The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Breaking Legs?


Then Jesus said to them again, . . . – John 10:7a

 

 

Ever had a difficult time understanding something? Boy I remember having a hard time understanding Geometry in high school. Algebra was no picnic either. Chemistry was confusing. In Physics sometimes I was so lost it became funny. Foreign languages left me languishing. (There was no Rosetta Stone back in those days!). But I made it through. And it was to a great extent because of teachers willing to go the extra mile. The most effective teachers were those who patiently made time for extra help to explain things over and over again until it clicked. Back in the day there was summer school for those willing or required to sacrifice some precious recreational time to make up what needed to learn to graduate to the next grade. As a student I only thought about my play time lost. As an adult looking back, I see those teachers sacrificed their play time too. It’s no fun all around when you have a hard time understanding something.

 

God’s people don’t always catch on to what God is revealing. They don’t always listen to His proclamations through prophets and pastor-teachers. God’s people don’t always understand His word. Too often they neglect His word. God’s people are like sheep. Sheep are not the smartest animals in the animal kingdom. They aren’t the sharpest knives in the kitchen utensil drawer; know what I mean. And it’s not by accident that God chose sheep to illustrate the nature of His people. While some are smarter and more gifted intellectually than others, there is always a time when each of us are faced with something we don’t understand. We’re human, not God.

 

In the Bible God presents Himself as a Shepherd and His people as sheep. The word “shepherd” occurs 102 times in 93 verses of the Bible (NKJV). The word “sheep” occurs 194 times in 183 verses in the Bibles. Shepherds and sheep are found prominently in the Bible. The book of Job is considered to be one of if not the oldest book of the Bible. Job is said to have owned fourteen thousand sheep (Job 42:12). Abel was a keeper of sheep (Genesis 4:2). Abraham’s wealth was based in part on the sheep he owned (Genesis 12:16). Moses had shepherding experience (Exodus 3:1). David drew a great deal on his experience as a shepherd (1 Samuel 16:11; Psalm 23 etc.). At the dedication of the Temple Solomon offered one hundred and twenty thousand sheep in sacrifice to God (1 Kings 8:63). We see sheep and shepherds used throughout the Old Testament as a means to illustrate truths about God and His people. The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, and Zechariah all use Shepherd-sheep imagery. One of the greatest and best known Psalms is about God as a Shepherd (Psalm 23). And one of the clearest indictments by God of delinquent self-serving leaders is about false shepherds in contrast with God the true Shepherd (Ezekiel 34). So by using the relationship of a shepherd to his sheep God was using something familiar and known to the people to illustrate truth.

 

In the New Testament the angels of heaven announce the birth of Messiah Jesus to shepherds (Luke 2:8-20). In the Gospels the Messiah is associated with a coming Shepherd who would come to care for God’s people/sheep (Matthew 2:6; Micah 5:2). In John 10 Jesus will show He is the fulfillment of this Messianic imagery. In the Gospels Jesus looks upon the crowds of people and laments they are like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34). On His march to the cross Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7 saying “I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock with be scattered” (Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27). At the end of the age Messiah Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats or the righteous from the unrighteous (Matthew 25:32.)

 

In relatively recent times stories have circulated about how shepherds would deal with sheep who persistently stray from the flock by breaking their legs and then carrying them on their shoulders from place to place until they heal. This supposedly would serve as discipline and a time of bonding as the shepherd carried the sheep around until it healed. However there is no scriptural evidence for the practice of a shepherd breaking the legs of his sheep. God will test and refine us so that we are enriched and edified (Psalm 66:10-12). Our Shepherd God will at times allow us to experience the consequences of our sinful choices (e.g. Jeremiah 2:19). And God will at some point pour out His righteous wrath on a Christ-rejecting world (e.g. Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10, 19; 15:1; 16:1, 19; 19:15). But break the legs of His sheep? Not likely.

 

God does discipline us (Hebrews 12:3-11). But the breaking of a lamb's legs seems to be more cruel than disciplinary. Jesus speaks of a shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine of his flock to go after one stray lost sheep and then of the shepherd’s rejoicing when he finds the lost sheep (Matthew 18:12-13). Jesus speaks of the shepherd then taking that once lost sheep, putting it on his shoulders and taking it home rejoicing all the way. (I’ll bet that sheep would be pretty happy too!) Once home the shepherd calls his family and friends together to celebrate the recovered sheep (Luke 15:4-6). Then Jesus comments, “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). There is no talk of the shepherd breaking the sheep’s legs. Aren’t you glad Jesus doesn’t break our legs?

 

Breaking a sheep’s leg would be a very dangerous and life threatening proposition. A shepherd would not likely put a sheep under his care at risk this way. Breaking a sheep’s leg and then carrying it for the weeks it would take for it to heal would also be pretty impractical. Carrying a 50-75 pound sheep around on your shoulders until it healed would be a good workout, but not practical. It would tire the shepherd out. It would hinder him from reacting against predators. It would distract the shepherd from proper care of the other sheep in the flock.

 

There is such a thing as braking sheep. That is when a shepherd disciplines (short of severe physical abuse on the animal) to keep them from straying. It may involve tying something to the sheep’s leg to anchor it and hinder it from straying. When the prone-to-stray sheep learns to stay with the flock, the “brakes come off.” But breaking its leg is not an acceptable practice.

 

The imagery of a shepherd breaking a sheep’s legs has no scriptural basis and seems out of sync with the nature of God. Instead we see in scripture, “He tends his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11 NIV). That is more consistent with what God seems to be revealing about Himself and His people by referring to the relationship of a shepherd with his sheep.

 

In John 10 we see Jesus using the imagery of the shepherd and sheep to communicate a welcoming picture of Himself toward the people. Jesus presents Himself as the Good Shepherd. Suffice it to say what we see in John 10 regarding Jesus as the Good Shepherd mentions nothing about breaking the legs of the sheep. Quite to the contrary, Jesus knows His sheep and they know Him. Jesus calls His sheep; He searches them out. The Good Shepherd Jesus lays down His life for the sheep. No leg breaking here. If you get out of line, Jesus is not going to break your legs. Bad shepherds break the legs of their sheep. Criminals break legs. Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd does not.

 

As the Good Shepherd Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”(John 10:1). Shepherds frequently herded their sheep into the fields and surrounding countryside in order to find green pastures. At night they would keep the sheep in temporary sheepfolds. These sheepfolds were made of branches and surrounding brush. This was designed to keep the sheep together for their protection and provision. This makeshift coral of brush was made with a single opening for the sheep to enter in and exit out of. At night, the shepherd would lay himself at the entryway to block any sheep from wandering out and to be a wall against any predator or thief getting in.

Stealing sheep was a common practice in those days. Thieves wouldn’t bother to break the legs of the sheep. No, they would be far worse than that. One thief would climb over the wall, jump down, grab a sheep, slit its throat, and then hand the dead body over the wall to an accomplice. Breaking legs and blood-letting is not the way of the Shepherd.

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” (John 10:2). Each flock of sheep have a shepherd to protect and provide for them. The rightful shepherd of each flock “enters by the door.” He doesn’t climb over the wall. He doesn’t knock down the wall. The shepherd enters one way; the right way to gather his sheep and lead them to where they need to go.

To him the doorkeeper opens,” (John 10:3a). Each village had a common sheepfold for when the shepherds brought their sheep home from the fields. It was made of stone walls about six feet or higher. The sheep from various shepherds would stay together in this community sheepfold. This stone sheepfold also had one opening to enter and exit through. The shepherds would herd their sheep into the village sheepfold and then return to their homes to sleep. One of them would be assigned or they would take turns guarding the sheep in the entryway as a “doorkeeper” (John 10:3).

Jesus explained, “and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name” (John 10:3b). With sheep from various shepherds you might wonder how did they know whose sheep belonged to which shepherd? How did they avoid a mix-up of the sheep? Jesus said, “and the sheep hear his voice.” The sheep knew their shepherd’s voice. Some shepherds had a unique call for his sheep. Other times the shepherd would call his sheep with a song. When he whistled, called or sung a song, his sheep would know it was time to go with the shepherd. And Jesus adds, “and he calls his own sheep by name.” The shepherd gave names to his sheep. He knew each sheep personally. He gave them names so he could call them individually. If “Buffy” wandered off he would just call her by name. If “Benedict” was lagging behind he’d call him to speed it up. Names are important. Names enable the shepherd to give instructions to a specific individual sheep. Jesus knows your name. Are you listening when He calls you?

Then Jesus said, “. . . and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:3c-4). When we think of s shepherd we may have an image of a shepherd driving the sheep from behind. We may picture in our minds a shepherd with a stick whacking the sheep in line. But this is not the case. Shepherds lead their sheep and the sheep follow him. If you go to Israel today you will see a shepherd walking in front of a herd of his sheep. Shepherds lead. Sheep follow. They know the shepherd’s voice. Jesus our Good Shepherd is leading. Will you follow Him? Are you following Him?

Jesus gives us further insight. “ Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:5). Sheep are very skittish and easily frightened. They respond to the warm and familiar voice of their shepherd. But they immediately know and fear the strange voice of someone other than their shepherd. Even if the right call is given, or the right song sung, if the voice is not familiar, the sheep will not come. Do you know the voice of Jesus? Can you distinguish His word from the words of others?

John then comments, “Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. Then Jesus said to them again, . . .” (John 10:6-7a). Jesus used the imagery of a shepherd with his sheep to clearly communicate to the people. But the people didn’t understand. What did Jesus do when they didn’t understand what He was saying? Did Jesus break their legs? Did He berate them? Did He belittle them? No, Jesus simply “said to them again.” Jesus is very patient with us. He will communicate to us in the clearest of ways. And if we don’t pick up on what He is trying to communicate to us, He will patiently speak to us again and again until the message becomes clear to us. That’s what a good shepherd does with his sheep. That’s what the Good Shepherd Jesus does with us sheep.

Breaking legs? Maybe a bad shepherd would do that. Maybe a thief would do that. But Jesus would never do that. That’s not the way of the Shepherd Jesus. He’s the Good Shepherd. He’s not about using His power to break our legs. He patiently and gently holds us to His chest so we can feel His heartbeat for us. He holds us close and whispers His truth into our ears until we come to know His truth. And if we stray, Jesus the Good Shepherd comes looking for us. When He finds us, He protects us from danger, picks us up, carries us home and celebrates our return. Are you having difficulty with something Jesus is trying to teach you or bring you through in life? Stop, wait for His voice. Wait for His instruction. Wait for His arrival. Then jump into His arms. Let the Good Shepherd bring you home. Join Him in the joyful reunion. Aren’t you glad the Good Shepherd doesn’t break our legs?

 

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

God Always Meets our Needs


"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus"  
- Philippians 4:19

God always meets our needs. This is the promise of God in Philippians 4:19. God has promised to supply, sufficiently, by His grace, for all our needs (2 Cor. 9:8-10). We may not get what we want. But we will always have our needs met in Christ. God’s promise is that the righteous will not have to beg for bread (Ps. 37:25). If we are lacking “bread” we need to do an inventory and prayerfully come before the Lord to search us to see if there is any outstanding issue in our lives or reason for such a condition. Many times our definition of a “need” is God’s definition of a “want.” God is rich and He is generous. But God is not frivolous. God owns everything. “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). If you are missing something make sure it is a “need” and make sure you haven’t overlooked God’s way of providing for you. God also says we need to work and He provides work for us to meet our needs (2 Thess. 3:10). Examine yourself and your situation and be content with God’s supply.

Jesus watched a widow make a less than two cents donation and said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 21:3-4). God’s way of figuring finances is different from ours. This widow expressed her faith with her money. She gave not on the basis of what she had, but on the basis of what she knew God had. The rich gave larger offerings. But their giving required no faith. Their giving cost them nothing. Their giving was safe. Her giving cost her everything. Her giving was risky. The widow gave her meager best and trusted the Lord for the rest. She gave in faith trusting God to support her. How we deal with finances tell us a lot about our faith.

 

The economies of the world are in shambles and on life support. An age of sought after ease is bringing us to our economic knees. Citizens regardless of economic status have been caught up in an evil spirit of entitlement. We are in a national debate over stimulation packages filled with pork and false promises of renewed prosperity. At the root of this dilemma is a love of money; greed. America is amongst the richest nations on earth.  Money is our true god. Money is what we live for. Money makes our world go round. We feel safe or scared based on our savings or pension plans. Our attitude is determined by how our investments are doing. Our moods swing with the mortgage rates. Our heart beats to the rise and fall of the dollar. We are running after riches.  And what really exposes our human bankruptcy is that these things are too often found in the Church.

 

When we run after riches we run away from God (1 John 2:15-17). Money and the things of this world pose a great temptation.  The Christian is called to trust God and invest in heavenly wealth (Matthew 6).  Money is a means to an end. But it often becomes the end. Money is a powerful tool in ministry but not the aim of ministry. The great danger is being compromised by currency.

 

Biblical accounts help us avoid the pitfalls and sins of our predecessors (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6). Abraham and Lot give us a good example of the dangers of running after riches. In Genesis it states, “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere . . . . And he [Abram] gave him a tithe of all” (Genesis 13:10; 14:20). The context here is that Abraham, (the uncle of Lot) and Lot had to part ways because of the growth of their flocks. These two verses contrast how Lot and Abraham determined to move. Lot lusted after wealth. Abraham walked in faith.

 

Lot moved according to the wealth he saw before him.  Lot walked by sight not by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). He made decisions without consulting God (Genesis 13:11). He pitched his tent near Sodom (Genesis 13:12-13). Then he actually dwelt in Sodom, an exceedingly wicked place of sin (Genesis 13:13:14:12). He was willing to put his family at risk for the sake of wealth. His race for riches resulted in being caught in a war and captivity (Genesis 14:11-16). Even after this dangerous encounter Lot never took sin seriously. His preoccupation with wealth led him to a prominent part in the sinful city of Sodom. When Sodom was judged by God Lot barely escaped with his family. His children had lost respect for him. His wife was turned to a pillar of salt because of her lust for luxury in Sodom. After his escape Lot got drunk, committed incest and impregnated his two daughters (Genesis 19). He had run after riches and run down his faith. This is an ugly story. Lot shows us the ragged end of running after riches. What are you running after?

 

Abraham ran God’s course. He acted in faith and based his life decisions on his relationship with God (Genesis 14:17-24). He wasn’t perfect (Genesis 16). But Abraham was a man of faith. He trusted the Lord to provide as He guided him (Genesis 15; 17; Romans 4). Abraham knew all that he had was from the Lord. Evidence of this is seen by his tithing to the Lord after victory (Genesis 14:20). Notice this act of tithing (“tithe” means giving a tenth or 10% of gross income) was before the Law was given. Those who excuse themselves from giving a tenth of their income to God based on a supposed imposition of the Law are mistaken according to Abraham’s example. Jesus encouraged tithing (Matthew 23:23). Abram demonstrated his faith by living the motto where God guides God provides.  He tithed by faith. Do we?

 

We can guard against running after riches by keeping a few things in mind.  Running after riches will make you forget God (Deuteronomy 8:13-14; 1 John 2:15-17). Running after riches hinders your spiritual growth and journey to heaven (Matthew 19:23; Mark 4:19; 2 Timothy 2:4). Running after riches leads to many temptations (1 Timothy 6:9). Running after riches leads to disappointment (Matthew 6:19; Mark 10:17-27; James 5:3). Realize everything is from God (Deuteronomy 8:18; 1 Chronicles 29:12; Ecclesiastes 5:19; Hosea 2:8; James 1:17). Realize what we have belongs to God;  we are merely stewards of it (Genesis 14:20-24; Psalm 50:10-12; Malachi 3:7-12; Luke 16:1-17; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Revelation 3:17-18).Rely on God to provide for your needs (Psalm 34:10; 37:25; 84:11; 105:40-41; 145:16; Matthew 6:19-34; Philippians 4:10-19). Stewardship is the management of material, human, and spiritual resources. God speaks a lot about it in His word. For those who doubt God cares about material things, or worse, doesn’t care about how we buy, sell, earn and spend, read the sample of scriptures on this topic laced throughout this study.

 

God will always provide for our needs. But when we confuse wants with needs Satan our enemy and our fleshly sinful nature will use this confusion in priorities to skew our view of God and His loving care for us. When we think our wants are our needs and find that God does not support our indulgences, the enemy and our flesh will whisper in our ear, “See, God isn’t true to His promise. See, He really doesn’t provide for you. See, He can’t be trusted. He doesn’t love you as much as He states in His word. You can’t trust His word!”

 

Good stewardship and rightly separating essential needs from things we merely want will free us from the bondage of things as well as clear our spiritual ear to hear from the Lord. God always meets our needs. He sometimes will grant a want. But more often than not He will save us from our wants. Like a child who thinks a diet of candy and ice cream is best, God sets the sweet temptations aside and puts the solid food of His word on our plate (1 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12, 14). Where God guides, God provides. If you lack provision, maybe you have faulty stewardship vision. Learn to live simply in relation to the things of this world. Jesus said, “Life does not consist in the abundance of things” (Luke 12:15). Be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). God always meets our needs. “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” (Prov. 10:22). Remember that.

 
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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Passing by with Purpose and Perspective



“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw. . .” – John 9:1


 


We live in a very busy world. Our lives are filled with tons of stuff and nonstop activities. We’re like high strung Chihuahuas or flitting about mosquitoes. We’re spread a mile wide and have become inch deep shallow people. We’re running so fast that we’ve missed many of God’s sovereign stops. And as we’ve passed by those stops, we’ve missed out on opportunities to minister and the blessings that accompany them.


If anyone ever had a justifiable reason for being too busy to stop and minister it was Jesus.  And yet, when we look at the gospel accounts, we see Jesus was never too busy to stop and meet a need. Jesus literally had the weight of the world on His shoulders. But Jesus always had an eye to see a need. And He made time to meet the need.


The Gospel of John chapter 9 begins with the words, “Now as Jesus passed by, . . .” (John 9:1a). The previous chapter ends with Jesus declaring Himself to be “I Am” in the Temple precincts of God. This was a clear association with the most holy name of God. Therefore it was a clear declaration that He was and is God (John 8:58). His religious listeners, knowing exactly what Jesus was affirming, “took up stones to throw at Him” (John 8:59a). Jesus then, because His mission focus was the cross and not to be stoned, left the dangerous crowd departing from the temple. He didn’t make a scene. He didn’t call down angels to defend Him. He simply departed from there, “going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” This is the context for the transition from John chapter 8 to John chapter 9.


Now notice, it was “as Jesus passed by,” that what follows happens. It was “as Jesus passed by” that “He saw a man born blind from birth” (John 9:1b). There is a valuable truth principle to be gleaned here. Jesus didn’t let attacks, disruptions, difficulties, not even the threat of death (i.e. stoning) deter Him from His mission purpose. Jesus didn’t allow His attention to be diverted by self-preservation or self-pity related to His detractors and attackers. Jesus pressed on, even when physically threatened. Jesus just kept literally “passing by” (Greek paragon: Present/Active/Participle) on the journey of His mission no matter what.


Can you say that? Are you easily distracted from God’s mission for you, His purpose for you, or His will for you? Have you even cared to determine what God’s mission, purpose and will is for you? If not, you’ve already been diverted off course. We need to be like Jesus and keep “passing by” through attacks, trials, tempting distractions, difficulties. We must follow His steps (1 Peter 2:21) and walk as he walked (1 John 2:6) in life.


The apostle Paul followed in Jesus steps and exhorted others to do the same. He was inspired to write: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you” (Philippians 3:13-15). Press on to Christ’s higher calling for you! No matter what!


What was Jesus method to fulfill His mission? Someone has said, “Methods are many, principles are few; methods always change, principles never do.” In principle Jesus came to redeem the world from sin. In principle Jesus took time to minister to people. Those principles never changed. His methods to fulfill those mission principles were many. He took time to feed people God’s word. He took time to feed people miraculously with meager morsels. He took time to walk on water. According to principle Jesus took time to minister. On a number of occasions His principle method was to provide signs testifying of who He was through healing.


Jesus, even though deeply involved in ministry, still “saw a man who was blind from birth.” This blind man caught Jesus’ eye. Jesus always had an eye for those in need. He always had time for those in need. Jesus is never too busy to see us in our time of need. Jesus has His eye on us. Jesus arrives at our point of need. Jesus has time for us.


This blind man wasn’t even looking for Jesus. But Jesus showed up to change His life. And like this blind man, Jesus shows up when we aren’t even looking for Him! That is grace! That’s getting what we don’t deserve. Jesus came to redeem us from our sin when we were still lost in our sins (Romans 5:8). Through Isaiah God states, “. . . I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by My name. I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts” (Isaiah 65:1b-2). Just as this blind man didn’t have the capacity to see Jesus coming, apart from God’s prevenient grace (i.e. the grace that goes before to draw us; to make us aware of our sin problem and God’s salvation solution in Christ), we are blind to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But Jesus has His eye on us and comes to help us. If it weren’t for Jesus taking the time to minister to us, we’d all be lost.


Jesus took time for us. We need to steady our pace. We need to stop lagging behind in our earth-locked perspective. But we also need to stop lunging ahead with a stiff necked self-serving focus. We need to be circumspect and alert to God’s divine appointments. When trials, difficulties, hardships arise they are not mere obstacles, they are opportunities. One commentator observes, “Misery always opens the door for ministry.”[1] Jesus was on a mission, but that mission included ministering to those in misery.


“Misery” is a state of suffering or distress of one form or the other. If we see someone around us in some kind of misery we need to see that as a potential divine appointment God has scheduled for us. God is the One who is putting us in that situation and bringing the misery to our attention. It is an opportunity for God to use us. It is an opportunity for us to be His ambassadors of grace, comfort, hope, and salvation.


If we are the ones personally experiencing the misery then we need to understand we are being given an opportunity to learn the “fellowship of His suffering”; the fellowship of Jesus’ suffering (Phil. 3:10). It is an opportunity for us to experience the sufficiency of God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:8-10). It is an opportunity for our faith to be tested so that it can be trusted. A faith untested cannot be trusted. A faith tested true, is a great weapon in God’s arsenal for reaching the lost and bringing glory to Him. The testimony of one whose faith has been tested true is an unstoppable weapon in the spiritual battle. The enemy has nothing to resist a faith tested true.


We are so unlike Jesus. Jesus sees misery and seeks to minister. We see misery and if we don’t callously turn away, we frequently compound the pain of the afflicted by pointing an accusing finger at them. The disciples had that kind of mindset. “And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). The disciples saw a man blind from birth and associated it with either the man’s or his parent’s sin. By asking if the man’s birth defect of blindness was due to his own sin they were expressing the possibility of attributing his deformity to personal sin. Some in that day believed that it was possible for a child to sin in the womb! By attributing this man’s blindness to his parent’s sin they were further expressing the possible cause for the blindness as willful sin. Either way, the disciples associated physical deformity with personal sin.


Jesus speaks of an alternative reason for this affliction. “ Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” (John 9:3a). Jesus throws the disciples a curve. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” If the cause of this man’s blindness was not personal sin, then what might it be? There are life trials such as disease and deformity that are due to personal. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, addictions, and various illnesses due to ingestion and consumption of unhealthy things are examples of the consequences of personal sin. If you smoke, the probability of getting lung cancer is far greater than for a non-smoker. If you drink alcohol or do drugs and drive the likelihood of you getting into an accident that results in bodily injury for yourself, your passengers or others is greatly increased. Some physical pain and suffering is due to our sinful willful decisions to disregard God and break His laws and scripture. The same can be said of many heartaches and psychological problems. Having said this, not all physical or psychiatric difficulties can be attributed to willful sinning.


 


Some physical and/or psychiatric (i.e. biological brain disease that affects thoughts and behaviors) pain and suffering are due to planetary sin. The Bible states that the creation itself was impacted by sin at the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. “For the creation was subjected to futility” (Romans 8:20a). When Adam and Eve sinned somehow the effects were not merely spiritual but they were also physical/material. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). All of creation’s DNA and composition was thrown out of whack by sin. “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22). Those “groans and labors with birth pangs” consist of diseases and abnormalities God never intended to be a part of His creation. These abnormalities entered the world through sin. And these distortions of God’s creation sometimes effect innocent people.


 


The idea of planetary sin does not to remove human culpability. No one is righteous, not one; all fall short of Gods’ glory (Romans 3:10, 23). Whatever state we are in, we are products of God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:10). We may think we are pretty bad even with God’s grace. But it is only by God’s grace that we are not far worse! By God’s grace He provides the way and means to survive (1 Corinthians 10:13). But we must take the escape route He sets before us.


 


There are people who have never smoked a day in their life and never ingested anything harmful to their bodies who contract cancers of various kinds. We live in a fallen state where planetary sin or the all encompassing effects of sin on creation are at work. Paul well describes this state of being when he is inspired to write, “For we who are in this tent [i.e. our physical bodies] groan, being burdened” (2 Cor. 5:4). He writes, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven” (2 Cor. 5:2). In other words, though we live in a fallen physical body that wears out and develops pains, we can press on victoriously in the hope that one day, as God has promised, we will be given glorious heavenly eternal bodies. Heavenly bodies are bodies without the ill effects of sin. That’s why they are called “celestial” or “spiritual” glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:40-44).


 


When these fallen bodies begin to break down and betray us, we need to look to the Lord for sustaining power. Paul said it like this: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).  The weight of pain can tempt us to look down. But it is then, when the pain is most intense, that we must look up for the sustaining empowering heavenly perspective.


 


Our focus should not be on the pains of the physical body. Physical pain can be intense and distracting. But as bad as such pain can be it is only temporary. We need to look up for heavenly perspective. God has promised to provide a sufficient amount of grace to get through the pain (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-10). God will also use painful situations to deepen us spiritually (cf. 1 Peter 4:1-2). Trials and suffering prove, temper and strengthen our faith (1 Peter 1:6-9). God can, does and will bring good even from suffering (cf. Romans 8:28). And when we suffer for His glory or suffer in a way that gives Him glory our suffering then is, “working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”


 


As we live in our fallen bodies our attitude should be, “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6-8). We need to bolster ourselves with a heavenly perspective. “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). That perspective provided by God’s grace is to His glory. And that perspective will lead to tested true faith.


 


Jesus goes on to clarify the purpose of this particular man’s blindness. Sin, personal or planetary, was not the primary point God was planning to make through this man’s blindness. Jesus said, “but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3b). This blindness of this man had a purpose; “but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” The immediate purpose and work Jesus refers to here is that He would be healed to the glory of God. Jesus’ healing was a punctuation mark on who He was; Jesus was and eternally is, God. But for all who are born with or who suffer disease or illness due to planetary sin, it can also be said that a purpose can be fulfilled, “that the works of God should be revealed in him.Pain can serve a purpose.


 


There are some who say it is never God’s will for someone to suffer or be sick. But if that were the case no one would ever get sick or die once they accept Jesus as Savior. The Bible says life is a vapor (James 4:14). The Bible states very clearly that everyone will at some point die and then face judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus died. The Apostles died. Everyone dies because death is the consequence of sin (Romans 6:23). What we can affirm though is that Christians don’t die as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We have a living hope in Jesus that we will be resurrected from the dead! (1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 Cor. 15).


 


But what about sickness? Is it always God’s will to heal someone? God is always able to heal, but God does not always choose to heal. Sometimes His plans require people to suffer. For instance, we might look at this fallen dark world and wonder why God hasn’t simply intervened and put a stop to it all along with all the pain and suffering. But if He were to do that multiple millions would end up in a Christ-less eternity sentenced to eternal torment. Why does God allow the present fallen state to continue? “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God is willing to suffer long with us if it means more people will have opportunity to be saved. And God does suffer with us when we suffer.


God grieves more than anyone about the present state of affairs. He is grieved because He knows things will get even worse before His appointed end. God knows allowing this world to continue the downward spiral it is on will mean people (even His beloved children) will have to suffer longer. But God counts this a necessary cost to provide extended time for people to hear and hopefully receive Jesus as Savior. Only God is in the Sovereign position to ordain this. And He does ordain it in mercy and according to His truth.


 


There are times when suffering is God’s will. Peter was inspired to write, “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19). Sometimes pain and suffering are a part of God’s plans. We may not fully understand why that is. We most likely won’t like that pain and suffering are being allowed in a given circumstance. But what we do know is that God is good and gracious and His plans are for the best. In all circumstances, even in painful ones, we must commit our souls to Jesus. With Peter we must pray, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10-11).


 


There is particular evidence that not everyone is healed. On one occasion Paul said, “but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick” (2 Timothy 4:20). It’s inconceivable that Paul would not have prayed for Trophimus’ healing. But having prayed Trophimus was not instantaneously cured. He had to be left behind while Paul went on. Sometimes when we pray people will remain sick. Sometimes it is God’s will not to heal.


 


Personally, Paul prayed three times for a “thorn in the flesh . . . a messenger of Satan to buffet me” to be removed. But instead of removing it the Lord told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” And to that Paul’s response was, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). The words “weakness,” and “infirmities” in these verses are translated from the same Greek term astheneia which refers to physical weaknesses, physical sicknesses, and physical distresses. All of this, whatever situation we find ourselves in that involves pain and suffering, our objective should be to glorify God. In everything we need to trust Him. Trust Jesus in and through the pain and suffering. Let your faith be tested true.


 


Jesus went on to say, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” (John 9:4). Jesus points out that time is limited. Life is a vapor (James 4:14). Jesus would soon be going to the cross. Death is a certainty for all (Heb. 9:27). Sin brings the curse of death (Romans 6:23). But Jesus is the cure for that death (Romans 5:8). He died physically that we may live eternally. Life is a vapor, death is sure, sins the curse, Christ is the cure. Remember that. For once you die your eternal destiny is fixed; no one will be able to do anything to change it.


If we are going to follow in the steps of our Savior Jesus, then we must be alert to every opportunity to minister. That is especially true for times of misery. Every situation and circumstance of our personal lives is an opportunity to be used by the Lord for His mission purpose and glory. And every situation and circumstance we encounter with others is an opportunity to be used by the Lord for His mission purpose and glory. Whether in us or in others, we need to have the same mindset and determination Jesus had, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” Pass on by; persevere. But keep your heavenly perspective. Misery is an opportunity to minister. All to the glory of God.


 




[1] Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 514). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ghostly Encounters


"Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up" - Job 4:15

We watch innocent children play in a playroom at home and all of a sudden a child with death in its face pokes its head momentarily through a shadowy doorway behind them. The hair on the back of our necks stands up in response. Self -proclaimed “scientists” go from place to place testing to verify whether or not reported ghostly voices, shadowy figures, scary touches, or emotional impressions are real. It all draws in the curious and makes for popular TV. What is really going on here?

Did you know that there is someone in scripture who experienced a similar ghostly encounter? Read the experience of Eliphaz as recorded in the book of Job:

  • Job 4:12-17 - “Now a word was secretly brought to me, and my ear received a whisper of it. 13 In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, 14 Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. 15 Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up. 16  It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence; then I heard a voice saying: 17 ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?

To understand what is going on here the context of the passage is very important. Job is a book about trusting God in terrible times of suffering. It is a book about the meaning of true faith. True faith isn’t based on reward or blessing, it is based on a trusting relationship with Almighty God. But the context of this book is often glanced over. The book opens with a description of Job as, “the greatest of all people of the East” (1:3). What makes Job so great? His holy walk with God and concern for the spiritual welfare of his family (1:5). What matters most is God’s assessment of Job. God says, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (1:8). God is proud of “His servant” Job. We should all desire for God to think and say the same things about us. But who was God speaking to when He said this?

God was speaking to Satan when he commented on Job. The “sons of God” or angelic beings come to present themselves before God. Satan, (a fallen angelic being) joined in coming before the LORD (1:6). Once before the LORD God asks Satan where he has been. Satan’s response is important to note. He says, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it” (1:7). And it would not be presumptuous to say that Satan still goes to and fro throughout the earth with ill intent. The New Testament states:

  • 1 Peter 5:8-9 - Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

Job is in part, a book about resisting Satan. After the second chapter Satan is not mentioned again in Job. And yet Satan’s encounter with God is the backdrop for the entire book.

Spiritual warfare is the setting for the book of Job. God brags on Job, Satan responds with a ridiculing retort:

  • Job 1:9-11 - 9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”

God accepts the challenge and removes His hedge of protection from Job (1:12). Satan ruthlessly removes Jobs wealth and family (1:13-21). Job’s faith proves steadfast. “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (1:22).

Satan wasn’t satisfied. He again goes before the LORD and again describes his dealings as, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it” (2:1-2). This time God again boasts on Job saying, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and suns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause” (2:3). God glories in the steadfast integrity of His servant Job. Notice Job is referred to by God as “My servant.” Job lives for the LORD. Job sees His life and the circumstances of it as fully surrendered to the LORD. This is verified by the description of Job’s response to his loss. The passage states:

  • Job 1:20-21 - 20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

None of us in our right mind would want to experience losses like Job did. But if we ever do, we should pray for Job’s attitude as expressed by God’s inspired word here.

Satan wasn’t satisfied; he never is. He proudly challenged God’s words again with rippling rebellion saying, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” (2:5). Ah, there is Satan’s motive and goal. He wants to get Job to curse God. God gives permission for even this (2:8). Notice God is sovereign; nothing happens to Job; no attack is made without the express permission of God. Satan and God are not equals. Satan is under the sovereign control of God.  But God gives Satan permission to physically afflict Job in an effort to test his faith.

What strategy does Satan rely on besides the actually destruction of Job’s wealth, health and family? We see it in the reaction of Job’s wife. After having lost all and being further physically afflicted Job’s wife encourages him to do exactly what Satan so desired, “Curse God and die!” (2:9). Job’s wife is culpable in that she stopped be a helper to Job and turned to being a defeated antagonist to her husband. Satan often works to divide and conquer in the marriage relationship. Remember Eve and Adam (Gen. 3). Job’s response to his wife is suited for any spouse who acts like her; “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” The summary assessment of Job is, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10). Satan will stoop to anything to accomplish his cursed plans. And he didn’t stop there.

Job, the biggest loser on earth at that time, having been ridiculed by the one closest to him, his wife, he is then joined by three friends (2:11-13). At first they didn’t even recognize Job so torn was he by his circumstances. But when they did see who it was, they wept with their friend and tore their clothes in empathy. Then they sat down with him for seven days of silent sorrowing together (2:11-13).

Job then speaks and starts what will become an incredible dialogue with his friends and ultimately with God in an effort to explain his circumstances. Who is to blame? Why has this happened? These are the questions addressed in this incredible book. That is the context of the ghostly appearance mentioned earlier.

The first of Job’s friends to respond in an effort to explain Job’s circumstances and set him right, is Eliphaz. And it is Eliphaz who bases his words on “a word” that “was secretly brought to me” by the ghostly figure in the night. Eliphaz and the other two friends Bildad and Zophar, as well as a fourth young late comer named Elihu are all in the end rebuked by God (42:7). Now we can’t attribute all of their response to ghostly apparitions, but at least we can do so for Eliphaz. The account given by Eliphaz concerning the ghostly appearance in the night is not coincidental. There is spiritual warfare going on here. This ghostly appearance is also not solitary in its occurrence.

When we look in the Bible we find other incidents of spirits influencing people. A spirit of ill will had an ill effect on Abimelech (Judges 9:23). King Saul was distressed by a spirit after he had disobeyed the LORD (1 Sam. 16:14-15; 19:9). Lying spirits influenced false prophets (1 Kings 22:23). Satan himself influenced King David to momentarily not trust in God but instead trust in his own earthly forces (1 Chron. 21:1). Jesus cast out evil spirits from people in the New Testament (Mat. 8:16; Mark 1:23-27). And Judas’ heinous betrayal of Jesus is linked to Satan entering him (Luke 22:3).

A point to be made here is that the “friend” of Job who should have encouraged him became a source of discouragement and aggravation in part as a result of passing on words he had received from a ghostly figure in the night. It is not farfetched to associate this ghost with the work of Satan. His desire is to compound Job’s pain with relentless accusations from those closest to him over the bulk of the book of Job. It wasn’t that Satan entered his friends. They believed in God and had a relationship with Him. But they allowed themselves to be influenced by Satan through a ghost inspired (satanically motivated) response as well as their own proud presumptuous reasoning based on very limited information. Proverbs states, “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive” (Prov. 17:28). They should have kept their peace.

The broader point to be made is that Satan worked to manipulate and influence others for his purposes by way of a ghostly appearance. The Bible says:

  • Ephesians 6:12 - 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Job’s enemy was not his friend; it was Satan and his demons. Satan is an intelligent being. He was once a gloriously beautiful cherub but he fell in pride to become ugliest of adversaries of God (Ezek. 28:12-17). Satan is a defeated foe. Jesus defeated him publically and decisively at the cross (Col. 2:15). But he is still at work and he will stoop to anything to work his plan to bring people to curse God. Today we see his work in the proliferation of ghostly occultic interests. Satan plays on the curiosity for the unknown in people yet blinded by Him (2 Cor. 4:4). He wants to distract people from the reality of God and His love and grace and salvation by creating an environment where people seek ghosts instead of God. Our response should be to, “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11). Look at what happened with Job and his friends. Shine the light of truth on the deceptive darkness of Satan. Expose the ghostly encounters for what they really are, a work of Satan. May God help us by His Spirit in this task. All to His glory. Amen.

                                                                                                                         

 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Heart of Worship






“I will praise You with my whole heart” – Psalm 138:1a
 
A.W. Tozer, in his book Whatever Happened to Worship? said the following about worship:
 
I am of the opinion that we should not be concerned about working for God until we have learned the meaning and delight of worshipping Him. A worshiper can work with eternal quality in his work. But a worker who does not worship is only piling up wood, hay and stubble for the time when God sets the world on fire . . . . God is trying to call us back to that for which He created us – to worship Him and enjoy Him forever! (p. 12)
 
Tozer goes on to further state of worship:
 
If we are truly among the worshipers we will not be spending our time with carnal or worldly religious projects. . . . I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.” (p. 13).
 
As you can see, Tozer felt worship was very important if not the most important thing in the life of a Christian. And the Bible would bear that emphasis out too. Worship is what we will be doing for an eternity.
 
Worship has been greatly neglected by many. Some see worship as a mere warming up for the teaching of the word. But a spirit and heart of worship is what we should live in and especially come to church with to hear the word and then strengthen our heart of worship. Some have made worship out to be music alone, but music and singing is only a small part of what worship is. Worship is a heart attitude, a way of life.
 
Worship is designed and ordained by God not because He is a cosmic narcissist. Far from it! Worship is good for His people. Worship can be linked to every facet of our lives. We come to an understanding of our purpose and meaning in life through worship.  We become overcomers in life through worship. We reach the world as they see our lives of worship to the Lord. Marriage, family, and church all come together and are strengthened through our worship of the Lord. Worship is central to all we are and do in the Lord and that is what this study intends to show.
 
 
 
The Heart of Worship
PSALM 138 - 1 I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You. 2I will worship toward Your holy temple,  And praise Your name  For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.3     In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.4     All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O Lord, When they hear the words of Your mouth.5  Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, For great is the glory of the Lord.6  Though the Lord is on high, Yet He regards the lowly; But the proud He knows from afar.7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand Against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me.8  The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
This is a magnificent Psalm that gives us a wealth of revelation on what worship is all about. In this psalm is the heart of worship. David wrote this psalm. We don’t know what the occasion was for David writing it. Some think it was in response to God’s blessing David with an everlasting kingdom (2 Sam. 7). Or it may have been in response to a victory over an enemy and “the gods” of that enemy. (In ancient times opposing forces relied on their respective gods. Victory or defeat were then connected to these gods.) Let’s look at it and see what it tells us about worship.
First, the heart of worship is a step of faith, an act of the will. Verse one says, “I will” (138:1a; Psalm 5:7).  Worship is not something we necessarily have to be in the mood to do. We don’t have to feel like worshipping to worship God. Worship begins with an act of faith regardless of how we feel. The Bible says we are to walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). I have learned that if, (even when I don’t feel like it), I step out in faith and worship the Lord, my feelings of worship follow my willful step of faith. Faith is the engine, feelings the caboose. Feelings follow acts of faith. By faith worship the Lord.
Second, the heart of worship involves praise (138:1b). “I will praise. . . .” “Praise” is the translation of the Hebrew term yadah and means, “to confess, praise, and give thanks”. The word literally means to hold out the hand; to revere; to worship with uplifted hands. We come to the Lord confessing and acknowledging our limitations, weaknesses and sins. We don’t come to God in pride. We come to Him in humility. We lift our hands in total surrender and admission of our unworthiness. And as we receive His forgiveness we lift our hands in praise and thanks. We all are who we are by God’s grace (1 Cor. 15:10). For that we should all lift our hands in praise to the Lord.
In Hebrews it states: “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). We need to practice the worship art of praise.
Third, the heart of worship is directed toward God. David states, “I will worship You. . . . .” The Triune God is the only One deserving of our worship. Why Worship God? The Bible tells us that God commands us to worship Him (1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 29:2; 96:6-9). God alone is worthy of praise and worship (Revelation 4:11; 5:9). It is God alone who has created the universe and sustained it by His grace and therefore it is God alone who is worthy to be worshipped (Nehemiah 9:6; Revelation 4:9-11; 14:6-7).
Another reason for worshipping God is because of His holiness in contrast to our sinfulness.  When Isaiah had his vision of the Lord on His throne in heaven it brought him into an immediate repentant awareness of His sin. God cleansed him from his sin and then gave Isaiah the opportunity to represent God. Isaiah’s immediate response to volunteer to go as God’s ambassador to Judah was an act of worship if ever there was one (Isaiah 6). Acknowledging and experiencing the holiness of God results in our worshipping God (1 Chronicles 16:28-29; Psalm 29:1-2; 96:7-9; 99:5, 9). God’s holy mercy in light of our sinfulness should drive us to worship God (Exodus 34:6-9; Joshua 5:13-15; Nehemiah 9:1-3).
The apostle Paul when he got to the end of what God was inspiring Him to say about salvation and the nation of Israel in the book of Romans burst out in spontaneous praise and worship saying:
  • Romans 11:33-36 - 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?     Or who has become His counselor?”35 “Or who has first given to Him  And it shall be repaid to him?”36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
When you realize all that God is and all that He has done, you cannot contain yourself but must bless God and give Him the honor and worship due Him (see also Psalm 115:1-8; 145:1-13; Revelation 11:15-17; 15:3-4; 19:1-4). We were lost helplessly and hopelessly in sin and were living in outright rebellion against God. We were His enemies (Romans 1-3). But God through faith in Christ by His free grace provision made a way that our sins can be forgiven (Romans 4-5). While we were in sin, separated from God and at war with Him, in love and by His grace He sent His only Son Jesus to pay the debt of our sin on the cross (Romans 5:8). Anyone who trusts in Jesus to save them from their sin is forgiven by God and stands justified before Him. “Justified” and its cognates means just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned (Romans 5:1).

Once justified, we are told of the new life to be lived in Christ. We are to live a life of holiness (Romans 6). If we try to live that new life in our own strength we’ll only achieve wretchedness (Romans 7). But when we depend on Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit we can be more than conquerors (Romans 8). The pinnacle of life in Christ is life in the Spirit.

Not only does God save us and give us power to live right, but He elects us to serve Him in certain tasks, just as He did with Israel (Romans 9-11). Israel was elected by God in the Old Testament to represent God to pagan people. Israel is God’s servant. Israel was God’s means to incarnate Jesus, His only Son and Highest Servant. And those who follow Jesus find their place of worship in answering God’s elect call to serve Him in life.
Having taught the justification by faith in Christ, God’s call and empowering provision to live holy, and that God gives us holy purpose in electing us to serve Him, Paul can no longer contain himself. He bursts out with an expression of worship in his letter in Romans 11:33-36. The gracious salvation of the Lord drives us to worship Him (Revelation 5:9-14; 7:9-17).

Fourth, the heart of worship involves the whole heart. David says, “I will praise You with my whole heart; . . . .” (138:1c). Jesus expressed His repugnance at halfhearted devotion to God in His letter to the church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-19). Someone has said, “The world says half hearted devotion is better than no devotion at all. But Jesus says if you can’t worship me with all your heart don’t worship Me at all.” When we take into account the grace and mercy and blessing of God, anything less than wholehearted devotion and worship of God is inappropriate, offensive and blasphemous.  We are to seek and serve God with all our hearts and that is especially true of our worship (Psalm 9:1; 111:1; 119:10, 58, 69, 145).

The term “worship” found in this verse is shachah and means to bow down; prostrate oneself; to worship. In the Greek New Testament  “worship” is translated from the term proskuneo which means, “to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand; to fawn or crouch to, to prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore);  worship.” [1]

Picture in your mind the way a dog relates to its master. The prime attribute of a dog toward his master is that HIS MASTER IS HIS WORLD: security; provision; purpose for being; joy and happiness.  

Now notice the word wasn’t defined by saying, like a cat licking its master. Cats have no masters; or at least that’s the way it looks. Look at the contrast between dogs and cats toward their owners:

 
·         Dogs look up to you like you’re “God.” Cats look down on you as though they don’t need you.

·         Dogs follow you around the house and everywhere else. Cats don’t want any part of you most of the time.

·         Dogs want to lick you. Cats only want to be stroked and petted.

·         Dogs paw you. Cats claw you.

·         Dogs come when you call and will go anywhere with you. Cats won’t come when you call and go berserk when you try to take them to unfamiliar surroundings.
 

Be a dog not a cat in your worship relation to God. Be:


·         Totally devoted like a St. Bernard 

·         Totally attentive like a German shepherd

·         Totally excited like a terrier

·         Totally obedient like a Golden retriever

·         Totally reliable like an Irish sheep dog or border collie who herd the flock

·         Totally strong in defense of their master like a bullmastiff

A have a friend who has a dog and it is a dog like all dogs that craves attention. If when I go over to my friend’s house I show any attention at all to his dog, the dog stays close and looks for more and more. The dog gets excited and jumpy (even though it is a big old furry dog). If I don’t pet it or rub its ears or scratch it, the dog nudges my hand with his nose and when I respond he joyously and excitedly licks my hand and shows me great affection. That’s the best way the dog knows how to show his appreciation and love. He doesn’t care who else is around watching him. He just goes all out to show he likes and appreciates my attention. That dog is far lower than a human on the chain of God’s creation. But humanity is far lower in relation to God in this universe. Can we show God any less worship?
While God wants us to come humbly before Him, He does not endorse some of what is associated with worship at times. We should not take the above illustration too far. There have been instances when in the church people have literally acted like animals in their “worship.” This is out of order and not pleasing to God (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). Our worship, as we will see, needs to be governed by the scriptures. If it isn’t found in the Bible, it isn’t something God endorses. Barking like dogs, squirming like worms and behaving like farm animals is not worship, it isn’t revival, it is unbridled carnality. Acting in such unbridled ways offends God not to mention discredits the Bride of Christ the Church.

Fifth, the heart of worship is a spiritual thing. David says he wholeheartedly praises God “before the gods I will sing praises to You” (138:1d). Worship is a spiritual thing; it takes place in a spiritual dimension where there are “gods.” Worship makes a statement in the spiritual realm that God and God alone (the Triune God of the Bible) is worthy to be praised and glorified.
You must be born again! The first thing that must be in place for someone to worship God is that they be born again. When a person acknowledges and turns from their sins (i.e. repentance) and asks God’s forgiveness based on faith in Jesus Christ, they will be forgiven. At that point the Holy Spirit will indwell them giving them spiritual eternal life (cf. John 3; Acts 2:38-39; 2 Cor. 5:17, 21). Just as you were born physically, you must have a second birth; you must be born again. Only with the regeneration and second birth of the Holy Spirit can you know and experience worship (cf. (Romans 8; 1 Cor. 2:9-14).

There will be spiritual opposition. There are many religions with many different “gods” (which are really no gods at all – 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). We need to understand that when we worship or seek to worship that all hell and the army of Satan will oppose us and seek to detour and distract us from worshipping God.
Put on your spiritual armor. We need therefore to put on the full armor of God to accomplish worship (Ephesians 6:10-18).  It is a shame and disgrace that sometimes those who worship false gods do so more wholeheartedly than those who worship the One true God! Some succumb to the distractions and deceptions of the enemy and have their heart of worship stifled. For some the opposition to worship is from within, form their carnal sinful nature (Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 3). Some people prefer to pout before God than praise Him. Our worship should reflect the truth that God is real, omnipotent, holy and all loving. It’s about Him not us. We shouldn’t be bashful about our worship. We should stand up and be heard. We worship the Living God! (Psalm 42:2; 84:2; Isaiah 37:4, 17; Jeremiah 10:10; Daniel 6:20, 26; Hosea 1:10; Matthew 16:16; Acts 14:15; Romans 6:10; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 6:16; 1 Timothy 3:15; 4:10; Hebrews 9:14; 10:31).

Are there really any idols today? Read what one writer said about modern day idolatry:

What other gods could we have besides the Lord? Plenty. For Israel there were the Canaanite Baals, those jolly nature gods whose worship was a rampage of gluttony, drunkenness, and ritual prostitution. For us there are still the great gods Sex, Shekels, and Stomach (an unholy trinity constituting one god: self), and the other enslaving trio, Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described as “The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). Football, the Firm, and Family are also gods for some. Indeed the list of other gods is endless, for anything that anyone allows to run his life becomes his god and the claimants for this prerogative are legion. In the matter of life’s basic loyalty, temptation is a many-headed monster. [2]

Yes, there are idols today and many are caught in the sin of idolatry. It may take a different form than in ages past, but it is idolatry nonetheless. Idolatry today is just as sinful if not moreso given the full revelation of God in His only Son Jesus Christ. We need to cast down our idols and worship God. God calls us to worship Him and cast down our idols (e.g. Jer. 4:1-4).

Worship is a Battle for Your heart
Let me just say at this point that worship is a battle for your heart. When Jesus was led out into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil, it wasn’t long before Satan sought to win Jesus’ heart by getting Him to worship him. When we look at that incident we see the strategy of Satan exposed:

·         Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” (Mat. 4:8-10; see Exodus 20:2-3; 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20).

First, understand the devil wants your worship – “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” To the devil worship is worth all the kingdoms of the world “and their glory.”  Getting you to worship him is his top priority and mission objective.
Second, understand the devil thinks he can buy your worship; “And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”  The devil puts a price tag on your worship. Have you sold your worship? If he can’t get you to worship him, he will try to distract you from worshipping God. He will buy your worship through distracting alternatives such as sports, recreation, work, family, and friends, anything that will keep you from worshipping God in the congregation of the Lord. Satan will use “good” things to keep you from the “best” thing worship. Guard against being diverted from worshipping God.

Third, understand the devil should be shooed away – “Away with you Satan!” Satan is defeated (Col. 2:15). Jesus in us is greater than Satan in the world (1 John 4:4). God will crush Satan under our feet (Rom. 16:20). All we need do is draw near to God in worship and resist the devil and he will flee (James 4:7).  Put Satan in his place. When he comes knocking, ask Jesus to answer the door. And you keep worshipping the Lord.
Fourth, understand worship is something we must do – “You shall worship the LORD your God.” Worship of God is not optional. Worship is something we need to do. And “the LORD your God” is the ONLY ONE to whom we are to give our worship.

Fifth, understand worship is equated with service – “and Him only you shall serve.” Jesus equates worship and service. We are not to worship people or anything else, we are to worship God alone (Acts 14:15; Matthew 6:24, 33-34; Luke 16:9, 11, 13). God alone is worthy to be praised and worshipped.

NOTICE: Here in Jesus’ words of response to Satan we find His definition of worship (and Jesus definition is the only one that matters): For Jesus worship is service; presenting our lives to God every moment and living for His glory in everything we do. – “and Him only shall you SERVE.” If our understanding of worship is limited to singing, we miss the mark and are only scratching the surface of what true worship is. True worship is doing all we do for God’s glory.
The apostle Paul echoes this definition of worship when he is inspired to write:

·         1 Cor. 10:31 – “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Worship is very practical. When your eyes are opened to see the magnificence of God the only reasonable thing to do is bow before Him in worship. This is what Paul writes to the Romans. After he has laid out the inspired and blessed powerful gospel he is inspired to write:

  • Romans 12:1-2 - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Worship is our only reasonable response to God’s gracious salvation. Romans 12:1-2 is really a response of worship. We so often take those verses out of their context. Worship is the key to understanding life. When we worship God appropriately, everything else will come together and begin to fit in place. These verses connect worship to living in a way that is holy and acceptable to God. Presenting our lives and heart to God in full surrender is the full sense of what worship is all about. Paul is inspired to say that this total commitment is the only reasonable way to respond to God’s provision. Worship is much more than merely singing in a service; it is service!
Worship strengthens us to resist conformity to the world. Worship works worldliness right out of us. Romans 12:2 tells us worship helps us keep from conforming to the world’s ways. Worship works worldliness right out of us. To conform is to be put in a mold. Don’t let the world mold you. Worship God and let the Spirit mold you. Worship is God’s means of spiritual formation. Worship and be conformed to the likeness of Christ! (Romans 8:29).

Worship transforms us. This verse also tells us that worship has a transforming effect on us. Worship renews our mind and helps us to discover and prove God’s acceptable and perfect will for us in life. When we worship we live in the presence of God and that has a transforming impact on us. Moses looked at the back of God and was changed. We get to look into the glory of the Lord by the blood of Jesus and that changes us into the likeness of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:7-18).
Worship is the atmosphere in which we discern the will of God. With a heart of worship we are in the right frame of mind and heart to receive God’s word on His perfect will for our lives. It was during a time of worship that the Spirit chose Paul and Barnabas to go on a mission (Acts 13:1-3). If you worship, the Spirit may have a word for you too! God can reveal His plans for us as we worship Him.

All of this is a consequence of worship defined in service. Serve the Lord with all your heart and you are worshipping. It’s in the service of worship that we are most reasonable, strengthened, and given direction in God’s will. That is fantastic! What a blessing it is to worship the Lord. What a blessing to go from aimlessness to advancing in God’s plan for our lives. What a blessing it is to find our life purpose. Worship is the environment in which God reveals His will to us. God is awesome! Praise Him! Let’s worship Him!
Everything we do in life can be an act of worship. Paul was inspired to express this truth in the following way saying:
  • Colossians 3:23-24 - And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.
Worship is doing whatever we do with all our heart as to the Lord. Mundane and even secular things we are involved in can become a means to worship. Mowing the lawn, yard work, your job, doing good works for others, serving in all aspects of the church, can all be a blessing to God and spirit building for us if we do them with all our heart – with a heart of worship.

Worship is God’s power tool to build us into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). Worship is God’s spade to grow the fruit of the Spirit in us (Galatians 5:16, 24-25). Worship is God’s means to make us all we need to be so we can do all He calls us to do, for His glory, until He returns. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!” (Psalm 29:2).
Worship is a way of life. Warren Weirsbe says of worship:

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose -- and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.[3]

Sixth, the heart of worship is expressed in a public setting. David says he wholeheartedly praises God “before the gods I will sing praises to You” (138:1d). These words tell us not only that worship is something spiritual but that it involves singing in public. Worship is not only singing, but singing is a big part of expressing worship. Worship involves open expression “before the gods.” There are all kinds of outward expressions mentioned in the Bible as part of worship.  

Singing and using musical instruments is a Biblically supportable way to worship the Lord. Some churches forbid the use of musical instruments in their worship. Some churches forbid certain types of instruments or music in worship. But the Bible gives evidence that we can use all different kinds of musical instruments in our worship (Psalm 33:1-3; 71:22; 81:2; 87:7; 92:1-3; 98:5-6; 144:9; 147:7; 149:3; 150:3-6).

Singing with all our heart. When I was a young boy my parents used to drag me to church. There were reasons why I didn’t want to go. Church was boring. I didn’t see much that was different in the people where I went to church. I did see something different in a few, but in most I saw other people who didn’t seem like they wanted to be there either. One thing that communicated this to me was the singing in worship. The church I attended with my parents as a young boy was one of those churches where people sing just enough to be able to say they were singing if asked, but not really enough to be heard. It was really dead singing. People’s lips barely moved. Their heads were bent downward. They looked embarrassed if by chance they should catch anyone looking at them. For most singing was uncomfortable; their heart wasn’t in it. There were a number of reasons why I didn’t want to go to that church as a young boy. The lackluster, halfhearted, dead singing was one of them. If God is all we say He is, then He is worth singing to – worshipping – with all our heart. Unfortunately I sometimes see the same thing today. If our worship is to be wholehearted, then our singing should show that.

Singing can be a gauge of one’s heart condition. When you sing in worship to the Lord, are you barely singing as though your heart were the size of a pea, or are you singing with all you’ve got as though your heart were the size of a watermelon?  When you sing do you sing to the Lord or for the benefit of the people around you? When you sing do you care more of what the Lord hears or more about what the person next to you hears? If your singing reflects more of a concern for what people think about you than what God thinks about you, then your singing is exposing a part of your carnal fleshly nature. When we sing in worship we should sing with everything we’ve got to the Lord.

Years later when I accepted Jesus as my Savior and began to attend a church it was the worship that church that God used to draw me into it. It wasn’t necessarily the most polished or technically sound worship, but it was heartfelt worship. Let me share an example of the worship God used to draw me into His church.

Singing does not depend on ability. Those who lead worship need to be skilled and gifted in doing so (e.g. 1 Sam. 16:16-18; 1 Chron. 25:1-7). A worship leader needs to be skillful musically. A worship leader must have musical ability enough to lead worship to focus on God. Someone leading worship should not be a distraction from worship due to any musical inability to lead. But as individuals in the congregation of the Lord all we need is a heart to worship in order to worship. Years ago there were two brothers who attended this church with me. They were impressively muscular manly men who had been broken in humility and built back up in love by the Lord. These were brothers in Christ who loved the Lord with all their heart. They were serious about their walk with the Lord. They left a mark on me and taught me something about worship I needed to learn as a young believer. What did these burly brothers in the Lord teach me? They loved the Lord so much that when they sang in worship they did so with all their heart and might. They sang loud and clear. Well, I need to mention here that these two brothers were not musically or vocally gifted. In fact they couldn’t sing a lick. These brothers sang so out of tune that if you sat next to them you’d be dragged into their tuneless praise. We’d try to arrange that they at least sat separate from each other because if they sat together and sang they’d throw the whole congregation out of sync in song. They knew they were out of tune and they would sometimes even apologize for being out of tune. But they did their best, the very best they could. They sang with all their heart. We used to joke that by the time such singing reached through the clouds to heaven the sound would be filtered so that it sounded like the best operatic voices. The important point is that their singing was with their whole heart. They sang to the Lord, not to people. How do you sing? Are you out of tune? So what? You may not be eligible for the choir or to lead worship, but you can still offer God a sacrifice of praise in song. Sing away my brother and sister in Christ, sing away! Your heavenly Father sees your heart in your sacrifice of song to Him and He loves it. Sing away!

What about our songs of worship? The Bible says whatever songs are used in worshipping the Lord should be psalmic (i.e. musical), hymnic (i.e. lyrically about God), and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16). This also implies that the songs sung to God in worship should be singable so that the congregation can join together in lifting their voices before the Lord in song. Music made in worship of God should be joyful (Psalm 81:1; 95:1-2; 98:4-6; 100:1-2). The music and song of worship should be centered on God and be an offering of praise and thanksgiving to Him for all He has done (Psalm 47:6-7; 57:7-10; 59:16-17; 61:8; 66:4; 67:3-4; 68:32; 89:1; 98:1; 101:1; 104:33; 146:1-2; 147:1; 149:1). Worship should aim at expressing thanks and praise for the redemptive work of God in Jesus Christ (Psalm 40:1-3; Revelation 5:8-14).

Worship is about Him it’s not about “me.” So much of worship in the present day focuses on us rather than God. Worship is not primarily to make us feel good. Worship is primarily to make God feel good. The best worship is worship that starts, proceeds and ends with focusing on God and His work. Now there is a residual effect of our worship. Worship has a great impact on us because when we fix our eyes on our awesome God it puts our problems into proper perspective. You either have a small God and big problems or a great God and small problems. Worship focused on us or on people results in a reliance on human feebleness. Right worship exalts God to His proper place and gives us a higher perspective in a way that enables us to get through the hardest of trials or situations.

What about physical outward expressions in worship? Clapping your hands in worship is Biblical (Psalm 47:1; 98:8). Lifting up your hands up in worship is Biblical (Psalm 28:2; 63:3-5; 134:1-2; 141:2; Lamentations 2:193:41; 1 Timothy 2:8). Saying, “Amen” in worship when we end our prayers (Psalm 72:19-20; Matthew 6:13; 1 Corinthians 14:16) to express agreement with God and His word (Deuteronomy 27:15-26; Revelation 22:20), and to bless the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:34-36; Nehemiah 8:6; Psalm 41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48; Romans 1:25; 9:5) is Biblical. Bowing our heads and bowing our knees in worship is Biblical (Genesis 24:48; Exodus 4:31; 12:27; 1 Chronicles 29:20; Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9-11). These are all Biblically sound expressions of our worship before God.
Worship should be decent and orderly. But having said all that it’s important that our outward expressions of worship do not press beyond the Biblical guidelines prescribed for them. We should never worship in a way that draws attention to ourselves and away from God (Matthew 6:1-2, 5, and 16). That means that when we do sing with all our heart to the Lord that we are considerate to those around us. If we sing in the Spirit we will find the proper order and balance. We should be mindful of those around us and not only worship the Lord in a way that pleases ourselves and disregards how it affects others (Romans 15:1-2). The most important thing in worship is that our hearts are right before God (1 Samuel 16:7; mark 7:6-7; 1 Timothy 2:8). God is a God of order not chaos (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). Because of that our worship should never be out of control (1 Corinthians 14:32).

Seventh, the heart of worship focuses on the holy presence of God. David states, “I will worship toward Your holy temple” (138:2a; see also Psalm 29:1-2; 96:7-9; 99:5, 9; Isaiah 6). When David says he will worship toward the Temple we need to keep in mind that the Temple was central to Israel because it was where God made His glorious presence known ( 2 Chronicles 7:1; see  context of 2 Chronicles 6 and 7).  In the future the glory of God will fill the Millennial Temple (Ezekiel 43).  When we worship we should aim at acknowledging and entering into His presence. God is omnipresent; but we do not always acknowledge or sense His presence. God’s presence is not dependent on our sensing it. But worship, if it is to be true worship, needs to be an act of prayerfully coming into His presence, His holy presence. The Temple was a holy place, a unique place because it was where God chose to make His presence known. This was not taken lightly and moved God’s people to approach Him reverently. There should be a reverence when we worship God. When we worship we are stepping from the mundane commonness of life into a special place where God is allowing us to meet with Him.
Notice it states, “I will worship toward Your holy temple. “ In other words, no matter what I am doing I will do it with a consciousness of “Your” or God’s presence. My life revolves around my worship of God.  

Eighth, the heart of worship praises God for His loving kindness and truth. David continues, “And praise Your name for Your loving kindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name” (138:2b,c). You can’t worship God without His word. You can’t worship God properly outside the parameters of His word. If your worship contradicts God’s word in terms of God’s revelation of Himself, His truth, and His word, you are not worshipping God you are blaspheming God. Worship should be the magnification of God and His word. When we worship we should get a deeper clearer more personal sense of the essence and substance, the profundity of God and His word.
When Jesus said that proper worship involves “spirit and truth” (John 4:24), He was pointing to worship that was led by the Holy Spirit and that followed the truth of God’s word (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). Worship is defined and ordered by the word of God. God exalts His word even above His own name. Therefore we should keep God’s word in heart and mind when worshipping Him. God’s word should guide the lyrics of our worship music. God’s word should be sung.

Some mistakenly look at God’s word as a hindrance to worship. They mistakenly say, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). But the letter kills in the sense that it exposes the sinner as utterly sinful and then points them to the cross (Galatians 3:24). We wouldn’t know what worship is or how to worship without God’s revelation in His word. And we will not worship God acceptably if we go beyond its revelation of what true acceptable worship is. (See the value of God’s word in Psalm 119).
Ninth, the heart of worship is a cry for strength. In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul” (138:3). In worship we come weak and frail and declare our dependence on God seeking His answer to our weakness. I have found that some of my best experiences of worship have come when I am crying out to God in weakness. There are times when I get in the car and just drive with Jesus as my Passenger. It’s just me and Him. As we drive I have no geographical destination, but I have a spiritual one. As I drive I talk with Jesus and worship Him. I cry out to Him. By the time I pull in the driveway to return home I’m at least satisfied that He has heard. And when I commit my life circumstances to the Lord in worship He has a way of passing on His peace that surpasses understanding to me. Worship has a way of cleansing us from despair and doubt. Worship is the tether that moors us to foundational dock of Jesus’ word (e.g. Matthew 7:24-27). Worship is the vehicle that moves us from the place of weakness to God’s place of power to endure.

Worship is God’s means of encouraging us (Psalm 56:9; 119:145, 146; 141:1; 142:1). God fill sour heart with courage when we worship in His presence. If we are weak and timid, worship will strengthen us and make us bold. In worship God provides what we need to face the day and endure problems. Worship is holy adrenaline.  
Tenth, the heart of worship declares that in the end every knee will bow before the Lord.All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD, when they hear the words of Your mouth. Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD” (138:4-5). “All the kings” will praise God and declare His glory in the end. We need to look forward to the final victory of God when we worship (Psalm 72:11; 102:15, 22; Philippians 2:8-11; Revelation 11:15; 21:24). Worship instills hopefulness in us even when defeat stares us in the face. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God will raise up a standard against him (Isaiah 59:19). The way God does that is through the worship. Worship is God’s banner over us.

Eleventh, the heart of worship recognizes God’s willingness to meet with us. “Though the LORD is on high, yet He regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar” (138:6). Even though God is high and lifted up, holy and transcendent, He stoops down to meet with us in worship. In God’s presence is fullness of joy and everlasting pleasures (Psalm 16:11; Acts 2:28). Jesus is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). Where two or three meet in the name of Jesus, He is there (Matthew 18:20). Jesus is the word made flesh (John 1:1-2, 14). God has taken the initiative to meet with us through the blood of Jesus. Coming into God’s presence by the blood of Jesus avails the provision of our Lord (Hebrews 4:15-16; 10:19-22). Think of it, we can come freely and frequently into the presence of God Almighty, God of the Universe! That is a wonderful thing to worship the Lord about.
Lucifer was corrupted when he looked at his worship and became proud of himself. This led to rebellion against God and his being cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14; Ezek. 28). There’s something about worship that tempts us to be proud. We can be proud in the way we worship. We can become proud of the way we play an instrument or sing. Or we can be too proud to worship; we are embarrassed by the way we can’t sing. God gives grace to the humble but He opposes and knows from afar those who approach Him in pride (1 Peter 5:5-6). Humble yourself before God in worship and He will help you enter into His presence.

Twelfth, the heart of worship is God’s means to revival. “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me” (138:7). Even though we may be beaten down by enemies who persecute us; even though the circumstances of life may be beating us down; if we worship the Lord, He will revive us (see Psalm 143). Worship revives the soul. Even the soul of the elderly can be revived (Psalm 71:17-21). If you are knocked down on the mat of life and the ref is about to count you out, worship the Lord and God will lift you up and revive your soul to finish the fight. Worship is a major means of overcoming depression and mental stress. Worship the Lord and He will lift you up (Psalm 80:14-19; 85:4-7; Isaiah 57:15-21).
Thirteenth, the heart of worship leads to spiritual maturity. David says, “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands” (138:8). The idea of the word “perfect” means to come to fulfillment; to come to maturity; to develop to the intended purpose and end. Therefore worship is a means by which we become all God intended us to be. Worship is a way God makes us to be all we need to be so we can do and experience all God intends for us to do and experience with Him.

In the New Testament we are told:
  • Colossians 3:14-17 - 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Worship is an expression of one’s love for God. This ultimately is the essence of the heart of worship. When we express our love for God in worship He works to mature us and perfect our faith. Coming into the presence of our holy God in worship gives us a glimpse of His glory. Like Moses in the Old Testament whose countenance was transformed by his contact with God’s glory, we too are transformed as we experience the glory of God in worship (2 Corinthians 3:7-18). When we love on the Lord in worship, the pieces of our life puzzle come together. When we love the Lord in worship, we realize the purpose for which we were created. We were created to love God; to worship Him.

How important is worship? A.W. Tozer wrote of the importance of worship saying:

I would rather worship God than do any other thing I know of in all this world. ... I cannot sing a lick, but that is nobody’s business. God thinks I am an opera star! . . . The beautiful part of worship is that it prepares you and enables you to zero in on the important things that must be done for God. Listen to me! Practically every great deed done in the church of Christ all the way back to the apostle Paul was done by people blazing with the radiant worship of their God. . . . Wherever the church has come out of her lethargy, rising from her sleep and into the tides of revival and spiritual renewal, always the worshippers were back of it. (Ibid. p. 18, 19)

May God revive and perfect us for His glory as we seek to worship Him. Willfully determine to worship the Lord. Worship Him with praise. Worship Him and Him alone. Worship with all your heart. Worship Him in the Spirit. Worship Him publically in the congregation of the Lord and wherever you are. Worship in the presence of the Lord. Worship God for His loving kindness and truth. Worship God in a cry for strength. Worship God humbly. Worship God for making His presence known in Christ. Worship God and be revived. Worship God and become all you need to be so you can do all He purposes for you to do, for His glory, until He returns. But above all, worship the Lord!
The Welsh Revival of 1904-1905, of which Evan Roberts was greatly used, and that transformed Wales for the better and saw over 150,000 souls saved, was to a large part a revival centered on praise. It was a revival filled with worship and praise. One of the most popular songs that came out of this revival, the one most closely associated with this revival, was Here is Love Vast as the Ocean. My prayer in closing is that as you read these lyrics your heart is filled with a spirit of worship as the Spirit comes upon you. Maybe you will even search the Internet for a rendition of the song and enter into the presence of the Lord as you sing along. (I suggest you find Robin Mark’s presentation of this incredibly worshipful song – use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8YOPj5TnUM – put the headphones on and turn up the volume or blast it loud for all to hear).  I pray we would seek the Lord to cultivate a heart of worship that will revive us and bring glory to His name. I pray we’d simply, worship the Lord.


Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Loving-kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.

On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

Let me all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see.
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and power on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.[4]



[1]Strong, J. (1997, c1996). The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) (G4352). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[2] Your Father Loves You by James Packer, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986, page for April 17 found at http://www.bible.org/illus.asp?topic_id=772
 
[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Integrity Crisis, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991, p. 119. Quote of William Temple (15 October 1881 – 26 October 1944)
 
[4] Words: William Rees (1802-1883), vers­es 1-2 (Dyma gar­iad fel y mor­oedd); Will­iam Will­iams pos­sib­ly wrote vers­es 3-4; trans­lat­ed from Welsh to Eng­lish by William in The Bap­tist Book of Praise, 1900. Music: Ro­bert Low­ry, 1876 (MI­DI, score).