From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Isaiah 58:1-14

In this chapter the Lord rebukes the Israelites for their half-hearted and hypocritical religious actions and calls for them to repent. From this chapter, there are three lessons we can learn regarding religious service that is pleasing to God.

First, religious service that is pleasing to God must be sincere (vs. 2-5, Jos. 24:14, I Tim. 1:5, Rev. 2:4, II Cor. 1:12). The “you” that your fellow church members see; is it the real you? Or do you feel like you have to put on a front or else you will be criticized and labeled unspiritual? If that is the case, then there is a spiritual problem, either with your life (if you are trying to cover actual sin), or with your church (if you have legalistic members who put their own personal preferences on the same level as the commandments of God). Even if the problem lies within the church members, who are you trying to please, God or men? (Eph. 6:6).

Second, religious service that is pleasing to God must come from a repentant heart (vs. 5-6). Simply going through the motions of religious duty, doing the right things for the wrong reason, is nothing more than cold, dead formalism and is not acceptable to God. The Lord commanded the Ephesians, even though they had sound doctrine, good works, and were outwardly obedient to the scriptures, to repent because they were not doing these things for the right reason. They were just going through the motions, rather than serving the Lord out of a heart of love for Him (Rev. 2:5). God doesn’t want our sense of religious duty; He wants our hearts (Psa. 51:16-17). When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind (Lk. 10:27). If our hearts belong to the Lord and we love Him with all our being, His other commandments will fall naturally into place in our lives (Matt. 22:40). When we truly repent of our sins and purpose to serve the Lord with our whole hearts, then the Lord will give us spiritual enlightenment and healing (v. 8). If we truly repent of our sins, then God will answer our prayers (v. 9, I Jn. 3:22), but if the Lord does not have our hearts and we insist on doing things our way, rather than God’s way, then He will not respond to our prayers (Psa. 66:18). It all comes back to the state of our hearts again.

Third, religious service that is pleasing to God must be centered on others, not on self (v. 7, Jas. 1:27). Jesus said that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39, Mk. 12:31). God promises that if we will put the needs of others ahead of our own greed, then He will make us a light to those around us and bless our endeavors (vs. 10-12). The Lord also promises that if we will spend one day a week in public worship with our brethren, rather than spending it on our own pleasure, then we will experience His joy and find satisfaction in our souls (vs. 13-14). Corporate or public worship with God’s people ought to be a joyful experience, and when it’s not, there is either something wrong with our hearts, or else there is something wrong with our church. We ought to enter into the public worship services joyfully, not simply out of a sense of duty, just because God requires it of us. When we enter into the worship service, our hearts should be filled with excitement for the opportunity to worship the Lord with His people; not attempting to hide who we really are behind a mask of spirituality.

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