25th September 2012

Who Won The War?

“And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison… and made their feet fast in the stocks.  And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them”
Acts 16:23-25 (KJV)

Many of us will recall reading in our history books about the famous Wars of the Roses; a series of skirmishes fought over the course of three decades, between the supporters of the Royal houses of Lancaster and York, whose symbols were the ‘red’ and ‘white’ roses respectively.

The phrase ‘Wars of the Roses’ sounds a bit of an oxymoron doesn’t it?  I always have felt a sense of sadness at the thought of people fighting and dying over the symbol of a rose, the very emblem of love and beauty.  You simply can’t help feeling that ‘wars of roses,’ like ‘worship wars’ shouldn’t really be taking place at all, and I am reminded of the opening lines of Charles Austin Miles’ beautiful hymn, written almost a century ago, but which, like so many contemporary hymns, is really a love song to the Divine:

“I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses”

It was ‘the voice of the Son of God’ which ‘disclosed’ to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-29) the true nature of worship.  She had come to the well alone, only to find a stranger there, a Jew who, surprisingly, asked her for a drink.  As his behaviour conflicted with the accepted religious norm, and perceiving that he was a prophet, she asked him, directly, where and in what manner the God of Abraham should rightly be worshipped.  For those of us still struggling with ‘worship style’ issues, her question remains a timely one.  Jesus’ startling answer was that no longer were there to be any restrictions on places or forms of worship, but that, as God is spirit, “they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Jesus’ words imply that true worship is not measured by external factors, such as physical location, musical style, atmosphere, posture, gesture, vesture or any such things; but in the response of the believer’s heart to the love of God revealed in Christ.  Even the dank and depressing confines of the inner prison into which Paul and Silas were cast, after being severely beaten and their feet fastened securely in the stocks, could not inhibit or weaken the spontaneous response to God’s saving grace, as their worship poured forth in unquenchable praise (Acts 16:23-25).

So, who won the war?  The real ‘worship war’ was won, once and for all, when the man, Jesus, the last Adam, faced the arch enemy of humankind, in the wilderness of Judea and, on our behalf and for our sake, held the ground of true worship against the most pernicious and voracious attack by the tempter (Matthew 4:10).

Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for opening our hearts and minds to your blessed truth, revealed in Christ your Son and for the freedom your spirit gives to worship you with fullness of heart and boundless praise.

Study by Richard Dempsey 

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