This was the last installment of a five-part series on man’s need for God individually, originally titled Help, I Need Somebody. This post is a discussion on the true worship of God.
In a previous post we discussed the biblical definition of the word for ritual worship. Ritual worship, otherwise known as religion can exist in a pure form. Religion pleasing to God takes place when we lovingly fellowship with and embrace the least of these among us. Visiting and ministering to those in need and bearing one another’s burdens is true religion and a by-product of the love of God within us. Religion fulfills the lesser of the Great Command, being, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In today’s post, we will crescendo with a discussion of the worship that fulfills the greater aspect of this Great Command, being, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”
The most commonly used word for worship in the New Testament is proskyneō (προσκυνέω.) This word for worship is used by Jesus in response to satan’s temptation and in his conversation with the woman at the well.
“Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:8)
To the woman at the well: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24)
Like the biblical definitions for love, faith, wisdom and religion, we are also blessed with a simple definition of this word worship in Romans 12:1.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.”
To worship God in spirit and truth is to offer our entire being; physical body, mental faculties, inner soul and reborn spirit as a living sacrifice to the love of God. This is the Abiding Principle, “Abide in me; and I in you.” It is not enough to be in proximity to God, as we’ve seen with Adam. It is not sufficient for God to make the gift of grace available to us. This gift requires a response that involves the surrender of our whole life as a living sacrifice to Him.
Just as there is pure, undefiled religious worship, so there is a fake, corrupted form of religion that seeks to take root in the heart of men. Adam & Eve exercised this false religion when they took the flesh and ate of the tree of the knowledge of high-brow moral philosophy and conflict. Equipped with a cynical view of God, seeded from the deceitful speak of the serpent, they believed this forbidden knowledge would make them like God. Foolishness in that Adam and Eve were both created already in God’s likeness. For those of higher education it is often difficult to see the dignity in those not as highly educated. For instance, seminary education sets many church leaders up to be unable to even recognize that common men within their congregations possess spiritual gifts necessary for the body. Higher education is not bad, but it must surrender first to the headship of Christ. Self-made demi-gods, however, seek superior knowledge on things like ethics, philosophy, the art of war, and science to replace the need for Christ. God warned Adam this way would lead to death, but Adam despised his lowly estate as a farmer in God’s garden. As a result mankind’s need for a Helper was magnified one thousand times that of his original need.
Adam’s response to satan should have echoed Jesus’ words, “Away from me, satan! Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” But these words always come up short from a man seeking his own glory. Knowledge apart from God and false religious devotion are the precipices for an evil civilization. In our next series we will develop the subject of the tree of knowledge taking deeper root in corporate form, but we will leave it here for now. Spiritual death took its root with Adam’s sin, and mankind was separated from his chance to eat of the tree of life.
Mankind has proven his experiment with the fruit of the tree of knowledge a failure. It has produced nothing but turmoil, war and oppression. Slaves to sin and death mankind is in need of a Helper like never before. In the tree of knowledge forgiveness does not exist. The power to forgive is found only in the Living Light of Love. The atonement for the sins of the first Adam can only be found in the sacrificial death of the second Adam. To worship God in spirit and truth now requires of man the fruit of repentance.
Jesus taught his disciples that to gain life one must be willing to surrender their life.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26)
This is true worship, this is the fruit of repentance, and this is how one loves God. To worship God is to love Him, and to open our hearts to God’s love is to worship. We cry out as the Psalmist, “Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray,” and again, “Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.” God promised a suitable helper before man ever found his way into trouble.
The story of Adam is contrasted with the story of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel and others who all learned the importance of crying out to God for help. These men of faith are testimonies to the strength found in the Rock of Help. One final story I think best illustrates man’s need of a helper. It is the story of the Ebenezer stone.
Before Israel ever demanded a king and before the kingdom ever fell into captivity they were ruled by judges appointed by God. The last judge appointed to Israel was the prophet Samuel who was used by God to deliver Israel from bondage. In the book of First Samuel chapter seven we find the children of Israel once again having strayed from Jehovah. They are under captivity to the Philistines as punishment for their sin.
“When [the Israelites] had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’ Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.
When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, ‘Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.’
Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.
While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.
The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.”
Samuel cried out on behalf of the Israelites, offered a sacrificial lamb as payment for their sins and the Lord God was faithful to deliver them from their oppression. Upon this great deliverance Samuel worshipped the Lord God and erected a monument to God’s honor.
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’”
Today, we can call upon the name of Jesus, not Samuel, with whom we can make direct intercession. Today, the atonement for our sins has been made through the sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Today, we can pray directly to Christ for salvation from the oppression of our sin. We can surrender our lives in loving worship to the God who saves and rest in the arms of our Helper. In this true spiritual act of worship we are accepted as a living sacrifice, acceptable unto God, made to be an Ebenezer stone to the testimony of God’s help.
This is God’s promise to mankind today. A passage that has been so violated by false teachers that it has lost its meaning. Read it in light of Romans 12:1.
“Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
Many teach that this passage has to do with God wanting you money, and that is scary because this passage is actually the direct words of God Himself. To twist this passage is no little issue. According to Romans 12:1, the whole offering God is asking for here has nothing to do with your money. God doesn’t want your money. God doesn’t want your empty religious sacrifices.
The message of God here is, “I want you! Bring the whole offering into my storehouse. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Do not rob God. He wants you.