The True Worship of God:

by Rev. Sterling Durgy

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The New Testament letter from James delivers some strong warnings to Christians. These warnings might be interpreted as overly stern. But it is better to look beneath the surface to see in James' letter a passion to make things plain so that Christians will know how to live and how to experience the blessing of God. It is clear from the first verses of his letter that he is writing to Christians who are suffering persecution. The straightforwardness of James is, in fact, designed to be a blessing to his readers, to lift them above their suffering so that they can walk with confidence in their God and their salvation.

It also becomes clear in the early verses of his letter that James finds "double-mindedness" to be the opposite of Christian spirituality. He mentions it early on, then mentions it again later in his letter. Although James wasn't writing specifically about worship, he was writing about prayer and receiving answers to prayer; something that is surely a part of our relationship with God and an important part of worship. "Double-mindedness" is also not the subject of the discussion in James 1, where it is mentioned as a primary attribute of the one who "doubts."

Interestingly, James coins a new Greek word, dipsuchos (with the "ps" pronounced with a silent "p" as in "psychology"), to make this point. This word is later found in the writings of the church fathers. Dipsuchos literally means "two-souls."

The concepts of "soul" (psuche) and "heart" (kardia) are closely related in Biblical Greek. Whereas we tend to think of the heart as the seat of the emotions today, the heart was thought to be the seat of the entire intellectual life of a human being in Biblical times; including not only emotions, but thoughts and thinking processes as well. A good deal of the modern misunderstanding of true spirituality comes from thinking of "religion of the heart" as involving the emotions, but not the rest of the life of the mind. In Scripture, "the soul" is "the mind" and "personality" thought of in a biological sense. The eternal, inner self of a human being is described in Scripture as spirit (pneuma, also with a silent "p"), which in the godly is given life and influenced by the Holy Spirit of God. While the presence and fellowship of God give life to our entire being, and eventually to our body in the resurrection from the dead at Christ's return, it is the spiritual nature of human beings that gives mankind the unique ability to fellowship with God. Christians are "spiritual" (pneumatikos) as opposed to "soulish" (psuchikos). As the seat of intellectual processes, habits, and values, the "soul" is very close to our concept of "mind," which is why the term "psychology" refers to the study of the mind in our culture, and to be "double-souled" is best translated "double-minded." The reason it is helpful to take the background of the term into consideration is that James is talking about the entire orientation of the mind, not just passing thoughts.

The "double-minded" person is torn between two worlds - the passing world of this age and the Kingdom of Christ - wanting to experience the full benefits of each. There is withdrawal from full commitment to Christ because there isn't full faith in Christ's ability to deliver all that He promises. Paul spoke of those who are always learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth, and therefore never making a commitment to Christ (II Timothy 3:7). Although Paul was describing individuals who were extremely immoral in II Timothy 3, people controlled by impulses rather than the Holy Spirit, perhaps Paul also had in mind the men of Mars Hill, the Greek intellectuals to whom Paul preached Christ, but whose only interest was in learning new things (Acts 17:21). In both cases, the life of this world eclipses the Kingdom of God.

The double-minded person is trying to live an impossible dream. Friendship with the ways and goals of the world, James taught, is hostility towards God (James 4:4). Trying to live in both worlds, to be "double-minded," therefore leads to instability that makes the personality changeable and unpredictable, the person responding to whatever force seems to be strongest at the time. The result of this condition is that an individual places him or herself in a position where God cannot and will not bless. God does not give wisdom because that person is not open to receiving Divine wisdom. The "soulish" (natural, psuchikos) man is unable to receive the things of the Spirit of God, Paul taught (I Corinthians 2:14). To try to be "double-minded" is to be controlled at one time by God's Law, and at another by inward desires and the ways of the world. It is, therefore, to fail to be spiritual at all.

Scripturally, the opposite of being "double-minded" is being "single" or "pure in heart." "Blessed are the pure in heart," said Jesus, "for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). Of course, Jesus is pointing ahead to the revealing of God in the new heaven and new earth, but there is no need to be so restrictive in our interpretation of this verse. Those who are pure in heart "see" God even in this world, looking with the eyes of faith, as Peter taught in I Peter 1:8-9 and the author of Hebrews taught in Hebrews 11:27. A comparison of Matthew 5:3-8 with James 4:7-10 shows how sound James' teaching is. To rid ourselves of double-mindedness, James teaches in 4:8, we must purify our hearts - replace poor thinking with a mind focused upon God.

One example here is Peter, whose impulsiveness led him to both heights and depths of spirituality, much as with David before Him. On one evening, Jesus sent the disciples ahead in a boat to cross a lake so that Jesus could take care of the crowds and then spend time in prayer. Later, in order to reach the disciples, Jesus walked across the water to get to their boat. The disciples, meanwhile, were having something of a hard time rowing against the winds and waves, which were strong that night. When Peter saw Jesus walking towards the boat, and recognized that it was Jesus, Peter asked Jesus for permission to walk on the water as well, which Jesus granted. So Peter climbed out of the boat and began walking on the water towards Jesus. In the midst of this activity, however, Peter's focus shifted from Jesus to the high wind, at which point Peter began to sink, and cried out to Jesus to save him. Jesus pulled Peter up and into the boat, but not without rebuking Peter, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:31). Later, a much more serious lapse of faith took place, when Peter denied that he knew Jesus while Jesus was on trial. In both cases, the problem was that Peter was being governed by what was happening immediately around him rather than by single-minded commitment to Christ.

Sometimes doubt is caused by legitimate questions about faith. When it is, we need to realistically confront the reasons why we should believe in Jesus Christ, recognize the firm foundation for our faith, and go on. God is not afraid of questions, for He has given us good reason to believe in Christ - especially in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, as witnessed by the apostles. We also have examples of people who have wrestled with problems similar to ours, both in Scripture and in Christian history. But if our doubt is caused by double-mindedness, a much more serious issue exists. It isn't enough to answer the intellectual questions, we need to look to our motives as well.

Peter's problem during the life of Christ was more than a personality problem - more than an intellectual problem - it was a spiritual problem - one that is common to the human race. He underestimated the challenge of true spirituality and overestimated his self-discipline. To follow Christ faithfully is to purge ourselves of all other devotions that might interfere with and split our loyalties. Jesus statements that "No one can serve two masters" and "You cannot serve God and Mammon" are not a blanket condemnation of money nor an endorsement of poverty, but an assertion that unless every part of our lives are surrendered to God, we will not truly be a part of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:19-33). This is why in life, and worship is a part of life, John admonishes, "Little children, guard yourselves from idols" (I John 5:21), an "idol" being anything that diverts our loyalty from God. This calls for rigorous self-examination and discipline. It was this to which James referred when he exhorted, ". . . purify your hearts, you double-minded."

But we fool ourselves if we think that this blessing of single-mindedness and its spiritual blessings can be produced on our own - and surely this, too, was a part of Peter's problem before Pentecost. Purity of heart is a gift from God, the result of the sanctifying, cleansing work of His Spirit within us (Acts 15:9). In Paul's prayer at the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul writes, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely." Paul went on to say, "Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass" (I Thessalonians 5:23, 24). The word "entirely" that Paul uses here (holoteleis) is a rare one in the Greek language and is used only here in the New Testament. It is a combination of two smaller Greek adjectives that mean "whole" and "complete," emphasizing that this work is complete in all respects. In the latter part of verse 23, Paul makes clear that this sanctifying work is one that is to be accomplished prior to Jesus' return at His second coming and to remain. Further, Paul makes clear that this sanctification is something God does for us. A work He does because of our need and God's faithfulness. It is, therefore, something that God does in response to faith.

While Christians may differ in their interpretation of the precise theological nature of what Paul describes here, the desirability, importance, and reality of this sanctification are made undeniably clear in Paul's prayers for his readers.

To approach God in true worship is to approach Him with a singleness of mind that involves a combination of discipline and faith. In worship, as in life, God says, "you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13, Deuteronomy 4:29).

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume V, Part 4, April 1997.

Copyright 1999 Sterling M. Durgy. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.