If man was dropped on a deserted island somewhere and taught to survive. Ultimately, when he reached a certain age, he would desire to worship. He would desire to give honor to something or someone other than himself and failing that he would worship himself because man must worship just like, man must breathe and man must eat and man has the urge to survive. Man also has a God-given need to worship.
Today, we're going examine this question of worship and we're going to try to determine what it is that God requires of us in worship, because we've come here this morning to do what? To worship. We've taken buses and we've come from out of town. And we've made preparations. We've organized children to be taken care of and so on and so forth in order to worship God. I believe therefore it is apropos to examine the question: what is it that God wants from us? What will God, accept from us in the form of worship?
I suppose the best place to begin would be with the word worship. What is worship? Well in the old Testament, the Hebrew word, because the old Testament was written in the Hebraic language. The old Testament word for worship meant simply to prostrate oneself, to just face down on the floor to prostrate oneself as a sign of homage. As a matter of fact, the high priest in the Old Testament, when he would go into the Holy of Holies at times would prostrate himself face downwards as a sign of reverence to God. And so the word in the Old Testament meant actually to prostrate oneself.
In the New Testament, the word from the Greek translated into the English worship was the word that meant to kiss forward, to send a kiss forward. And the element of love was added. The idea of love, not only respect but love to give a kiss and to offer it forward.
And therefore, when we talk about worship in our study this morning, we see that worship are those actions and those activities that demonstrate respect and reverence and love towards someone greater than ourselves. And so when we are worshiping, when we come to church to worship, or rather should I say, when we gather as the church to worship, the thing that we are doing is we are going through a series of activities that demonstrate our love and our reverence and the honor that we want to give to someone who is greater than ourselves. That's what worship is all about.
Who Should we Worship?
Well, then the question comes up who then should be worshiped, who should we worship? Who is the one that should be worshiped?
1Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3"You shall have no other gods before Me.
- Exodus 20:1-3
We know that as being the First Commandment in a series of 10 ordinances. But in this passage, we see that the one who is to be worshiped is God. Now someone says, boy, I didn't need to come to church this morning to find out that the one that I've got to worship as God, I know that already. But you know, there are a lot of gods. There are a lot of deities. There are a lot of people who claim that this one has God and this one is God, this one is God. And a lot of people say, well I worship God. I send up my worship to God. The question we need to ask ourselves is, is the focus of our worship the true guy. How do we know?
Well, the Bible tells us that the true God is the one that entity, that being who created heaven and earth, that entity and being who chose Abraham and through Abraham created a people and from that people brought Jesus Christ to earth. The God who did these things, this is the God to whom worship is due. Not that being who some claim sent a Buddha to earth, not that being, that some who claimed sent Mohammad to earth, not that being through whom a variety of spiritual powers is attributed to in various countries in this world, because a lot of people say, God, I worship God. The God to whom worship is due is the God of creation. The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Jesus. That's the God to whom worship is due. That is the God who speaks to is here. That is the God to whom we offer our songs. And that is the God that we have gathered here to worship today.
I know this is almost a self-evident fact but I wanted to make clear the idea that there is only one God, and there is a very specific God to whom honor and worship is due.
How to Worship God?
Well, the next question to answer is how is God to be worshiped? Because there are a lot of people in the world that claim belief in God, the father of Jesus Christ. This, I believe in God, the father of Jesus Christ. I worship him too. And the question is how do you worship him? Do you worship him in the way that he has ordained?
You see the Bible, which is God's word, tells us how God wants us to worship Him.
And a good example of this is found in Exodus 32. If you opened your Bible there, I want to read to you just a brief story. Again, one that you're very familiar with, but one that demonstrates the danger of worshiping the true God the wrong way.
You could have the wrong God or you could have the right God and worship him the wrong way. You've got to offer worship to God almighty, the father of Jesus Christ. And in addition to that, you've got to worship him in the way that he ordained and this story shows how sincere worship can still be condemned in Exodus 32.
The Golden Calf
1Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." 2Aaron said to them, "Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." 3Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt." 5Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord." 6So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
7Then the Lord spoke to Moses, "Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!'" 9The Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 10Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation."
- Exodus 31:1-10
It's kind of a scary story. Moses goes up on the mountain and the people get kind of fidgety. They said, Hey this fellow has been gone 40 days. We're tired of waiting for him. We want to worship. We want to worship God. You, Aaron, the priest, you make us a God. And so Aaron goes not by the word of the Lord, but he goes by the consensus of the people. How many times have I told you? The kingdom of God is not a democracy. It is a kingdom. And so Aaron frightened goes by the consensus of the people. They want a God. So he makes them a God. He makes them a Molton Calf and an altar and they burn incense. Well, in the 20th century, when we see that we say, boy what a bunch of pagans. But you know in that time and era, a calf represented what was best in society. It wasn't a sign of disrespect to God. It was what was best. I mean, they took their gold in their rings and their money. They had a big, special collection, have a special collection to fix the roof. They had a huge special collection and they built this magnificent symbol of religion because the calf in those days represented fertility and all that was best. And they burned incest the incense, and they had a wonderful worship service to worship God. These people thought they were doing a good thing. They thought they were worshiping God, they needed to worship, but they didn't worship God. According to the way that God had said.
And did you hear what God said to Moses? You better get back down there and straighten them out. These people are obstinate, hardheaded, rebellious, evil. And did you hear what God said to Moses? He says, step aside, because Moses was there between the people and God has said, you step aside, I am going to destroy them. And I will make out of you Moses, a new nation.
Do you realize what God was about to do? He was about to wipe out a nation that took him 600 years to create. And he was going to start all over again with Moses. God didn't care to spend another millennium, to create another nation through whom Christ would come. And why? Have they come in Adultery? Had they committed fornication? Had they murdered? No. They had decided to worship him in the way that they had chosen and not in the way that he had prescribed.
Is it serious to worship God in the incorrect way?
You better believe it's serious. In the new Testament, someone will say, well that's the Old Testament. Sure. We're not under the Old Testament. Of course not. We're under the New Testament. We're under the teachings of Jesus Christ, but God is the same God. He is the God who was there yesterday and today and tomorrow. And the God who requires the same things of us. Do you think, just because we're in the New Testament, we're no longer required to obey God? Do you think just because we're in the New Testament, we're no longer required to worship God according to His commands? Sure, sure. We are.
What is Acceptable Worship?
The next part of my lesson deals with what the New Testament teaches us concerning acceptable worship. What does Jesus teach us? What do the apostles teach us concerning worship in the New Testament worship? Well, if you read the New Testament, if you go over it and over and over it several times looking for activities that offer worship and honor to God prescribed by Jesus Christ and by the apostles, you know what? You're going to find only five things. You're not gonna find six and you're not gonna find eight or nine. You will find only five things in the New Testament that are either written or commanded or an example given of that is a kind of activity that God will accept as worship.
1. Share the Lord
When we gather to worship God, one thing we can do that He accepts is to share the Lord
And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
- Luke 22:19
And from this time until the very end of the world, disciples of Jesus Christ can gather together and share the bread and share the fruit of the vine. Knowing not only that they are obeying Jesus Christ, but through this activity are offering worship that is acceptable to God.
If you want to do something that pleases God when you gather together, share communion and remember His Son.
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
- Acts 2:42
Peter is preaching the very first sermon on Pentecost Sunday and 3000 people are baptized and the apostles organized the church in Jerusalem and what's the first thing that the apostles teach these new disciples? It says they continually devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the breaking of bread. The very first thing in the "new Christians class" in Jerusalem, that the apostles taught the new disciples was that they were to share the Lord's supper as a form of worship to God.
God accepts that Jesus always prayed and He taught his disciples to do so.
"Pray, then, in this way:
'Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
- Matthew 6:9
Jesus taught his disciples to pray. In Acts 2:42 that we just read when the apostles were teaching these new disciples, what was it that they taught? "to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
God accepts prayer as a form of activity as worship. We can pray in confidence. Prayer to God in Jesus' name is also acceptable and also an integral part of worship.
3. Preaching and Teaching
19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
- Matthew 28:19-20
The teaching and the preaching of all the things that Jesus taught is part of acceptable worship. In II Timothy Paul is teaching a young evangelist about church work and he says to him,
1I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
- II Timothy 4:1-2
Exhortation, correction, teaching and preaching are all part of acceptable activity. When we gather together to worship God, we can not get together to worship and have a dance. Why not? Or we could say free beer and pretzels. There would be a lot of people who would come to church if we offered these. But you see, when we say the word worship, that means something special to God. It means communion. It means prayer. It means the teaching and the preaching of the words of Jesus Christ.
4. Singing / Praising
The offering of praise to God in the name of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 5, Paul is teaching the church at Ephesus what body life is all about, what they're supposed to be doing when they gathered together.
15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
- Ephesians 5:15-19
So not just any kind of songs, not rock and roll, folk, new wave or punk, the singing of spiritual songs.
I remember when I first became a Christian, having been used to worldly music for most of my life, it was very hard for me to get used to the hymns. I wished that they had just a little more to them.
The thing that spiritual songs and hymns have in common is that they give honor to God. Not that they give us some sort of visceral or emotional pleasure, but that they give honor to God. They can be fast. They can be slow. They can be three-quarter time. They can be six to eight. They can be whatever. But the key is that they give honor to God.
Another thing too if you notice that we don't have any instruments or guitars or a band. Some people say you should have a band because you would have a lot more people here. We don't have a band because the Bible teaches us to sing. It teaches us to sing, to make melody in our hearts. The Greek word actually says to sing without the accompaniment of an instrument. As a matter of fact, the early churches in the first century, the apostolic churches, those churches were known because of the fact that they sang all the other religions in the first century used instruments, tambourines, and flutes, and all kinds of things. All of them, even the Jewish ones. Although by the time of the New Testament, even the Jewish religion did not use those things.
The early church was known as the a capella church. They were known as that group of people who sing. And some people say, I wonder why they were like that. They knew how to use instruments, so why sing? Because the apostles taught them to sing. That's why. And they obeyed. And two thousand years later, Ephesians tells us to sing. And so we sing and make melody in our hearts with spiritual songs and Psalms. Singing joyful songs is an acceptable form of worship given to us by God.
When we gather together, we give. We give for the work of the Lord.
On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.
- I Corinthians 16:2
They were making a special collection for the poor in Jerusalem and it was their habit that on the first day of every week, they would set aside a certain amount for the collection of the saints. The apostles taught that giving on a regular basis was part of worship.
Not to give is like not to sing. Could you imagine coming to church today and there'd be no singing? We got up and did an opening prayer, then Leonard got up and he did the communion and then I got up to preach and we had a closing prayer and we went home. What would you say? What would you think? Or if I said we're in a bit of a hurry and I've got a long lesson, why don't we just skip over the Lord's supper today? We'll do it twice next Sunday. It's not complete. Or what if I said, I've been busy this weekend painting in the office let's just skip the sermon. I'll give you a break from one of my sermons. It's not complete. We haven't heard the word. It's not complete. It's not a pay week. Next week is pay week so let's just skip the offering. It's not complete.
Giving is part of worship.
Long before there was communion and long before there was singing and long before there was any type of ceremonial worship there was giving you go all the way back to Genesis and what was the very first problem? The very first problem involved a problem in giving. Cain and Abel and an improper spirit in giving.
So giving to the Lord has always been part of worship and the apostles gave instructions concerning giving.
What Does the Bible Say About Giving?
I've given you one or two points about giving. You've probably gotten a lot of teaching about communion and singing and things like that, but I wonder if we get a lot of teaching about giving, what does the Bible teach us about this area of worship?
1. Giving is not a show
1"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
- Matthew 6:1-4
The first rule in giving is that it's not a show. The hypocrites here, the Pharisees, they actually did that. When they were on the way to the temple to give they would actually have someone sounding a trumpet to clear the streets of the market to let everybody know that they were about to go give their offering and people would go, wow.
Jesus says, when you give, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. That's almost an exaggeration. It's impossible for your left hand to not to know what your right hand is doing. What he's saying is discretion. If you could actually let your left hand do something that your right hand is doing, do it with discretion.
Because when you give, you're not looking to be rewarded by the church. No, your reward is from God.
2. Giving should be willing
11But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 12For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.
- II Corinthians 8:11-12
Paul says the Corinthian church had begun a special collection to help out and it was their idea. But now they're kind of slowing down. So Paul is kind of reminding them of their original commitment. The point he's making here is there's got to be a willingness to give.
I hate preaching sermons on giving. I really don't like preaching now because that means the church has gotten to a point where I've got to almost beg it to do what it's supposed to do. There needs to be a willingness to give
Needs to be an enthusiasm to give when they were building the tabernacle in the Old Testament, out in the desert. There's a wonderful passage there that where Moses says to the people, bring in your gold and bring in your stuff we're going to build a tabernacle and everybody was really enthusiastic. And there's a passage there where Aaron says to Moses to tell the people to stop. We got too much gold. We got too much money. He says, we have more than enough to complete the tabernacle. That's the kind of spirit that God is looking for.
- More than enough to do the job
- More than enough to finish the work
- More than enough to preach the gospel
- More than enough to help the poor
- More than enough to do what God wants us to do
What makes our gift acceptable is our willingness to give, it is not the amount that we give.
3. Give a lot
6Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
- II Corinthians 9
I'm glad that this is a very biblical principle because I wouldn't want anybody to accuse me of always talking about money. I very rarely talk about money. Give a lot because God loves a cheerful giver.
When you give, the proportion by which you give, is the proportion that the door of blessing opens up on your own life. When you're stingy with God, a lot of times you cut off the opportunity for your own blessings. Some people unfortunately dismissed the generosity of others in order to cover up their own grief. They say things like "Oh, that's easy for him because he makes a lot of money" or "there are two salaries in their house," or "he's single and got a lot of time," or "they're married and they've got nothing to do so they, they can serve the Lord." When we think it's always easier for somebody else we're just covering over our own selfish and greed because we despise the generosity of others.
We should rejoice at the generosity of others. It should be something that encourages us.
Do you know how God judges your giving? He doesn't judge it by the amount that you've given. He judges it by the sacrifice that it took for you to give what you gave because you see in the church, not everyone can give the same amount, but everyone is expected to make the same sacrifice.
God judges your worship. He judges your prayers. He judges your heart when you take communion. He judges your singing. He judges your teaching and He judges your offering. The way He judges your offering is that He measures the sacrifice that it takes for you to give what you give.
Our worship is an offering of respect and praise and love to God. When we want to present these things to the Lord, we do it through a series of spiritual activities called worship. In order to be acceptable to God and satisfying to us, the spiritual activities that we do must be in accordance to God's word. According to the Bible, the New Testament portion of the Bible, there are five activities that Christians can do when they gather together in order to acceptably worship God:
- Remember Jesus by sharing communion.
- Pray to God in Jesus's name
- Sing songs in the love of Jesus
- Preach and teach Jesus's words
- Give generously and enthusiastically to spread the good news and to care for the needs of the brother.
In I Corinthians 14:40, Paul tells us that all of these things that we do should be done in a manner that is decent and orderly and sober.
I hope that you've learned that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways of worshiping God. If you've been involved in an unacceptable way of worshiping God in any one of these areas, or if you've had a bad attitude in worshiping God, then you need to correct or abandon these things. You need to do that. God will condemn worship that is not authorized by His word and not done in a proper spirit.
I hope that you've learned that when you do pray and when you do communion and when you do praise and learn the word and give in Jesus' name, I hope that you've learned that when you do these things, according to God's word, you're doing the right thing. You're doing a thing that makes God smile. You can walk out of church feeling good. It's okay to feel good and satisfied and lifted up and edified because you have pleased God, you have offered Him acceptable worship.
I want to tell you that you should every opportunity to offer God acceptable worship. Whenever the church gathers, I encourage you to come and worship God. If it's a choice between worshiping God and catch or catching up on your wash, come and worship God. God is searching for people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.
I hope that in the years to come a stream of acceptable worship will come forth from this church that will be acceptable to God. And we'll in turn, lift up this church and make it beautiful in the sight of God and acceptable for when Jesus Christ returns to bring us home with Him, where we will worship him forever and ever.
God bless you.