What is your Worship

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If not pagan, if not Muslim, if not ‘new age’, could it be Christian?

RC by any chance? Or Protestant?

Is it Old Testament oriented – New Testament oriented?

Is it modern? Is it mystical? Is it musical?

Is it streamlined? Is it candle-lit?

Is it public? Is it organized? Is it private?

Is it physical? Is it emotional? Is it spiritual?

Is it Real?

     Worship Dilemma


At the dawn of history


Two brothers worship their Creator – one doesn’t want to know about sin and condemnation. He offers his own ‘worthiness’. The other one, deeply aware of his total unworthiness and guilt, by faith offers a “lamb” and sheds its blood as an ‘atonement’. God Himself responds and gives testimony that this worship is accepted, whereas his brother’s is rejected
(Hb. 11:4).

       Micah’s dilemma


“‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’
‘He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?’”
  (Micah 6:6-8)


What’s on offer?
(apart from calves, rams, rivers of oil and my firstborn)

       The ads:
“Worship Images to aid your Worship.” “Music and Arts in Worship”; “The Sacred Actions of Worship”; “The Ministries of Worship”.
“… a Master of Arts in Worship for the 21st century. The new 48-hour Master of Arts in Worship is a specialized degree designed to provide basic skills needed to lead worship in any setting.”


“Funds for projects to enrich public worship in your congregation.”

       The music, the arts and the drama:

“Worship and Arts Ministry. At OP Christian Church, music and the arts is focused on one thing! It’s all about Him! We strive to offer God our best and all we do is for and about Him… Drama can play an important role in reinforcing the worship experience. We are always looking for those with theatrical skills and a desire to use their giftedness to become a part of our drama team… We currently utilize media/video technicians and sound men in each of our worship services.”

       The blurb – promotion of new Conference Center:
“A Great Place to Worship!”

The closed door:
“Unfortunately, because of the sale of the building, worship in A. will not be possible, but…”

The suitability:
“As we go around on our journeys, more and more we meet those who are unable to find somewhere suitable to worship…”

The senses (Associated Press report on important US official’s conversion from Protestantism to RCism):
       “But once he visited the Roman Catholic Church, he found himself in awe of its history and ritual, particularly its use of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch in each service.”

The well-tuned senses (Andy Crouch in “Stonewashed Worship” – ‘CT’):
“So we connoisseurs of the authentic go shopping for a church, and our senses are well-tuned. We may discern it in the heartfelt break in a song-leader’s voice, in the not-too-pretty edge on an electric guitar, in flickering candles or in ancient forms of prayer lifted from liturgies hither and yon.”         

       The guitar (a recent Evangelical scene described by ‘CT’):
“…they had a guitar player playing worship for anyone who came into their room to pray.”

       The 3 CD set:
“51 Must Have Modern Worship Hits…”

       The history (in the words of historian Oskar Skarsaune):
“Before Constantine, Christian worship followed the synagogue-pattern of word and prayer. After Constantine, the Temple-pattern of priest and sacrifice became the norm. What did we lose in that transition? We lost the priesthood of all believers. After Constantine, the ordained ministry served in a kind of intermediary function between Christ and his community. The immediacy of the priesthood of all believers was weakened before Constantine, but afterward, it gets lost.

       The whole notion of the Eucharist as a sacrifice pushes in the same direction. Because if there is a sacrifice, there have to be priests bringing the sacrifice. And that is the business of the ordained ministry rather than the general priesthood of all believers.”

       The contrastimage004
8 NT passages stand out and speak for themselves (number 8 at end):
1. “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve’” (Mt. 4:10).

2. “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:20-24).

3. “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Mt. 15:7-9).

4. “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (Jn. 20:27-28).

5. “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:24-25).

6. “Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 15:22-25).

7. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (worship)” (Ro. 12:1).                 (Quotations from NKJV)

       Crucial comments

       John W Everett:
“Carnal men are content with the ‘act’ of worship: they have no desire for communion with God”.

Matt Costella
(“Foundation Magazine”):


“The Bible declares three important prerequisites for worship that influence not only the content of worship but the form and style as well. The Bible commands us to worship God in spirit, in truth and in the beauty of holiness (Jn. 4:24: Ps. 29:2).
1. We must worship God in spirit. Our worship is spiritual communion with God, not our own pleasant physical or emotional experience. Our pleasure is not the key – God’s pleasure is!
Worship is not one particular, isolated act we accomplish but an attitude of reverence that flows forth from us as we obey him.
Worship is spiritual, not physical. It is all about God, not about us.
2. We must worship in truth. Truth is the platform on which we must stand if we are to accomplish anything according to God’s will. We must worship in accordance with the Word of God – his instruction to us concerning how we are to think and act. Therefore, worship must never conflict with the commandments of God as revealed in his Word – in his Truth.
3. We are to worship in the beauty of holiness (see Ps. 29:2; 96:9; 1 Chr. 16:29). Holiness, or separation from anything contrary to the nature, Word and will of God, is beautiful to the Savior. It is impossible to truly ‘worship’ the Lord while simultaneously living in an ‘unholy’ manner or utilizing any ‘unholy’ means for worship.
True, God-honoring, Biblical worship is totally isolated from anything offensive to the nature of God or anything that contradicts his will for His children.
Worship is integrally linked to obedience to the Savior, not to how we feel. We worship Jesus Christ by glorifying him, thanking him and magnifying his name through song, prayer, fellowship, study of the Word and application of the Word to our lives in obedience to him – accomplished reverently in spirit, in truth and in the beauty of holiness.
Believers derive their theology of worship from the Scriptures – not from an unholy, ungodly culture or from fellow believers who feel at home in this culture and draw their methods for ‘worship’ from it.”

       Harold Best (“Christianity Today”):


“Whenever we assume that art mediates God’s presence or causes him to be tangible, we have begun the trek into idol territory. Our present-day use of music as the major up-front device for worship is a case in point. We need to ask ourselves if we, as worship leaders, are giving the impression that we draw near to God through music or that God draws near because of it. Is music our golden calf? Have we come to a place in our practices where God must say to us, ‘You cannot worship me in that way’ (Dt. 12:31)…?”

Philip Yancey:

“In the Hebrew Old Testament, the primary word for worship means ‘to bow down in reverence and submission’. And in the New Testament, the most common Greek word for worship means ‘to come forward to kiss’. Between those two – or combining both – lies our best approach to God”.

Horatius Bonar,            on verses like Isaiah 57:15,
“Thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’”:

God can do without the bended knee, but not without the broken heart”.

J LaVerne Smith, Christian music teacher, trying to find his way in modern “worship”, hoping to come across something “traditional” and being mostly disappointed:


“…a church where we thought, at least by name and denomination, we would find a more traditional service… – a drummer with electric drums and a pianist with a synthesizer were playing the Blues. This continued for about ten minutes, and then the other members of the ‘orchestra’ entered, joining the Blues one at a time. Finally, the choir came in and physically joined the ‘swing and sway’ as the tempo and volume increased.
After the pastor presented the Call to Worship and prayed, the choir sang a beautiful, recently written anthem, which they performed excellently. Then came the ‘praise time’, for which we stood 25 minutes, and 40% of the congregation sang and swayed to chorus after chorus, none of which I had ever heard. As I stood, I wondered if the other 60% of the congregation felt as I felt … left out, a stranger in the worship experience. This church publicly declared in the service and stated in their worship folder that visitors and guests were warmly welcomed.”

Gary A Parrett of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (in CT):
“Our heavenly Father wills that the whole life of believers should be worship. Jesus made clear, in John 4, that worship is not an activity limited to certain places or times. Rather, worship is the 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, vocation of all believers. God is Spirit – unbounded by constraints of time or space – and thus his worshipers must worship him everywhere and at all times (John 4:23-24).”


T Austin-Sparks on “sanctuaries” and “worship”
( http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001495.html ):
“…living stones built together for a spiritual habitation… God now      indwelling not temples made with hands, but a spiritual Body – the members of Christ joined to Him.
Why, then, perpetuate a thing which God has dismissed in the Cross and, by keeping to the lower, fail to reach the higher? Do you see where things are astray today? I know how sweeping this is, but all this has to do with worship.
Now note that when there is a failure to recognize the spiritual meaning of all this and to enter into it… and a maintaining of the old thing… you are still on a soul level, and you are open to deception; the whole thing may be a ghastly deception. And how does that deception work? In this way: that so many good Christian people are absolutely in bondage to a traditional system which is cutting clean across Divine revelation for them. It is their traditional system which is simply barring the way to spiritual revelation, whereas the Cross of the Lord Jesus represents the liberty in the spirit for God to lead into the fullness of His Life and Light.
Now, you see, historic Christianity as such – traditional Christianity as such – may still keep us on a soul level of worship, where we must have a certain kind of building with a certain kind of window, a certain kind of music, certain kinds of prayers, certain kinds of people, and certain kinds of dress… and all this to ‘aid’ our worship – all this to make real our fellowship with God. It is living back on pre-Calvary ground; it may be all soulish; and it may just be obstructing the path to a full, personal, inward spiritual life with God.
To know the Lord in Life, we must be free from the grave clothes of outward systems. Why, then, perpetuate a system? The Lord Jesus put all that away in His Cross; it is all gone. That is what He means by worshipping in spirit and in truth.”

AW Tozer:
“It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing; and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. He may be church member who keeps the rules and obeys the discipline, and who tithes and goes to conference, but he’ll never be a worshiper unless he is deeply humbled”.
“I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.”
On Isaiah 6: “In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that lighthearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. The holy art of worship seems to have passed away like the Shekinah glory from the tabernacle. As a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people.”

“If Bible Christianity is to survive the present world upheaval, we shall need to have a fresh revelation of the greatness and the beauty of Jesus…. He alone can raise our cold hearts to rapture and restore again the art of true worship.”

   Andrew Murray:


True Worship – What may be the reason that fellowship with God is not our chief joy? The main answer is undoubtedly, we know God too little. In our prayer his presence is not waited for as the chief thing on which our heart is set. And yet it should be so. We think mostly of ourselves, our need, and weakness. our desire and prayer. But we forget that in every prayer God must be First, must he All. To seek him, to find him, to linger in his presence. To be assured that his holy Presence rests upon us, that He actually listens to what wc say, and is working in us - it is this alone that gives the inspiration that makes prayer as natural and easy to us as a child’s communication with his father.
And how is one to attain to this nearness lo God and fellowship with him? The answer is simple: We must give God time to make himself known to us. Believe with all your heart, that just as you present yourself to God as a supplicant, so God presents himself to you as the Hearer of prayer. But you cannot realize this except as you give him time and quiet.
It is not the multitude or the earnestness of your words in which prayer has its power, but in the living faith that God himself is taking you and your prayer into his loving heart. He himself will give the assurance that in his time your prayer will be heard.”

CS Lewis:

“In worship, God imparts himself to us.”

 

       G Campbell Morgan:

“The supreme thing is worship. The attitude of worship is the attitude of a subject bent before the King.., the fundamental thought is that of prostration, of bowing down.”

Oswald Chambers:

“Worshipping God is the great essential of fitness. If you have not been worshipping.., when you get to work you will not only be useless yourself, but a tremendous hindrance to those who are associated with you.”


Matthew Henry:

“Public worship will not excuse us from secret worship”


     Worship – true and untrue


Have a look at the three exhortations in Hebrews 10 – we might call them the three “LET US-es”. They are an insistent invitation aimed at instant worship, offered by the true Christian, and based on the Lamb’s sacrifice – i.e. on “the blood of Jesus”. “¡Let us..!” - God is there waiting… – his door wide open!
       Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another…”  (Hb. 10:19-25).
These “LET US”-es also tell us that our worship is conditioned by our heart’s full confidence, our mouth’s faithful confession and our eyes’ fond  consideration of our brother. In other words
you cannot worship God with an untrue heart;
you cannot worship him with a wavering mouth;
you cannot worship him with eyes that ‘look the other way’ when your brother needs you.
But if ‘heart’, ‘mouth’ and ‘eyes’ are in place, nothing else is needed. It is God’s simple and exclusive design for worship, apparent throughout the New Testament. However, human nature, being what it is, will spurn the simple and go for the convoluted – isn’t that “golden calf” just adorable..!
God is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. He hears that clamor: “Surely, God, You can’t expect us to worship like this – completely unaided..!? Surely we must bring in something that puts us in the mood first, something to caress and delight our senses! No way can we worship simply and unaided, stripped of all these wonderful props..! We must have Music… Choir… Candles… Vestments… Stained-glass… Special architecture… Incense… Pulpit oratory… And then, if we have a conspicuous cross on the wall and a ‘Sallman’s Head of Christ’ – believe us, God, that would be so inspiring…! If we can’t have all of these, then, at least, let us have one or two – please God…!”


We do not want to be guilty of sweeping generalizations. There are encouraging signs of what God is doing today, yet any sober and honest observation of the modern scene reveals another, not so subtle dimension. Much of present day self-seeking Evangelicalism has espoused this pagan philosophy of access-to-God-through-‘Acts-and-Objects’ – and turned it into ‘Christian’ theology. Sprung from man’s devious heart, it is found in all of the complacent west and in churches throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.

       The Biblical perspective

Cain’s worship was rejected, Abel’s was accepted. All the teaching we need on worship is right there. There can hardly be any doubt that Adam and Eve must have taught their boys the lessons they had had to learn so painfully themselves. Nor is there any reason to doubt that Adam and Eve had thoroughly repented of their sin in the first place, trusting in God’s redemption. The fact that He clothed them in animal skins must have spoken volumes. To cover them, the blood of another living being had to be shed – the first death ever. It was God giving them a picture of the great redemption brought about by the blood of the Lamb which was to be shed on Calvary. In their presence also He had told Satan that his head would be crushed by the seed of that woman!

But neither at that time, nor at any time since, has the conversion of the parents had the ‘automatic’ effect of the conversion of the children. Adam and Eve had great hopes for their firstborn. Perhaps they hoped more in the boy himself than in the boy’s Savior. But their hopes were dashed – Cain was going it alone, he needed no ‘bloody sacrifice’. He’d worship alright, but on his own terms…

‘Cain and his worship’ – how uncannily they express what through the millenniums has been men’s worship, the worship of Man’s Soul! The offering to God of all that is considered “best” – be it on the level of emotions and sentiment, of wisdom and learning, of skills and ability, of senses and sensibilities, or of devotion and dedication. It is the “I” level of worship, the “we” level – we will, we can, we have, we know, we offer, etc. It is as old as Cain and as modern as the typical 21st century church. Have another look at what was quoted before:

       “Worship and Arts Ministry. At OP Christian Church, music and the arts is focused on one thing! It’s all about Him! We strive to offer God our best and all we do is for and about Him… Drama can play an important role in reinforcing the worship experience. We are always looking for those with theatrical skills and a desire to use their giftedness to become a part of our drama team… We currently utilize media/video technicians and sound men in each of our worship services.”

It is useful to remember that Cain’s direct descendant, still in the very same chapter of Genesis 4, Jubal, was the musician father of much that today is deemed ‘indispensable’ for the proper worship of God. It is true that music and the skills to produce it are wonderful gifts from God to man. But as soon as music, or any other ‘thing’, is thought of as fit to offer in worship, or as part of worship, we are reaching for our ‘golden calf’.

The gold that calf was made of was a wonderful gift from God, the incredible talents that shaped the calf, right there in the desert, were also God given, but neither the one nor the other could substitute for, or supplement, the true and spiritual worship of Yahweh. That admirable golden calf had to be pulverized before there could be a question of returning to true worship.

Cain’s worship is rejected by God – completely. He knew it and he didn’t like it. Cain’s keen perception puts us to shame. So many centuries of traditions have dulled our perceptions of what God is really after and of what simply cannot be offered to him. We just carry on – easily, and ‘blissfully’ unaware.

But God hasn’t changed, He still rejects Man’s products – the products of his hands and of his soul. They are sin-stained and worm-eaten, the filthy rags of our own achievements (Is. 64:6). “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands…” (Acts 17:24-25). No wonder Paul in Philippians 3, with brutal honesty, calls the very best of his whole life “rubbish” or “garbage”. It was what he had always been offering to God.

       What Jesus said of Israel, He must say of much of Christianity: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Mr. 7:6-7).

Religious, worshipful Saul of Tarsus was brought to his knees – at last – on the road to Damascus. For the first time ever he truly worshiped, rejecting all the Cain clutter. For the first time he truly saw himself, and he saw the Lamb slain for him. By faith he offered worship like Abel.

His turnaround was nothing like that of the earlier Saul. On two separate occasions David, in effect, called out to King Saul: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And it seemed that King Saul came to his senses, but then he carried on again just like he had before. On the Damascus road it is the Son of David calling out to the son of Saul, and this Saul not only comes to his senses, he is brought to the end of himself, he is utterly broken. That, only that, constitutes the ground for acceptable worship!

And so, writing in Philippians 3 about his new life, against the backdrop of the old, he characterizes the new by “worship”. Not by the old, the ‘soulish’ or ‘fleshly’ worship – the Christian’s life is characterized by “spiritual” worship: “we.., who worship God in the spirit,rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh..!”

There was no need to remind his dear friends in Philippi of the horrible circumstances of that inner jail in which he and Silas had been thrown. How could they forget when one of their number was the very jailer who, with his whole family, was converted and baptized that same night (Acts 16)? But what they would remember, above all, was the apostles’ simple and joyful worship, offered to God in the most desperate circumstances imaginable, from that dark, dark night in the inner jail – it would still be ringing in many ears.

The one now writing to them about “spiritual worship” – the absolute opposite to “soulish, or fleshly worship” – was writing to them from another jail..! This time a Roman jail. And there also the “Abel worship” wins the day, even if hemmed in on all sides by the “Cain worship” of the world’s capital. “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hb. 11:4).

For Paul, or for any other Christian, nothing else can be contemplated. The voice from heaven said it all: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). Worship that is anything less than total surrender to HIM is not Christian worship and it is not to God’s pleasing, even if ‘conditioned’ by the most splendid and sacrificial of gifts. It is rejected! “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Pr. 15:8).

Joshua in his day was surrounded by weakness, indifference and indecision, but his voice sounded loud and clear. May it be a clarion call for us today:

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” (Jos. 24:15).

       The bottom line

What really is the content of worship, of spiritual worship, here and now in this present world? Isn’t it simply what the Savior taught his disciples – to seek first the Kingdom of God? True worship is true submission to that King! In other words, what He is waiting to hear, not so much from human mouths, as from the depths of our being is: Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.

Your will be done. (Mt. 6:9-10, 33). It is total commitment to HIM.
Regarding a future day, John, in that great worship chapter of Revelation 5, sees a Throne and in the midst of it “a Lamb as though it had been slain”. He describes the worship, offered by the countless millions of adoring hearts who surround that Throne. There’s nothing artificial, nothing lacking, nothing unworthy, nothing jarring. And it is fully in tune with the heart of God:

“You are worthy..;

for YOU were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God..!”


While that describes a future day, today’s invitation stands:

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name,
I am there in the midst of them”
 

(Mt. 18:20).
Have you been in the presence of the King today, have you worshiped HIM?!

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