|Vol. 13 No. 11 November 2011||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
“Holy, Holy, Holy” is a song that I have loved dearly since my early days as a Roman Catholic; I was delighted when after becoming a member of the Lord’s one true church of the Bible that this song is sung by Christians as well. Aside from the inherited aspect of the Catholic religion that intertwines with family and heritage, an additional and significant attraction to Catholicism is its reverence for God in worship. The Catholic Church achieves this reverential atmosphere by dubbing their auditoriums as holy sanctuaries. Thus, stepping into a Catholic Church building is viewed essentially as stepping into the very presence of God Himself. (Catholics officially bless the church building to make it holy, and if a Catholic Church building is not used any more for worship, they officially remove the blessing.) However, the Catholic Church has opted for an unscriptural and physical stimulus to prompt its members to exhibit awe and reverence for God. Instead, true Christians ought to manifest genuine awe and reverence for God, especially in Christian worship, without resorting to unscriptural and physical motivations; the Christian incentive for correctly demonstrating awe and reverence for God should be spiritual conversion to Christianity.
God is a Spirit, and we are obligated to “worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Because He is God, He deserves the best we have to offer Him in Christian worship, and God deserves to be worshipped in His own appointed way. Worship of God is coming into the very presence of our Creator. Therefore, we should not take our worship of Almighty God lightly. The meetinghouses in which we worship are not holy – they are not sanctuaries like Catholics view their assembly halls, but instead, the people – not the building – are the holy church (assembly) (Acts 2:47). Hence, when we enter into worship, God is present with us; Jesus promised to be with His apostles when they convened, and we commonly believe that He is likewise present with us when Christians assemble, any number, any place (Matthew 18:20). Furthermore, through our worship, we open up a channel into the very throne room of God; we are no longer merely in our auditoriums, homes or other places from which we worship God.
The attitude with which we worship God matters. The word “spirit” in the phrase “worship Him in spirit and truth” of John 4:24 means “mental disposition” (Strong’s). Hence, one’s attitude is certainly part of the active part of worshipping God. While the child of God must worship God correctly in outward form, he must worship God correctly in his mind, too, for his worship to be acceptable to God (Matthew 22:37). An improper attitude in worship manifests itself sometimes in the outward form of worship as it did among the Jews in Malachi 1:6-13. Remembering Who God is and that He created all that is should cause great reverence and awe as we consider Him (Psalm 33:6-9). “Reverend” is the name of God (Psalm 111:9). Meaningless participation is not true worship of God!
God deserves (and demands) our reverential fear of Him (Hebrews 12:18-29). Always and in all places, but especially in worship to Him, God deserves our reverential fear; “Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him” (Psalm 33:8). The word “fear” means “to revere.” The word “awe” means “to shrink, fear (as in a strange place)” (Strong’s). It is a strange place for mortal, fallible man to be in the very presence of his Creator and God! Especially Christians need to make sure that when we stand in God’s presence that He does not become angry with us; “Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?” (Psalm 76:7). “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) and “a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Even Jesus Christ will visit disobedient souls with “flaming fire” upon His Second Coming (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
Through our worship, we come into the very presence of God in heaven. Have we forgotten Who the object of our worship is, described in Job 37:22 as possessing “terrible [or awe-inspiring] majesty”? Has it escaped us that the Godhead is magnificent, all-powerful and so far superior to puny humans? “…O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keeps covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments” (Nehemiah 1:5). “O Lord, the great and dreadful God” (Daniel 9:4). How have we come to the point that in our assemblies we dare to be so easily distracted from focusing our complete attention on praising, magnifying and glorifying God? “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Has worship become an inconsequential matter to us, and have we forgotten that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31)?
To come into the very presence of God is an awesome, whole body trembling experience. Picture Israel at the base of Mt. Sinai when God descended to the top of the mountain (Exodus 19:16-20; Hebrews 12:18-29). We today, too, ought to be engulfed in an atmosphere of awe of our God when we come near to worship Him. Do you show by your demeanor in the worship assembly the realization that worshipping Almighty God is a serious matter and a privilege reserved today for faithful Christians? Christians, of all people, ought to be those who demonstrate solemnity in worship of God! “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him” (Psalm 89:7). “Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified…” (Leviticus 10:3). When we worship God, we come before the very throne of God; Isaiah 6:1-4 and Revelation 4:1-11 picture for us the throne room of Almighty God.
Consequently, there are several things that we should not do during our worship of the Great, Creator God. Christian worship must be orderly (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). One person speaks at a time in the Christian assembly (1 Corinthians 14:31). God will hold us accountable for infractions in Christian worship as He held the Corinthians accountable for their worship abuses in 1 Corinthians, chapters 11 and 14. Therefore, Christian worship is not a time for worldly distractions. Preaching is not an optimum time to catch up on one’s rest and go to sleep. Prayer is not a time during which we ought to be talking and coming and going – we are talking to God. Christian worship is not a time for writing notes, thinking about the next meal or other worldly distractions.
We are not merely onlookers in Christian worship, but we are participants in worship of our God. The prayer prayed is our prayer! The songs sung are our songs. The sermon preached is our sermon. Above all, we must remember that we are in the very throne room of God – He is our audience as we worship Him. Surely, we do not need some artificial motivation like a Catholic sanctuary to foster in us awe and reverence for God when we worship Him. Surely, we can muster from within ourselves the awe and reverence we ought to have for God – as we “worship Him in spirit and in truth.” If not, our improper attitudes for worshipping God will certainly manifest themselves in the outward form of our worship as it did with the Jews about whom God complained in the Book of Malachi.
Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, 2006.
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
The Psalmist declared, “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). We live during an age when this affirmation is only proclaimed by few. Sadder still is the fact that even fewer practice such a declaration. It is one thing to state this verse with our lips, but it is another thing entirely different to show this verse with our lives! Many claim to love God’s Law, but fewer live it! What does it mean to “love Thy Law”? What would an individual do if he/she both professed and practiced this inspired text?
Firstly, to love “Thy Law” is to learn it. This is not learning about it, but rather really learning it! The one who truly loves God’s Law will never be satisfied with his/her personal knowledge of it. He/she will always be hungering and thirsting for more learning (cf. Matthew 5:6). A classic Bible example of such is inspiration’s record of Ezra, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD…” (Ezra 7:10a). Learning God’s Law means we care not what the popular belief regarding a certain topic or text is. Learning God’s Law means that we are not concerned about who believes what we do. Learning God’s Law requires sincerity(Ezra 7:10; Matthew 13:8-9), study(2 Timothy 2:15; Psalm 1:2), searching(Acts 17:11; John 5:39) and submitting(Luke 11:28). If we really love God’s Law, we will learn it!
Secondly, to love “Thy Law” is to live it. Learning God’s Law and failing to live it is futile. Again, Ezra is a classic example, for he not only sought God’s Law, but his desire was also, “…to do it…” (Ezra 7:10b). The half-brother of our Lord reminded us to be doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22). Living God’s Law brings assurance(Romans 8:28; John 13:17; Hebrews 11:13ff ), approval(Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21) and award(James 1:25; Matthew 25:31ff). Beloved, if we really love God’s Law we will live it!
Thirdly, to love “Thy Law” is to lean upon it. The wise man commanded, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). What we believe religiously ought to affect our every action. This author once heard a man teach Bible class and declare how the “church” should love God’s Word, and yet when this man was faced with a decision, he chose his own understanding rather than God’s; how sad! How must God view the person who claims to lean upon His Word, but fails to do Bible things in Bible ways? How can a congregation belong to Jesus and allow human wisdom, think sos, opinions and traditions to guide its practices? Leaning upon God’s Word means that no matter what comes our way, God’s Word is the only authority! Congregationally, leaning upon God’s Word means that we fully preach it (Acts 20:20, 27; 2 Timothy 4:2). Could we truly lean upon His Word and willfully neglect certain subjects or texts? Leaning upon God’s Word means that we faithfully practice it(Revelation 3:8). How true the old adage “practice what you preach” really is!Leaning upon God’s Word means that we fully protect it(Jude 3; Philippians 1:17; Romans 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:6). If we really love God’s Law, we will lean upon it!
Do we really love God’s Law enough to learn it, live it and lean upon it? To love it is to obey it (John 14:15). Let’s not just profess it, but let’s make certain that we sincerely and honestly practice it as well. May we honestly be able to say with the Psalmist, “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). Is it yours?