Worship Made Flesh (Sep-Oct 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

by Lydia Guillot
September – October, 2002

What is worship? Is it merely going to church on Sundays and other weekdays? Are bible studies and other church functions inclusive in this? To really know what the worship of God is, one needs to see where God initially made of the concept of worship known to those who will read His Word. The first use of the concept of worship was the occasion that Abraham took Isaac up to the mountain to be sacrificed. (Genesis 22:5) This is the first time the word “worship” is used, although altars were built prior to this and perhaps there was a word equivalent of worship in other historical accounts. But in so far as God gives us biblical knowledge of “worship”, the first time was the sacrifice of Isaac. This was a task that Abraham surely didn’t want to do because after all Isaac was the son for which he prayed for most of his days after leaving Ur, but by his faith, he walked with God anyway.

This brings up several important questions about worship. What do I expect of worship? What do I expect of God? And finally, what do I ask of the Deity? What is this revelation of Christ to every man?

First, what do I expect of worship? This is particularly pertinent if I am one who is seeking God and perhaps don’t know Him, or if I don’t regularly attend because I am not what is considered a conventional believer. What do I hope to gain from participation in worship service? I must ask myself just how seriously do I take the communal time together with others, who, should I say “yes” to a commitment, become my brethren. If I don’t consider them my brethren, I must ask myself the question of what my purpose is for being in church. If I have not submitted my heart and mind to God, but am instead looking for a place for socializing, is this all I am looking for? Or do I consider it a time when collectively the body of Christ comes together to commune with God? If I go on a regular basis, and suddenly don’t feel like going, do I say, “God won’t mind if I skip this service”?

Suppose I had no church to go to. Would I seriously attempt to find and attend a church that met my needs and then when I felt as though my needs were not met leave? Suppose I truly wasn’t interested in knowing God, and going to church was for nothing other than fellowship. If someone made me mad or if I felt as though I was being challenged for my ideas on a consistent and constant basis, I would certainly find cause not to talk to or deal with that person or groups of persons. If someone insulted me, if someone hurt me, if there were abuses going on in the church, and I had no other commitment than the fact I was there because of the fellowship, I would go elsewhere, without bringing such problems to the elders, without trying to deal with those problems and living in peace, as Paul said to do in Romans 12:16. Why should I put myself out on people if I am not committed to them any further than a social event? What is my level of commitment, if that is the case? There are many church works that service the community, as many as there are secular charitable organizations. But no matter how many posters I make so that others can see what our latest mission trip was like, how much money I send to help fund the future Christian growth of unwed mothers, how many meals I serve the homeless, what this all boils down to whether or not I want to spend time linking and growing in God with my brethren. That’s not easy.

Think of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, giving up his desires, his wants, and walking in faith. Worship then becomes a people oriented concept of sacrifice, where my needs are second to someone who may be suffering, who may be dealing with a spiritual, physical or emotional problem, who may just be having trouble coping with day-to-day life for whatever reason. Worship is also in sharing with God’s beauty and laughing together and being excited with one another about things that are going on in each other’s lives that bring joy. And worship is what Jesus did every day of his blessed life, whether he was rebuking the Pharisees, or teaching his apostles and disciples, or healing, or holding the children of the town in his lap.

This brings me to the second question: What do I want from God? What do I expect God will do for me if I go to worship Him the way I think He wants to be worshipped? Is that what worship is? If that is what I think, if I am interested in getting my needs met by God, if I go in front of the congregation and tell them I need this, this, and this to make it, and do not go with a heart that wants to make my life right with God, then I have totally blown the sacrifice of Abraham out of the water. Sacrifice in worship is unique, because for the first time I am humbled. For the first time, although I may have needs, I must live in faith that God will take care of me as I ask humbly in prayer and supplication daily, so that when I solicit prayers of the congregation, whether via response to the invitation or by congregational prayer time, I can go before His throne boldly and humbly at the same time. My daily walk with God is my worship, not just what I spend with everyone else on Sundays and at other times we are together. Because of this, the primary issue is not what God can do for me, but what God wants from me. And that is this: God wants time with me.

He has said it in Leviticus 19:30: “Ye shall keep my Sabbath and reverence my sanctuary. I am the LORD”. He has said it through David in Psalm 77:13: “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?” And Psalm 84:4: “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be still praising Thee”. He reaffirmed His desire to be with us through Isaiah, in Isaiah 56:7: “Even them will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people”. He wants me to give myself to Him, as in Romans 12:1 where I am called to make myself a living sacrifice, and not to forsake the body of Christ, (Heb 10:25) whether in church or in getting together for a meal or whatever occasion. My purpose for doing this is to fulfill what Jesus said, “Where two or more are gathered in my name there I am”. And if Jesus is there, so is God. God longs for that relationship, daily, constantly, every second. And the test of my loyalty is whether or not I have that same longing to be with Him. That takes honesty and courage to say yes, because it means getting to the grass roots of who I am and how much my relationships really mean to me. But if I am not honest with God, then the time I spend with Him is just religion, and not true relationship. And the sad thing is, I really never understood Him at all, only what I thought was who God was. And so my worship is in vain.

Third question: what do I ask from such a Deity? Knowing that He is the Lord my God and will empower me to do anything, almost, what do I want of Him? Do I ask for riches, for fame, or do I ask to be wise in how I live? Where is my faith? It is hard to push a mule in direction it doesn’t want to go. Where is my faith, mule that I am, and where is it taking me, or where am I letting it take me? God allows me sojourns so that I can see what I want is not necessarily a good thing, and what I need is not necessarily bad. Am I allowing Him to show me His way? More importantly, where is my righteousness defined? He has all the power and all the glory. (Matt 8:5-13)

Do I, however, truly believe that my righteous is where my faith is and that God has said that my faith saves me and that is why He saves me? (Romans 1:16-17) Believing that is one thing, acting on it is quite another. Have I made up my mind? Do I want to follow Him or not? When I say yes and decide that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, then I must still act like God’s child and to do that there are certain things I must do, and certain things I must not do. And I must, as Jude says snatch those from the fire that would say they believe but truly don’t. (Jude 22-23) And I must be sure that I am strong enough to be an example of one who will not give in when there are those who will chide me for my belief. I must remember that God is holy. (Nehemiah 8:1-18). I must remember the purpose behind calling His people out of the wilderness and calling them to rebuild the temple and the purpose behind Christ coming and dying is the same as the purpose behind His church. It is for the completion of Christ’s body, not for me, but to bring more and more and more to Him, to the realization of the collective “I”, so that “I” can be presented as his bride. To reveal God and His Son, not just for the “I,” but also for all those who would want to believe but do not as yet. (Colossians 1:19, 20)

That still leaves an important question: What is this revelation of Christ to every man? I know that God wants me to come to Him—that is part of the relationship. And there are many ways to commune with God, through prayer, meditating on Him, and even the traditional altar call or going forward, responding to the invitation. Regardless of what method is used, whether collectively or individually, God answers me when I call Him. As He does all those who know Him or don’t know Him. He longs to reveal Himself to all mankind. In Ps 50:15, He promises to deliver and, just as David did, I will glorify Him in this. He hears me when I ask of Him mercy. (Ps 61:1,2) He will save me, only He can save me, and when I acknowledge this over and over, that He is capable of saving me and is capable of incredible mercies, I also have to realize He is also capable of dreadful judgment. Should I and my brethren not abide in Him but instead worship an image of Him that is only the world’s image filled with false notions that are not found in His Word, He is capable of that which causes dread and fear within my soul for fear of Him casting me and my brethren away from Him. After which I have a choices. I can choose to stop believing Him the way He wants me too. Or I can accept God for who is and acknowledge His sovereignty. (Ps 60:1-3,11)

When I bow before his sovereignty I will realize that God answers me and that He hears me. Then can I truly say the words of the psalmist, in Psalm 71:1-12 “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me and save me. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the unrighteous and cruel man. Cast me not off in the time of old age, forsake me not when my strength faileth. O God, be not far from me. O, my God, make haste for my help.” And in faith, I can ask “Why, God? Why me? Why us?” (Ps 74:1-23) because I know He will hear me and He will answer in a way only He can. For He is the God Almighty and powerful. And He knows my heart, as He knows every man’s heart. And He promises me redemption, mercy, and grace. And He tells me that I am to be holy as He is, that I am separated from the world so that I can come to Him and so that He can come into my presence. (Lev 9:22; Deut 10:8) And the whole key to this is not for God to minister to me, but for me to minister to God by ministering to His people. There are things about me that please God and will bless Him and things about me that don’t. He will cut off from Himself those things in me that don’t please Him. (Deut 27:11-13; Joshua 8:33) And what I don’t realize is that every time I say “God I cannot do this or that”, He says, “Yes, I know, do it, because the less is blessed of the better”. (Heb 7:7). That is, I am made complete in Him, and am incomplete without Him, and all my inadequacies show themselves when I don’t allow Him to be in control. But when I willingly submit my will to His, knowing His judgment is best then I can truly be blessed. And separated from the world. And be one of His children in His kingdom.New Wineskins

 

Contact Lydia at LGuil42909@aol.com

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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