Are We True Worshippers?

Are We True Worshippers?

Worship has been defined as ‘the acknowledgement by believers of the worth-ship of God with every part of their being’ (DEREK PRIME). W.E. VINE expands on this in his Expository Dictionary, as follows: ‘the direct acknowledgement to God of His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deed done in such acknowledgement’. The words translated ‘worship’ in both Testaments certainly suggest these definitions. In the Old Testament one word used for ‘worship’ means ‘to bow oneself down to someone’ in reverence and awe, while another word often so used has the primary sense of ‘to serve’, and is so translated in many contexts. Likewise in the New Testament, one word translated ‘worship’ means ‘to make obeisance to, do reverence to’ (literally, ‘to kiss towards’), while three others mean ‘to revere’ with awe or devotion, or ‘to act piously towards’, and a fifth word means ‘to serve, to render religious service or homage’ to God. All this indicates that there is both a devotional side and also an intensely practical side to the true worship of God, and that these twin aspects of worship cannot rightly be separated from each other. Devotion and duty are thus married together in worshipping God.

The Father’s Desire for Worship

It was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, God manifest in the flesh, who said to a poor sinful Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel chapter 4 that ‘the Father seeketh such’, that is, worshippers in spirit and in truth, ‘to worship Him’. The poor woman had sought satisfaction in five broken relationships and another not formally made, and had failed to find it. Through the Saviour’s grace she found it in acknowledging Him to be the Saviour of the world, and her Saviour in particular. He alone gave her the living water which sprang up within her to give her eternal life and true and pure satisfaction in the worship of Himself, the Eternal Son of the Father. There is a God-shaped gap in every human heart which can only be filled by acknowledging Him and living wholeheartedly for His glory. But this verse actually states that God the Father likewise desires, although ultimately He does not need in the same way as we do, the sweet fellowship given Him by His creature man when he worships Him. Why else did He walk with Adam in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day before the serpent tempted him to aspire to be like God and he fell into sin? And after the Fall, whenever God smelled the sweet savour offerings of His people, He was pleased and satisfied, because they spoke of His Son, who was to restore some of His creatures to close fellowship with Himself through His one vicarious and efficacious sacrifice for all time on Calvary’s cross. The eternal God is not vain or selfish in wanting acknowledgement of all He is and has done, as we would be in wanting this. No, He is transcendent God and righteous to demand recognition as such. But He does so desire to have our eternal companionship in His heaven that in self-sacrificial love to us, His unlovely creatures, He gave His Well-beloved Son, the darling of His bosom, to die for us on the cross and thus restore His relationship with us. For our worship of God is inseparably linked with fellowship with Him. God wants above all things to share His eternal life and fellowship within the Godhead with some of His creatures; see John 17.3. That is why the Father seeks worshippers. Old Testament Worship of God This was marked by very restricted access to God and by a very partial and incomplete revelation of His Person and character. Throughout Old Testament times God was preparing men for the coming into the world of His Son, who is His full and final self-revelation and means of access into His Presence. No-one could approach God except on the basis of the shed blood of an appointed animal sacrifice, which foreshadowed the later sacrifice of Christ on Calvary’s cross. This alone answered the demands of God’s holiness against man’s sin. The tabernacle system restricted access to God to a family of imperfect human priests, who acted on behalf of the remainder of God’s people Israel. Gentile sinners only had the witness of creation and conscience to guide their knowledge of God; otherwise, they were complete strangers to any close relationship with Him. The tabernacle vessels and structure, and the priestly garments and rituals, all spoke of Christ and the way of salvation to be revealed later in Him, but it is doubtful that any of the Old Testament saints ever understood their full import in those days. Yet, despite all these restrictions and this incompleteness, it is true to say that some Old Testament believers did have a quite remarkable appreciation of their God through faith and personal communion with Him alone. Enoch walked with God for three hundred years in close fellowship, became the first prophet to predict the second coming of Christ to judge the world, and was favoured to be raptured to heaven without dying before the Flood came. Job, soon after the Flood, knew that there would be a resurrection and that he would see God then as His Redeemer. Abraham, whom God called from Ur of the Chaldees to become the ancestor of His chosen earthly people Israel, was the friend of God and the father of all believers of all time, the prototype or pattern believer in Scripture. The Lord was with Joseph throughout his ordeals in Egypt before his rise to fame and favour with Pharoah. The Lord spoke to Moses face to face as a friend speaks to a friend, and even listened to his intercessory prayers for His erring people Israel. David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, wrote many poems of worship about His God, so that God said of him that he was a man after His own heart. Many others knew their God well and spoke to one another about Him, appreciating in some real measure His Name and character. Yes, despite all the limitations of those days, some true men and women of faith did acknowledge, appreciate, and worship their God with a degree of spiritual intelligence. But it was not given to them to enjoy the great privileges which are ours today by God’s sovereign grace. How thankful we should be for this! New Testament Worship of God as Father In the Age of Grace God has fully and finally revealed Himself in the Person of His incarnate Son as Father. Whereas in Old Testament days He had gradually and progressively revealed Himself as the Creator God, the Almighty, the Sovereign LORD Jehovah of Israel, the I AM THAT I AM, and the Lord of Hosts, now we believers today are privileged to know Him in the much closer relationship of ‘Abba, Father’, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By adoption and new birth we are His adult sons and heirs of God in Christ. By His sacrificial death Christ has for the first time opened for us the way through the veil that barred man from God’s Presence into the very holiest of all, the heavenly sanctuary itself, and all believers are encouraged to come and worship in the immediate Presence of God in spirit and in truth, rather than in any earthly, imperfect sanctuary such as the tabernacle or the temple. Worship is not confined to any particular place, nor aided by any elaborate rituals, but can be offered anywhere in the fragrant Name of Jesus Christ, who, as our Great High Priest, makes it acceptable to God. Whoever truly and sincerely appreciates God and Christ in all the wonder of their Being and Works as revealed in the Scriptures may express their worship in words and deeds which are prompted by God’s Holy Spirit, who since the Day of Pentecost, when the Church was formed, indwells all true believers permanently. It is therefore not surprising to find that the prayers contained in the Church and general epistles of the New Testament and in the Book of Revelation reveal a somewhat deeper spiritual intelligence concerning God’s Person and ways than many of those found in the Old Testament. Believers today are living in the full light of God’s complete revelation in His Son. We are therefore not simply more privileged in our exercise of worship, but also more responsible to approach God our Father in a becomingly worthy and spiritually intelligent manner. Christ the Primary Focus of Worship Today Although we should worship all three Persons of the Godhead equally, there is a good reason why the primary focus for our worship is usually concentrated on Christ, God the Son incarnate. This is because Christ revealed the Father to us in His earthly life and ministry, as He Himself said to the apostle Philip: ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father’, John 14. 9. Also, John in the Prologue to his Gospel calls Christ the Word, who is the full revelation of the Mind, Person, Character, and glory of God the Father. John chapter 1 verse 18 actually states that, ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him’. The word ‘declared’ here means to expound or explain. God has made Himself intelligible, understandable, and accessible to us men in the Person of His unique Son made man. So that all Christ’s words, actions, reactions, and desires as recorded in the four complementary Gospel records reveal clearly to us what God is like. Otherwise we could never have understood or come to know Him fully. Furthermore, Christ’s self-sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross reveals that God is both Light, absolutely holy and demanding that sin be punished, and Love, in that He gave Himself to save us and make us His own children. As Joseph Conder’s hymn says, in the One who is the Everlasting Word ‘the heart of God’ is ‘revealed’. The Old Testament Scriptures all speak of Christ who was to come and save His people from their sins. There are many typical foreshadowings of Christ and His sacrifice in the Levitical offerings. All their minute details, if studied in the light of the fulfilment at Calvary, interpret for us various important aspects of the sacrifice of Christ and its value for us today. Historical events in Israel’s history likewise anticipate Christ and His Work on the cross. All prophecy finds its meaning and centre in the fact that it witnesses to Christ, as Revelation 19 verse 10 states. Today, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day, we do this in remembrance of Him who died for us. It is therefore appropriate that on these occasions we should take time to meditate and worship centring our thoughts around Christ and the cross. He is the focal point of the gathering, and also leads our worship to the Father as our Great High Priest. In Hebrews chapter 2 verse 12 He is quoted from Psalm 22 verse 22 as saying prophetically, ‘In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee’. Without Christ we could not worship effectively. With Christ we can appreciate fully all the Persons of the Godhead who have cooperated in procuring our salvation. Worship the Eternal Occupation of Heaven In the Scriptures we are not given many visions or descriptions of what heaven will be like. But a few passages do indicate who will be the centre of heaven’s worship in eternity. It will be Christ, the Son of God, who became the Lamb of God to redeem us by His shed blood from our sins and make us fit to become a kingdom of priests to our God and Father. According to John chapter 12 verses 37-41, Isaiah at his call to prophesy saw the glory of Christ in his vision of the heavenly temple recorded in Isaiah chapter 6. There the seraphim surrounding His throne continually cried, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory’, and that was before His incarnation. Revelation chapter 5 anticipates a yet future day after the rapture of the Church, when Christ is pronounced to be the only truly worthy One to open the seals of God’s judgement scroll and reclaim the earth for God. He is worthy to judge because He first died to redeem. But here we must note that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross also qualified Him to receive the worship of all creation, angelic and human. The twenty-four elders, who probably represent the Church in heaven, fall down before Him and sing the new song of worship to the Lamb, who is seen still as freshly-slain in the midst of the throne of God. Calvary is still an ever-present reality to the mind and heart of God. The Christ of the cross will never be forgotten, even though He now lives again in the power of an endless life. His self-sacrifice merits eternal worship from all creation, and ourselves in particular. This worship will be expressed both in service and in singing, which a redeemed people always delight to engage in. Yes, heaven is a wonderful, joyful place full of our Saviour’s praises. And, by God’s grace, we shall be some of those who will, ‘swell the song of worship through the everlasting years!’ The Full Implications of True Worship But, for the present, we must return to earth and consider seriously the full implications of worship, in order to assess whether, or not, we really can be described as true and genuine worshippers of our heavenly Father. For the New Testament clearly indicates that worship involves our whole lives and beings. Paul in Romans chapter 12 verse 1 exhorts believers, in view of the mercies of God towards them, to present their bodies as ‘a living sacrifice’ to Him, and says that this is our ‘reasonable service’, or ‘spiritual worship’ (RV margin and ESV), which the word latreia can mean. As believer priests we are to place ourselves on the altar of sacrifice to please God in whatever form of service He chooses for us. Also, Hebrews chapter 13 speaks of two further kinds of sacrificial worship, namely, doing good and sharing our possessions with others in need, and offering the sacrifice of praise to God continually, both privately and publicly in the assembly. Finally, Paul in Philippians chapter 4 verse 18 speaks of a financial gift sent to him by the church at Philippi as ‘an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God’. Yes, true, consistent worship is very demanding of all our energies, abilities, resources, possessions, and time that God has first entrusted to us as the stewards of His manifold grace to use for His glory, not ourselves. In reality, we can only give back to Him what He has first given to us. We need to ask ourselves, therefore, whether we have given Him our all and our very best. Only this is acceptable to Him, the Giver of all grace to us, as our true worship to Him for His glory alone. So, no, true worship does not simply consist in using the ‘right’ words in prayer on a Lord’s Day morning at the remembrance supper, as we may be inclined to think. Rather, it is the overflow of a whole life consecrated to God and poured out continually in ways that please Him and help others around us. Let us, therefore, close this meditation on true worship with the words of Frances Ridley Havergal’s well-known hymn, as follows:- ‘Take my life, and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in ceaseless praise. ‘Take my hands, and let them move At the impulse of Thy love; Take my feet, and let them be Swift and beautiful for Thee. ‘Take my voice, and let me sing Always, only, for my King; Take my lips, and let them be Filled with messages from Thee. Take my silver and my gold, Not a mite would I withhold; Take my intellect, and use Every power as Thou shalt choose. Take my will, and make it Thine, It shall be no longer mine; Take my heart- it is Thine own, It shall be Thy royal throne. Take my love; my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its treasure-store: Take myself, and I will be Ever, only, all for Thee.’

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Crawford Paul

Crawford has been alive for 39 years. He lives in Welland ON and fellowships at Thorold South Gospel Chapel.