Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Truth About Worship (Sermon done on June 29th)

This sermon was inspired by what was said and done at high school camp this summer (CIY).  Not all of it is original with me, but it really caused a paradigm shift to happen in my life concerning worship.  It is my prayer that it does the same for you.  I do apologize about the length, but it is a sermon and not necessarily a blog post.

Everybody worships one way or another.  You can deny it.  You can refuse to believe it.  You can just plain lie about it, but the truth of the matter is, EVERYONE WORSHIPS!! (Sorry to any atheists out there who believe that you need a god in order to worship.)

Everyone worships, but I think many are confused as to what worship is.  I mean, when a person says worship what are some things that come to mind.  For a Christian it could be singing, praying, lifting hands, etc...  A non-Christian may have similar images but they may not correspond to the church setting.  There image might be like something out of King Kong!!

Even though we as Christians are supposed to know I think a lot of us are confused about what worship is.  Paul wrote and rebuked a young Corinthian church which was allowing people to practice worship that resembled the worship in Corinth's own pagan temples.  Confusion as been going on for quite some time.

The first, what we might describe as, act of worship displayed in Scripture tells us that from the beginning there was confusion concerning worship.  Genesis 4:3-7 tells us the story of Cain and Able.  Both brought offerings before God.  Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground.  Able brought an offering that was the firstborn of his flock.  Able's offering was accepted and Cain's was rejected.  Scripture never really tells us why.  God tells Cain “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you but you must rule over it.”

One can only assume why the acts of worship were different.  Teaching world religions has helped me to see that most of the world's religion's acts of worship are selfishly motivated.  They are done in an attempt to get a god's attention in order to coax, persuade, appease or pacify.   This could have been one of the reasons Cain's offering was not acceptable.  This is also the element that most non-Christians/non-religious people see and are repulsed by.

Unfortunately there are a lot of Christians who, though they may not come out and say it, practice a worship that reflects this kind of understanding.  They don't understand that the Bible teaches a worship that is much different and in fact is the kind of worship everyone practices but only a few recognize as being true worship.

Another misconception of worship is that when it occurs it occurs at a certain time and a certain place.  Christians are some of the best at understanding worship in this way.  Though many of us Christians profess the knowledge that worship should take place everywhere and all the time most of us show that we don't truly believe this by the way we worship.

I think most of us would be completely ashamed if just one day of our life, not just our actions but thoughts and feelings,  could be viewed by the rest of the church.  We put a good show on when it comes to Sunday but the rest of the week is a completely different matter.

To be honest, many of us are following in the same pattern of worship that  has been displayed in every religion, every generation since the beginning of time, and God has been trying to get us to see that worship done selfishly and/or during a prescribed time and at a certain place is the wrong kind of worship.  In fact, God has a completely different idea about worship.

The kind of worship he wants us to give him is the same kind of worship everyone does everyday automatically because the entire human race knows how to worship and it worships well.   One of the main words in the New Testament translated worship is proskuneo.  Proskuneo literally means to “kiss towards.”  It is equivalent to any action done when in the presence of someone or something important.  For instance, in medieval times the subjects of a King might stand or bow when a he enters a room.  It is an action of respect and honor given to someone or something deemed important.  It can also mean to fawn over or prostrate one's self before.  It is to inconvenience one's self in order to show deference towards. 

It is important to understand what this word means in order for us to see how it is that everyone worships.  In fact, I think some of you are already seeing where I am going to go with this.  There are things in our lives that we “kiss toward” all the time.  Things that we show respect towards by assuming our worshipful position every time it is in our presence.  Things that we clear our schedule for, spend our money on, ignore other important tasks for, and even sacrifice just so that we can be near it. 

Let me switch directions here.  I'll tie it together in a little bit.  In Exodus we see a freed people sitting at the bottom of a mountain waiting for their prophet to come back from a talk with their God.  Their impatience gets the best of them and they go to the prophet's brother and ask him to make them a god so that they can worship.  So Aaron makes them a god out of their gold.  A calf is forged and so they began to give themselves in what they call worship but in reality is gluttony and orgy. 

It amazes me that after what the Israelites had witnessed from the time Moses stood before Pharaoh demanding that Pharaoh let his people go to this moment that they so easily fall into the old pattern of worship.  They were spared from most of the plagues.  They saw God lead them by pillar of fire and cloud.  God spared them from slaughter when he parted the Red Sea and destroyed Pharaoh's army in its water.  As they traveled through the desert God provided both food and water.  They were never in want.  They won battles even though they did not have military experience.  They saw God's glory on Mount Sinai.  All these things they had witnessed and yet when Moses was taking longer then they expected they prostituted themselves to a god made by human hands.  In reality, they found an excuse to give themselves over to their own selfish desires.

We are  no different today.  Our gods or idols look a bit different.  Over the years they have become disguised as useful tools of a modern age.  They are objects of love and devotion that “no one can deny.”  Yet they are nonetheless idols and false gods.  We assume the correct worship position in front of our computers.  We spend the extra money to make our boat, car, motorcycle look better even though it serves its practical function.  We schedule special time out of our day and get irritated when our favorite television program is interrupted.  We fawn over our sports stars and try to emulate our movie stars.  EVERYONE worships something.  Everyone is kissing towards something.  AND THEY ALL DO IT WELL!!!!

The fact is, God has wired the desire and ability to worship into his creation, but unfortunately worship has been redefined so that we are blinded.  We give what should be our proper worship to God to many other things.  Then we turn around and we give a worship to God that every other religion gives.  It's very sad.

Now I'm not saying there is anything wrong with what we do at church.  I will say that there can be something wrong with how we do it.  I said earlier that a misunderstanding of worship is that it needs to be done at a certain time and in a certain place.  A familiar story in the New Testament serves to illustrate the point.  In John 4 Jesus has an opportunity to speak to a Samaritan woman.  As he talks with her she becomes aware that Jesus is no ordinary person but must be some type of a prophet.  One of the questions that burns within her concerns worship.  Listen to her question in the form of a statement in verse 19.  “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 

This question illustrates the belief concerning worship.  To the Samaritans, as well as the Jews, it was about where and when.  The Jews worshiped God in the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Samaritans worshiped God, and continue to worship to this day, on Mount Gerizim.

Jesus' response to the Samaritan woman shows us that God has another idea concerning worship.  “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.”

The concept of worship was that it took place at a certain time and in a certain place.  The Jewish people perceived the temple as the meeting place between themselves and God.  So when they wanted to worship they would go to the temple to worship.  There they would meet God.  When worship time was over they would leave and go back to their normal lives.  Many Christians have this same view when it comes to church.  By their actions we can surmise that they believe God lives in the church.  They go visit him once a week like they might go visit grandma at the nursing home.  They then leave and expect him to be waiting for their next visit.

God has never desired this kind of worship.  In Isaiah 1 and 58 we see this.  Instead a new understanding must be developed.  If we are going to worship God in spirit and truth we must understand where the real worship service is.  You see, God doesn't reside in a temple or church.  We don't go to church to worship God.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that God resides in a completely different temple.  God resides in you!  Let me repeat that.  GOD LIVES IN YOU!!!  If you have received Jesus Christ as your savior and made him lord of your life then you received the Holy Spirit.  This means God lives in you.  You are a walking worship service.  You don't go to church to worship.  You go to church worshiping!  You should be living your life in worship!!  For those who know Christ and have him living inside there is no specific time or place to worship.  Worship should be happening all the time. We should be kissing towards God with our life.  We should be showing deference to Him in everything we do.  We should be inconveniencing ourselves for, spending money on, arranging our schedules all for God!!  The worship that we unknowingly have been giving other things is the worship that God wants.  This is worshiping Him in spirit and truth.

For those of you who are concrete thinkers you are probably saying to yourself “how does this look?  How can I make this practical?”  Instead of looking at the Bible as a bunch of dos and don'ts look at the Bible as an instruction manual for worship.  How do you worship continually?  You resist temptation as a spiritual act of worship.  You help those who are in need.  You spend personal time with God through pray and Bible study.  You rearrange your day to make God the priority.  You tell others about God.  You give up your idols and replace them with God.  In fact, I can't think of any better way to start worshiping God in the correct way then to give up your idols.  Instead, replace them with God.  Don't watch that TV show you just have to see.  Instead, spend that time studying God's word.  Don't eat out at that restaurant that you never miss going to.  Instead, give that money to someone less fortunate and eat a sack lunch.  Put down the computer, quit playing the video game, quit texting on the cell phone, quit eating the food, quit devoting yourself to those things that in the long run are not important and give yourself to God.  God desires us to be walking worship services.

Am I asking us to completely give up all these things?  If that is what it takes to be a walking worship service then I guess I am.  I am asking for us to be extreme in how we live for God.  I am not saying you have to give up all these things, but I think we need to be honest with ourselves.  It is extremely hard to quit worshiping something and continue to dabble in it or with it.  As any person who is struggling with overeating well knows, I can tell you from personal experience, the very fact that you have to eat makes giving up overeating extremely difficult.  It is the same with any idol worship.

Overall, I don't want us to focus on what we have to give up.  I want us to focus on who we get to worship!!  If we just focus on who we get to worship we don't have to worry about what we have to give up.  We will be more then happy to sacrifice for the wonderful God we serve.

Am I being a bit fanatical.  I would have to answer honestly and say yes, but here is the deal.  This is between you and God.  It isn't between you and anyone else.  Just because you choose to serve and worship God in spirit and truth does not mean you should expect everyone else to follow suit.  Worship is all about humility.  It does not have an ounce of pride involved.  You can encourage others to worship as you do, but never should you judge someone for not having matured to a point where they can worship in this manner.  This kind of worship that I am talking about is personal and it is a lifestyle.  When you participate in it others will see.  Yes some may say you are just a bit fanatical, but you have to ask yourself, who do you want to please.  Do you want to please the world, or do you want to please God.

Paul writes in Romans that we should no longer conform to the pattern of this world, but we should be (constantly) transforming by the renewing of our minds.  Now that you are finished reading your mind as been renewed.  Are you going to let this renewing transform you?  Have you had the wrong attitude concerning worship?  What idols do you need to give up?  The ball is in your court.  What are you going to do with it?

No comments: