GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT WORSHIP
A Study of Deuteronomy 12:1-12
Those of us who attend church regularly may feel we know all about worship. Surely it is just a matter of praying, singing a few hymns, and listening to the pastor. Yet while there is this thing called “worship,” a higher form of adoration is embodied in true worship. Churches that indulge in mere “worship” may well make the parishioners feel good. They will dish out endless platitudes about how to get on in life. Though the advice may be useful, it will fall short of connecting you to God through true worship. Transcending ritual, tradition and practice, true worship delivers a personal encounter with the loving God. The text shows what God prescribed in order that we may engage in true worship. When we follow the instructions, we are set on our way towards a state that is better, even, than happiness. We are headed towards experiencing pure joy.
Pastor Paul from the pulpit
How do you know when someone is serious about something? What behaviors do you look for to guess that a person means business? My brother and I were recently discussing how he was becoming more resentful towards our nephew. My brother explained that the nephew, who plays peewee football, does not seem to take the game seriously. My brother said he does not put any extra time into studying the game. Then, on game day, he makes mistakes that are the result of his lack of knowledge.
I pointed out that questions of priority and perspective were at play. At this point in our nephew’s life, learning the game is not as important as playing it. What’s more, it’s just a game to him for the most part.
We know when people are serious about something by their attitude and how they set their priorities.
As the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land, God speaks to them through Moses. He gets them ready for Promised Land living. Through Moses, God warns the people they will encounter people in the Promised Land who follow worship practices that they, as God’s chosen people, should not adopt.
God identifies two problems with the religious practices of the nations occupying the land Israel is preparing to inhabit: Idolatry and Polytheism.
Idolatry is the act of placing other things or people before God. Manmade idols are, by nature, powerless objects that draw our attention, devotion and focus away from God.
Polytheism is the act of serving, worshiping, and looking to multiple gods to do for us what only God can do.
What are the idols in our lives? What are the “other” things that compete with God for our attention? Are we even aware of them?
God then instructs Israel to not worship Him in the way these other nations worship their gods. Instead, God offers Israel a godly approach to worship.
First, God tells them to worship where God is …
– “You are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put His Name there for His dwelling. To that place you must go.”
In a time of church-shopping to find some deeper meaning to life, the fundamental way to identify a place to worship is to ask whether God is there. Is there a manifestation of the presence of God? Do you feel God’s presence?
The place where God puts His Name is the place where God dwells.
We go to church to have an encounter with God and to receive what He has for us, be it a word, a revelation, an answer, or perhaps a sense of conviction about something we need to do or stop doing.
So the message is to go where God is.
Second, God says to support the place where God is …
– “There bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.”
People support things they believe in. Generally, the things that they believe in also benefit them in some way.
Is there so little support for the House of God because people feel they are not getting what they need? Or perhaps God is not present where they are?
On the other hand, if God is meeting people’s needs and manifesting His presence in their lives, why would they withhold their support?
I do not have the answer to either of these questions. I can tell you, however, that God’s instruction is to support the place where God is.
Third, God says that if you go to where God is, and support that place, things will go well for you and your family.
– “There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.”
God attaches a promise to the two previous instructions he has given Israel.
To those who go where God is, and support that place, God says that everything, not some things, but everything will go well.
God promises that, if His conditions are met, the people and their families will live in His presence, have their needs met, be filled with joy, and prosper and do well. God promises that, if His conditions are met, His blessings will be evident. This is because God promises that things will go well for you and your family.
Lastly, God says problems occur when we place personal preferences above divine priorities.
– “You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit.”
God informs the people that there needs to be order in the House of God.
No one would allow family or friends to come into their home and do whatever they want to do. Why, then, do we expect God to allow lawlessness in His house?
God is making it perfectly clear there are standards in His house, and those standards must be met or problems will occur when we place personal preferences above divine priorities.
Our text opens and closes with God, speaking through Moses, offering the people His priorities for worship and a godly perspective of worship. As we bridge the gap between God’s message to Israel, through Moses, and its application to the church today, we learn that …
True worship recognizes the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the sovereignty of God – A distinction must be made between “true” worship and false worship. False worship is steeped in religion. In false worship religious practices, symbols, and traditions are the central focus of worshippers. False worship believes that, without these things, worship seems deficient. However, “true” worship exalts Jesus Christ as Lord and looks to honor and glorify God. We must ask that, if there were no bulletins, hymnals or liturgy, could we still worship God? If there were no church buildings, or if the minister did not wear clergy apparel, could we still worship God?
In true worship there is ministry – There is worship that makes people feel good about themselves, and worship where God in Christ personally speaks into the lives of worshippers and transforms them into a state in which they are better able to handle their lives. In this second type of worship, God in Christ ministers not just to the senses, but also to the mind, body and soul. Worship is a holistic experience. The man or woman who arrives broken will leave whole. The person who enters hungry will leave full, knowing he or she has eaten the bread of life. The person who is filled with questions leaves with answers and with the comfort of having received divine direction. In true worship, God greets people at the door, escorts them to their seat and meets the needs of worshippers. He equips them to be able to face life’s challenges and its attendant sufferings. In true worship, things happen.
In true worship, there is joy – Unlike happiness, which is predicated upon the fulfillment of our desires, joy comes from God. Joy is an attitude that permeates through the worshipper because God showed up. The worshiper recognizes he or she is in the presence of God, and that things happen when that is the case. In God’s presence, there is healing and wholeness, and salvation and deliverance. There is joy because prayers are answered. There is joy because God is near.
One night a man dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Scenes from his life flashed across the sky. In each, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand – one belonging to him and the other belonging to the Lord. Following the last scene, the man looked back at the footprints and realized that there was actually only one set of footprints in the sand on many occasions. He also noted that this happened at the lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he asked, “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow You, You would walk with me all the way. But I have noticed during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I do not understand why, when I needed you the most, you would leave me.” The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
When we make the decision to follow Christ, we too will discover that, during our times of trial and suffering, it was then that Christ carried us. Our response should be to get serious about worship.
If you do not know Christ in the pardon of your sins, I encourage you to take a moment and acquaint yourself with Him.
I know and acknowledge that I am a sinner. I repent, right now, of all my sins, and I am asking you to forgive me. You said in your Word, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). I am calling on the name of your Son, Jesus, to come into my heart and be my Savior.
You also said, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I believe with my heart that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead so that I may have eternal life. I confess Him, right now, as my Lord.
I ask you Lord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to live on the inside of me, and help me to live a life that is pleasing to both you and God, the Father.
In the name of Jesus, I submit this prayer.
Sunday 1 November 2009
May God Bless You