Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It‘s an honor to be worshiping with you today.
Today we are finishing up the series on the GBFC Mission Statement. As a reminder, the Mission Statement is: "Shaped by the gospel, and for God's glory, we are a family of disciple-making worshipers."
Lyndon and Ryan have done an excellent job of preaching on the first four aspects of the Mission Statement: Being shaped by the Gospel, Living for God’s Glory, We are Family, and We are to be a Disciple-making Church. Today we are going to focus on what it means to be True Worshipers of God.
If you reviewed the mission statement, you will see that included with it were short paragraphs which provided some additional clarity on each of the 5 topics in this series. The section on Worshipers says, “Everything we do is to be done in worship, in awe-filled adoration. God has not simply given us a list of duties to fulfill; He's given us new hearts that love Him and desire the things He desires. In our family living, in our disciple-making, and in everything we do, we are worshipers of the living God – the Creator and Sustainer of all, who deserves every ounce of worship we can give. We are prone to idolatry, worshiping created things rather than the Creator. But by God's grace we live as a forgiven people, a changed people, and we strive after pure devotion to our Lord and Savior, the God of all glory. (Ezekiel 11:19-20; Luke 4:8; John 4:23; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Hebrews 12:28-29, 13:15).”
GOD’S HOLINESS, OUR SIN:
When we talk about true worship, what are we saying? In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he says, “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. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:1-2).
Stephen Charnock, who was a Puritan, defined worship like this: “Worship is an act of the understanding, applying itself to the knowledge of the excellency of God, and actual thoughts of His majesty, …It is also an act of the will, whereby the soul adores and reverences His majesty, is ravished with His amiableness, embraces His goodness, enters itself into an intimate communion with this most lovely object and pitches all his affections upon Him.”
Worship focuses our hearts and minds on being consumed with awe-filled adoration for the one true God. We are to be so overwhelmed by God that we adore and reverence Him for who He is because He is holy, sovereign, majestic, powerful, loving, kind, just, good, gracious, merciful, and all infinitely so. I am going to focus on God’s holiness for a moment.
Why focus on God’s holiness? Well, I think it is key for us to understand what absolutely sets the one true God apart from all Creation. Why are we not always consumed with complete awe-filled adoration of our infinitely holy God? I believe it has to do partially with not understanding who God is. He is perfectly and infinitely holy! When we see God as holy, our instant and only reaction should be to immediately acknowledge His perfection in contrast to how unholy we are. Until we understand the holiness of God we can never know the depth of our own sin. We ought to be shaken to the very core of our being when we see ourselves in comparison to Him.
John MacArthur says this about God’s holiness as it relates to worship: “Without such an understanding of God’s holiness, true worship is not possible. Worship is not giddy. It does not rush into God’s presence unprepared and insensitive to His majesty. It is not shallow, superficial, or flippant. Worship is life lived in the presence of an infinitely righteous and omnipresent God by one utterly aware of His holiness and consequently overwhelmed with his own unholiness.”
We may not always have a vision of God like Isaiah had into Heaven where the Lord is seated on His throne and the Seraphim are calling out “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isa. 6:1-7). However, when we do enter into the presence of God, we must see Him as holy. If you have never worshiped God with a broken and a contrite spirit, you have never fully worshiped God, because that is the only appropriate response to entering the presence of God.
There is a lot of supposed worship going on around us that does not genuinely regard God as holy. My earnest concern is that there is too much shallow worship in churches today. Perhaps it is because our relationship with God has become too casual; too comfortable. I hear people refer to God as, “My bud,” “The big man upstairs,” and various other demeaning terms that are feeble attempts to humanize God and seek to minimize our understanding of God’s holy indignation against sin. This lack of respect and reverence is not true worship nor does it resemble the type of worship we see in the Bible.
True worship is to have a vision of God like Isaiah where we are overwhelmed with our sinfulness and consumed with a sense of complete reverence and holy fear. If those people who claim to have seen God really saw Him, they’d be lying prostrate on the ground, grieving over their sin, acknowledging God’s holiness or they would be dead from being in the presence of God. To summarize this section, we must acknowledge God as perfectly and infinitely holy, as well as our imperfect, limited ability to be holy. Certainly all believers are commanded to be holy as He is holy, but it is only possible to seek holiness with the strength of the Holy Spirit thus it is God who is helping us to even seek holiness.
A NEW SPIRIT IS REQUIRED FOR TRUE WORSHIP:
I have just highlighted that worship begins by genuinely understanding and acknowledging our sinfulness and God’s holiness but, there is more. What is required for true worship? Well, we must have a new spirit; we must be born again to truly worship God. God says in Ezekiel 11:19-20, “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.” In order to truly worship, we must have received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and desire to follow Him. It is God who changes our heart and places a new spirit within us so that we will desire to be obedient to His commands and worship Him.
In the New Testament, Jesus reiterates this very point in John 4:23-24, when He says, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” It is impossible for unregenerate people to worship God because they don’t have a new spirit; and they certainly don’t seek to follow Him. It is the born again that have a new spirit, a new focus, and should seek to worship the Lord God and serve Him only (Luke 4:8). So what is required? We need to acknowledge God’s holiness and our sinfulness. We must also have a new spirit which results from receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
WHY SHOULD WE WORSHIP GOD?
Now the question is, “Why should we worship God?” Some of you may recall in the very first message in this series, Lyndon preached on the topic of bringing God Glory. One of the verses he used was 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” As a believer and follower of Christ, we are to worship God because we are to be primarily focused on bringing God glory. Whatever we do, do ALL to the glory of God! True worship ultimately brings God glory.
Some may think and even say, “I am good! I have received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, so I am good to go. Why do I need to spend so much time worshipping God?” Let me just say, NONE of us are good! So, there are several reasons why we should worship God, but the most important is that we exist to worship God for who He is. God created us to worship Him; we exist to worship Him; we are here to worship Him. Did everyone get that? We are here, right here, to worship God. Is anyone confused as to why we are here on this earth? In other words, we are to bring glory to God through fervent, sincere, and earnest worship for He alone is God. He is not just the Creator of all the universe; He is God over all the universe. He is absolutely, completely, infinitely in charge of all that is! He is God; He alone is God. As God, He is not only Creator of all that is; He is the Sustainer of all that He created. He created all that is! He sustains all that is! Do we really need any other reasons to worship Him?
Even if we don’t need other reasons to worship God, there are many other reasons to worship Him. For example, in Matthew 4:10 (also in Luke 4:8), Jesus has been tempted in the wilderness by Satan and Jesus reminds him: “For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” Surely this is a clear enough command for God’s people to worship Him and Him alone. There is no one else or no other thing that should be a focus of our worship. If Jesus Christ would not compromise any aspect of God’s truth, particularly the greatest truth, that God, and God alone, is to be worshiped and served; we too should worship and serve Him alone. It is very clear that Jesus provides us the basis for worshipping God; He is God alone; there is no other God.
Another reason why we should be worshiping God is because God’s people are to be a God-worshiping people. We will be worshipping something all the time, either God or something else. Peter reminds us that we are to be a worshipping people: “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.” (1 Pt. 2:9-10). We are a chosen people; we are God’s elect. We are to be a worshiping people because God pulled us out of the pit of darkness into His marvelous light. God has showered His mercy on us because we aren’t just any people; we are His people. Be honest with God and yourself, when was the last time you worshiped God because you remembered that He chose you as His own possession? His child! God is your Father! When you worship, be reminded that you have been chosen to be a son or daughter of the one true God!
As Christians, true worship should be a natural response to His love for us. God’s love for us is baffling to our human minds. It is so far beyond what we see around us in this world. We occasionally get a glimpse of what true love is, but for the most part this world is filled with self-love. However, Romans 5:8-10 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” This sort of selfless, completely undeserved love is truly beyond our complete comprehension. Yet that is the love that the just and holy God has toward each of us. The God who hates every sinful thought and every sinful deed nevertheless loves the sinners who think and do those things; even while we are still hopelessly embroiled in our sin. Even when we openly hated God and did not have the least desire to surrender our sin, we were still the objects of God’s redeeming love. Remember this, the Redeemed, are eternally and inexplicably linked to God by His love. As His redeemed and reconciled children, we can be assured that His love for us continues because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us.
God’s everlasting love for us is highlighted in Jeremiah 31:3, where God says, “…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” God tells us that it is His love that draws us to Himself. It is the overwhelming gracious love that He pours out toward us that captures our hearts and makes us realize the incomprehensibility of His love. It is so compelling that those whom He has called cannot resist the love of the Father for His child. Even when we are disobedient, we are still loved and cherished because His love for us is not dependent on what we do; it depends on the faithful devotion of the loving Father. In other words, God is going to show His love for us at all times independent of what we do. Because of His love, there are times when our loving Father disciplines us to draw us back to Himself. There are also times when He is teaching us difficult lessons. But all of this is focused on transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ. We are to love Him and abide in Him for He is the source of love (Jn. 15:9-10). How does Christ explain what love looks like? Love looks like obedience. As branches, we are useless without a vine to support us. To abide in Christ, we should desire to love Him and seek after Him in all that we do. Our obedience is a manifestation of our love for God. While this abiding relationship is natural to the branch and the vine, it must be cultivated in the Christian life because is it not automatic. As a result, our love for Him results in obedience and our obedience results in abiding in Christ, all of which results in our worship of God.
ACCEPTABLE ATTITUDES OF WORSHIP:
We have covered a lot of ground already today. We are to acknowledge God’s holiness and our sinfulness, we must have a new spirit, we are to glorify God in all that we do, we are be a worshipping people; and we are to love, be obedient and abide in Christ. As Christians, we know we are to worship God, so what are some acceptable attitudes of worship? True worship is never an automatic or mechanical repetition of rituals or traditions but should be out of a wholehearted gratitude and reverence for who God is and what He alone has done. It should be an awe-filled adoration.
We know that the annual repetitious rituals of the Old Testament are no longer accepted by God (Heb. 10:1). God provides us an example of the unacceptable worship in Isaiah 29:13-14 where He highlights this very rote and repetitive kind of worship; “Then the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; And the wisdom of their wise men will perish, And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.’” When God says He “will deal marvelously with this people,” He is talking about doing something supernatural, something beyond human wisdom and intelligence. Mindless repetition is not worship, nor are humanly created perversions from what God says is worship. God is saying that His work will make all man’s crafty and creative forms of worship of no avail.
If that is unacceptable worship, what does acceptable worship of God require? Well, it must include a proper attitude toward worship which includes gratitude, reverence and awe. Because of the inheritance that we will receive, we must have a humble gratitude for not only what God has done but also what He will do. Hebrews 12:28-29 provides us with some clarity: “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” True worship must include a grateful heart, an attitude that understands the magnificence of what God has done for us, as well as, what he has planned for us. We are to be living as citizens of the eternal kingdom since we received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and our eternal reality of Heaven has begun. Our eternity started at the point of salvation. We need to live like it!
Our gratitude is to be accompanied with reverence, even a measure of fear. A true worshiper comes into the presence of a holy God for worship with an appreciation that He punishes sin and also disciplines those who are redeemed. Back up in Hebrews 12:6, Scripture says, “Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” Sin does not go unjudged. Look at it like this, we are God’s children and we know that God loves His children, therefore; He is bound by His own nature and His own covenant to do good for us. Thus, whatever we receive from God’s hand, including discipline, is from God’s love. We should be worshipping Him with gratitude for loving us enough to discipline us.
The phrase “acceptable service” in Hebrews 12:28 is translated from a word that means worship. James is talking about acceptable worship, which includes at least two key elements: “reverence and awe.” Reverence carries a positive connotation, a sense of deep respect. Awe describes a sense of reverential fear, a Godly fear mixed with a sense of wonder. Both of these are elements of worship that we should exhibit as we perceive the majesty of God.
Note the reason we are given for this acceptable worship in verse 29: “For our God is a consuming fire.” The sense of Godly fear that we should exhibit should be a natural result of how we see the power and holiness of God: “For our God is a consuming fire.” He is the all-powerful, omnipotent God who can destroy all that is, and He is also our holy and righteous God who must judge sin. Therefore, acceptable worship, demands a humble gratitude with reverence and awe of God’s holiness. That’s the essence of the proper attitude of worship.
WORSHIP IS FROM THE HEART:
But what else is required? Jesus states to the woman at the well that the worship of God must be in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24). So how is this accomplished? I believe as we try to describe true worship, we tend to confuse external ritual with the more basic internal truth of worship. For example, our experience at church on Sunday is only the outward expression of worship. The singing of hymns, Scripture readings, corporate and private prayer, and the preaching of God’s Word are all parts of worship, but true worship begins in the heart and is manifested outward.
In the Old Testament, there are many examples of worship experiences, sacrifices given at the altar, singing the songs of David, the celebration of the feast days; but when it came to true worship, there was a “bowing down.” Scripture contains numerous references to such honor paid to kings and monarchs. Bowing down and worship are inexplicably tied together. With true worship, we come into the very presence of God through Jesus Christ our Lord with hearts filled with supreme reverence and humility seeking to honor Him. In the book of Nehemiah, we see an example of worship when Ezra finished reading God’s Word, the people lifted their hands and bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground (Neh. 8:6).
So this bowing down and humbling of our heart expresses a special reverence and allegiance to God and should be reserved for Him alone. Because of this, the Israelites were forbidden from “bowing down” to any idol or false God (Exod. 20:5; Num. 25:2).
So it is our heart attitude, and not the external trappings of worship, that is central to worshipping God. Although there may be times that you may physically manifest worship by kneeling or bowing down, it is the heart that must always be “bowed down” and humble before the Lord for worship to be in “spirit and truth.” As the psalmist in Psalms 95:6 proclaims, “Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God. And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” True worship starts with a heart that is bowed down and with great humility shows adoration, reverence and awe for the one true God.
We are to worship in spirit and truth. Truth comes for the preaching of God’s Word – doctrinal truth. It’s not the experiences of man that is truth. We need to worship as we focus on the truths of God’s Word. This means we should not just rely on others to tell us about truth, we must learn it ourselves by reading and studying God’s Word ourselves.
HINDRANCES TO TRUE WORSHIP:
Unfortunately, there are various hindrances that impact true worship. I will mention four hindrances to true worship: Sin impacting our relationship with God, ritual or traditional worship, sin impacting our relationship to others, and idolatry. First, true worship is hindered by sin in our lives that impacts our fellowship and intimate relationship with God. Isaiah gives us more clarity as to the breaking of fellowship with God due to our own iniquities. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” It is our own selfish desire to seek after sin that hinders our worship of God. Some people believe that their sinfulness permanently separates them from God and thus they lose their salvation. That is an incorrect interpretation of Scripture. We can never lose our salvation if we have truly been redeemed. However, our fellowship with God can be broken and thus our worship will be hindered.
Secondly, it is not only direct sinfulness that hinders our worship; it is also what I am going to call “lazy worship, perverted worship.” Jesus gives us an example in Matthew 15:7-9 where He us says, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’” Jesus is angered by the callous selfishness of their worship. John MacArthur says this about this passage, “Satan has no greater allies than hypocrites who go under the guise of God’s people. And hypocrites have no greater ally than tradition, because tradition can be followed mechanically and thoughtlessly, without conviction, sincerity, or purity of heart. Because traditions are made by men, they can be accomplished by men. They require no faith, no trust, and no dependence on God. Not only that, but they appeal to the flesh by feeding pride and self-righteousness. Often, as in this case, they also serve self-interest.” Worship traditions do not require an honest and sincere heart for worship; therefore tradition can be easily substituted for true worship. That is why it is so easy for people to honor God with their lips while their heart is far away from Him. Many times it is rituals, ceremonies, and other religious traditions that are more likely to carry worshipers further from God than bring them closer. And the more hindered a person is in their worship of God, the more vain their worship becomes.
Our relationships with others can also hinder our worship. In Matthew 5:23-34, Jesus says, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” As long as there is internal, unrepentant sin in our life, outward acts of worship are not acceptable to God. Jesus highlights that reconciliation must precede true worship of God.
Unresolved conflict, unrepentant sin has priority and must be settled according to Jesus. We are to leave our offerings at the alter and first reconcile with our brother, then present our offering. You are to settle the relationship between you and your brother before you try to settle the relationship between you and God. If we do not do this, we are nothing but a hypocrite by asking for forgiveness without first repenting.
Even if you hold nothing against your brother and they are angry with you, you should do everything in your power to be reconciled with them. It should be our desire to put forth effort seeking reconciliation as much as is possible. Regardless of who is responsible for the break in the relationship, we should determine to reconcile before we come before God to worship. When there is sin of any sort in our heart it will hinder our worship.
Lastly, our true worship of God is seriously hindered by idolatry. When people sin, as we all do, it is a fulfillment of our desire, rather than what God desires. We have chosen to worship ourselves instead of God, which is a form of idolatry. Jonathan Edwards said, “Self-love, through the exercise of a mere natural gratitude, may be the foundation of a sort of love to God many ways. A kind of love may arise from a false notion of God that men have some way imbibed, as though he were only goodness and mercy and not revenging justice, or as though the exercises of his goodness were necessary and not free and sovereign, or as though his goodness were dependent on what is in them and as it were constrained by them. Men, on such grounds as these, may love a God of their own forming in their imaginations when they are far from loving such a God as reigns in heaven.” Idolatry is about making something other than God the focus of our worship. Unfortunately, many times we make ourselves god and worship self.
To apply the truths regarding the worship of the one true God, we must embrace Him at all times with a desire like John mentions in his gospel: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn. 3:30). This is not some wishful thinking; this is a reality that must begin within our heart, a real desire to recognize the infinitely perfect and holy God of the universe.
A worshiping life must affirm the utter holiness of God; in fact, an acknowledgment and understanding of God’s holiness is essential to true worship. In the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 96:2–6, we are to: “Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” True worship requires awe-filled adoration!
Now it’s time to be honest with ourselves. Although we may claim to know how to truly worship God, way too many of us who claim to be Christians, have no concept of what it really means to worship. We “sacrifice” an hour on Sunday mornings, claiming to have worshipped because someone once told us that we were worshipping. Unfortunately, for those of us who know how to worship, we spend far too little time doing so. We can’t manufacture worship nor can we really manipulate and stir up emotions to bring about true worship. All of this only furthers the false believe that we have truly worshipped. Worship should be continuous and spontaneous when we actually meet with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Do you recall John’s response when his worship was interrupted while he was on the Isle of Patmos? “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet.” (Rev. 9-10). John turned to see who was speaking and was absolutely stunned! John says, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead.” (Rev. 1:17). John’s reaction is not unusual! It is the “normal” reaction of people who meet with the Living God!
Unfortunately, we often define worship by what we do but, God’s Word identifies true worship by Who we meet. Let me just ask, “Did you prepare for worship this morning before you walked in the front door?” If you didn’t you may have not worshipped. Did you sing songs, attempting to create an atmosphere that allows you to feel like our emotions have been stirred? Maybe you closed your eyes or even lifted your hands but, failed to focus on acknowledging the one true God but instead sought for a feeling of worship. Maybe you came to church today to chat with your closest friends. Perhaps, you sang songs in a dutiful manner, respectfully listened to God’s Word preached. Maybe you enjoyed some refreshments and spent time talking about various things going on in your life and around the world. Whatever we have done, unless we have humbly focused our hearts in gratitude, reverence and love on the infinitely holy God with an awe-filled adoration for who He is, what He alone has done, and what He alone will do, we have not truly worshipped.
What does True Worship look like? With a new spirit and a humbled heart that is bowed low, we are to acknowledge God’s holiness as we glorify God out of a sincere love for Him as we obediently abide in Christ as we exhibit our gratitude with reverence and awe-filled adoration. I do hope that we all have truly worshipped God and gloried Him in all that we have done today. May it be said, that we are…."Shaped by the gospel, and for God's glory, we are a family of disciple-making worshipers." Let’s pray.