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What is Vain Worship?

Wes  —  February 15, 2017

In Mark 7:7 Jesus quoted Isaiah, saying, “in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” But what did Jesus mean about worshiping in vain? I’ve heard many people explain that “vain worship” is worshiping God in unauthorized ways. One website claims it is “when we worship the way we want” instead of worshiping “the way God has told us in His word” (source). Unfortunately, I think that definition of “vain worship” ignores the context of Jesus’ word and gives the wrong impression about vain worship.

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The term “false teacher” gets thrown around a lot; but the definition might not be as obvious as it seems. Many people probably assume a false teacher is simply someone who teaches something that’s false. But that’s not really how the Bible uses that term. And I believe we must use biblical terms in biblical ways. Let’s examine what a false teacher is and why we should be careful calling someone a false teacher.

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While there are certainly “churches” and preachers who are taking advantage of the generosity of their members and giving Christianity a bad name, we should not allow that to stop us from talking about how and why Christians should give money to the church regularly. The New Testament says a lot about money and one of the things is says is that how you feel about money is an indication of your spiritual maturity and your love for God (Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 6:10). So, you should really stop and examine how and why you give.

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We might say the beginning of the Restoration Movement in the United States was in 1809 when Thomas Campbell uttered these now famous words, “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” This wasn’t the beginning of the church, but it was the beginning of a movement to restore the “unity, peace, and purity” of Christ’s church. Over 200 years later, the spiritual descendants of this movement have far too many divisions. I believe it is time to be reminded of Campbell’s plea for unity.

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As a member of the Millennial generation, I am painfully aware that many in my age group are leaving the church. While I certainly understand why life in the church can be difficult and even frustrating at times, I love the church so much that I have devoted my life to her and to her mission. So here are four of the reasons I am thankful for the church.

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In Philippians 2:12 Paul wrote, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” That phrase is quoted a lot, but I wonder how many of us have ever stopped to consider what it actually means. I know I have personally failed to appreciate the context of this passage and have misused this passage a number of times. Perhaps you have as well. Here are a few thoughts on what it means to “work out your salvation.”

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Whether you’re teaching teenagers, adults, women, or men, I know you want your Bible class to be as effective as it can possibly be. I know you want people to see the relevance of Scripture. I know you want people to learn and to grow. But sometimes, let’s face it, it’s hard to know how to do that. It’s hard to know how to teach an effective Bible class. So I want to share with you a few things I’ve found helpful when teaching Bible classes. I hope you find these helpful as well.

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When it comes to communion, or the Lord’s Supper, there is no direct command saying, “Take the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week,” but I still believe it is right and good for Christians to come together every Sunday for the specific purpose of taking the Lord’s Supper. Whether or not you agree, I hope you’ll give me the opportunity to share with you why I believe in taking the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.

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The phrase, “Church growth” has become a buzzword in religious circles. For many, the size of a church is the primary way to judge its health and success. They believe churches should do anything and everything to grow their numbers, because size is what matters. But on the other hand, there are those who assume a large church indicates compromise and apostasy. Have you ever stopped to consider that the New Testament puts very little emphasis on congregational size? So why do we emphasize it so much? Maybe it’s time to realize that Jesus doesn’t judge a church by its size.

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In many ways, the quality of our Bible study will be determined by the quality of the questions we ask while we study. The better the questions, the more we will likely learn and grow. This is true in group Bible studies, like Bible classes, as well as personal Bible studies. So if we want to be better Bible students, we need to hone our question asking skills. With that in mind, here is one question I think we need to stop asking in Bible studies, why it’s a bad question, and some questions we can ask in its place.

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