28/3/2021 [Thematic Message 124] www.lifechurchmissions.com
The Worship of Saints to God <Ge 4:1-8> <Jn 4:24> <Ro 12:1-2>
Prelude: Many believers’ (including non-believers’) deepest impression when they think about Christianity is that Christians have many meetings every week. Those who do not believe in the Lord will ask what we do so frequently in church. They all think that these meetings and worship are religious social activities with singing, prayers, listening to sermons, socializing, etc. In reality, they do not know that all these that we believers do are our most sincere and true worship offered toward the only true God. Actually, the worship of God by believers is the starting point of our faith living. We have Sunday worship, we worship whenever we meet, two or three persons worship at home, we worship during personal devotion, etc. The worship of believers demonstrates our awe and reverence toward our creator Lord and at the same time, confirm our role to be humble and submit to God. Hence, the sincere worship of believers will definitely result in them acknowledging once again, “Who is God, who am I”, thereafter, their whole faith living will be brought to one that “lives by listening to God” and not one that “lives as his own master”. Therefore, a believer who does not worship correctly or fails in his worship will easily fall into the sin of “pride”. Sometimes, this pride is not just revealed in his direct attitude, but we will also see that in his thinking, judgement, decisions, management of things, he will consider his feelings more and even in the way he deals with people and things, he will believe more in his own intelligence and determination. Gradually, he will quickly be influenced by the people he mixes around with and the environment. But those believers who always succeed in their worship will continue to live “by faith from first to last”, and everything they do is based on their faith (God's word), and not on what their eyes see. Therefore, the worship of believers will directly influence their entire faith living. Actually, what God has first established is not serving, it is also not evangelism but worship. Even though there are much serving in church, they are a result of the worship of God by the saints and not the reason why everyone gathers. If the worship of the saints fail, the serving in church very quickly become labor, and not a sacrifice offered to God with a revering heart. Hence, we often see many conflicts among people due to serving, or because of serving, people get excessively exhausted such that they lose joy. There are also people who neglect their family or their personal responsibilities as a result of serving. Perhaps, we may think that this is because we did not plan our time appropriately or the plans of our serving are too many. But the most fundamental reason is because we start to get weak in matters relating to worship. We do not truly meet God through the hymns we sing, our prayer contents, the message we hear, our response to God (offering), and the blessing we receive (benediction) during worship. Hence, we often lack love, wisdom, patience, self-control, etc., in many of our serving. Then, when we talk about matters relating to worship, we know that the most sacred and solemn worship for all the saints is the Sunday worship. At that time, believers put aside all things in their lives, and dedicate the most important day and also the most important moment to set their lives apart as holy and gather together to worship the Lord with the most devoted hearts. In the Old Testament, this is the Sabbath on Saturday and is considered a holy day <Gen 2:3>. But since the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, the disciples and the believers of the early church all met on the first day of the week (Sunday) <Jn 20:19> <Ac 20:7>, hence we can say that it has replaced the tradition of believers in the Old Testament to worship on Saturday. God has set such a solemn worship for the saints, so as to allow His children to come together before God to meet Him on this holy day. However, the modern church has slowly introduced humanistic social activities to attract people to the church. The most obvious approach is that modern churches design traditional worship as Seeker Sensitive Worship. Such a worship is to make the entire structure, rituals and order of worship very palatable for new friends or seekers. Whether it is the message that is shared, the hymn that are sung, the contents of the prayer, the decoration of the pulpit, the program that is presented, etc., they are all aimed at attracting newcomers. Of course, we do not object to evangelism. Evangelism is also the responsibility of believers, but church gatherings are established for worship, not for evangelism. In the early church <Ac 2:42>, believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer, all of which were established for believers. Of course, our worship also welcomes the participation of non-believers. In our worship, non-believers are also able to witness the glory of God and the relationship between all the saints and God shown in the worship, and they will also be moved by the Holy Spirit. Of course, we have special evangelistic meetings or special gatherings for non-believers, but if we replace the weekly worship and gathering of saints with seeker-sensitive worship, then the spiritual meaning of worship will gradually lose its taste. Believers also put their focus on newcomers, rather than on God, and they will gradually lose the godliness that should be within their hearts for God during worship. This shows that some believers do not feel the importance of worship. Many even use the current pandemic as an excuse to choose to have online meetings at home. All this is actually because the church has gradually weakened in the worship which God has established for Christians. Today, we once again want to reflect on the meaning of worship.
1. Man is created to worship God as the purpose of his life
1）Abel and Cain came before God to worship Him
Actually, worship starts from the creation of mankind. God created mankind in His own image and blessed them <Gen 1:28>. Man was also created as a living being <Gen 2:7>, who could communicate with God, and enjoy the fellowship with God. Created beings love and need to have such worship of the Creator Lord. In <Rev 4:10>, we see the 24 elders (representing all saints) fall down before God’s throne to worship Him. Thus, the worship of God is when humans give all honor, glory, praise and significance, etc., to the God who is I AM. After man sinned and fell, although he could not be face to face with God, yet being created in the image of God, he still has the instinct and need to worship God. Thus, he will naturally keep seeking a higher sacred being, and offer sincere worship to him. In <Gen 4>, there is a very practical example of humans worshipping God, that is Abel and Cain coming before God to worship Him. From here, we will know that in the Old Testament Bible, to bring sacrifices before God symbolized man’s worship of God. Here, we also unfortunately witness the first murder of human history, which was also the killing of one’s kin. This shows how extreme the sinner’s evil can go, and this was also something which happened after worship. Therefore, we can say that a person’s worship determines whether he will take a blessed or sinful path later. If believers fail in their worship, their subsequent living will surely be immersed in the sea of worldliness and transgressions.
2）Why was God pleased with Abel’s offering but not Cain’s?
The Bible does not tell us specifically what the reason was, thus we have to read between the lines. When people interpret this passage, many are unconvincing. Some said that Abel’s offering was very sincere, to offer the best (fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock), but Cain nonchalantly offered something (brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering). Some also said that Abel’s offering contained blood, but Cain’s did not have blood but was only crops. In fact, these explanations were not very convincing. Because both shepherding and farming were proper work. In the Old Testament, when the Israelites gave grain offerings, they also offered crops to God, this is not unacceptable to God. Furthermore, it is simply reasonable for the shepherd to offer the fats of the flock and for the farmer to offer crops. Thus, these former reasons are unconvincing. In fact, we must see that it was because God was pleased with the life of Abel, so He looked with favor on Abel’s offering. God was not pleased with Cain, so He did not look with favor on Cain’s offering. The emphasis is on the person’s life, not offering. Because a life which is favored then can offer a God-pleasing sacrifice. Cain was not pleasing to God because sin was crouching at his door <Gen 4:7>. In other words, he did not trust and obey God, and also did not have a real relationship with God. Not only was this so with his life but also his living, he was someone walking in sin. Then, why was Abel favored by God? Because Abel’s sacrifice was offered by faith. In other words, by faith, his sins were already forgiven. <Heb 11:4> “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” From here, we know that not all outward worship is pleasing to God. Today, there are many who worship not by faith, but only having an outward godliness. They are not worshipping God as God. <Ro 1:21, 24> says that the first charge God has against humans is that humans neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him, thus their subsequent end is that God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. Today, we must ask whether the worship designed by the church or man’s worship of God, truly give God the reverence due Him. The Bible keeps saying that the basic duty of man is to honor higher objects. We should respect our parents, as well as, kings or church elders. It is reasonable for man to respect what is higher, but fallen men do not know how to revere the most glorious God. Perhaps they are only afraid of God, or they only want to get some temporal blessings from God, but they never worship Him with a faith of giving the highest honor to God. Their worship is not a persistent trust and obedience to God. Such worship is the worship of pagans or that of religious worshippers, but not the worship of saints redeemed by the precious blood of the Lord. The hearts of those who worship God in this way will turn eviler. This is as what <1 Co 10:20> says, “such sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God.” The more they worship, the further their hearts drift from God’s holiness, and they get greedier, more jealous, more hateful, more hypocritical, prouder, etc., instead.
2. The worship God demands from us today
1) Worship in Spirit and in truth
Then, if God is the most esteemed object of our worship, what can we offer Him in our worship? Is it our money, time, or music? Indeed, there is nothing we have that does not come from Him. However, there is something we can offer in our worship that is pleasing to Him. That is our spirit and truth <Jn 4:24>. Imagine what is it that the glorious God who lacks nothing wants? That is our heart of truth. In this passage, we see the Samaritan woman asking Jesus about worship. She asked if worship should be in this mountain or Jerusalem? However, this is not the critical thing, the critical thing is that the woman did not share the deepest things in her heart with Jesus. She used religion (rituals, decrees, requirements) to hide the true state of her heart. Therefore, the Lord told her that the most important factor in worship. What God wants is none other than the spirit and truth. What would a loving and majestic father want from a child? Not his perfection, but his honesty. Similarly, how is a noble king respected by his people? That is through his people’s sincerity and honesty toward him. Therefore, when we flatter our Lord, are perfunctory toward Him, then the hymns we sing, the prayers we say, the response we give in our worship do not come from a truthful heart and it will not reach His ears. As a result, our guilt remains in us and becomes a point of Satan’s accusations. Therefore, what God hates the most is not the weaknesses or errors of His people, but it is when they misuse the name of the Lord. In <Isa 1:12-18>, God considered the offerings of His people as meaningless, and hated their New Moon feasts and appointed festivals. Because basically, they were not consistent. At the same time they offered their lips’ worship to the holy and righteous God, they did not learn to do right, seek justice and defend the oppressed, take the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. They used the outward godliness to hide the lies in their hearts. Therefore, David, who knew the heart of God, in his repentance, said, “You delight in truth in the inner being…Create in me a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” <Ps 51:6, 10>
2) Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice and worship
God explained the complete gospel in <Ro 1-11>, so that we know that it is by God’s grace that we can be justified before Him by faith. Following that, in order to live out this glorious gospel, the first step is to learn about worship. In <Ro 12:1-2>, Paul urged believers to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is their true and proper worship (some translated as “spiritual worship”). Some people think that by following a certain format, that is worship. Others think that if they offer their money, time and talent, it is worship. However, God wants us to be a living sacrifice. That is us serving God with our body and soul for the whole day. This is not conforming to the pattern of the world in the way we handle things. That is not us becoming a bit more spiritual and learning to speak spiritual words when we are in church, and then using worldly ways to deal with people and things when we are in world. Certainly not! The most beautiful worship and serving we bring God is the transformation by the renewing of our mind. Then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will, as we serve the Lord in our lives.
3) All worship and serving have to ultimately undergo the cleansing of Christ to be made pleasing to God
Actually, even though we know this truth, we know our serving is not perfect. Even if we are most willing, our serving is often tainted by our sins and selfish motives. If we examine with a truthful heart, our weak human nature will cause us to have residual unholy motives and methods in our spousal living, children upbringing, handling of matters and serving of others. No one can say, “Lord, what I did is perfectly holy and completely pleasing to you.” What should we do then? Therefore, when we offer up our serving to God, we must be assured that the precious blood of Christ will cleanse what is unclean and defiled, and then present our offering as perfect and without fault to God.
3. How should we worship with everyone?
1）Fixed order of worship, carried out in a lively way
(1) Preparation – Our personal preparations before the formal worship will determine the blessings we receive during the worship; (2) Praise – We first give praise to our most revered God, expressing our humility and reverence toward Him; (3) Intercession – Our intercession shows our need for God and our reliance on Him; (4) Sermon – We hear the word of God in order to hear the Great Shepherd’s voice to us sheep; (5) Offering – Through offering, we respond and make our vows to God; (6) Benediction – Through the benediction, we receive all blessings gotten during the worship and firmly believe that we have received them; (7) Fellowship – Our fellowship and mutual love with all people is the outcome brought about after worship.
** The above worship order seems fixed, but it is certainly not rigid. Instead, it has to be carried out in a lively way. Because the situation of the day, the hymns sung, the sermon heard, the vows made in response, and the brethren with whom we have fellowship after worship, are all different every week. Thus, our praise and anticipation of God during every worship should also be fresh.
2）We mobilize our five senses to worship the Lord
Because we are not just a living being, but we are also created with flesh. When our flesh is inspired by the ceremony established by God, our spirits will all the more be touched. For example: Our eyes see the glorious faces of brethren, their presentable dressing, adorning of worship, then our hearts cannot help feeling excited. When we also hear everyone sing hymns to praise God, we also sing in unison with the rest, then our hearts immediately give glory to God. When we taste the Holy Communion, it also stirs us to think of the Lord’s grace. Finally, when we shake hands with one another and have contact with each other, we feel the warmth and love between brethren. Human touch is so empowering; according to doctors, it can even give some premature infants the strength to live on.
** Even though we are all restricted in many areas now due to the pandemic, we must know the worship God establishes for all saints, and yearn to restore such worship soon. <Rev 4:5> tells us when we saints worship, spectacular things happen in the spiritual realm which we cannot see, from the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. God’s seven spirits and the work of the heavenly angels also appear. Therefore, many things invisible and unimaginable to us happen during worship. Perhaps it is the nearing of the timetable of our family members’ salvation, or very important doors of evangelism are opened, or a very important revival of an era is coming. Therefore, we saints must not treat worship lightly.