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Unity In Worship



DECEMBER 15, 2018



​Sheep in the Mall--Worship


In the 2004 Sabbath School quarterly there was an ink drawn image that seemed to depict an ordinary city or town. But, upon closer examination, the buildings all had church steeples. So, what was depicted was not a city or town, but a grouping of religious structures or houses of worship. Something about the illustration was unsettling, and that's when I noticed that there were no steeples of mosques or temples. Curious, I wondered what the artist was trying to depict, and what the lesson was trying to say. Was it trying to suggest that "Christ's Other Sheep" are all Christians, and that they are to be found in other churches? Have you ever seen a sheep in a church? 


I haven't. But then again neither have I seen a freely roaming sheep in either a brick and mortar mall, or a virtual one. Of course, we know that Christ used sheep as an illustration of human characteristics. He used several texts to demonstrate our nature and describe our typical behavior - that of wandering (and perhaps wondering too) away, to us. Through the prophet Isaiah, God has said: "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). So, by nature, we tend to go our own way. We wander away from where we're supposed to be, and we get lost. But Jesus says that the one defining characteristic of His sheep, 'whom He knows,' is that " 'they hear His voice, and they follow Him.'" 


It is possible isn't it, for Christ's Sheep to be anywhere, in any religious organization, as long as they hear His voice, and listen to Him with a willingness to do His bidding. If they do, they will be following Him wherever He goes, and not wandering away. Christ said, "I came to do the will of Him who sent Me." How about us, do we hear His voice, do we listen to Him with a willing heart and mind, or are other pastures greener? 


Christ is calling His human sheep out of Babylon—out of confusion, and unbiblical thinking. After all, to be in a false church (synagogue or temple) and hold false doctrines, is to think wrong thoughts. Is it possible to have a false belief system, and yet be in the 'right church'? Is it possible that we, individually, might be in Babylon? 


A secular sociologist discussing World War II stated that it changed the face of America. He stated that there was a brain drain in Europe as more Europeans migrated to the United Sates. American women remained in the workforce even after the war ended and soldiers returned home, more people held jobs in the government, and the Religion of America became consumption. Imagine that? The religion of America was no longer Protestant, but Consumption. 


Apparently, the Religion of Consumption is composed of these elements: 

  • Hyper-consumption 
  • Shopping and entertainment centers (even virtual) with a magical element to attract or draw large numbers of people 
  • Buildings modeled after churches, synagogues, or cathedrals 


According to the sociologist, an increasing number of Americans are more likely to go to a mall on the weekend than to church. And thus, malls, virtual or otherwise, are the churches of Consumption. And so, the question is, are there “sheep in the malls”? Have we inadvertently become “sheep in the malls”? Through John the beloved, Jesus states:


Now we know that God doesn't hear sinners (those with iniquity hidden in their hearts - Psalm 66:18): but if any man be a worshipper of God, and does His will, him He hears. (John 9:31)


Jesus also states in John 10:14,15: "I am the good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of mine. And other sheep have I not of this fold, them I must bring, and they shall hear My voice and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." 


When the rich young ruler came to Jesus, he asked what he should do to have eternal life. He approached Jesus calling Him, "Good Master." Jesus answered him with the question "why do you call Me good—there is none good, save God." Do we often find ourselves saying "so and so is a good person, he does…?” The young ruler equated goodness with doing too. But in the text, we see Christ equating goodness with God's character of love. 


Let's look at the text together. In John 19:18-26, Jesus said, "if you will enter into life, keep the commandments," and then He recited them. The young man replied, "this I've done from my youth." Then Jesus replied, "if you'll be complete in Me, go and sell all you have, give to the poor, and you'll have treasure in heaven. But, hearing this, the young man went away sorrowful." How about us, do we become sad hearing this message too? Do we find loving others too difficult to do? Are we relying on our strength? 


Jesus said in Matthew 13:22, “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches (and possessions), choke the word, (choke love out of the heart) and the follower of Christ becomes unfruitful (unloving). In Mark 10:22, Jesus states, “those who trust in riches shall not enter into heaven”. I'm sure that many of us have said, “then who can be saved?” Jesus answered that in Mark 10:27, "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible." In other words, being His sheep, hearing Him speak, following Him, loving as He loved is possible with and through Him. 


Jesus' sheep, wherever they are right now, are listening to hear His voice. They are willing to be made willing to do His bidding. They may not have all the truth, but they are following Him, and He is leading them in the paths of Righteousness for His name's sake. All the law hangs on two principles: love to God supremely and to others as He has loved us—Matthew 22:40, John 13:34. In verse 35, Jesus says, " … by this unconditional, self-denying love, all men shall know you are My disciples. Jesus' sheep hear His voice, and like Him, they depend on their Father for the power, and they lay down their lives in love. Are you in the Mall, listening to Jesus?


~ Raul Diaz


P.S. Most of us know the unfortunate ending to the story of the rich young ruler.  What we do not know is what Ellen White says inspired this man to run to Jesus, kneel down and ask Jesus the question. 


At first the rich young ruler was just observing the scene of the disciples, mothers, and children. But the tenderness Jesus showed with the children and mothers touched his heart. "He saw the love that Christ manifested toward the children brought to Him; he saw how tenderly He received them, and took them up in His arms, and his heart kindled with love for the Saviour. He felt a desire to be His disciple. He was so deeply moved that as Christ was going on His way, he ran after Him."—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 518.