• Melissa Burgess

Worship with Uncut Stones

"In a world overwhelmed with knowledge we seem to have lost our way in how to live a life of pure simple worship."

The Bible gives us a glimpse into God’s idea of pure worship in Exodus 20:22-26. God tells us that worship is vital, should be regular, but it has to be done His way in order for it to be effective.

Let’s spotlight verse 24 & 25 that read “An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25) If you make me an altar of stones, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.”

God was telling Moses that if they could not simply use the dirt of the earth that God had created, any stones they used must be in their natural form. But, why?

"God knew that if He allowed them the choice they would focus on the altar and not on the worship."

He knew that within their flawed humanity they would contaminate worship with their own agenda and arrogance. Our Father, through His divine eye, could see that eventually the town would be full of “altar shops” all making a buck for their latest trendy altar designs. He knew that groups would be competing over who had the best altar. He knew that before long the altar of worship would be just another man-made idol. Driven by a compassion to see us succeed God was very specific about how the altar was to remain a simple place of worship and adoration, untainted by the showmanship of man.

"It is in fact the showmanship of man that compels us to bend Scripture in order to make it soft and palatable for those struggling to admit their sins."

How did we get from the altars of uncut stones of Exodus to where the church is today? To help us answer that question honestly, let’s visit the book of Matthew chapter 10. In this passage, Jesus has called His twelve disciples to Him for a very honest heart to heart session. This is the very definition of a “come to Jesus meeting” (couldn’t help myself). He begins by giving them authority over darkness and follows up with instructions on how to go, where to go, and how to react as they go. Around verse 16, the mood shifts a bit and it begins to really get intense as He says phrases like “sheep in the midst of wolves”, “brother will deliver brother over to death’, “children will rise against parents”, “hated by all”, and “when you are persecuted”.

Then Jesus begins to comfort the disciples with more tender phrases around verse 26 as he speaks of “have no fear”, “even the hairs of your head are numbered”, “more valuable than sparrows”. I would imagine it was at this point that the disciples took a deep sigh of relief. However, Jesus was not quite finished, around verse 34 He comes in showing all His cards by saying “do not think I have come to bring peace, but a sword”, “I have come to set man against his father”, “a person’s enemies will be those of his own household”, “whoever loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me”.

Jesus winds up His eloquent challenge around verse 38 where He summarizes all that He has been sharing in this way “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We’ve read Matthew 10, we’ve done a surface level dissection of Jesus’ intent, so what is the answer to the question.

"How did we get from altars of uncut stones to where we are today in the church?"

The answer is, we arrived here by not doing what the Bible says. I know, I know, that seems like such an elementary answer to a deep theological stand-off. Let’s be honest with ourselves for just a moment and admit that we neither worship on altars of un-cut stones, nor do we take up our cross and follow after Him.

"We have replaced the simple altar of worship with a complex system of man-made demands."

We have abandoned the simple act of following after Jesus with a much more frightening mutant version that allows us to keep everything we want, do everything we want, give to no one, re-define success, and STILL consider ourselves His disciples.

"We have forgotten the God we serve is a loving Father while simultaneously being a fierce warrior."

We have forgotten He did in fact come to judge the world and that He is a God of wrath. We have gone silent in declaring Him the reckoning that is spelled out for us in black and white in the book of Revelation.

We have abandoned the single most powerful message ever preached, ”Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”

How can we say these things in a world that already considers Christians hate-mongers and fools?

We can say it, because in Exodus God told Moses to make the altar of un-cut stones and everywhere He caused His name to be remembered He would come and give blessings.

We can say it, because in Matthew 10 Jesus told the twelve disciples that whoever acknowledged Him before men, He would also acknowledge them before His Father. The beauty of following after Him is we never have to distort what He has said or redesign His plan.

"He is perfection, and everything that He has asked from us, He has already removed every obstacle to ensure our success."

We do not have to settle for a softer version of Him or make excuses for His supernatural power. We simply have to obey Him and trust that our obedience will bring hope to a lost and dying world.

"The stones He made at the dawn of creation were shaped to perfection and echo the simple truth that He is in control."

As we lift up a life of worship, we should remember, we need never put our hands to "His things" in order to make them acceptable.

The instructions He gave to His disciples as they were being sent came from a heart of reconciliation and a passionate pursuit to save that which was lost with His love.

"When we combine a God-breathed life of pure worship with a God envisioned life of servitude, there is nothing that can stop us from reaching the harvest in His name."

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