Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
April 3, 2005
Created to Worship
Worship. A few weeks ago I gave an overview of this topic as part of the series Elias & I did on the purpose of the church. This morning I start an examination of this subject in more depth and detail. Worship of the Lord God is an activity that will be central in our lives throughout all eternity. It is the very purpose for which we were created, yet most people have no true concept, or only a faint idea of what it means to worship God and how to do it. Apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ no one can truly worship God for He can only be truly worshiped in Spirit and truth (John 4), and apart from Christ no human is spiritually alive or seeks the truth (Eph. 2; Rom. 3). Even for the dedicated believer, the Worship of God falls short because while we remain in our unglorified state on this earth our struggle with sin hinders us from worshiping as we should desire.
Worship of the Lord God should be the crowing jewel in the life of all mankind, yet for most people that jewel is either missing or has been replaced by a cheap substitute. Even with true Christians, the jewel is often coated with a layer of dirt, and its brilliance does not shine forth.
My goal in this series of messages is to 1) challenge those who do not worship God to do so; 2) to challenge those who worship some false God to turn and worship the Lord God, creator of Heaven and Earth; 3) to challenge true Christians to understand and practice true worship, so that it can shine as the bright jewel it should be.
Understand from the outset that the purpose of God creating you was for His glory, for His purposes, and not your own. You are not the center of the universe. He is. From Genesis to Revelation, the focus of Scripture is God, not man. All this is contrary to how man sees himself. All of us struggle with the ego-centric perspective. We view the world from our own eyes, our own little point of view, and then respond to everything in terms of how it affects us. Even when we gather together to worship God we struggle to keep our minds focused on God rather than ourselves. When I give the pastoral prayer, I know that most of you have wandering minds. Instead of praying along with what I am presenting to God, your mind is running off on its own rabbit trails. I know that when I am preaching your minds are doing the same thing. Your are constantly analyzing all sorts of things, and a word or phrase I say here or there causes your minds to run off somewhere else. I know there are also times when your mind is not engaged at all, for the physical weaknesses we all battle leaves you drowsy or sleeping. I also know that what ever hymn or chorus we sing, whatever special music we present, your minds can quickly make evaluations about how good or bad it was, whether it was music we liked or not, and whether we felt like we were worshiping because of it. How do I know you all struggle with those things. First, because I stand up here and I can see your faces. Second, because I too struggle with all these things. It is one of the reasons I long for heaven, because there the cares of this world will be over, and my body and mind will be perfected, and I will no longer be distracted by own weaknesses and selfishness. I will be able to give myself fully to the worship of God without hindrance. I hope that is a longing in your heart too.
Let me direct you to a few passages to show you the centrality of worship of God.
Turn over to Isaiah 6. Here the prophet is given a glimpse of the activity in heaven. 6:1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said, “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.”
What is the activity of heaven? The worship of God, and when Isaiah got a glimpse of it, he understood his own sinfulness. Turn to Revelation 4 where we find a similar scene as the apostle John is given a vision of heaven.
4:1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door [standing] open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like [the sound] of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” 2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3 And He who was sitting [was] like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and [there was] a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. 4 And around the throne [were] twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones [I saw] twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. 5 And from the throne proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And [there were] seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; 6 and before the throne [there was,] as it were, a sea of glass like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7 And the first creature [was] like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature [was] like a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, [is] the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” 9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “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 they existed, and were created.”
What is the activity here? Worship of God.
This worship continues in chapter 5:11-13 where the many angels join with the living creatures and the elders saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” In verse 13 “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea” join in saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, [be] blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” All of this is worship.
Revelation 14:6 also stresses the centrality of worship. God sends an angel flying through the mid-heaven, “having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;” Take note of what this gospel message is: “and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgement has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and springs of waters.” The gospel message is given so that those who hear and respond will worship the Lord God, the Creator of everything.
The next few passages I am not going to have you turn to because there is too much there to read, but for those of you who have been reading through the Bible, did you ever ask yourself why God placed so much detail in Exodus 25-31 & 35-40 about the building and construction of the Tabernacle? Or why Leviticus 1-8 has so much repetitious detail about all the offerings and the consecration of the priests? Then there are all these laws throughout the rest of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, some of which quite detailed, and the penalty of breaking them is having to cleanse yourself in a certain manner before you can come before God. Have you considered why all the detail concerning the various temples? 1 Kings 6-8; 1 Chron. 22-29; 2 Chron. 2-7; Ezra; Ezek. 40-47; Haggai & Zech. 3 & 4. All of the stress the point that the worship of the Lord is to be central in our lives. God goes into great detail to describe the way He wants us to approach Him, and we had better be serious about worshiping Him properly.
From the positive standpoint there is great blessing when we worship God properly. Just thinking quickly back through the history of the nation of Israel we find that all its high points economically and politically coincide with their true worship of God. David’s reign and the first part of Solomon’s rule. The nation went into decline when Solomon’s wives turned his heart away from God. The nation rose again in importance under the religious revivals that took place under Asa & Jehoshaphat, and then later under Hezekiah, and later still under Josiah. These blessing were in accordance with what God had told them in Deut. 28 and other places. Obedience will bring blessings.
From the negative standpoint there are dire consequences when God is not worshiped properly. Again a recounting of Israel’s history proves the point. Every evil king brought about a greater decline of the nation until finally Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria and Judah by Babylon. These were the curses God had warned them about in Deut. 27 if they disobeyed. Disobedience brings curses.
I want to bring this point out in a way that will be more relevant to us. Turn to Romans 1. Here Paul marks off the decline that occurs when the human heart turns away from the worship of God to selfishness. He begins the chapter with a salutation and greeting marking off that his own calling by God as an apostle was for Christ’s name sake (vs 5) and that his longing was to come to them to encourage them in walking with Christ and to preach the gospel which is the revelation of the righteousness of God (vs. 17). Again, our lives are for the purpose of bringing glory to God.
Paul now shows that God’s wrath is demonstrated against man because man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (18). God has made Himself evident to man internally and externally. All of creation declares this evidence of God’s existence, eternal power and divine nature, so that all men are without excuse (vs. 19,20). Yet, we find that man willing suppresses the truth of God. Paul marks three levels of this descent from truth into a self imposed lie.
We find the first level in verse 21. They will not honor Him as God or give thanks, so God gives them over to futile speculations and a darkened heart. An example of this is the false worship of Israel revealed in 1 & 2 Kings. Jeroboam, the first king of Israel feared the people would return to the king of Judah because God required that they go to Jerusalem to present their sacrifices, so he set up two altars so the people could worship God without going to Jerusalem. Because they would not follow God’s law of how He wanted to be worshiped, their worship of the true God was flawed. This flawed worship of the true God quickly degenerated into false worship of false Gods.
God is serious about being honored and worshiped properly. I have pointed these examples out before, but remember the case of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. God had given specific instructions on how incense was to be brought before the Lord in the Tabernacle, but these two sons of Aaron ignored those instructions and “offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord” (Lev. 10:1,2). There is also the case of King David recorded in 2 Samuel 6 for trying to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, but he did not do it according to the Lord’s instructions (Numb. 4:15; 7:9; Deut. 31:9). It was loaded on a cart being pulled by an ox instead of having the priests carry it. There was quite a celebration going on as the ark was making its way up to Jerusalem until the cart hit a bump, and Uzzah reached out his had to steady the ark. At this point God’s anger broke out and Uzzah was struck dead for his irreverence (vs. 7). At first glance this seems cruel of God, but in fact God showed great restraint and longsuffering because He could have justly struck down every single person involved including King David. Improper worship of God is still false worship because worship involves obedience to God’s commands, and true worship cannot take place when those commands are ignored and broken. True worship must be in both Spirit and in truth.
A more contemporary example of this first step down and away from the true worship of God is a story reported in the Chicago Tribune some years ago about a New Mexico woman that was frying tortillas. As she cooked she noticed that the skillet burns on one of tortillas resembled what she thought was the face of Jesus. She became very excited and showed it to her husband and neighbors who all agreed that there was a face etched on the tortilla which resembled Jesus. How they knew what the face of Jesus looks like no one knows, but they all assumed it must be like the image on the tortilla. The woman then took the tortilla to her priest to have it blessed. She & her husband both testified to the priest that she was a more peaceful, happy, and submissive wife since the arrival of the tortilla. The priest, who had never blessed a tortilla before, somewhat reluctantly agreed to do so after their testimony.
The woman took the tortilla home and put it in a glass case on piles of cotton which gave it the appearance of floating on clouds. Then a special altar for it was built. Now this may sound like a story of just one nutty family that was eating something much more powerful than tortillas, but when she opened the “shrine of the Jesus of the tortilla” to visitors, more than 8,000 came within a few months and they all agreed that the marks on the tortilla resembled the face of Jesus (except for one reporter who said it looked more like former heavy-weight boxing champion Leon Spinks).
Such kookiness began with her flawed worship within Roman Catholicism, which much like the cult of Jeroboam, has distorted the worship of the true God. The flawed worship allowed her to easily degenerate into the false worship of a scorched tortilla.
This is the second level of degeneration, and it is found in verse 25. It is the exchange of the truth of God for a lie so that the creature is worshiped and served rather than the creator. This is most obvious in pagan idolatry. God responds by giving them over to their degrading passions. This is why sexual perversion is so often tied in with idol worship. The mind is no longer functioning properly and emotion and passion are leading the person rather than truth.
Such pagan idolatry once marked the world except for Israel, and even they were subject to it whenever they strayed away from the true God. The worship of idols is not as widespread as it once was, but there is still a large portion of the world that worship idols made of wood, stone or metal – or in modern times – plastic, and these practices are again increasing. It no longer takes much effort to find idol worshipers in the United States. While pagan idolatry is still not mainstream in the western world, secular forms of idolatry are common. Materialism and hedonism top the list of such secular idolatry. People bow down to the idols of material success and pleasure. These are the gods that give them meaning in life and for which they live. It is sad that they will not head the warning of Solomon who sought such things for a time and concluded that it was all vanity, empty chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes).
The Old Testament is a record of God’s judgement against idolatry in all its forms. Time after time God chastised the Jewish people for slipping into idolatry. He had already judged the nations that were before Israel because of their idolatry. Finally it was the reason for Israel and Judah being taken into captivity. Even though there was a revival under King Josiah, God declared to him in 2 Kings 22:17, “Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods that they might provoke Me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore My wrath burns against this place, and it shall not be quenched.“
The final level of degeneration is found in verse 28 where the suppression of truth leads to even cessation of the acknowledgment of God. God’s response is to give them over to a depraved mind. A mind that can no longer discern even basic logic.
King Nebuchadnezzar is a classic example of this. In Daniel 4:30 we find the king reflecting on Babylon and how great he was for building it for the glory of his own majesty. While these words were still in the king’s mouth God’s judgement came against him and Nebuchadnezzar’s lost his senses to the point that he became deranged and lived out in the fields grazing like a cow. Only when he again acknowledged that God is the Most High ruler over all the affairs of mankind did his senses return (vs. 32-34).
God created us to worship and we will worship and serve something. It will either be the true God, a false god or gods, or ourselves. When we do not worship the true God then the consequences to ourselves and others are dire, as this passage in Romans points out.
Let me briefly describe the importance of true worship of the true God as it has played out in our own nation. I love this nation. I can trace family history back to 1619 in Jamestown and the early/mid 1620’s in Plymouth. I have the names of ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War and the other wars this nation has fought to bring about the freedoms we enjoy. Several of them died in those wars. God has blessed this nation in the past in ways that are hard to imagine when we compare ourselves to other nations throughout history. I believe that those blessings are a direct result of the prominence of Christianity within the nation. Certainly there are black marks of evil in our history, but overall the nation was marked by a people striving to know, please and worship the true God.
But America is no longer the nation it once was. She has radically changed in the last 40 years and I am not referring to technology. Her basic nature is no longer based in Christianity and striving to honor the true God. America is now a nation that hardly wants to even acknowledge His existence. President Bush is a reprieve from the trend in national politics, but the culture continues its slide downward.
By the 1960’s there was already a strong shift away from giving honor and thanksgiving to God, and God gave us over to the sexual revolution. The consequences of that moral revolution are seen all around us today as clearly as if we had been bombed and are surrounded by rubble. Consider the still high rate of teen age pregnancy; the decline in marriage and family stability; the holocaust of abortion; and the welfare state that enslaves both the taxpayer who foots the bills and those in it who lose all dignity and purpose in life.
By the 80’s the various court battles had left us as a nation that by law exchanged the truth of God for a lie. God was no longer creator, but just a “force.” Christianity was no longer upheld as the foundation of our society, but instead has been attacked as the enemy of society. Secularism reigns supreme in the public arena. You can bring nearly anything into the public school except Biblical truth. Every wacky idea of the evolutionists is presented as fact. Every perverted religion and philosophy can be freely proclaimed. But proclaim God as creator and Jesus Christ and the only way to heaven and you will be threatened with lawsuits. The result of our following the path of “diversity” has resulted in perversion so prevalent that the term “gay 90’s” for the 1990’s means something totally different than its application in the 1890’s.
We are now beginning to see the effect of this third level of degeneration as more efforts are made to make God irrelevant to the affairs of our nation and society. Why is it that even when there are great national disasters of various kinds, there is no call by our political leaders for the nation to fast, pray and repent? That had been common practice throughout our history until 30 or 40 years ago. We are seeing people with depraved minds rising to positions of power. Be careful not to equate just political office as positions of power. Too many leaders in our society advocate evil and suppress good including such things as handing out condoms to high schoolers and promoting abortion while restricting Bible distribution and throwing in jail those who would try to convince a woman to spare the life of the child growing within her. Isaiah 5:20 pronounces a woe upon those who call good evil and evil good. Such is the case with Terry Schindler Shiavo. But worse than this is that there is no means by which to discuss and argue the issues with them. Their minds no longer function properly for their ability to reason itself is perverted. All you have to do is listen and analyze some of the television talk shows or liberal political speeches made now. If the host disagrees, he simply labels his opponent with a derogatory name without every addressing the question or point brought up. There is little or no reasoning, just name calling.
I bring this up to state that the problem with America is her worship of God and our only hope to return to the great nation we once were must be found in our worship of God. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people – Prov. 14:34. As Christian citizens of this nation we need to be involved in the political process, but understand that political power will not solve our nations problems, for it is one of the heart. We must pray for God’s grace and mercy to grant revival, for Christians to boldly proclaim the gospel, and that non-Christians will repent and turn.
How we worship God has consequences that go way beyond ourselves (Gen. 19 – for the lack of 10 righteous, Sodom was destroyed). True worship of the Lord God brings blessings. All forms of false worship bring dire consequences. You cannot ignore God, nor can you worship a false God, nor can you worship the true God improperly without incurring His wrath. Only because of the Lord’s patience and longsuffering has the full weight of His judgment has been postponed on us both personally and nationally.
Next week we will look at the marks of true worship. For this week, just consider the seriousness of worship.
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) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the word “worship” is said. Talk with your parents about the importance of worship in your home.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is worship? Why is it important? What does Isaiah 6 reveal about worship? Revelation 4? Revelation 5? Revelation 14:6? Why does God give so much detail about the Tabernacle, sacrificial practices, and the Temple? What does this tell you about your own efforts to approach God to worship Him? What does history demonstrate about God response to obedience to Him? Disobedience? Romans 1:21f marks the first decline away from true worship. What is it? Give examples you have seen. Romans1:25f marks the second step of decline in the worship of God. What is it? Give examples you have seen. Romans1:28f marks the second step of decline in the worship of God. What is it? Give examples you have seen. What evidence do you find that America if following those steps downwards? What evidence is there that true worship is still valued in America. What is your own worship like? What does God think of it? Why? Give scriptural support.
Sermon Notes – 4/3/05 a.m.
Created to Worship – Selected Scriptures
The Centrality of Worship
Exodus 25-31; 35-40
Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy
Blessings for Obedience – Deut. 28
Dire Consequences for Disobedience – Deut. 27
The Descent into False Worship
Romans 1:21f – Step 1
Jeroboam – 1 Kings
Nadab & Abihu – Leviticus 10
David & Uzzah – 2 Samuel 6
Romans 1:25f – Step 2
Romans 1:28f – Step 3
Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 4
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