We Gather Together
Worship (1): Man Should Worship God
Each Lord's day, hundreds of local congregations assemble across the face of this globe to worship God. Yet, many things go on in these assemblies which do not please God. Many local groups are involved in activities which are unauthorized by the Scriptures which cannot possibly be pleasing to God. Others who practice only scriptural items of worship leave much to be desired in their services because of the things which go on in their assemblies. I have personally witnessed not a few brethren settle down for a nice winter's nap as the preacher stepped forward to proclaim God's word, children giggling during the observance of the Lord's Supper in spite of the fact that they were supposed to be Christians, old and young sit with closed mouths during the worship of God through song, and other things which would cause one to question whether worship was genuinely offered in the midst of such activities.
Perhaps it is time for us to reconsider some of the fundamentals pertaining to worship. I propose a consideration of the subject of worship in the next few weeks in the series of articles which will appear in this journal. We are all expected to be worshiping creatures of God. Hence, a reconsideration of this subject should be useful to our readers.
What Is Worship?
The definition of the word "worship" is not difficult; Webster defines it to mean "to adore or pay divine honors to as deity; to reverence with supreme respect and veneration." From the definition of worship given by the dictionary, we see at least two items which must be present before. anything can properly be considered "worship": (1) man must respect and adore God and (2) that respect and veneration must be expressed.
The fact that worship must stem from respect for God prohibits much of what happens in our services from being worship. Far too frequently, we "worship" God through traditions learned by rote. Isaiah reported that this was not properly "worship;" he said, "The Lord said, `Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote. "' (29:13). Notice that worship of God which consists of traditions learned by rote is not acceptable to God. I hereby charge that much of what goes on in the services of the church cannot be considered God-pleasing worship because they are nothing more than traditions learned by rote.
My prime evidence for making this charge is the personal battle which I must fight within myself in order that my worship might be acceptable. I was baptized into Christ when I was twelve years old. I have been singing the beautiful songs of Zion for enough years now that I can sing a large number of them without looking at a book and without thinking about the words which I am saying when singing them. Songs such as "Just As I Am," "What A Friend We Have In Jesus," "Oh, Why Not Tonight?", etc. are so familiar to me that I can sing them to the best of my musical abilities while thinking of the football game being aired on television. I have heard so many prayers offered at the Lord's table that I could probably cite the greater portion of the prayer which will be prayed at the table next Sunday, even though it has not yet been offered. Some of the sermons which I listen to are familiar to me to the point that I can name the major points after listening to a few minutes of the introduction. The problem which all of this poses for me, so far as worship is concerned, is that I sometimes allow myself to go through the motions of worship without accompanying it with my spirit.
I assume that I am a fairly normal human being and that the problems which face me confront other Christians besides myself. Hence, I am fairly certain that there are a number of times when saints assemble to worship God when our minds are so far removed from the worship which we offer that what is offered is not pleasing to God. We merely offer traditions learned by rote. (The reaction which some have had to this problem is to change the items of worship. What needs to be attacked is the problem in man and not in the items which God has divinely authorized to be used in worship.) Recognizing this as a problem which we all face, let us reconsider what things are necessary for worship to be pleasing to God in order that our own personal worship might be acceptable to the Lord God Almighty.
Respect For God
As I previously mentioned, worship must begin with respect for God. There can be and will be no worship offered by the man who has no respect for God. Hence, let us begin by listing some of the things which should cause us to respect God.
1. God is omnipotent. Sometimes I watch the weightlifting contests which are a part of the Olympic sports competition. I watch a man lifting a set of barbells much heavier than his own body weight and listen to the audience "ooh" and "ah" at the strength of such a man. If man can respect his fellowman because he has the strength to lift a few hundred pounds above his head, how much more should he respect the Lord God who is omnipotent? There is no limits to the power of the God whom we worship. Jeremiah testified, "Ali Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for Thee" (32:17, 27). With the power of His spoken word, God created the heavens and the earth! (If you think that this requires little power, try closing the door with the power of your spoken word.) God said, "Let there be light" and "there was light." With the power of God's word, the mountains and valleys were formed, the moon and the stars were created and put into place. With the power of God's spoken word, the waters of the Red Sea parted in order that the children of Israel might walk through on dry land. Men were raised from the dead by the power of God's spoken word; diseased bodies were restored to normal health by the power of the spoken word. Yes, my friend, I am awed by the omnipotence of God. Consideration of the divine power of God causes me to reverence and to respect Him.
2. God is omnipresent. Another characteristic of divine nature is the fact that God can be in every place at the same time. The psalmist wrote, "Whither can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Thy hand will lead me, and thy right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, `Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to Thee, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee" (139:7-12). There is no place that man can be but that God is present. He is able to be in the presence of the saints who assemble in Florida, Maryland, Texas and Ohio at the same time. That is another reason that I respect the Lord God and am moved to worship Him.
3. He is omniscient. God is not only all powerful and ever present, He also knows everything. The psalmist marvelled, "How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand" (139:17-18). Man stands in the presence of his fellowmen who has a doctorate degree in some specialized field of study (e.g. the use of the definite article in the book of Song of Solomon) and marvels at the wisdom of the man. Yet the man who knows so much about Hebrew is most probably totally ignorant regarding solar energy or mathematics. But God knows all things. There is nothing but that God knows it. He is even able to know the thoughts and intents of man's heart (Heb. 4:12-13). If man can honor and respect a man who knows a good bit about a limited area of knowledge, he should be able to revere and worship the God who knows all things.
4. God is love. Another aspect of God's nature and character is that He is love (1 Jn. 4:8). We sometimes fail to stop and think about the fate of man should divine revelation have said "God is mean." How blessed we are to have a Creator who is a God of love. He has so wonderfully blessed us in so many ways. He has created this world in such a manner that every physical need of man has been provided for. In addition to the physical needs of man, God has wonderfully provided for man's spiritual needs. Though this world is filled with men who rebel against God, He still loves us enough to send His only begotten Son to save us (Jn. 3:16). The story of Jesus Christ is the most complete revelation of how much God is a God of love. We should be moved to revere and respect our God of love.
5. God is holy. Still another characteristic of God which should move man to reverence God is His holiness. God is not tainted by sin; He is the "Holy One of Israel" (Isa. 1:4; 5:19, 24). Since God is God, He cannot lie since that would be against His nature (Heb. 6:18; Tit. 1:2). Man cannot charge God with moral fault. He is perfectly holy.
Expressing Our Reverence
The man who is not moved to worship and adore his Creator who has such wonderful attributes as described above has problems with himself. The man who saps up good things from others and never stops to say "thank you" has moral faults. Yet, many men consume the good things of God and never stop to express their worship and adoration toward God. We breathe His air, eat His food, and use His raw materials to produce our goods but never take the time to express our gratitude toward Him for all of the good things which He has done. There is something basically wrong with the man who sponges these good things from God and never stops to express His reverence and adoration toward Him. Man should feel indebted to his Divine Benefactor.
Hence, each of us should want to assemble each Lord's day to worship our God. He has done so much for us that this is the very least that we can do in return for Him. When we assemble for worship, we should forget the cares of life which tend to distract us and concentrate on our great God. I am constantly amazed that so many Americans refuse to worship God. There is no place under God's sun which has been so bountifully blessed materially as we have in America. We receive so many blessings from the Lord God and, therefore, have so many things for which we should be thankful. Yet, many do not take the time to worship. Then, too, we live in a land which historically was occupied by the white man in order to obtain the freedom to worship God. Brave men have shed their blood that this and other freedoms might be preserved for posterity. If we are going to fight for the liberty to worship, we ought to make use of that liberty. We ought to worship God!
God has given us countless numbers of reasons to offer worship to Him. In addition to the fact that man has so many reasons to worship God as the spontaneous expression of gratitude toward Him, God has also commanded that we should worship Him (Mt. 4:10; Rev. 22:9). As our Creator, He has the legitimate right to make demands of His creatures. Therefore, man should regularly worship God.
Questions - Lesson 1
a. Holding hands in prayer.
b. Dimming lights during prayer.
c. Playing instrumental music during the invitation or observance of the Lord's Supper.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 43, pp. 690-692