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Monday, January 30, 2012

Expressions of Worship

Expressions of Worship

How does the Bible describe worship?

Two words, one Hebrew and one Greek, are translated as "worship" in the Bible.

In the Old Testament:

"I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord." Genesis 24:48 (ESV)

WORSHIP: shaha (to depress, to prostrate)

Our English word, depress, means to press down, to let fall or lower. It commonly now is used to describe longlasting sad and lethargic emotions.

Prostrate literally means to throw down. It describes a person with face on the ground in humble adoration. It can also describe someone utterly exhausted, lying flat on the ground.

In the New Testament:

"The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:23-24 (ESV)

WORSHIP: proskyneo (to fawn or crouch to, to prostrate oneself); from pros (toward) and kyon (a dog, "hound")

Both words translated as worship mean to physically put oneself lower, to crouch or kneel or bow or lie flat on the ground.

Even with a limited search of the Bible, looking only for these words, there is a rich description of what worship looks like, and what worship includes. Here is a quick list of some of these wonderful descriptions:

  • With a bowed head, remembering God's love and faithfulness
  • With a joyful offering
  • With fear and a sacrifice
  • With songs of His salvation and strength
  • With songs of joy and thanksgiving, bowing and kneeling down
  • With songs of fear and wonder
  • With hands lifted and heads bowed
  • With fasting, mourning, confession and praise
  • With sorrow and loss
  • With praise for his glory, strength and holiness
  • With knowledge, in spirit and truth
  • With conviction of sin, falling on the ground
  • With submission, falling on the ground

At its core, worship literally means to bend or bow low to the ground, demonstrating submission and dependence upon God. But worship involves not only the body and mind, but the heart and voice, hands and feet. Worship is meant to be an all-encompassing expression of love and thankfulness, joy, fear, sacrifice, singing, bowing, kneeling, hands lifted, sorrowful confession, praise and knowledge of the Most High.

Here are some great verses to memorize and meditate upon:

With a bowed head, remembering God's love and faithfulness

"The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master." Genesis 24:26-27 (ESV)

With a joyful offering

"I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O Lord, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house." Deuteronomy 26:10-11 (ESV)

With fear and a sacrifice

"You shall fear the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice." 2 Kings 17:36 (ESV)

"I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you." Psalms 5:7 (ESV)

With songs of His salvation and strength

"Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be held in awe 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 joy are in his place. Ascribe to the Lord, O clans of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, - The Lord reigns! - Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Say also: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!” Then all the people said, “Amen!” and praised the Lord." 1 Chronicles 16:23-36 (ESV)

"Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, - How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name. - Selah - Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man." Psalms 66:1-5 (ESV)

With songs of joy and thanksgiving, bowing and kneeling down

"Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh 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." Psalms 95:1-7 (ESV)

With songs of fear and wonder

"Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!" Psalms 96:1-9 (ESV)

"They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, - Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed." Revelations 15:3-4 (ESV)

With hands lifted and heads bowed

"Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, - Amen, Amen, - lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground." Nehemiah 8:6 (ESV)

With fasting, mourning, confession and praise

"Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God...You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you...You have kept your promise, for you are righteous...you are a gracious and merciful God...You have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly...Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them." Nehemiah 9:1-34 (ESV)

With sorrow and loss

"Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, - Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. - In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong." Job 1:20-22 (ESV)

With praise for his glory, strength and holiness

"Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness." Psalms 29:1-2 (ESV)

With knowledge, in spirit and truth

"You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:22-24 (ESV)

With conviction of sin, falling on the ground

"If all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you." 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (ESV)

With submission, falling on the ground

"The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, - Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." Revelations 4:10-11 (ESV)

Image provided by supersonicphotos, http://facebook.com/lovefusionphoto, Creative Commons License

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pretense and Fear

Pretense and Fear

"A man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet." Acts 5:1-2

The names of the man and woman in this story communicate happiness and wealth:

ANANIAS: Ananias (name of three Israelites); from Hebrew, hananyahu (Jah has favored); from hanan (to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, bestow or implore) and yah (Jah, the sacred name, shortened from Yehovah, the self-Existent or Eternal)

SAPPHIRA: Sapphire (an Israelitess); from sapphiros (a "sapphire" or lapis-lazuli gem; from Hebrew, sappir (a gem, probably the sapphire, used for scratching other substances); from sapar (to score with a mark as a tally or record, to inscribe, enumerate, recount or celebrate)

From birth, Ananias enjoyed the influence of a name that meant "favored by God". The Hebrew root of his name appears many times in the Bible, translated as mercy, gracious, or favor. To be blessed by God means to enjoy His mercy and undeserved gifts of grace.

Sapphira's name meant the precious gem, the sapphire. We can imagine her fascination with jewelry and beautiful clothing.

These names provide a perfect introduction to this story. Sir Blessed and his wife, Madam Sapphire, owned extensive properties. They saw Christians gathering together in a single, vibrant community, sharing all that they had with each other. Countless wealthy believers sold their land or houses to provide support for the needy families. The spirit of love and generosity captured the hearts of Anania and Sapphira, and they sold a piece of property.

As they counted the proceeds, they realized the cost of generosity. Together they agreed to keep back part of the wealth and give only a portion to the needy. However, they also agreed to keep secret the total amount gained by the sale of their property. They would give a part of the proceeds to the needy Christians, publicly declaring it to be all of the money gained.

Why would they lie? Why would they publicly declare to be giving all of their money, when in fact they would be keeping back a portion for themselves? Did the leaders of the Christian community require all proceeds be given?

By the Holy Spirit, Peter knew of the lie. Peter's confrontation with Ananias and Sapphira gave no evidence that it was mandatory for the wealthy to give all their money to the poor:

"While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?" Acts 5:4 (ESV)

Peter confirmed that the wealthy Christians were free to keep all or part of what they sold. Spirit-led generosity is always from a cheerful heart, with no mandate for a certain amount.

What would Ananias and Sapphira gain by pretending to be giving all that they had?

Fame.

By outgiving all others, Ananias and Sapphira would attract more attention, gaining fame and status within the Christian community. They desired to be made much of, and they intended to portray themselves as the most generous givers of all.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How do you decide what to give to others? How do you keep from succumbing to the natural human desire to be made much of?

Peter's rebuke of Ananias and Sapphira was based upon their dishonesty, not their failure to give all they had. Peter did not expect anyone to give everything, or anything. They could have kept all of their wealth and Peter would not have said a word against them.

"Peter said, - Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." Acts 5:3-4 (ESV)

Ananias and Sapphira conspired to lie to the Christian community, acting as if they had given all of their wealth for the sake of Christ. But Peter rebuked them for lying to the Holy Spirit of God, rather than to men. Even more, Peter accused Satan of providing the motivating force for the lie.

SATAN: satanas (the accuser, the devil); from Hebrew: satan (an opponent, especially Satan, the arch-enemy of good); from satan (to attack or accuse)

FILLED: pleroo (to make replete, to cram a net or level up a hollow, to furnish, satisfy or finish; from pleres (replete or covered over, to make complete); from pimplemi (to fill or fulfil)

Satan is opposed to all that is good, attacking God and all that God created to be good. The foundation of Satan's attacks are to falsely accuse others of evil. Satan manipulates situations and twists truth in order to draw others into evil, thus providing Satan with evidence of their badness. Satan uses the heart of a person as container for desires, filling them with the desire to do bad, motivating them to act upon those bad desires, providing evidence with which he can accuse them of being bad.

Satan attacked Jesus in this way:

"The tempter came and said to him, If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread...the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, - He will command his angels concerning you - and - On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone...Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Matthew 4:3-9 (ESV)

Satan began his attack by bringing Jesus into circumstance which provided opportunity for sin. Surrounding Jesus with the sight, smell and sound of wealth and power, Satan attempted to fill his heart with the desire for evil, expecting to motivate Jesus to act upon those desires.

In each circumstance Jesus placed God at the center of the conflict. Jesus saw each attack of Satan as a temptation to dishonor or ignore God.

A startling instance of Satan's attack of Jesus came through Peter himself:

"Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, - Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you. - But he turned and said to Peter, - Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." Matthew 16:21-23 (ESV)

Peter rebuked Jesus, and Jesus regarded that rebuke as a direct attack from Satan. Notice that Jesus said the goal of Satan was to be a "hindrance", and again, the central issue for Jesus was God.

Satan attacks by persuading others to dishonor or ignore God.

This is why Peter rebuked Ananias and Sapphira for lying to God. The deception of acting as if they were giving all of their wealth for the sake of Christ, at its core, was an attempt to hide something from an all-seeing, all-knowing, sovereign God. It is as if Ananias and Sapphira temporarily forgot Who God was, regarding Him as fallible and unable to discover their lie.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? In what sense is every sin an insult to God? Is it reasonable to regard every temptation as a threat to God's honor?

Ananias died when he heard Peter's rebuke.

"When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him." Acts 5:5-6 (ESV)

All who heard of the death of Anaias felt great fear.

FEAR: phobos (alarm or fright); from phebomai (to be put in fear)

This is a common Greek word for fear. The disciples cried out for fear at the sight of a Jesus walking on the sea, taking Him for a spirit (Matthew 14:26). The Roman guards trembled with fear during the earthquake and appearance of an angel at the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 28:4). The miraculous healing of a a dead man, the only son of a widow, seized a great crowd with fear, causing them to glorify God for visiting His people and sending a great prophet (Luke 7:16).

Paul the Apostle rebuked Jews and Greeks who felt no fear of God:

"All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes." Romans 3:12-18 (ESV)

Yet, Paul encouraged believers to resist falling into fear:

"All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father!" Romans 8:14-15 (ESV)

Fear can be for good or for ill. It can come upon us by surprise, from something unexpected, whether good or ill. We've all been startled by someone we trust, suddenly appearing from a doorway or behind us. Fear can also come through lack of understanding, or lack of faith. Fear can cause us to faint or hide, and fear can cause us to rejoice and sing.

It is too simplistic to regard fear as always bad or always good.

A better way to respond to personal fear is to place God in the center, focusing on what is true. The truth may be fearful, but genuine, truthful fear, beginning with God at the center, is the only way to be rightly related to Our Creator:

"Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God." 2 Cor 7:1 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Look at the passage immediately before this verse: 2 Corinthians 6:16-18. Upon what promises can we bring holiness to completion in the fear of God?

  • We are the temple of the living God.
  • God will make His dwelling among us.
  • God will walk among us.
  • God will will be our God.
  • We shall be God's people.
  • God will welcome us.
  • God will be a father to us.
  • We shall be sons and daughter to God.

Paul places the responsibility for holiness upon us. He calls us to "cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit." This seems contradictory. Aren't we to trust in the undeserved mercy and grace of God in Christ's propitiation by blood for our sin?

"By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How does our ability to cleanse ourselves work together with God's gift of salvation through grace alone?

"After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, - Tell me whether you sold the land for so much. - And she said, - Yes, for so much. - But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out. - Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things." Acts 5:7-11 (ESV)

Ananias and Sapphira both died suddenly at the realization that God had seen their secret sin. Great fear came upon the entire Christian community, near and far.

This is a remarkable story. Luke gives no indication that anything similar happened again. It seems to be an undeniable instance of supernatural power, the discovery of secret sin causing immediate death. No wonder the great fear!

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What purpose would God have in carrying out such swift justice, but only that one time? Surely Christians have lied to the Holy Spirit since then - why do we not often hear of them suddenly falling down dead?

Image provided by Cat Sacdalan, www.behance.net/annthrop, Creative Commons License.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Wayne Grudem on Worship

Wayne Grudem on Worship

As part of my study of worship, I read a chapter of Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem. The following are quotations from the book (in bold) with references from the Bible (in italics).

Worship is the activity of glorifying God in his presence with our voices and hearts.

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Colossians 3:16 (ESV)

Worship is therefore a direct expression of our ultimate purpose for living, to glorify God and fully enjoy him forever.

God is worthy of worship and we are not.

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." Revelations 4:11 (ESV)

When we feel the absolute righteousness of this deeply within ourselves we then have the appropriate heart attitude for genuine worship.

Because God is worthy of worship and seeks to be worshipped, everything in our worship services should be designed and carried out not to call attention to ourselves or bring glory to ourselves, but to call attention to God and to cause people to think about him.

"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:10-11 (ESV)

The results of genuine worship:

1. We delight in God.

"Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you." Psalms 73:25 (ESV)

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God...Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Blessed are those whose strength is in you...For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere." Psalms 84:1-10 (ESV)

2. God delights in us.

"You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married." Isaiah 62:3-4 (ESV)

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Zepheniah 3:17 (ESV)

3. We draw near to God.

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:19-22 (ESV)

"For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given - If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned - Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said - I tremble with fear - But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." Hebrews 12:18-24 (ESV)

4. God draws near to us.

"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." James 4:8 (ESV)

"It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord - For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever - the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God." 2 Chron 5:13-14 (ESV)

5. God ministers to us.

"You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 2:5 (ESV)

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

"I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed...Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" Psalms 34:4-8 (ESV)

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalms 37:4 (ESV)

"We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)

6. The Lord's enemies flee.

"When he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say - Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever - And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed." 2 Chronicles 20:21-22 (ESV)

7. Unbelievers know they are in God's presence.

"If all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you." 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 (ESV)

"Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." Acts 2:9-11 (ESV)

Because worship glorifies God and fulfills the purpose for which God created us, it is an activity of eternal significance and great value.

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:15-20 (ESV)

Worship is doing the will of God! Worship is the result of understanding what the will of the Lord is. It is making the most of the time.

To worship in spirit and truth is best understood to mean not - in the Holy Spirit - but in the spiritual realm, in the realm of spiritual activity.

True worship involves not only our physical bodies but also our spiritis, the immaterial aspect of our existence that primarily acts in the unseen realm.

"Mary said - My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." Luke 1:46-47 (ESV)

Unless our spirits are worshiping God we are not truly worshiping him.

Genuine worship must be the outpouring of our hearts in response to a realization of who God is.

The physical setting and the structure of worship services do matter.

"Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them - It is written - My house shall be called a house of prayer - but you make it a den of robbers." Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV)

"When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:6 (ESV)

We should choose a setting for prayer or for worship that avoids distractions as much as possible.

"God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints...all things should be done decently and in order." 1 Corinthians 14:33,40 (ESV)

If Christians can worship and pray by singing words in unison, there is nothing to prevent them from genuinely worshiping and praying by reading words aloud in unison.

Any one form that is used excessively can become a meaningless routine for most participants.

It is important to allow enough time for the various aspects of corporate worship. Genuine prayer can certainly take time. Solid Bible teaching can often take a long time as well. Moreover, genuine, heartfelt worship and praise will also take quite a bit of time if it is to be effective.

Source: Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem

Image provided by David Kidd, Creative Commons License

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sovereignty of God

Sovereignty of God

The religious rulers in Jerusalem were between a Rock and a hard place: they feared the power of Jesus and they feared the power of the people. They squirmed out of the trap, temporarily, by threatening Peter and John, charging them to speak and teach of nothing concerning Jesus, and releasing them from custody.

"When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, - Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, -

"Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed -

"For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

"And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:19-31 (ESV)

Peter and John, with their friends, worshipped God, praising Him for His sovereignty.

SOVEREIGN: despotes (absolute ruler, "despot"); from deo (to bind) and posis (a husband)

Despotes is used ten times in the Bible, referring to human masters as well as to God Almighty. In the King James version it is translated as Lord or master.

The action of binding probably refers to the power that the despot has over others. Paul spoke of himself as being bound in the spirit:

"And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there." Acts 20:22 (KJV)

The connection to a husband refers to the legal and moral obligations that marriage upholds:

"A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives..." Romans 7:2 (ESV)

Peter and John and their friends identified God as Sovereign because of His power of creation:

"Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them..." Acts 4:24 (ESV)

God's power of creation means that God cannot be influenced or controlled or defeated by any human force:

"Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed..." Acts 4:25-26 (ESV)

In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter and John and their friends recognized God's binding, legal and moral authority over His creation:

"Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Acts 4:27-28 (ESV)

Judas Iscariot's treason, the lynch mob, Peter's denial, the kangaroo court and the torturous crucifixion and death of Jesus were according to the sovereign plan of God.

PREDESTINED: proorizo (to limit in advance, to predetermine); from pro ("fore", in front of, prior to) and horizo (to mark out or bound, to appoint, decree or specify); from horion (a boundary-line); from horos (a bound or limit)

God's sovereignty is not simply a despotic power to bind subjects to His control. The sovereignty of God means that from before time began, God had marked out the boundaries of every action of every creature and creation that would ever exist.

The mob that seized Jesus had only the opportunity and power that God had predetermined ages ago:

"Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, - Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness." Luke 22:52-53 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Read through Luke 22 and list events that demonstrate the predetermination of God's sovereign control over the death of Jesus.

Because of their faith in the binding, predetermined sovereignty of God, the Christians were able to boldly and obediently face the dangerous persecution which was surrounding them:

"Now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." Acts 4:29-30 (ESV)

The persecuted Christians were able to trust God's sovereign control over all events. They expected God to respond to the threats of violence, in His time and in His way. They expected God to empower them with boldness. They expected God to heal sickness and work supernatural miracles, in His time and in His way. Above all, they expected Jesus to be exalted in the eyes of the world as God's holy servant, the Savior of Sinners.

The immediate result of the Christian's prayer of worship and praise of God's sovereignty was earthshaking:

"When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:31 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How can God be the sovereign Authority over the universe, yet still allow violence, sickness and sin?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? In many ways, the American Christian church seems to be a weak and ineffective influence and witness to our society. Do you think doubting the sovereignty of God is the main reason for the average Christian's lukewarmness? Or is there some other major cause for the Church's lack of strength?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How does the concept of the sovereignty of God contrast with that of fatalism? Is a Christian who trusts God as the Almighty Controller of the universe a fatalist?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How does the sovereignty of God support your faith and life?

Image provided by Tom, http://www.ttdesign.de.ki/, Creative Commons License

Monday, January 2, 2012

Worship and Blessing

Worship and Blessing

When God created

the heavens and the earth, vegetation, animals and man, He blessed them and praised them as very good:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, - Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth...God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, - Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Genesis 1:1, 21-22, 27-28

God blessed His creation, and He continually blesses us all, with breath and life and family and fulfillment.

But we also bless God:

"I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth." Psalms 34:1 (ESV)

Blessing God is often considered worship. If God blesses His creation, does He worship His creation? How does the concept of blessing relate to worship?

BLESS: barak (to kneel)

To bless something literally means to make them kneel down:

The servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water." Genesis 24:10-11 (ESV)

"Kneel down" is from the same Hebrew word: barak.

In blessing His creation, God was figuratively making His creation to kneel before that He might give something good. He gave His creation fruitful life. He gave to mankind a fruitful life with dominion over all that God had created, making man and woman stewards of His world.

Blessing God is closely connected with worship of God:

I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord." Genesis 24:48 (ESV)

Abraham's servant blessed his camels, making them kneel down by the well of water. Later, that same servant worshiped and blessed God.

In what sense did the servant make God kneel down? How does worship compare with blessing? Are they the same? If so, did God worship His creation?

The words worship and blessing appear closely related in meaning:

WORSHIP: shaha (to depress, to prostrate)

Our English word, depress, means to press down, to let fall or lower. It commonly now is used to describe long-lasting sadness and apathy.

Prostrate literally means to throw down. It describes a person with face on the ground in humble adoration. It can also describe someone utterly exhausted, lying flat on the ground.

If we take the servant's words literally, he shriveled up or bent his neck, putting his face to the ground, and made the Lord kneel.

The literal image seems odd.

In what way could anyone make God kneel?

The only way this makes sense is if the literal meaning of "bless" is meant to be taken figuratively: the servant intended to give something good to God. He intended to make much of God, praising Him for His wise guidance, steadfast love and faithfulness.

Worship and blessing are distinct, but they often naturally connect together. Worship means to place yourself lower than another, recognizing the other's greatness. Blessing means to imagine having someone kneel before you so that you may give them something good.

Although the literal meaning of blessing means to make someone kneel, the intention of the word is to mean that you are giving something good.

In blessing His creation, God was not worshipping His creation...He was giving His creation something good.

In blessing God, we are not making Him kneel before us...we are giving Him something good. We are making much of Him.

We are making Him our Treasure.

Image provided by upyernoz, Creative Commons License