Do We Really Worship?

March 23, 2013

Acts 17:24-28
24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. (KJV)

What does it mean to worship God? I suspect that if we asked a dozen people we would get a dozen or more answers. We talk about worship services, songs of worship, prayers of worship, etc. Are all these things worship or ancillary parts of worship. In some cases, they may well be hindrances to worship.
Just look at what defines a worship service. To some groups, there must be reading of creeds. Some read elegant archaic prayers while others would cringe at anything but a “spontaneous” prayer. Certain songs must be sung and the service must follow a certain pattern. Even the low-church services have a pattern or form whether we call them liturgical or not. We must worship in a building that is huge and ornate or in a living room to be biblical.
Some churches expect raucous amens while others demand silence and would look askance at anyone that would even whisper amen. Some demand manifestations of the Spirit or spiritual gifts while others would flee in fear should the Spirit choose to manifest Himself, which would really be a manifestation of Christ since the Spirit does not speak of Himself (John 16:13).
Church music ranges from Gregorian chants to rap while some insist that no music is acceptable or it must be without instruments. Cleric attire runs from priestly robes to casual wear. Congregations dress for success or come as they are. In one church that was considering me as a pastor, folks came in sandals, shorts, and halters.
The one thing in common with all these expressions of “worship” is that they are external. Many come from the doctrines of men versus biblical outline. Some are legalistic and some near hedonistic. All are sincere attempts at worship. To man, who looks on the outside, they are worship.
God may see them a little differently. If you remember the study on Isa 1, we saw the Hebrews performing all the fasts and observances according to the outline given to them by God yet God called them iniquity (Isa. 1:13). Not because they were technically incorrect, but because it was all ritual and external. Their hearts were far from Him even as their mouth was honoring Him (Isa 29:13). They had a great worship service goin’ on with no worship really happening!
I am afraid we are no different than them. We can do everything right according to our tradition or conviction, but we are just making a lot of noise or performing a lot of activity that brings God near to nausea and make Him weary (Isa 1:13,14).
Let us look at the Hebrew and Greek words for worship. Here we will see what it really involves.

7812 shachah (shaw-khaw’); a primitive root; to depress, i.e. prostrate (especially reflexive, in homage to royalty or God): KJV– bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship.

4352 proskuneo (pros-koo-neh’-o); from 4314 and a probable derivative of 2965 (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): KJV– worship.

Do you see anything suggesting buildings, music, attire, and all the stuff we link to worship? As the passage in Acts says, He is not worshipped with man’s hands and He needs nothing from us. Since the beginning, we have tried to find Him and feel Him though we live in His presence as we do in oxygen. He is in us and around us and yet we feel around for Him like a contact lost on a beach.
We want to lock Him up in a certain style of building and yet He has no bounds of habitation as we do. We want to make Him conform to our image when we were made in His and are saved to ultimately conform to the image of His Son.
Worship is not what we do or where and how we do it. Worship occurs when we bow before Him and in our heart of hearts know Him as He is and ourselves as we are. I forget who said it, but one preacher said, “The truth about God is the truth about man and the truth about man is the truth about God.” I had to chew on that quite a while when I first heard it. The point is that God and man are so inexorably connected and yet separate that if you err on the essence of one you will err on the essence of the other. Hence, the reason we have the many cults that have truth about God and man so mixed up.
Tozer said of his God, “O Lord God Almighty, not the God of the philosophers and the wise but the God of the prophets and apostles; and better than all, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may I express Thee unblamed? ” They that know Thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art, and so worship not Thee but a creature of their own fancy; therefore enlighten our minds that we may know Thee as Thou art, so that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise Thee.” (Tozer, A.W.; “The Knowledge Of The Holy”; Lincoln, NE: Back to the Bible, 1961, p 7)
When we finally learn to bow in humility before our Creator and strip away all our false notions, pride, excuses, and material affections we can start to worship. The modern word worship comes from the Old English word worthyship. We find ourselves far too worthy of attention and praise and do not find God worthy enough.
Americans are especially guilty of this. We have our pride in our freedom, inventions, and material wealth. We expect the world to love us. In reality, many nations hate us. Some use us for what they want, but few truly respect us. Having seen Americans in action overseas, I have no problem understanding why other folks dislike us. We are pompous, arrogant, demanding reverence as if we were royalty or even deity.
If we are like that to our fellow man how can we humble ourselves before God? After all, we are Americans. We are a Christian nation. God is on our side so we must be His chosen people. We need to rethink all that and quickly.  We say that we are sinners saved by grace and yet we are so quick to judge others who are guilty of our former sins. Maybe I should say the ones that still so easily beset us. We are ungrateful. We are whiners. We are disobedient and unrepentant. We say we are glad we are saved because we believe that there is a Hell, but we do not go out of our way to prevent anyone else from going to Hell.  With all that do we really understand who He is and who we are? Can we possibly worship Him in spirit and in truth?

John 4:24,”God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

“What does it mean that we are to worship Him in spirit? Might we find in this verse, there is lesser value to outward manifestations of worship than inward worship? The clapping, the hand waving, the swaying may be worship to some, however the spirit is the center of worship, not the body. We need to bring our souls to the Lord rather than attempting to get His attention with our bodies. Does this maybe relate to the Old Testament texts that speak of rent hearts not rent clothes (Joel 2:12,13)? I’d say so -inward worship not outward. Idolatry is outward. He wants inward change, not outward change. This also relates to worship in our day. He wants worship within, not outward manifestations or antics of the body.” – Stanley L. Derickson

Yes, the inward worship is what He desires and it is the hardest to give Him. Humans are so adept at the outward. We will risk our lives, give all our wealth, climb the highest mountain, swim the widest river, and build the greatest temples and cathedrals. These are easy because they are external and do not require us to examine or change our hearts. We will give God everything we have as long as we can keep ourselves. God requires us to give ourselves.

Matt 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (KJV)

God wants us. Our trinkets and our righteousness are paltry baubles. He wants the very best. He wants our hearts, minds, and souls. That is the first commandment. He wants us to give Him what we treasure most of all – our lives. Did not the devil say that Job would give it all up, as long as he could save his own skin? For most that is true, but Job was no paid lover.
He was not perfect, but He had given his life to God. Many who claim to love God cannot even be consistent or persistent in the external or earthly things. How they can they be taught heavenly things or aspire to really worship? It marvels me since mankind is good at the externals that those who call themselves Christians have such a hard time with them. Church attendance is the easiest thing to do and yet many church members seldom see the doors or find more ways to have fewer services. If these really are worship services then I guess we do not need to worship God as much as the early church whom met daily.
He wants us to worship Him all day every day and not just the couple of hours a week we spend in a building or a group. Since true worship is in the heart and is a giving of ourselves to Him, this is possible. That is why there is no such thing as a line between the sacred and the secular. Living our lives in an attitude of worship is totally sacred.
As we learn to make Him Lord as well as Saviour and humble ourselves before Him we will experience worship as we have never known before. It will be richer and sweeter and will bring His power into our lives. We must start as individual worshipers before our corporate worship will have any real meaning or power. When the individuals learn to worship then each burning coal added to the group will make the flame hotter and brighter. This will ignite the world. Our creeds and buildings will one day add to the bonfire that will occur after the millennium, but the torch of true worship will burn for eternity. Give yourself to Him and learn to worship.


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