Covenant Faithfulness

Religion and Relationship


The first time I ever appeared before a judge, I was terrified. Granted it was only for a traffic violation, but there is something about standing before a judge's bench and seeing this older man in a black robe peering down at you and you having to give an answer for your transgression. It's no wonder courtrooms are set up the way they are.

As fearful as appearing before an earthly judge is, appearing before the Judge of all Creation is fear to the nth degree. The writer of Hebrews states that it is a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Yet we will all be called to the throne of God's judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10) to give an answer for what we've done in this life.

Psalm 50 depicts God, "The Mighty One," as a Judge summoning all the earth before him (Psalm 50:1-2). Now there are some who may be thinking, "Amen, Hallelujah!!! Let God bring judgment upon the wicked." Yet, in this Psalm, we see that judgment begins with God's covenant people (Psalm 50:5). Remember, all will be called before God's throne of judgment, and judgment begins in the "household of God" (1 Peter 4:17). The reason for this is simple: The people of God are blessed with much, and as such, much will be expected.

In precisely what manner will the "household of God" be judged? Covenant Faithfulness. As God's people, we're called to live in a certain way before God — we're to be faithful to the covenant that he has made with us. It's not enough for God's people to be in relationship with him; we must relate to God in a certain way. People often say: "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship." There is truth in this, but you don't think the God of the universe hasn't commanded us to relate to him in a certain way? God is holy and those who worship him must do so in an acceptable way with "reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28).

Psalm 50:7-15, describes this "acceptable way" in which we are to approach God, and it can be summed up as follows: God doesn't just want our ritual, he wants our hearts too! Note what God says about our ritual: "Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me." For those who think God doesn't want our ‘religion,' think again. The people of God are not being rebuked for their religious observances. And why would they be? God commanded them as part of their corporate worship before him! Yet, God doesn't just want our ritual, he wants our hearts too! When we act like our ritual is somehow useful to God or that God needs it, then we profane worship and we profane God. Do you think God needs bulls and goats? He owns everything because he created everything. There is nothing that we give to God that wasn't his in the first place. That's not what worship is all about! We don't give anything to God as if we're fulfilling some lack on his part.

What does God want? The answer is in vv. 14-15: "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving!" When we go to church, are we truly thankful for all that God has done for us? Do we offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving as we worship him on Sundays? Note what the Apostle Paul says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1). Paul bases his appeal for us to "present our bodies" on the "mercies of God," which he has just spent eleven chapters detailing. In other words, doctrine leads to doxology, which then leads to service. For all that God has done for us, we are to respond with praise and thanksgiving! God doesn't just want our ritual, he wants our hearts too.

The psalmist concludes: "The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!" The person who honors God with his sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving "glorifies God." This is the ultimate end of man according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Furthermore, an obedient life, not just to the letter of the law, but to its spirit, is rewarded with the "salvation of God." Now it's obvious that we cannot be perfectly obedient, nor can we be perfectly consistent in our sacrifice of thanksgiving. Positionally before God because of our union with Christ we are holy, perfect and blameless, but in practice we're not. Sanctification is the process by which, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we match our practice to our position in Christ. As we grow in this Christian life, are we more obedient than we were when we started? Are we more thankful for all God has done for us in Christ than we were when we started? That's the point! As I have been saying all along, God doesn't just want our ritual, he wants our hearts too.

Image Credit: Adi ALGhanem; "Praying Boy"; Creative Commons

comments powered by Disqus
Published on 2-7-12