Many of you remember the childhood game of mimicry Simon Says. “Simon says hop on one leg… Simon says pat your head and rub your belly… Simon says worship…” The first two commands seem simple enough but what does one do to perform the last command?
It seems that almost everyone has a different idea as to what it means to worship. Of course, many even have a different idea on what the object of worship should be. As we have discussed over the past few weeks, there is much confusion in our culture as to the real nature, purpose and meaning of the church.
Last week we suggested that the ultimate fruitfulness of people whose lives have been changed by a relationship with the risen Christ should manifest itself in three ways within the people of the church: ministry to God through worship, ministry to believers through nurturing relationships and ministry to the world through outreach and mercy. Today we will consider what it means to worship God.
Of the three manifest fruits of the church, worship is probably the one idea that most people would expect, but at the same time it is the one idea that seems to be the most obscure. Most would suppose that those who attend church are attempting to worship God in some way, even though they are not sure what that way would or should look like. So for the Christian what should worship entail?
Throughout the Bible there are many examples of men and women who are depicted as worshipping God. The first instance of worship seems to be described in the account of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 where God receives Abel’s sacrifice but rejects Cain’s.
First of all, it seems that sacrifice is a great part of worship. Offering something of value to God for who He is and what He has done for you seems to be the centrepiece of worship through the Scriptures.
Make the right sacrifice
Secondly, it also appears that there is a right way to worship God and a wrong way to worship God. With respect to Cain and Abel it seems that only a blood sacrifice is acceptable to God. Cain’s offering of the first fruits of his produce from the land was not accepted, but Abel’s blood sacrifice of animals was accepted.
Of course, Cain became jealous and even after God encouraged Cain to choose to worship rightly, his jealousy boiled over into the murder of his brother.
Thirdly, from this it seems apparent that right and wrong sacrifice before God has significant consequences in the life of the worshipper. One brings right relationship, reception and blessing while the other brings rejection, separation and destruction. These motifs seem to be thematic throughout the Scriptures.
But we still haven’t really seen why it is necessary to offer sacrifices to God in worship to begin with. Why is sacrifice such a significant part of worship?
It all goes back to the issue of relationship. In the beginning, man (Adam and Eve) was in perfect relationship with the Creator. In fact, God used to walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the garden in perfect harmony, reception and blessing.
This is where perfect worship first took place between God and man. They were in perfect relationship with each other, and man could enjoy the beauty and the splendour of God in all of His fullness.
The Westminster Confession suggests that the chief end of man is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. But when Adam and Eve rebelled against God their beautiful relationship of blessing with Him was destroyed once and for all. They found themselves separated from God and from each other through their own willful sin against God.
Sin and rebellion always bring separation. God in His infinite wisdom had promised that if Adam and Eve rebelled against Him they would be cut off from relationship with Him, and they would surely die.
To remedy this state of affairs God covered (atoned for) Adam and Eve’s sin and shame with the skins of animals which He slew in their place. God provided this first atoning sacrifice for the first couple, thus providing them with propitiation (atoning sacrificial payment).
Without the shedding of blood there is no removing of sin. Through this sacrifice God’s wrath against sin was appeased and an ongoing relationship with Him could be restored with the promise that a coming sacrificial redeemer would eventually come that would destroy sin, rebellion and death once and for all.
For Christians this promise was made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ. Incidentally, “Jesus” is not his first name nor is “Christ” his last name. Both names are titles for who this promised redeemer is.
“Jesus” is a version of the name “Joshua” or “Yeshua”, which literally means saviour, and “Christ” literally means Messiah, Promised One or Annointed One. Jesus Christ is literally our Messianic Saviour who God promised to Adam and Eve. He would come to provide the sacrifice for our sin and rebellion against God once and for all.
With respect to worship, the apostle Paul states that it is “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.
Jesus is our once and for all sacrifice that restores our relationship with God through faith in Him. We worship God through worshipping Jesus Christ. The New Testament affirms that it is our worship of Christ that honours God most.
An American pastor, John Piper, puts it this way: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Of course we are most satisfied in Him when we are enjoying Him forever.
Are you worshipping God today? Are you satisfied in Him? It turns out that you don’t have to wait to get to church to begin worshipping Him. Are you satisfied in God: is he your Creator and Redeemer who loves you and sacrificed Himself for you to pay for all your sin?
Because of His love for you He lived a perfect life and died a horrific death and then conquered death once and for all through His glorious resurrection. His death and resurrection is the atonement and victory that covers all of our sin so that we can be placed in right relationship with God through faith in His Son.
What a wonderful God. What a wonderful Saviour. So how should you thank God for who He is and what He has done? Perhaps we should sing a little louder, pray a little harder, find ourselves on our knees before Him a little longer and give sacrificially a little deeper. Perhaps we should lift our hands in praise for His salvation. Perhaps we should quietly bow before Him in adoration and appreciation.
The Bible says that He inhabits the praise of His people and that even when two or three of us gather in His name He abides with us.
“Simon says worship.” The object of our worship should be Christ Himself. The mode of our worship should be the offering of ourselves unto His service in light of His sacrifice for us.
Paul writes: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
You can start worshipping God right now, anytime, anywhere. As you worship your Creator and Redeemer well today, He promises to lift your countenance and to bless your soul.
– Reverend Bradley S. Belcher is the senior pastor with the International Baptist Church of Budapest, www.ibcbudapest.org. Should you have a question or comment regarding this column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.