In 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 Paul writes, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (NIV).
When Paul expresses his concern for "the church," that is, Christ's bride, not to be deceived as Eve was by the Serpent, he is speaking to both men and women, because "the church" includes both. Yet historically it has been men who have been the appointed leaders of churches. And just as it was Adam's responsibility not to allow deception to come into the garden, so it has been the same for men throughout the church age. If you do not recognize your own vulnerability as a man, and thus the vulnerability of the church, for being deceived as Eve was by the Serpent, then chances are you have already been deceived and may have now become a deceiver of others.
Spiritual Widowhood's chief aim is, therefore, to present what I believe to be a crucial, if not the crucial litmus test for us, based on Scripture, for determining whether we have not only been deceived, but have now become the deceivers of others, and if found to be true what the consequences will then be for us as the church going forward.
According to Genesis 2:15, after God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, Adam's purpose was to worship God with all his being through "dressing and keeping the garden." That same purpose, figuratively, for all who are in Jesus is, in effect, restated by Jesus in John 4:23, during his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well when he tells her that his Father desires his "true worshippers to worship him in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (NIV).
It therefore becomes essential that we accurately define worship in order to understand more fully what Jesus meant by "worship in spirit and in truth," so that we will then be able to gauge for ourselves the degree to which we might have been seduced by the subtleties of deception that Paul warns us about in 2 Corinthians 11:3: "But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (NASB)
And just as Eve was deceived first, before becoming the deceiver of Adam, so we have likewise struggled with deception, both individually and corporately, for over two thousand years. And with every deception, we will potentially become the deceived. And once deceived, we will then become the deceiver of others: deception → deceived → deceiver.
How then are we to determine not only whether deception has entered into the church but also, even worse, if we have been deceived and have now become the deceivers of others? The most accurate means for determining our deception must always, I have come to believe, begin with the way we define worship, because that definition will help us determine what we consider to be the most important components of worship that God desires from us, which will thereafter drive our practices.
After Adam and Eve sinned, committing an act of self-worship by eating fruit only meant for God, which act was considered by God to be an act of idolatry/adultery, they were expelled from the garden. Their newfound condition, that of having been separated from God, then became one of spiritual widowhood, which is also our own condition when we are apart from Jesus. Consequently, when we do not understand our condition of spiritual widowhood apart from Jesus, (1) we will not fully recognize what Jesus has done for us; (2) we will not fully understand the way that God sees and relates to us; (3) we will not understand why we are vulnerable to being deceived as Eve was deceived by the Serpent; and (4) we will not understand what an accurate assessment of our own condition of being "as a pure virgin" is based on (2 Corinthians 11:1–3, NIV).
Therefore, our not understanding these four points will mean, in all likelihood, that we will have no concern for the plight of those who are physically widowed and fatherless (James 1:27); and if we do not care for those such as these, then we probably do not have a scripturally based understanding of what it means to worship God in spirit and in truth. And finally, not understanding any of these points makes it unlikely that we will know when, as stated in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14, the "abomination of desolation [is] standing where it should not" (and the only place it should not stand is in the church).
Almost thirty years ago, after I read James 1:27 for the first time, this one verse became the key passage of scripture that began to open the door for me to expand my understanding for what defines worship, especially outside the context of a worship service. And based on that understanding, I have ultimately been led to understand our own condition of spiritual widowhood apart from Jesus, why this is so, and how to accurately assess the condition of the church based on this understanding.
Understanding worship, then, becomes all-essential, because it is our understanding of worship, and the shape of our subsequent worship practices, that affects the overall health and well-being of the church more than any other single factor.
Andy Mendonsa and his wife Gloria live in the historic neighborhood of St Elmo with their 2 dogs; Fergus, a Welsh Corgi, and Thumper, a Basset Hound. Founded in 1885 and located at the foot of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee they have resided in this diverse urban neighborhood since 1985. Andy continues to serve as servant Director of Widows Harvest Ministries the ministry he helped found in 1987.
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