Worship – Part 2

Exodus 34:14

by Paul George

In order for our worship to be pleasing to God, it must be according to the principles set down in the Bible. In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, the principles of worship are clearly established. First, the woman believed that the central place where God was to be worshiped was on Mount Gerizim (John 4:20). Although she, as a Samaritan, looked for the coming Messiah, she worshiped in considerable ignorance for the Samaritans rejected all the Old Testament books save those books of Moses, called the Pentateuch. Even these Scriptures were altered to conform to the Samaritan preoccupation with Mount Gerizim. Second, in the conversation with the woman Jesus reveals the essential principles of worship.

God Is the Initiatory of True Worship

The words of our Lord to the Samaritan woman indicate that it is the Father who actively seeks true worshipers (John 4:23). God has initiated our worship of Himself in several ways. First, He has revealed Himself to us in human flesh, in the person of Jesus Christ. When men recognized Him as God’s Messiah, they worshiped Him (John 9:35-38). Secondly, He has accomplished redemption through the work of Jesus Christ. The sin that alienated us from God, Jesus paid the penalty for sin by His death on the cross. Third, He has given us the written word that instructs us in true worship.

God Is the Enabler of Acceptable Worship

Just as God has initiated worship, He enables us to worship Him through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; Philippians 3:3).

God Is the Object of Acceptable Worship

All acceptable worship is God-centered. Worship is God-centered when we focus our worship on God, His perfection, and His desire for praise and adoration. All too often, we try to modernize worship, to update it and make it more meaningful and relevant to us. Our worship should be relevant and meaningful to us, but we must see that worship is first for God’s sake rather than our own. When we place the emphasis of our worship on what God will do for us rather than upon our duty of devotion to God our worship is not God-centered.

Acceptable Worship Is Worship in Spirit

The Samaritan woman, as did many Jews, thought that worship was essentially a matter of externals. She was preoccupied with a central place of worship: “this mountain” (verse 20). The Jews thought of worship in terms of sacrifices, rituals, observances and holy days. The essence of true worship is internal, in spirit, not external. God is a spirit being; thus, we must worship consistent with His nature.

Israel’s worship under the Law consisted of many ceremonies and rituals, but even then, God was concerned with what went on in the spirit of those who worshiped. Repeatedly the outward forms and motions of worship were condemned by the prophets (Isaiah 1:10-17; 29:13; Matthew 15:8-9; Mark 7:6-7). This is why an unbeliever can never worship God; his spirit has never been quickened. He is dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

Even today there is a great emphasis on externals, stained-glass windows and magnificent cathedrals, massive choirs and expensive organs, the eloquent oratory, the dignity of liturgy and so on, rather than communion with God in our spirits, as the Holy Spirit works to communicate between our spirit and God’s (1 Corinthians 2:10ff.).

Acceptable Worship is Worship in Truth

As countless others, the Samaritan woman worshiped in ignorance; she worshiped “what she knew not” (vs. 22). Acceptable worship can never be that which we deem best; it must be a response to the divine self-disclosure of God. Our Lord Jesus personified God’s truth (John 14:6) and so men could worship Him in truth. If our worship of God is not firmly based on the truth of God revealed in the Scriptures, it is unacceptable to God.

There Is Freedom in Worship in Our Age

One of the contrasts between the worship of our age and that under the Law is the freedom that we are given.

The perfect church service would be one were our attention would have been on God and not the service. The perfect church service would be one were the focus would be on God and not entertainment. The perfect service would be one where the charge to Peter would be fulfilled, “Feed my sheep.”

Worship Is Our Highest Calling

“Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully enjoy Him forever.” Worship is the occupation of eternity.

May God help us to worship Him in spirit and truth.

Worship – Part 1

Exodus 34:14

by Paul George

Worship has innumerable forms. The Moslem worships Allah in prayer by turning toward Mecca five times a day and repeating the same prayer. At some time in his life, he makes a pilgrimage to Mecca where he will walk around the Kabala seven times and kiss the sacred black stone. A Native American may have worshiped by erecting a totem pole, offering up tobacco in the peace pipe. Satan worshipers allegedly sacrifice infants and use some of the organs of mutilated animals. There are the pagan forms of worship that we find within civilized America. There are those who worship the sun by taking off their clothes in nudist colonies. There are those who would have us understand that they find it much easier to worship God on the golf course, out on the lake or in the woods on Sunday morning. Then, there are those who do not have the foggiest idea what corporate worship really is and why God wants people to worship Him.

Why is the worship of God and knowing how to worship Him important? First, we need to know how to worship God because of the severe consequences of false worship. God rejected Cain’s sacrifice because it was false worship (Genesis 4:5). Three thousand people died in one day because of the false worship of the golden calf fashioned by Aaron (Exodus 32). The kingdom of Israel was divided because of the idolatry and false worship of the nation (1 Kings 11:31-33). The fall of Jerusalem was directly attributable to the apostasy and false worship of the nation (Jeremiah 1:16; 16:11; 22:9). Misdirected worship was the cause of untold hardship and suffering in the Old Testament. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul wrote that God was justified in condemning man because he worshiped in error, he “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Romans 1:25). Satan fell from heaven because he sought worship for himself rather than submission to his Creator. Satan today seeks those who will worship and serve him (cf. Matt. 4:9).

A second reason and the primary reason is because worship is of great importance to God. That is the clear teaching of passages such as John chapter 4. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers (John 4:23).

God is seeking men and women to be worshipers of Him. However, this worship must be worship that is “in spirit and in truth.” It is not enough to be a worshiper of God; God is seeking true worshipers. It is only in the Word of God that we can learn what worship is pleasing to God.

If our worship of God is to be pleasing to Him, we need to know the essence of true worship. In the Bible, there are three primary elements of true worship.

First and most frequently found in the Bible is “humility.” The word “humility” conveys the act of bowing or prostrating oneself in submissiveness and reverence. The outward posture reflecting an inner attitude of humility and respect, it denotes a high view of God and a condescending opinion of self. Thus, true worship views God in His perfection and man in his imperfection.

The second word used in the Bible is “reverence.” The word reverence refers to an attitude, an awareness of our finiteness and sinfulness in the light of His infinity and perfection and a focusing of the awesome majesty of God. Irreverence is an obstacle to worship. No doubt, it was the irreverence of the Corinthians at the Lord’s Table that required such severe discipline as sickness and death (1 Corinthians 11:30). Paul said that they did not ‘judge the body rightly’ (1 Corinthians 11:29). Partaking of the elements that symbolize the body of our Lord in a light or irreverent way is to bring upon ourselves the discipline of God.

The third word is “service,” in the Old Testament this service referred to the service of the priest. In the New Testament we are told that we are all priests of God (1 Peter 2:5,9), so that this term does not apply only to the service of the few, but of the entire congregation of believers in Christ.

Why do we worship God?

From a human viewpoint, worship is something that man devised to give expression to inner desires and needs. From a Biblical viewpoint we worship God because God has revealed Himself to us, we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Love does not find its origin in man, but in God. Our love is only a response of God’s love toward us. We worship God because He has made Himself known to us and has instructed us to worship Him.

Fallen man could never approach a righteous and Holy God, so God in the person of Jesus Christ made us just and righteous by His work on the cross for us (Romans 3:21-24). The Holy Spirit of God works within us to enable us to worship (Philippians 3:3) and worship is directed to the Father (John 4:23). Worship is from God, through God, and unto God. Apart from God’s revelation of Himself and of how man can approach Him in worship, man could never worship God in a way pleasing to Him.

If worship is a response, what is the nature of this response, adoration and praise that God rightfully expects of His creatures? Though worship is an act of the one who has placed his trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ in the present age it is also that which our Lord shall receive from those who reject Him, for in the book of Philippians we read:

“Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 3:9-11).

The second response is sacrifice. When Abraham worshiped God in Genesis chapter 22, the offering was termed worship. The offering of the first fruits was an act of worship (Deuteronomy 26:10). When the wise men came to worship the baby who was the Savior of the world, they came with gifts to give.

In the New Testament, the sacrifice is self. The apostle Paul told the Romans, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).,

What is worship? Worship is the humble response of regenerate men to the self-disclosure of the Most High God, based upon the work of God, achieved through the activity of God, directed to God, expressed by the lips in praise and by the life in service.

The Activities of Worship

First, prayer, although prayer can be worship, it most often falls short of it. Why do our prayers often fall short of true worship? They fall short when they lack adoration and praise, do not focus upon who God is and what He has done. Our prayers fall short of true worship when they are a list of petitions for our needs. This does not mean it is wrong to make our requests known to God for we are instructed to do so (Philippians 4:6). What we need to do is set aside certain times for prayers that are exclusively devoted to adoration and praise.

Second, testimonies, there are some who might question whether or not testimonies would qualify as worship. A testimony that places the spotlight upon us would not be worship. However, as we look at the Psalms, we must recognize that many of them are based upon some experience on the part of the writer. This experience becomes a vehicle that turns the attention of the psalmist to the greatness of his God. He knows that God is merciful and kind not only because the Bible tells him so, but because God has been at work in his life. A testimony is an excellent opportunity to praise God for who He is and what He has done.

Third, singing and music, Israel sang many of their praises to God. The praises of the people were set to music and sung. Music can be used to quiet our hearts and minds and focus them upon God and His goodness. Music can also be an instrument through which our praise and adoration can be expressed to God. However, so-called Christian music is not the music of worship. Some music is worthless, either because of its message or because of its medium. Some music is intended for other purposes than worship such as encouragement and comfort.  For example, the song ‘Trust and Obey’ is not directed toward God, but toward the saints. If we intend to worship God in music, let us be careful to select music that focuses upon God and expresses adoration and praise to Him, such as “Great Is Thy Faithfulness’ or “How Great Thou Art.”

If worship is the highest calling of the Christian, how are we living up to our calling? May God enable us to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Does Everything Really Work for Good?

Copyright © 2000 by Glenn Davis

Life is strange.  Everything can be going along just great and then from out of nowhere disaster strikes.  We are knocked down sometimes with a single blow, sometimes with repeated blows which come so quickly we don’t have time to react.  Before we know it the problems of life can leave us lying, wounded and bleeding, in the ditch.

Problems of all sizes and degrees happen to everyone.  Are they just unfortunate things which must be endured or can they work for our good?  In Rom. 8:28 we find a famous verse which a lot of Christians know by heart.  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” [NAS].  Can all our problems and disasters really work out  for the best?  That seems pretty incredible!

We should note from the beginning, this verse is talking about Christians.  Unbelievers have no claim to this promise until they accept Jesus as the Lord of their lives.  Negative things may work out for good in their lives, especially if faced with a positive attitude, but there is no guarantee.

Before we examine how this works in our personal lives, let’s take a brief look at the lives of some Biblical men and women.  Did God work good out of tragedy in their lives?
Moses was a man who knew the will of God.  He knew God wanted Israel delivered from slavery, and he knew God had called him to do it.  However, as a young man of 40, he decided to help God and killed an Egyptian.  He ended up fleeing for his life.  So much for his dream of being a great deliverer.  For the next 40 years he was hiding in the wilderness as a shepherd – a job his Egyptian training would have loathed.  Had his over-anxiousness foiled the purposed of God?  Did God bring good out of it?

God did not forsake Moses.  Whether Moses knew it or not, he was learning vital lessons in the wilderness.  Although Moses didn’t believe it, when God called to him from the burning bush, he was ready for the job.  The 40 “wasted” years in the wilderness were a necessary part of God’s plan.

Daniel was a young man when war came to his country.  Violently he was torn from his parents, friends, and country.  He was taken to a strange land where he was tempted to compromise his faith and was trained in heathen culture.  His life would never be the same.  Whatever dreams he had had were gone forever.  And yet out of a lonely, young man’s tears, did God work good?  Over the years Daniel became a top man in the land.  He was able to advise different world rulers and influence the course of history.  More importantly, he developed a close, intimate relationship with God.

What about Ruth?  After about 10 years of marriage her husband died.  The man of her dreams was suddenly gone.  Not only that but she was left a poor widow.  How could she survive?  In those days a single woman couldn’t just go out and apply for a job and there was no welfare office.  She was totally helpless.  Still, in spite of the grief and pain, she decided to go to a strange country with her mother-in-law and commit herself to the God of Israel.  Did God work it out for good?  He gave he a new [and wealthy] husband.  She also became one of the ancestors of Jesus.  And she was honored by having her story told in the Holy Word of God.  None of this would have been possible if not for the first tragedy.  Naomi was likewise blessed with a daughter-in-law like Ruth and the joy of grandchildren even though she had lost her husband and her 2 sons.

We don’t know how old Esther was when she lost her parents but she was raised by her uncle, Mordecai.  When the king decided to take a new queen, because he was angry with the old one, Esther was one of many girls taken to the palace.  Gone was any hope of a normal marriage to a man of her own race and beliefs.  Instead, when she was chosen Queen, she became the wife of a man who would not only never be sexually faithful to her alone, but who could also order her death anytime she displeased him.  Talk about having one’s dreams dashed and living under constant pressure!  But did God work good out of it?  God gave Esther favor in the sight of the king and he treated her well.  She was then in the right position to rescue her people, Israel, from total destruction.  If not for the tragedies and disappointments of earlier life, none of this could have happened.

One more example and we’ll move on.  Joseph was a young man when his own brothers sold him as a slave.  He was violently ripped from his beloved father and home.  All his dreams of the future were destroyed.  In Egypt God blessed him and he rose to be the head slave in house of a wealthy man.  And then disaster strikes again!  He is falsely accused of rape and thrown into the dungeon.  For 13 long years he was either a slave or in prison.  Could God work good out of this?  In God’s timing Joseph rose to be second-in-command of all Egypt and saved many people from starvation.

When we come face-to-face with the problems, disasters, and tragedies of life, we need to remember God IS in control.  Our lives are in His hand.  If we are walking in fellowship with Him, then nothing can touch us unless it is allowed by God for our good.

God does not rescue us from the ‘facts of life’.  We face the same problems everyone else faces plus  the fact that the Satanic realm would love to get its grimy paws on us.  Even when evil people deliberately hurt us, God is still in control.  He doesn’t always stop it but He takes what they mean for our harm and turns it around for our benefit.

Joseph said to his brothers in Ge. 50:20:  “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” [NAS].  Notice, they pre-mediated evil against Joseph and God allowed them to carry out their plans.  But God took their plans, turned them around, and worked good out of it.  Even when we find ourselves victims of people who are out to hurt us in every possible way, God will take their plans and work them out to our benefit.

Sometimes what we see as a defeat is actually a victory.  We need to remember the spiritual realm is more important and permanent than the physical realm.  If we can face problems and tragedies and not be shaken in our faith in the goodness of God, we have won a major victory.  As in Job’s case, Satan sometimes tries to prove we only love God for what He does for us.  If when we suffer we can still love and praise God, Satan receives a major embarrassment/defeat and we have grown closer to God.

Does this mean we enjoy our troubles?  Not really.  We can rejoice at the good we know will come of it, but when something hurts, it hurts!  We don’t like the problems or tragedies of life, but we face them knowing God is on our side and we will come out on the top in the end.  We may have to wait until heaven before we understand how it worked for good.  In most cases, I believe, we will see in our lifetime, how it worked for good, although we may have to wait a long while.

Some Christians have become afraid of making a “negative confession” and so are afraid to admit when they are hurting.  There is no point in denying when unpleasant things happen to us.  Denying something doesn’t change it.  We can be free to admit when we are hurting and receive help and encouragement from others.  No one said we had to go it alone.  It is important that we remember even when we are hurting that in some way, God will work good.  That is trust.  That is realizing that pain has purpose – it is not wasted.  Trust doesn’t happen overnight.  It is built one brick at a time.

Another point of confusion is that when something bad happens, do I thank God or rebuke the Devil?  As stated above, when we walk with God, everything which happens is allowed by God for our good and His glory.  We have to start with this premise.  Even though Satan was personally wreaking havoc in Job’s life, Job did not blame Satan.  He took his case before the throne of God.

Do we then passively accept everything that happens to us?  After all, if God allowed it then we should just mildly bear it for Him, right?  Wrong!  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We start with the realization this negative experience is allowed by God for our good.  It is going to be, if we handle it properly, a growing experience.  God allowed David to face Goliath but if David had sat down and passively accepted it, he would have been killed.  Goliath was permitted by God to enter David’s life but David had to rise up and in the Spirit of God conquer him.  [There are some cases, like Job, where there is nothing we can do.  Then we take to God and leave it in trust with Him.]

Just because God allowed something into our lives doesn’t mean He wants us to stand by and be crushed by it.  If we properly handle difficult situations we will come out better on the other side.  Also, there is nothing wrong about talking to God about it.  Paul did this with his “thorn in the flesh”.  Jesus pleaded in the garden to escape the torment He knew was coming.  In both these cases God had to answer “no” to their requests and they went on to face what was set before them.  But sometimes, when we come before Him, God will answer “yes”.  It is certainly NOT a sin to ask Him.  We have to be willing to accept the answer whatever it may be.

From the beginning we have said that if we are walking with God, then God allows everything that happens to us and He will work good out of it.  What if we are walking in a way that is not pleasing to God?  Will He still work good out of it?  Basically I believe the answer is “yes”, although, if we continue with a rebellious heart we may not benefit from the good God wants to bring us.  God loves us so much that when we walk away from Him, He will do whatever is necessary to motivate us back to Him.  Only when we are in intimate fellowship with God can we be truly happy and satisfied.

One of the many kinds of problems we face is sickness.  Sickness can illustrate many of the points we have made.  If we become sick, as we are walking with God, we know God allowed it.  We know it is not the general will of God for His people to be sick.  So how do we handle it?  First, we look for any obvious reasons God may have allowed it.  Is it a result of sin?  If we search our lives and find that it is, then we need to repent.  If we find it is not a result of sin, then was the sickness allowed because we are not taking proper care of our bodies?  Are we eating properly, getting enough sleep, etc.?  Are we allowing our emotions to tear at our bodies through fear, worry, etc.?  If so, then we need to get Godly counsel on how to change these destructive life patterns.  In the above cases, when we change God may remove the sickness, or He may allow us to work out the consequences of our actions.

In some cases though, sickness does not come because of sin or mistreating the body.  It comes as a Goliath which must be defeated.  We fight this giant through faith in the goodness of God, prayer for healing, going to the doctor, taking medicine, etc.  In short, we use whatever means God has placed at our disposal.  Whatever the results may be, as we meet it in the power of God, God will take it and turn it around for good.  All this can be applied to any specific problem.

We do serve a good God.  It is our unswerving faith in the goodness of God which will pull us through experiences which would crush others.  God is in control and He never loses control.  We cannot see the future but God sees it as surely as He sees the present and the past.  As we face the problems and difficulties of life in the Spirit of God we will be gaining eternal benefits.

“This is the reason why we never lose heart.  The outward man does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength.  These little troubles…are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain.  For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible [2 Cor. 4:16,17, Phillips].

Important warning:  People who are going through tragedies and tough times do not need a lecture from well-meaning friends on the goodness of God.  If they don’t know it, they will discover it in time.  What they do need is support, understanding, encouragement, and help.  Remember, God did not have anything good to say about Job’s well-meaning but condemning friends.