For most people the journey of life is too important to embark upon without some kind of instruction. At a young age our parents enroll us in school so that we can learn to read, write, add and subtract. As we grow older we take classes on subjects as varied as Physical Education, Home Economics, World History, Psychology, Sociology, and Calculus. If we decide to continue our education beyond high school, then our studies become more specialized as we seek to gain more and more insight in one specific area of study. The classes that are made available to us help us understand that there is a wealth of knowledge which can be used as tools to enhance our lives as we grow and mature. The classes enable us to better understand our relationships, our future avenues of employment, and the world around us. We need understanding. I can’t imagine what life would be like if we had no instruction to help us with the complexity of it all.
Even after we finish school there are a myriad of classes and opportunities to help us better understand different aspects of life. When we prepare to have our first child, we can take childbirth classes. There are parenting classes, driver’s ed. classes, couples classes to help build strong marriages, tax preparation classes, auto-mechanic classes for shade tree mechanics, cooking classes, home repair classes, and much more for anyone wanting to learn a new skill.
As important as the number of classes being offered are, they are not nearly as important as the quality of the teaching taking place in the classroom. When you pay the money to take a class you want to make sure that the instructor is a person who has understanding and insight into the subject that he or she will be teaching. Nobody who is serious about learning how to be good parent would pattern themselves after Ozzie Osbourne or Hank Hill. Nobody would want to take voice lessons from Adam Sandler as “Opera Man.” Nobody would want to learn to cook by watching Gallagher demonstrate his “Smash O’Matic” or by watching Mrs. Doubtfire make a mess of the kitchen. We want to learn from instructors who have spent hours studying their craft and who are excited about sharing what they have learned with their students.
My question is, “When was the last time you took a class on worship?” Did you ever enroll in “Worship: 101?” Have you ever studied what “worship” means, how to worship, the pitfalls that await those who worship in a misguided way, and the potential for those who worship God as He desires?
Who is your mentor when it comes to worship? Tom Cruise, the fans of your favorite team, the Mahareshi, or the crowd at the Live 8 concert? Did you learn to worship by merely taking a seat in a pew on Sunday morning after Sunday morning and watching the person who sits next to you? The person, who-for-all-you-know, was watching the person who sat next to them. Why is it that when we set out to learn a trade or how to better ourselves in our family relationships we search high and low to find instructors whom we respect and know we can learn from, but when we decide to frequent the “house of worship” we pay very little attention to whether we are truly worshipping God or merely filling space?
Worship is so vitally important that we dare not “wing it” or merely “do the best we can.” We need to hear from God what He has to say about the subject. The word “worship” appears 256 times in the New International Version of the Bible. I have looked up every instance and it is amazing what the Bible says about our worship. I want to focus this morning on the reasons for worship. In coming weeks we wil also the topics of the restraints of worship, recommendations for worship, and the results which come from worshipping Almighty God.
As in everything in life, we desire to know the reasons why we do things. No one likes to launch out into an effort without knowing why they’re doing what they’re doing. So it is with worship. If we are simply told to worship with no one ever explaining the reasons why we should worship then we run the risk of never experiencing the results of pure, God-centered worship.
The most important reason we worship God is because He desires, commands our worship. Over and over again throughout the Bible we are called by God to worship Him and Him alone. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses speaks to the children of Israel and warns them not to forget God. He says, “When God brings you into the land that He has promised, do not forget the one who brought you, do not serve other gods, serve the true and living God and Him alone.” In Deuteronomy 6:13, Moses says,
Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. (Deuteronomy 6:13 NIV)
It is interesting to take a long look at Jesus’ temptation in the rough Judean desert. Satan enticed Jesus three times to turn away from God’s pure and perfect will, but Jesus resisted. Each time Jesus was tempted, He quoted passages from the book of Deuteronomy. When Satan enticed Jesus to bow down and worship at his feet, Jesus said,
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10 NIV)
These are the very words that Moses gave the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 6:13! We are commanded to worship God and Him alone. That is not hearsay folks, that is straight from God Himself. When the Hebrews were given the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, God told Moses,
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2-3 NIV)
Plain and simple, God says to worship Him. I have been asked on several occasions, “Isn’t it kind of arrogant of God to command us to worship Him?” It might be perceived that way if you and I don’t understand who God is and why He commands us to worship Him, but when we take the time to understand His purpose and plan for our lives, our hearts swell with the privilege of being able to worship the one true God of all the universe. He has made us, formed us in our mother’s womb, and breathed into us the breath of life so that we can experience this thing called life. Every corpuscle, every fiber of our being is animated every moment of our time on this earth by the God who made us and desires that we worship and adore Him. It is His rightful place.
When my family lived in Plano, TX. a new cowboy rolled into town and upset the apple cart. Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys and the first thing he did was fire the living legend, Tom Landry. The next thing he did was hire a college coach, Jimmy Johnson, from the University of Miami. Nobody liked Jerry Jones’ decision. Jones and Johnson made a trade for Herschel Walker shortly after they arrived and everyone in Dallas fell in love with Herschel. He is so likeable and he got very involved in the community. Herschel was more than a football player, he wrote an article for the Dallas Times Herald, he held football camps for little kids, he donated tons of money to good causes — he did everything right. Herschel Walker took some of the pressure off Jones for awhile, that is until he decided to trade Herschel. People got up in arms quick. They thought Jones had lost his mind and they let him know it. There were scathing articles in the paper, sportscasters raked Mr. Jones over the coals, and the general population was madder than hops. As mad as everyone was for the supposed second blunder of Jerry Jones, nobody told him that he couldn’t do it. Nobody stopped him from hiring Jimmy Johnson or trading Herschel Walker because it was his team. He signed the papers, paid the cash, and laid his wallet on the line so that he could own the team. It was his right to do with the team whatever he wanted. We are talking about a football team my friend. If Mr. Jones had every right to conduct the affairs of the Dallas Cowboys as he desired, then surely God can command worship from those He has given the gift of life.
As our Creator, as the one who gives us the moment we are experiencing at this time, and as the one who has bought us with the blood of His only Son Jesus, it is God’s rightful place to command that we worship Him. Notice that I said, “command,” not demand, coerce, or force. God will never force His way into our hearts. As God says for us to have no other god but Him, He also allows us the freedom to reject Him. When we reject God’s counsel we bring destruction upon ourselves, but He allows us to do so. God desires that we bow before Him, worship and adore Him, and serve Him with every fiber of our beings. It is His rightful place.
God desiring our worship is different than the famous phrase uttered by many fathers throughout the centuries as their children asked, “Why?” You all know the phrase that has rolled off the lips of many a father. The answer to the question, “Why?” is, “Because.” Or you may have gotten the expanded version of “Because.” “Because this is my house and as long as you are living in my house, eating at my table, sleeping in the bed that I bought with my money, riding in my car, and wearing clothes that I bought with my money, you will do what I say.” For most of the kids I have known, that is not reason enough. Oh, kids may go along with the program while mom and dad are watching, but when the cats away the mice will play. For the right decisions to be made with the right motivation there must be some other element at work in the relationships of parents and children. I believe the key element is trust.
If the relationship I share with my kids has caused them to trust me, if they have learned that I am worthy of their trust, if they have experienced my insights and input to be a blessing rather than a curse, then they are much more likely to listen to what I have to say. At some point, as they grow up and leave the house, they will venture out on their own and begin to make decisions on their own, but their father’s words will echo in their heads when important decisions arise. Hopefully my kids are learning that I would not counsel them to do things which would harm them. They need to experience my counsel as being a source of blessing to their lives, words of counsel which enrich and enhance their lives, then they can begin to trust me.
The difference between my relationship with my children and our relationship with Almighty God is that if God were to give no other answer than “Because I said so” to our question of “Why should I worship You?” then that is enough. We, like Job, need no further explanation. Praise God that we have been given a multitude of reasons for us to bow our knee and explode in an anthem of humble praise before the King of all creation!
I want us to look at several of the reasons we have for worshipping God, but before we do I think it is important for us to know that we are going to worship something. We may choose to withhold the worship which is due to God and Him alone, but we will not give up worship altogether. We are creatures who have an innate need to worship. Ravi Zacharias, in his awesome book, Can Man Live Without God?, has written,
The thirst for worship or for the sacred across cultures and across time is ineradicable among the educated and the uneducated, the young and the old. During my days as a student at the University of New Delhi, I well remember students seated all around me with colored ash smeared on their foreheads, having visited the temple on their way to school. All over the world, churches, temples, mosques, and tabernacles abound. Sacred books still line the shelves of seekers after truth — the Gita, the Koran, the Grant Sahib, the Tri-Pitakas, the Bible, and more. Religious ceremonies are performed and prayers are invoked in life’s most significant moments. Even a cursory look at the record of human history reveals a fervent pursuit of things spiritual. (p. 150)
We need to worship like we need water and food. If you will stop and think for a moment you will easily recognize that modern-day society, in its efforts to dismantle the altar of Almighty God, has merely constructed cheap imitations of the one true altar so that we can have some outlet to express our innate drive to worship.
Jesus was well aware of the need within people to worship. It was Jesus’ understanding of this drive within the human spirit which led Him to say that worship should not only be in spirit, but also in truth. When we leave truth at home, when we relegate it to a secondary pursuit, there is no deception, no cheap imitation, or superstitious silliness which will not end up with an altar erected in its honor by deceived men and women. We need to worship, but we need to worship in spirit and in truth!
God’s demand that we worship Him alone fills this deep longing for worship within the soul of every human being. God doesn’t stop with merely demanding our worship. He has given us a multitude of reasons for us to desire to worship Him, not only for us to desire Him, but to awaken within us the understanding that it is a privilege to humble ourselves in submissive worship before His throne. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons you and I have for willingly, and excitedly worshipping our King.
GOD IS HOLY. We worship a holy God who is altogether different than our petty, self-centered, self-preserving ways. All of humanity suffers from the sickness of sin whose symptoms are lying, cheating, unfaithfulness, stealing, murder, lack of forgiveness, envy, jealousy, injustice, hatred of what is good, love for what is evil, sexual immorality, quarreling, gossiping, partiality and prejudice, and the list goes on. All that we are, in and of ourselves, God is not. I guess that’s why some call many of our actions and attitudes “ungodly.” That is precisely what they are.
On the other hand, God is altogether different than you and me. From God justice rolls down like the waters, love is extended to the unlovely, forgiveness is offered to those who don’t deserve it, truth is triumphant, peace is prevalent, faithfulness is a given, and impartiality invites those from all walks of life, races, and nations to drink at the fountain of eternal life.
Because God is holy we know that He is pure. “Pure” is defined as being 1. Free from mixture or contact with that which weakens, impairs, or pollutes; containing no foreign matter degrading material. 2. Free from adulteration; clear; clean. 3. Genuine, stainless. 4. Free from moral defilement; innocent; chaste; unsullied. Our love will fail, but God’s love never fails! Our forgiveness can falter as soon as we are wronged a second time by the same person, but God’s forgiveness is from everlasting to everlasting! Our justice bows under pressure, bends for the powerbrokers, and breaks the backs of those selected for unknown reasons, but God’s justice is distributed in equal measure to all — paupers and presidents! Our truth changes with the seasons so that we no longer know the truth from a lie, but God’s truth is the same today as it was yesterday.
Truth was born in Bethlehem, tested in the Judean desert, persecuted in Jerusalem, nailed to a tree on a hill called Golgatha, and was buried in a borrowed grave. The world thought Truth was shut-up, shut-down, and shut-out for all of eternity; that lies could waltz about at their leisure. On the third day Truth rolled away the stone, shredded the veil of darkness and deception, and reigned victorious! Truth reigns! Truth reigns, and Truth is so foreign to most of us that we do not even recognize the Truth anymore. We’ve confused the Truth for a lie.
Even our most godly character traits miss the high calling of our King, but His are pure — pure love, pure mercy, pure righteousness, pure justice, pure forgiveness, pure power! Our God is holy! My friend, because of God’s pure holiness we can trust Him at His Word. What God says He means, unlike us.
Our ways are fickle, failing, and fallible even in their purest expression, but God’s ways are pure, His ways are right and true, and His ways always bring about His purposes to His people. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I am talking about.
31 “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. 32 For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? 33 It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. (2 Samuel 22:31-33 NIV)
Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?’ (Ezekiel 18:29 NIV)
We can’t trust man because man’s ways are corrupt, but we can trust God because His ways are right and pure! We can worship God without reservation, without fear of being misled, lied to, or abused — His ways are holy!
GOD KNOWS US. We are privileged to worship God because He knows us, He knows our ways, and yet He chooses to love us, to reveal Himself to us, and bless us with His presence.
It is a scary thing to be known isn’t it? We go to great lengths to prevent folks from truly knowing us, who we really are, because we know that if folks know the darkness, the hardness of our hearts, they will not like what they see. I allow you to see the things about myself that I think would be appealing to you, but to the best of my ability I try to hide the hardness of my heart and the shallowness of my soul from you because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you were to catch a glimpse of the wretchedness that resides within me you would run. The longer I live the more I am convinced that I am not alone in this state of despair. As a matter of fact, I think I am in pretty good company since the Apostle Paul, the greatest missionary of all-time, once said of himself,
(15) I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… (18) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (19) For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing… (24) What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (25) Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:15; 18-19; 24-25 NIV)
Paul knew the condition of his heart; he didn’t try to play games by telling everybody what a “good” man he was. He said, “What a wretched man I am!” Even more powerful than Paul’s revealing words is the fact that God knew the condition of Paul’s heart before he ever wrote his confession. God knew Paul through and through, he knew the hardness of his heart, he knew that Paul constantly chose the “evil he did not want to do” over the “good that he knew he should do,” and God still chose to love Paul.
My friend we can hide from our friends, neighbors, and even our family members, but we can’t hide from God — He knows us. That may sound like bad news to you, but in reality it is the best news that we have ever received. God knows you and me through and through, and still He chooses to love us, to forgive us, to use us, and to redeem us through His precious Son Jesus.
The Psalmist knew the depths of God’s knowledge. He knew that there was no way to escape God’s presence. No thought could ever go without notice, no word was ever out of ear-shot, no action was ever missed, and yet, in spite of God’s all-encompassing knowledge and presence, the Psalmist didn’t fear, he reveled in God’s deep concern and love for him. Take a look at Psalm 139.
1 For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in– behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:1-6 NIV)
Why wouldn’t we want to bow before the one who knit us together in our mother’s womb, who knows our every thought — both the godly and ungodly, hears our every word — words of life and words of death, sees our every move — actions of love and actions of hate, and yet He chooses to love us. God does not have to love us, He does not have to reveal Himself to us, but He has chosen to do so. Therefore I will bless the Lord, I will bow down, and sing praises to His glorious name for He alone is worthy of my worship!
GOD IS GOOD. Another reason we worship God is because He is good. “Good” is such an overused and misunderstood word today. We have become very confused as to what “good” really is because “good” is oftentimes confused with “bad.” We call it good when someone escapes punishment for the sins they commit against their brother or sister — that’s not good, that’s bad. We call it good when we get our way even when our way is wrong — that’s not good, that’s bad. We call it good when we receive a commendation or reward for something which we are not really due — that’s not good, that’s bad. If we really want to gain an understanding of what is good, we must take a long, hard look at God — He alone is good. When we look at God and His character there is no blurry line between good and bad, God is good. Let me show you what I mean.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)
How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you. (Psalm 31:19 NIV)
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11 NIV)
The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him. (Nahum 1:7 NIV)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17 NIV)
Every good and perfect gift is from God! He is a shelter, a refuge in times of trouble! Because of His mercy and love He remembers not the sins of our youth! It is His goodness which provides for us everything we need in life. That is such an interesting statement. What do we need for life? A new car? A big home? A wardrobe from Abercrombie, Dillards, or WalMart? Fine food from the finest restaurants in town? A huge retirement account, stock portfolio, or an iPod in our ears? Life might be more comfortable with these things, at least according to Madison Avenue, but we can live without them. What we truly need is the Lord — nothing more, nothing less. We need the Father and we need Him desperately!
God is good my friend, but you will never come to understand His goodness until you taste and see that He is good. You can overhear someone extolling the goodness of the Lord, you can read about it in a book, or watch a television program of someone testifying as to God’s goodness, but until you relinquish your hold on your life and allow His goodness to overwhelm you, flood your soul, you will never understand His infinite goodness. God is good! Taste and see that the Lord is good!
There are so many other reasons why we should run to the Lord’s throne and fall at His feet, but time will not allow us to expound upon the infinite reasons we have for worshipping our King. If we had all of eternity to explore the infinite reasons we have to worship our God we would never exhaust them all.
We do have time to explore one other reason we have for humbling ourselves before God’s throne. God is not only holy, He does not only know us, He is not only good, but He has made us free.
GOD HAS FREED US. It is interesting to go back and study the book of Exodus and the slavery of the Hebrews. When God appeared to Moses and told him that He was going to do something about the suffering of the people, God chose to free the slaves. It is a powerful story that is known around the world.
In my study of worship over the past several days I have learned something very interesting about the Hebrews who were held in slavery by the Egyptians. God called Moses to go to Pharoah and tell him to let the people go, but why did God have Moses make that bold statement? Was God tired of seeing the Hebrews stomp around in the mud? Did God just not like Pharoah’s attitude? Did He think the pyramids were bad architecture? If we really want to know why God sent Moses to Pharoah all we need to do is read the story.
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey– the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:4-12 NIV)
When God first came to Moses and revealed to him what He was going to do for His people, God said that the suffering of the Hebrews had been ever before Him. God saw their suffering and He was going to deliver them. The sign God would give to the people so that they might know it was the God of their fathers who had delivered them was that they would worship God.
When Pharoah decided that his labor force couldn’t withstand a lay-off, God ordered a series of plagues to fall upon the Egptians. Each time Moses was instructed to go to Pharoah before the plague happened and say, “The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says, ‘Let my people go so they might worship me.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been aware of that tiny portion of the famous saying I’ve heard all my life. I’ve often heard, “Let my people go,” but it seems that those who have quoted the passage have omitted the last part. When you read the book of Exodus you will find that, not once, but over and over again Moses says, “Let my people go so that they might worship me.”
God saw the suffering of the people, but simply freeing them from the mudpits was not enough, they needed to be truly free. My friend, the freedom the human heart longs for is found only in worship. God deeply cares about the suffering of humanity. He cares so much that His only Son suffered the most horrific death ever known to man, but God’s greatest concern is that we be free. We can be enslaved in a cell of suffering, incarcerated in the dingiest of dungeons and still be free if we are in Christ.
God has provided our freedom through His Son. Jesus has opened the doors of death and released the captives so that we might hear the shackles of sin fall from our hands and feet. Lift up your voice and sing a new song unto the Lord of our salvation.
You may be free for all intents and purposes. You do what you want, when you want, and how you want, but you are a slave. This morning my prayer for you is that you might ask Jesus to free you from your bondage and release you to fall before His feet in worship. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by, ask Jesus to be Lord and Master of your life today.