(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
October 28, 2001
Over the last five messages I have spoken on the subject of Successful Christian Living. We have given an overview and definition of it while examining some of the essential elements necessary to be successful in more detail including knowing the Bible, Prayer and being self disciplined with our lives (time, finances and energy) so that we can achieve our goals. As I was preparing my message this week, I could see the need modify our definition to place greater emphasis on this mornings subject, worship.
Worship of the Lord God, Creator of the heavens and earth, is an essential and central part of being a Christian. It is one of the chief means by which we bring glory to God, and in many respects, the other activities that we do that glorify God have their basis in our worship of Him. So then, “a successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an adopted child of God who worships Him, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand.”
What is Worship?
Our word “worship” comes from the Old English “weorthscipe” – or “worthship” and basically means to render worth to some object. The biblical concept rises from the Hebrew “saha” and Greek
proskuneo / proskuneo which both mean to “bow down,” or “prostrate oneself.” proskuneo / Proskuneo literally means “to kiss towards” or “to kiss the hand.” These are acts of homage or obeisance. Another Greek word, latreuo / latreuo, which adds to the Biblical concept of worship, means to render honor.
A simple definition of worship would then be, “Worship is reverence, honor and adoration directed to the Lord God.” We will gain additional understanding of worship as we look deeper into this whole subject, but this is the essence of worship. We ascribe to God His worth, or state and affirm His supreme
The Basis of Worship
The basis of worship is, of course, found in the very character of God. He is worthy of our worship because of who He is, what He is like and what He has done for us. He is our Creator. He is holy, just, righteous, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, loving, longsuffering, merciful, and gracious – to name just a few of His attributes. And He has redeemed us from our sins and brought us into a personal relationship to Him through Jesus Christ. In Revelation 4 John describes the scene in heaven of the
living creatures continually saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God, The Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come,” and the 24 elders crying out, “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will the existed, and were created” (vs 8,11). Worship belongs to God regardless of any individual’s thoughts or response to Him.
The person who responds in worship does so because of their awareness of the nature and majesty of God and the contrast between that and their own sinfulness. The greater the awareness the deeper the worship. In Isaiah 6, when the prophet is given a vision of the scene in heaven, his response was to pronounce “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
The 24 elders of Revelation 4 mentioned earlier “fall down before Him who sits on the throne.” Their response of falling down to worship the Lamb continues through chapter 5. The common response of all who recognize they are in the presence of God is to confess their sinfulness and/or worship God. That was the response of the wise men when they found Jesus (Mt. 2:11). It was the response of Peter to Jesus in Luke 5:8 when Jesus’ miracle confronted him with the reality of who Jesus is. It was the response of all the disciples when Jesus stopped the wind and waves in Matt. 14:33.
Those that do not worship God now do not do so either because of their ignorance of Him or their own pride that causes them to refuse to believe the truth about Him. The same is true about those that do not properly worship Him. Yet, there will be a day in which they will be confronted with the reality of His majesty, holiness and justice when they stand before Him to be judged. At that point they will have no choice and they will be forced to bow before Him and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10,11). The Christian makes this confession now in worship and is saved from God’s wrath. Those that do not make that confession until then are the condemned. Which confession will you give?
Man’s Desire to Worship
Romans 1 tells us that God has made Himself evident within all men. Creation itself is God’s witness that He exists and should be sought. Man is innately religious because of this and searches for
something to full what theologians have called the “God shaped vacuum.” Everyone recognizes that something is not right with the world and that something is missing in their life. All the various religions and philosophies of the world exist because of this effort to fill that void. Even atheists seek to find some alternative to fulfill the void and give meaning to their lives, for apart from God there is no meaning and purpose to life. Worship of false gods and false worship of the true God exist because people seek to fulfill this void by their own means rather than by the means that God has revealed to man in the Scriptures.
It is God’s special revelation of Himself in the Bible that brings man not only into specific knowledge of his sins against God, but also the means by which those sins can be forgiven through faith
in Jesus Christ. It is the Bible that gives us a true understanding of God and ourselves, of our dependence upon Him and how God desires us to worship Him.
The more I know God and closer I walk with Him the more I understand my need for Him, and with that comes a greater desire for Him. David expressed his desire for God in Psalm 41:1,2 “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” This is a craving for God. This analogy goes beyond the idea of wanting a drink because you are thirsty, but water being such a need that it is the focal point of your life. That should be the description of our longing for God. Does your soul pant for God? Until it does your worship of Him will always be less than it should be. True worship places God at the center of everything we do, say, think and feel.
The Nature of True Worship
In John 4 we find that Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman. The Samaritans were descendants of the people the Assyrians had populated the area with after they had conquered and deported most of the Jews in Israel. They had a system of worship that was a mixture of Judaism and pagan practices. In the midst of her conversation with Jesus, the woman brought up the old conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans of where the proper place to worship was located. Jesus’ response was completely different from what she expected for He gave an answer that went beyond the place of worship to explain the nature of worship.
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to
her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall 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.” John 4:19-24
The truths Jesus declared to her include:
1. The places is not the issue (v. 21)
2. You can not worship what you do not know
3. The nature of God is spirit
4. True worship is in Spirit and in Truth
These two elements, in Spirit and in truth, are the essentials of true worship. You can not do it any other way.
Worship in the Spirit
The text is talking about our spirit reacting to the working of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:12-14). True worship is regenerated in the Spirit. God created man to worship Him, but that relationship was broken because of man’s sin. It is the Holy Spirit that regenerates or “makes alive” (Eph 2) the spirit in a man or woman so that they can have a relationship with God. A person without a personal relationship with God can not worship Him. In fact, 1 Cor. 2:12-14 tells us that natural man, a person separated from God, regards the things of the Spirit as foolishness. It is the Holy Spirit that intercedes on our behalf with God because He knows the Father and searches our hearts (Romans 8:26,27). The Holy Spirit is our helper (John 16:7) and He is the one that convicts us of both
sin and righteousness and then guides us away from sin and into truth (John 16:7-13). The Spirit glorifies Christ and reveals Him to us (Jn 16:14). The Holy Spirit is the first essential element in
worship, for without Him we could not fulfill the second requirement of worshiping in truth, for it is the Holy Spirit that is the “Spirit of Truth” and who is the revealer of truth (John 14:17; 16:13).
Worship in Truth
Jesus’ words to the woman at the well were direct. “You worship that which you do not know” and “True worshipers must worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” Ignorant worship is false worship.
The woman thought she knew what she was doing, and though her attempt to worship the LORD was commendable, it was still perverted with false ideas about God and so it was false worship. Jesus points out that God revealed Himself to the Jews so they could know and worship the true God. She knew the traditions of her culture, but she was ignorant of the true God. So it is with many. They believe they are true worshipers of God, but in their ignorance they worship many things other than God. The nature of
true worship of God is doing so in spirit and in truth for that is in reflection of His own nature. God’s nature is completely spiritual. He is not a deity of stone or wood as the idolaters believe. He is not a God of just one location as the Samaritan forefathers had believed. He does not exist in the created elements as the pantheists believe. God is a spirit. He is incorporeal. He created the world and all that is in it and He transcends it.
Many going under the umbrella name of Christianity also worship in ignorance. The true worship of God does not occur in performing religious rituals regardless of whether it is done in a liturgical church or a conservative evangelical Church. Whenever something is done simply because “we have always done it that way,” then the reason and meaning have been lost and it is an act of ignorant worship. It is a cold liturgy and not true worship. There are many that perform acts of humility and submission to a god
of some sort, perhaps even in the belief it is worship of the true God, as did the Samaritans. Yet the whole time they live in a manner contrary to God’s commands. True worship comes from within the person’s spirit out of a desire to honor and glorify their Creator with their lives in every area. True worshipers of God not only will worship Him in spirit and truth, they must do so for it is the only way that God can be truly worshiped.
This woman was ignorant just as are so many are today, but Jesus also points out that God seeks people to worship Him. She did not have to remain ignorant and neither do people today.
True worship is regained in truth because it requires sound doctrine. This is why the early church put teaching doctrine as a centerpiece of their worship. Acts 2:42 records the “worship service” of the early church as “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The requirement is to worship God in truth for without the truth, you are worshiping something other than God! Are you worshiping God in spirit and in truth?
Factors of False Worship
The true worship of God is greatly misunderstood and practiced even among professing Christians largely because of ritualism, emotionalism and secularism. These affect the conservative evangelical church as much as any other.
Ritualism is the substitution of ritual for reality. The problem is worse in the liturgical churches, but the evangelical churches have their own less formal rituals. The mindset is that I have worshiped God because I have done all the things I am supposed to do. I made it to church and I stood up when I supposed to, sat through the sermon, put a few dollars into the offering and perhaps even sang along with the music.
God has never been impressed by rituals even when they are done exactly has He has commanded. God warned Israel in Isaiah 29 that they were facing His judgement “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,]. Jesus repeated the accusation 700 years later in Matthew 15:8. True worship is a matter of the heart and not ritual, but by heart I am not talking about feelings. In the Scriptures, “heart,” signifies that which is at the center of the life. It encompasses the mind and the will and not just the emotions. Without this heart, worship is false.
Emotionalism is another factor that leads to false worship among Christians. This is the idea that the quality of the worship is judged by how I feel about it. Emotionalism feeds a man centered worship
because everything is done to please the people instead of pleasing God. The self-centered nature of emotionalism judges the music by personal taste. If you liked it, then the worship was good. If it was not your preferred style, then the worship was poor. The sermon is considered good or bad depending on how it made you feel.
While our emotions are to be part of our worship of God, they cannot judge true worship. Your worship may be best when the sermon made you feel horrible and the music was the opposite of the style you prefer. Why? Because worship is about giving God the honor and praise He is worthy of. I am not a performer and you are not the audience. In true worship you are the performers and God is the audience. Worship is about you coming to give to God, not about you coming to get for yourself. It is about your work and effort to please Him and not about how pleased you are when leave. The musicians and I are not here to entertain you. We are here to prod you to give to God the work of worship. It is simply the
grace of God that He always gives to you much more than you give to Him, but if you do not give of yourself to Him, then true worship will not occur regardless of how you feel when you leave.
Secularism is the third factor that perverts worship among Christians. This is the idea that there is a dichotomy between the secular and the sacred, but that idea is false. True worship takes in every aspect of who you are. Everything you do and think are to be done with His glory in mind (1 Cor. 10:31 –Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God). The Lord Jesus Christ is to be first in every aspect of your life, both the mundane and extraordinary. Secularism creates religious
hypocrites who behave one way in church and around their Christian friends and a different way the rest of the time. If you live as the rest of the world all week, don’t expect God to accept your worship on Sunday. Friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). A successful Christian lives for Jesus Christ 24/7 because like Paul in Gal. 2:20, they have been crucified with Christ and they no longer live, but Christ lives in them, and the life they now live they live by faith in the Son of God, who loved them, and gave Himself up for them. A successful Christian worships God with every aspect of their life in every moment of life.
The Characteristics of True Worship
There are characteristics that develop in someone who is a true worshiper of God. Their lives become marked by their attitudes and activities.
1) An active faith in God is the first characteristic of worship. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, And without faith it is impossible to please [Him], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Such faith in God continues to grow in the true worshiper as they learn more of God and trust Him according to His promises.
2) Humility and the confession of sin are the second characteristic. To come in the presence of the Holy God brings about an acute awareness of sin. Isaiah expressed this when after seeing his vision of heaven he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). Confession is primary because it is the natural response of those who understand the nature, glory and holiness of God. 1 John 1:9 tells us that it restores the intimacy of relationship with God – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession is also primary in worship because God does not hear the prayers of those with unconfessed sin. Psalm 66:18 “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.”
3) Confident prayer to God is the third mark of true worship. 1 John 5:14,15 tells us, “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15
And if we know that He hears us [in] whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” Confident prayer is based in true worship of God in seeking His will and not in trying to get one’s own wish list of desires fulfilled. James 4:3 is clear that the answers to our prayers will be “no” when we ask to “consume in upon our own pleasures.”
4) The fruit of righteousness is another characteristic of the successful Christian. God wants us to bear the fruit of righteousness for by it he is glorified and it proves we are true followers of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:10,11 “. . . approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until
the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which [comes] through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
What is the fruit of righteousness? Part of this fruit is seen in the righteous deeds that we do which glorify God. Paul explains in Col. 1:10 that we are to ” . . . walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to
please [Him] in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” The fruit of righteousness is seen externally in our good works, but it comes from something internal, the fruit of the Spirit which Paul defines in Galatians 5:21,22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. These are the characteristics that God develops within you when you walk with Him.
5) Verbal praise to God is another mark of true worship. The heart set on the true worship of God cannot contain itself, and when a person is filled with the spirit they will be “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Eph. 5:19-20) Such praise, whether sung or simply spoken, is worship of God. Psalm 50:23 says, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.”
6) A content heart also marks true worship. We are not to be like the world around us that complains about most everything. Instead we are to be people who rejoice in all circumstances. A mark of someone who truly knows God is their ability to trust Him in any situation and be content. Paul explains how he learned this in Philippians 4 and in 1 Tim. 6:7,8 he succinctly explained the proper Christian attitude, For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” One step above being simply content when life is tough is willingness to suffer without complaint for righteousness sake which is another characteristic
of true worship.
7) A willingness to suffer for righteousness without complaint. Peter explains the importance of this in 1 Peter 4:14-16. “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if [anyone suffers] as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.” If we suffer for righteousness without reviling, getting angry, etc. then we
bring glory to God. All Christians should be prepared for this since Jesus said in John 16:33 that we will have tribulation in this world, but He also told that He has overcome the world, and in Matthew 5:10-12 He explained that we should rejoice when suffering for His name’s sake.
8) A clear witness to others of God’s mercy, grace and love is the last characteristic we will look at today of an individual that gives God true worship. God is glorified when we bear witness of Him. We find this to be true throughout the book of Acts when people were given the gospel or reported what God was doing. Many of the psalms center on thanksgiving and praise to the Lord for who He is and all that He has done. Even Psalms of lament and the didactic Psalms also usually included a vow to proclaim the
Lord’s goodness that He might be glorified. Your own witness to others is an aspect of your true worship of the Lord.
If these are not characteristics in your life, then you are not living the Christian life successfully, but thankfully, that can change. There is still much for you to learn and improve on in your worship of God and He desires you to do so. The only real question is how willing are you to do what is needed to be a true worshiper of God? Over the last several messages I have pointed out the need for you to be a student of the Bible so that you might know God’s will, for you to pray so that you might communicate with God and align your will with his, and for you to be self disciplined with your time, energy and finances so that you will fulfill the purposes for which God created you and saved you from your sins. What do
you need to change in your life? When will you make those changes? Remember as well that the quality of our worship as a congregation depends on the quality of worship each of you have for God as individuals. Are you helping to improve our worship or are you detracting from it?
James 1:22-25 warns and promises, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.”
I fear that some of you are hearers only. You store away your notes and add to your knowledge, but the truth does not change the way you live. Be warned that to whom much is given, and you have been given much, much will be required (Luke 12:48). How long will you presume upon the patience and longsuffering of God before He holds you into account? It is time to heed the message and turn and you will find a gracious savior. But to continue in the hypocrisy of professing one thing and living a different way will leave you in the hands of a righteous judge.
If you have been a hearer only, or if you simply see the need to improve the way you are living so that you life will be better characterized by true worship of God, then talk with myself or any of our church leaders after the service. We would love to help you in your walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times “worship” mentioned 2) What is worship? Talk with your parents about it and how your family worships God.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is worship? Who is to worship God? When should God be worshiped? Where should God be worshiped? What is the
nature of true worship? Why is this so difficult for people? What are some of the things that deceive people into false
worship? Have you practiced false worship? What is God’s response to false worship? What attitude(s) must there be in
true worship? What role does prayer play in worship? What elements of prayer are part of worship? What is the place of
music in worship? What is the place of preaching and teaching in worship? What is the role of the congregation in public
worship? What is your evaluation of your own worship both private and public? What is the “sacrifice of praise?” How do you worship God in daily life? What characteristics will mark a person who is a true worshiper of God? What changes will be made in how they live their lives? Do these characteristics and activities mark your life? Why or why not? What needs to change? When will you make those changes? What will be the consequences if you do not make those changes?
Sermon Notes – 10/28/2001 A.M.
Succeeding in the Christian Life, Pt.6 – Worship
“A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an adopted child of God who worships Him, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand.”
What is Worship: “Worship is reverence, honor and adoration directed to the Lord God.”
The Basis of Worship
Man’s Desire to Worship
The Nature of True Worship
Worship in Spirit
Worship in Truth
Factors in False Worship
Characteristics of True Worship
1) An Active Faith (Heb. 11:6)
3) Confident Prayer to God (1 John 5:14,15)
5) Verbal Praise (Eph. 5:19,20; Ps:23)
6) Content Heart (Phil. 4; 1 Tim. 6:7,8)
7) Willingness to Suffer for Righteousness (1 Pet. 14-16; Matt. 5:10-12)
8) Clear Witness to others
Warning: James 1:22-25