operate in their midst does not know and is not worshipping God. On the contrary, such a person is bowing down to and serving an unclean spirit of lust. Until this spirit of fornication and the unclean spirit that inspires it is recognized, renounced and removed, one cannot have true fellowship with the Lord.  “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6)

To engage in pornography is to engage in idolatry. To engage in idolatry is to have fellowship with devils. Scripture emphatically declares, “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” (1 Corinthians 10:20,21)

Any generation or person who allows a spirit of fornication to operate in their midst does not know and is not worshipping God.

That the world around us does not worship God should come as no surprise. The worship of the creation has replaced the worship of the Creator. God saved Israel from Egypt in order to establish them in the land of Canaan as a holy nation, distinctly different from the nations which did not know know or worship God. The battle before them as they entered the land was not strictly a physical battle to dispossess the inhabitants of Canaan. Underlying the physical battle to destroy the Canaanites from off the land lay a deeper spiritual cause. The real battle to be won in the land of Canaan would decide who the Israelites would worship. God did not choose to replace the Canaanites with the Israelites because Israel was a more righteous nation in His eyes. His desire was to replace a people who were not worshipping Him with a people who would worship Him. In the same way, God does not save any one of us because we are more righteous than those around us. He saves us in order to make of us a true worshipper. This is what He is after in the earth. God told the Israelites that the worship of strange gods would prove to be a snare to them. What would such a snare lead to – fornication, both on a natural and on a spiritual level, an unholy joining with men and their gods.

Let it be understood: God did not deliver Israel from its bondage in Egypt and bring it into the land of Canaan simply to give them a home of their own or raise their standard of living. The purpose of Israel being planted in the land was not to give Israel a secure place to call its own. God brought Israel out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan in order to establish a holy nation before Him who was committed to His worship. “And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers.” (Deuteronomy 6:23)

The land of Canaan that God promised to the “seed” of Abraham, the same land that He promised to bring the sons of Jacob into, is the earthly counterpart of God’s kingdom above. As He sits on His heavenly throne, worshipped and served by the angelic host, so He said He would dwell between the cherubim in the most holy place of His earthly sanctuary. There, before His throne, in the sanctuary and in the holy land, His people were called, as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, to worship Him.

When Israel finally entered the land, God reminded them that they were not brought in because they had been righteous or upright. “Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the LORD thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the LORD hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 9:4,5)

God does not save any one of us because we are more righteous than those around us. He saves us in order to make of us a true worshipper.

Indeed, God did not pass over the homes of the Israelites and destroy the Egyptian firstborn on the eve of their exodus because the Israelites were any less gripped by idols than their Egyptian neighbors. It was only the application of the blood of the lamb on the lintel and doorposts of their houses that kept the death angel from entering and destroying their firstborn. What is often not realized is that the Israelites had not been piously serving the God of their fathers for the 430 years they sojourned in Egypt. It is a scriptural fact that while in Egypt, the descendants of Jacob abandoned the worship of God and served the gods of Egypt. Joshua declared, “Put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt” (Joshua 24:14)

At the time of their deliverance God called Israel to forsake their idolatry. “In the day that I lifted up mine hand unto them, to bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands: Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt…” (Ezekiel 20:5-8)

The kind intervention of the God of their fathers in hearing their groanings in Egypt did not automatically transform the children of Israel into true worshippers. Though they saw the mighty acts of Jehovah in punishing the gods of Egypt, which they had served in their years of bondage, they did not completely renounce these gods. When that first generation of Israelites was brought out of Egypt they yet were infected by the spirit of idolatry that surrounded them in Egypt. Soon after their deliverance at the Red Sea they returned to the sensual revelry attached to idolatry as they worshipped the golden calf. Aaron called the people to an idolatrous feast that they were well acquainted with from their days in Egypt. At these feasts the gods were honored by a sacrificial meal and then such gods took pleasure in their worshippers unbridled lust and debauchery.

“Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” (Exodus 32:5,6)

The true worship of God has always been crucial to Israel’s stay in the land of Canaan.

The “play” spoken of here was not checkers, as Moses was soon to discover. Descending from Mount Sinai the noise of singing could be heard from the camp. “And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing…” (Exodus 32:19) “Moses saw that the people were naked” (Exodus 32:25) What was such singing and naked dancing designed to do but arouse lust and allow a spirit of fornication to possess the camp? Did the idolators escape the judgment of God again? No. The same destroyer that was “bound” from entering their homes on Passover Eve, was “loosed” upon them in the wilderness.

The true worship of God has always been crucial to Israel’s stay in the land of Canaan. Never did God give any generation of Israel the blanket right right to the land of Canaan, independent of whether they were truly worshipping Him. The reason why God was willing to see the people of the land dispossessed was because they were not a people who were worshipping Him. On the contrary, they were idolators who worshipped devils. Yet, God warned Israel that He would deal no differently with them than He had with the previous inhabitants if they were not established before Him as true worshippers. If they turned aside to worship the same idols He promised to see to it that they also would be expelled. If they would not serve Him faithfully, listening and obeying His voice, they had no place in that land which represented His kingdom above where His will is done.

“Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you:
And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you:
(For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;)
That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.” (Leviticus !8:24-28)

The narrative history of Israel is a metaphor that is to serve the church as God’s holy nation.

“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:6-12)

For Israel, coming out of Egypt was one thing, entering and remaining in Canaan was another. Likewise, the church desperately needs to understand the reason for the cross of Christ where they have been delivered from this present world.

“Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4)

The church of Jesus Christ in large measure does not understand the ultimate purpose for which they have been saved.

We have been delivered by God’s mighty hand in Christ from our former bondage to sin “according to the will of God and our Father.” What is that will? That we should now be His worshippers, and no longer worship the gods of this present evil world.

The church of Jesus Christ in large measure does not understand the ultimate purpose for which they have been saved. It is one thing to be saved at the Red Sea; it is another thing to be established as a holy nation and kingdom of priests in Canaan land. God wishes to deliver us from a “world” of sin and idolatry and translate us into a “world” of righteousness and true worship. He is not merely interested in improving the condition of our lives. Nor is He only wanting to admit us into heaven someday in the future. He wants to establish us now as a new holy nation before Him who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Throughout the history of the church there have been isolated pockets of men and women who have grasped what God is after. But for the most part the history of the church has paralleled the history of Israel. While multitudes have entered the kingdom of God through the new birth, many never go on to have His kingdom established in their heart through the discovery and practice of true worship. This was Israel’s fatal error, and it remains the gravest error of the church.

As He did with Israel, God calls His church out of the darkness of Egypt and into the marvelous light of Canaan. God understood that once Israel entered Canaan they would face a test – the gods of the Canaanites were very much like the gods of the Egyptians. The new generation was to do what their fathers did not do when they left Egypt – they were to completely renounce idolatry and the fornication that was attached to its sacrifices. Joshua charged the new generation: “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14,15)

God made it perfectly clear to Israel what they were to do when they entered the land of their inheritance. They were to systematically drive out the idolators who put up resistance. God said, “They shall not dwell in thy land.” Why? Because they will “make thee sin against me.” (Exodus 23:33) God’s objective was clear: “In the midst of a world that neither knows or worships Me, I desire to have a people who both know and worship Me in the earth.” In order for that end to be accomplished God gave Israel a clear mandate: do not let any of the idolatrous Canaanites remain in the land; drive them completely out. He warned Israel that if they stopped short of this, the remnant of idolators would eventually invite their children to the sacrifice of idols and the sensual allurements of idolatry would prove too great for them.

Every generation of God’s people faces the same test that God gave to Israel when they entered the land. It is a test to determine whether God will be truly worshipped or not.

Exactly what God told Israel would happen, did happen. They took possession of the land but did not follow through and “utterly” drive out the idolators. These Canaanites continued to live side by side with the children of Israel. The Israelites became fascinated and attracted by the lascivious worship of the Canaanites, they were invited to partake in the worship of their gods, their sons and daughters intermarried with idolators and their hearts were turned away from the worship of their God. Thus, the idolators were not replaced by a people who worshipped God; an old race of idolators simply blended with a new race of idolators. And as a sign and warning to His church, His new covenant people and holy nation, they were indeed eventually “vomited” out of the land for their failure to truly worship their God.

Every generation of God’s people faces the same test that God gave to Israel when they entered the land. It is a test to determine whether God will be truly worshipped or not. Each generation comes and goes and in heaven is known as one that knew and worshipped the Lord or one that compromised with idolatry and worshipped the gods of this world. When the church makes no league with the idolatry and the spirit of fornication that follows from it, when they uncompromisingly raise up the standard of a holy God and truly worship Him, they are known in heaven and in earth as the Lord’s people indeed. But when a generation of believers allows the same spirit of idolatry that is in the world to be in their midst, when the sexual uncleanness of the world is welcomed into the house of the Lord, when worship is a matter of the mouth, in song alone, but not in heart and in life, such a generation is reprobate. They have failed the test God gives to each generation.

God uses temptations and trials to separate those who are worshipping Him truly from those who are not. It is through trials that we are proven. Whether one is faithful can only be determined by testing.

In an evil time such as we now face, all those who are not worshipping God in spirit and in truth are ripe candidates to be caught in the snare of pornography. The pornographic plague that is sweeping the land is being used by the hand of God to try His servants. God is ever interested in applying the test of fire to all who call upon Him. Every temptation we face is an opportunity to fall, but it is also an opportunity to stand faithful to God. God uses temptations and trials to separate those who are worshipping Him truly from those who are not. It is through trials that we are proven. Whether one is faithful can only be determined by testing.

The powerful snare of pornography that now holds our nation in a vise grip is the result of the failure to worship God truly. For the most part, America has been Christian in name only. To avoid the snare, like Israel long ago, America needed to heed God’s call to turn from idols to serve the living and true God. She did not and the promised snare is now upon us. But where have her watchmen been in the last one hundred years? Where have the prophets of God been? Did she have a Phinehas? Did she have a Jonah? Did she have a Jeremiah or an Isaiah who were prophets to the nations as well as to the “church.” Perhaps, like Ninevah, she would have repented with such bold preaching. But such was not the case. Lukewarmness has gripped the church for one hundred years and revival of any measure has come in fitful spurts. The world has largely remained untouched by the fire of God.

Lukewarmness has gripped the church for one hundred years and revival of any measure has come in fitful spurts. The world has largely remained untouched by the fire of God.

Underlying a world that is desensitized to evil is a desensitized church that is not reproved for its own compromise and cannot be used of God to give light to a darkened society. Does the church feel that communities of sinners are going to become godly on their own? Indeed, they will not. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13) When any one generation of believers fails to fulfill God’s call to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, the generation of unbelievers that surround them have no convincing of sin and little hope of repentance and salvation. Therefore, the unrighteous become more ungodly and eventually prove a powerful tool of temptation to a lukewarm church that is salt without savor, and darkness rather than light.

God commanded Israel to destroy the nations of Canaan, making no compromise with them. He warned them that if they failed to do so a snare would be left in their midst, one which their children would fall into. An unwillingness to completely remove idolatry allows a spirit of fornication to continue. The snare of pornography that is trying our sons and our daughters, that is testing the servants of God is the result of our fathers and forefathers compromise with idolatry. When a father does not “mortify” every evil influence that would wish to remain in his heart, but enters into an unholy compromise with sin, he bequethes to his children dangerous snares. Likewise, one generation of fathers who enter into easy alliance with idolatry, insure that the following generations will face powerful snares of temptation.

Underlying a world that is desensitized to evil is a desensitized church that is not reproved for its own compromise and cannot be used of God to give light to a darkened society.

When Israel was more concerned about their security and prosperity in the land than they were about their worship of God, He told them that He would no longer enable them to drive out the inhabitants. These remnants would be ungodly tools in His hands to prove whether their children would obey Him. “Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them… And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.” (Judges 3:1,4)

There is a new test of obedience for every generation. The generation that came out of Egypt, from twenty and upward, were called to enter the land of Canaan, despite the giants that dwelt there. They failed their test. Their children were tried for forty years in the wilderness, while the faithless parents were decimated. That generation was then brought into the land and given a charge to make no league with the idolators in the land. They did not pass their test. Now, their children would face an increased challenge. In effect, God said to the first generation, “You did not believe me. You thought you knew better. You thought you could compromise with idolatry. Now your children are subject to thorns in their sides and the snares of idolatry. You are not fulfilling my purpose for saving you out of Egypt. You have become a nation of idolators just like the people who were here before you.” But God leaves to the next generation a fresh challenge to do what their fathers failed to do. In effect He says, “Evil has been allowed to remain in your midst. The failure of your fathers to fully obey Me has left you having to face powerful temptations. While they did not take hold of the importance of my command, I want you now to fight with these remaining nations until they are driven out. Will you obey Me, so that your children will be free from these snares?”

What then is God requiring of this generation of believers in order to preserve them from the alluring snares that abound in our day? A red-hot relationship with Him which expresses itself in true worship. A new generation, even one that is saturated in the sins of their fathers, is being called upon to rise up and recognize the idolatry in its midst. The church of every generation has a new mandate to be the worshipping community that God has saved them to be. Now it is time for the church to be proven. Even as nominal Christians were not able to stand the fires of persecution in the early church; in this evil day of abounding iniquity only those who are committed to be true worshippers will find the power to stand. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

Those who are God’s are going to have to prove it in this day by the way they depart from rampant iniquity.

Those who are learning to worship God in truth will be those who not only say, “Yes,” to God and offer their bodies to God daily; they will be those who say, “No,” to the offer of the gods of this world. In previous generations many seemed to stand, not because they were true worshippers, but because the opportunities for falling into gross immorality were not as readily available. But television and the internet have taken care of that. Those who are God’s are going to have to prove it in this day by the way they depart from rampant iniquity. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19)

For too long the church has not been established in true worship. When God’s people halfheartedly serve Him in a good day, tolerating and compromising with sin in their midst, drawing near to Him with their mouths, God sends an evil day to reveal hearts that have been far from Him. When our battlements are not the Lord’s, He calls for them to be taken away. “Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the LORD’S.” (Jeremiah 5:10) Even as God allowed the idolators to remain in the land as a snare with which to prove Israel, so pornography is a snare that God has allowed to test His church. Those who are learning to worship God in truth will not be caught in the snare of pornography. The snare of pornography has been reserved in this day as a chastening judgment upon all those who are not truly worshipping God.

We must see the true worship of God restored in the church.

We must see the true worship of God restored in the church. Such a restoration as in the days of Hezekiah and Josiah must proceed. With the heat turned up, this generation of believers is responsible to do what their fathers did not do. They will need all of God, for there are no “battlements” left in the world. Society offers no protection in this day to us or our children. Rather, our society is on fire with spirits of uncleanness that daily lick at the church’s heels. Snares and traps abound. It is time for the church to stand, not only for the sake of our own souls, but for the sake of our children. May they finally see a church triumphant, which refuses to enter into a league with their gods. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)


Michael Beck is a pastor in New York City and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.