Have We Deformed our Worship?
Have we deformed our worship? What is worship? How can a finite flesh and blood being connect with an omnipresent being existing outside of time and history who is Spirit? How can man know how to commune with God? It is impossible for man to know, but this God, who desires communion, has taught us the secret of communion with Him: Worship.
Many believe worship to be evident of a narcissistic God who simply wants or worse, needs people to praise Him and tell Him how wonderful He is all the time. Yet, this perspective comes from the relegation of this all-knowing God to a simple human being. Yes, if I or any other human called for others to worship them, they would be the classic narcissist. Names like Jim Jones and David Koresh come to mind real quick. But they are mere humans unworthy of this kind of praise and worship.
The Bible teaches us that God has inserted Himself into our heart and mind. Logos, which is translated as ‘Word’ represents this concept of a Spirit-God revealing Himself to a finite humanity through the bodily existence of Himself in Jesus Christ. But more than this, God has given us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God. The Bible is clear on this. Just as God expressed Himself in the Son through Jesus Christ, the bodily existence of Almighty God living as a man, God has also expressed Himself through the Holy Spirit, who is the person of God existing in the spirit of every man. The Son and the Spirit work to reveal, to unveil, the identity of the Father to humans.
Because God made us in His image, having spirit, and has inserted Himself into each of our spirits, we commune with Him in spirit. We must turn inward that we might turn upward. Communion with God happens when we become more aware of His presence in us allowing our spirit to embed itself in His Spirit. It is like inviting in a friend into our home for some coffee who has been knocking at your door for some time. The Lord is continually at the door of our heart waiting for us to invite Him for fellowship. He is always with us by the Spirit. For those who have been reminded of what the Son has done to make this possible and receive this gift, the room of their spirit is opened and the God-guest knocking at our door enters into our living room. This is salvation. Worship then is to sit down and have come coffee opening our hearts and listening to His. Communion is spending time with the God who is continually ready for fellowship in our hearts.
But why all the praise? Why does the Lord call for us to continually sing His praises? I would suggest to you that God is not the only presence within us. In my spirit, there are many others because every human is spirit so when I connect with someone or have a relationship with someone, they too connect with me on a spiritual level. My spirit is connected to my wife, my children, my parents, my sister. At any time, I can become aware of how much I love my wife and how much she loves me and be overwhelmed by affection for her even if she is not in my immediate presence. This phenomenon occurs when my mind is filled with thoughts about her. The same is true for any. Worship and praise is turning my mind specifically to the Lord remembering who He is to me. These thoughts turn my attention to Him in my spirit. My spirit communes with Him when my mind is stayed on Him. Worship and praise is not for God to hear how good He is. Worship is for me to remind myself and turn my attention to the Lord so that I can commune with Him.
Worship in Spirit and Truth
Now that we understand the nature and purpose of worship, let’s look deeper into how God calls us to worship. Man is so much lower than God, we do not have the knowledge and understanding of how to commune with God. We must follow the path to Himself He has laid out for us.
Many would say there are many paths to God but man can not create a path to a place He knows not where it is. God exists in transcendence beyond the limits of human existence. How can we know the way to a place we have never been. The different paths that many would hold on to our merely man-made attempts to find the location of God who is everywhere.
What is Hinduism and what do they believe?
Hindus believe that all reality is the Supreme Lord Brahman. Brahman is in everything and is everything. Anything that appears to be impure is called Maya or “play.” This Hindu thought is that all of the suffering and pain in the world is not real and to commune with Brahman a person must connect with Atman, who is Brahman in the human soul. This is achieved by separating oneself from the world and living a life in deep contemplation absent of sensory activity and thought processes. Connection is found by emptying oneself of all thoughts and separating oneself from a sense of individualism, but recognizing the all things are one.
This path has some similarities to the Christian God. A huge difference however is that God is everything compared to the Christian God is not everything but exists in everything. It seems as if there is no difference at first, but it is a profound difference. In Christianity, God is in me, but I am not God. In Hindu, communion with God comes with a realization that God is everything. The belief that the atman, or true self of a person is God, allows each person to define God has they choose, which is why the Hindu god of Brahman has over 330 million different forms also called god.
What is Islam and what do Muslims believe?
Muslims also believe in only one God, Allah. Islam, like Christianity, is a much less ornate religion than Hindu because of it montheistic nature. Instead of having millions of gods or a God who takes on millions of forms, Islam, like Christianity believes in one God. However, Allah is very different from Yahweh, the God of the Bible that we also know as God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Allah has no other forms. Communion with Allah, according to Islam, occurs when a person is in submission to the Five Pillars of Islam: Testimony of Faith (saying you believe Allah is the only true God), Prayer, Giving, Fasting, and the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In other words, communion with God is found through obedience.
Though many of the tenets of Islam are honorable, communion with God is by lifestyle, but there is no spiritual connection. The word Islam means ‘submission.’ Islam does not teach a spiritual connection with God as a God who loves, but the necessity of obedience to please a God who rules over us without forgiveness if we don’t do everything required. Christianity teaches God is a forgiving God wiping away our past and giving us a fresh start no matter how rebellious we have been. There is always hope. Much too often, Islam produces a fear of God, not a love for God.
What are Jehovah Witnesses and what do they believe?
Jehovah Witnesses hold the Bible as their sacred text just as Christians do. However, they have their own translation and these translators remain anonymous. This is significant because any other version of the Bible reveals a history of who translated it from the original Biblical languages of ancient Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Because the translators of the Jehovah Witnesses remain anonymous, it is impossible to know if these translators were actually experts in these languages. This is significant because the New World Translation used by Jehovah Witnesses changes the meaning of Scripture significantly with just a few words. For example, in John, the Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The New World Translation changes the end of this phrase to “the Word was a god.” They do not believe Christ and the Father are one in the same. Muslims commune with God through a combination of faith, good works, and obedience. Though the Bible calls for Christians to do good works and obey, the only requirement for salvation is faith.
What is the Significant Difference Between Christianity and other world religions?
Of all world religions, Christianity is the only one that claims to be revealed by God, not man. Christianity is revealed by God the Father through the history of the Old Testament and the nation of Israel, the Logos or revelation of Christ who is God in man. Different from Hindu, the only man who was God was Jesus Christ. God is in every other man, but every other human being is not God. All other world religions have been revealed, according to their own beliefs, by men who have found their way to God. Muhammed, a man reveals the path to Allah, but Muhammed never claimed to be God. Charles Russell revealed the path to God for Jehovah Witnesses by he took the revelation of God written down about the only man who claimed to be God that led to a major religion and changed the meaning of that revelation to reject what Jesus said about himself. The Hindu revelation of God comes from what is called the Veda. The Veda is said to be sacred writings, but the writers are not considered to be God and they do not explicitly teach who God is or how to commune with Him. Whereas the Bible is man writing down their experience with the supernatural presence of God in the Old Testament and their experience with the only man who claimed to be God that was not later deemed to be mentally unstable. In fact, every major religion in the world esteems Christ as a high prophet and Christianity goes further to say Christ claimed to be God.
How does What we Believe about God Form or Deform our Worship?
If worship is the pathway to communion with God, it would make sense to follow the path that comes from the only man who has ever claimed to be God. It was CS Lewis who first put forth the thought that Jesus had to either be a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. When Jesus claimed to be God, the Jewish religious leaders who did not believe this worked to put Jesus to death. Because Israel was under Roman rule at the time, death had to be approved of by the Roman government this death would have been crucifixion where being nailed to a wooden cross would cause internal bleeding killing the person as they drowned on their own blood, a process that could take days. Jesus could have escaped this horror by simply recanting. The fact that He didn’t means if it wasn’t true, He was a liar, but also crazy. Who would hold on to a lie when it meant a death such as this? If He was a lunatic, then why do so many world religions hold His teaching to be superior wisdom and his life to be an example of a life lived in existential peace and love?
Christianity is the only religion claiming to be revealed by God Himself through Jesus Christ who said He was God in the flesh. Why would we trust other men who did not even claim to be God? How can we trust mere men who claim there is no god? How do they know? Of course, this is a matter of faith. We must believe in God and then we must choose which religion is the revelation of God. But from a logical sense, if you are going to choose between many religions claiming to know the path to the supernatural, choose the one whose revelation comes from the one who claims to be God with miracles and wonders, including resurrection from the dead to testify that He was God.
We must find the truth. Jesus taught us to worship in spirit and truth. Just because something feels right, looks right, and sounds right, it can still be deformed worship. God alone has given us the true path to communion with Him.
Have we fooled ourselves through Deformed Worship?
In 1 Chronicles, Chapter 13, we see King David going to restore Israel to the presence of God which rested upon the Ark of the Covenant. In a sense, because of Israel’s disobedience, deformed worship, God was with them, but not in communion with them. He rested upon the Ark and the Ark had been stolen in battle by another nation. But now, David is King and he is going to return the Ark to the center of Israel’s culture and life restoring communion. As he and his men go to return the Ark to its rightful place, there is singing and dancing. It is a huge celebration. It would have felt like communion, but what we feel is not always true.
Often, in today’s church culture, we have associated worship with singing and dancing, celebrating. We attend church services and conferences in this new culture of praise and worship. We are filled with a euphoric sense of God’s presence. But we learn from David that worship is not just about how we feel. We can sing and shout, pray and praise, and feel what we believe is God’s presence, but in reality our worship is deformed.
Connecting to the spiritual realm produces euphoric feelings. The spiritual realm is not, however, the person of God. The spiritual realm can be entered into through art, music, dance, poetry, dramatic plays, even Hollywood movies can get us in touch with the spiritual. Alcohol is sometimes called spirit because the influence of alcohol and drugs move us into a different realm. We are moved beyond the flesh and blood of our existence into something more. We cry, laugh, stand under the waterfall of emotions. It is a spiritual experience. Spiritual experiences however do not equate with communion with God. There are many paths to the spiritual, but only one path to the throne of God.
Have you Deformed your worship?
As we have seen from the formation of other religions, it is easy to form god in our own mind and then convince ourselves that we have the right idea about God. The existentialism of God makes it difficult to wrap our little brain around the depth of His essence. In revealing the pathway of communion, He formed worship as the only one who would know how humans so far below can commune with God so high. When we begin to see worship as a path to communion to a specific being with personality, character, and identity just like we have, then we see the need to follow the right path. If God can be whatever we decide He is, then any old path will do. But if He is who He is regardless of how we want to form him in our mind, then there is only one path and He formed it.
He formed worship in the Old Testament with a view into the New Testament. In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, we see man’s original state of continual communion with God. Adam and Eve spoke with God, walked with Him, heard His voice. They were in relationship existing together in one place. The sin of forbidden fruit dismantled this intimacy. Knowing this would happen, God had devised a plan to restore this communion with man. Sin had entered through one man so God’s plan was to come to Earth as a man, living as a man who resisted every temptation to sin. He was never sinful, never selfish, jealous, lustful, or vengeful his entire life. He had every opportunity and suffered at the hands of people to be tempted to refuse forgiveness, hold on to a grudge, and hate them, but He resisted every time. His perfect life qualified Him to stand in the gap accepting the punishment of God for Adam’s sin. Had Jesus sinned, any punishment He would have received from God would have been for His own sin. Because He never sinned, He alone was qualified to stand in as a substitute for our sin. This was what the cross was all about. This made communion possible. Communion is a two-way street requiring each party to do their part. Christ did His part to allow us to do our part and that part is worship.
Worship was established in the Old Testament looking forward to Christ’s death in our stead. The path of worship was specific in substance, attitude of heart, and methodology. A certain type of animal had to be sacrificed at a specific time on specific days being prepared in a specific way by a specific person. The specificity reminds us that there is a specific path to communion.
The presence of God had to be approached a specific way. When God established His presence atop the Ark of the Covenant, He laid out the specifics of how the people were to approach His presence. At that time, the nation of Israel was wandering the desert so God had specific ways to travel and to facilitate the movement of the Ark.
The Ark was to be carried on the shoulders of the priests or priestly families using poles slid through circular rings attached to the Ark. But when the Philistine nation had stolen the Ark, they did not worship God who rested on it and they were struck with sickness and disease. They wanted to get rid of the Ark so they put it into a car pulled by oxen and sent the oxen away. The oxen carried the Ark back to Israel, but not the right city. But because the Philistines had moved the Ark in a cart, David thought Israel could do the same. He had forgotten the specific way God had prescribed for them to approach and move the Ark. This was deformed worship.
The result ended in a man dying because he reached out to make sure the Ark did not fall out of the cart when the oxen stumbled. Why did David, who knew better do this?
Our Worship must Exalt God
The Old Testament worship called for sacrifices that were first lifted and waved to God representing that He was God, higher than man. God had prescribed the Ark be lifted above the head of man when moved to reveal this same principle. We no longer offer sacrifices since Christ became the ultimate sacrifice and the Ark is no longer in existence, but the principle remains part of the specific pathway to communion. God must be exalted above man.
When we live our life as if God is not really the God of all, the One who holds our destiny in our hands, the Judge of all Creation, then we are treating Him as if He is nothing special. Sing, shout, pray, and praise all you want, but if you do not live a life that exalts God higher than yourself, you have deformed your worship. If God is higher than we, then we will listen and follow His wisdom for living life. If God says follow me and you will find abundant life and through our lifestyle, we say, “No, I’m ok. I’ll do things my way and I am sure it will work out.” Then we are essentially saying to God that He is not really God or at least that He is not our God. Communion with God is impossible when we call Him a liar by rejecting His claim to know the best path for our life.
When we read in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13, we see that David approached God as if he were king and the Ark, which represented the person of God, was a possession He could use for his own benefit. His attitude of superiority allowed him to reject God’s prescribed path to communion. He lowered the Ark instead of lifting it high on top the shoulders of the priests. This was deformed worship.
Let us exalt God for who He is. He is the One who has made a way for us to return to Eden in communion that we might experience all that He is in our life. He is worthy of our praise because He opened this way by His own blood standing in our place of execution that we might be exonerated from our guilt.
Our Worship must be Sacrificial
David’s first attempt to restore communion with God to Israel failed. He had not given God the rightful place exalted above man. Another way this was seen was the lack of sacrifices. In the Old Testament, God required animals to be sacrificed as a means of worship, restoring communion. These foreshadowed the death of Christ on the cross and allowed Israel to remain in communion with God. But the first time David attempted to restore communion, there were no sacrifices given. He had deformed worship.
Again, we no longer offer animals, but the principle of sacrifice remains. Those animals represented a forfeiture of value. We exalt God by giving to Him that which is of value to us and we don’t give what we are comfortable with. The specific path to communion requires sacrificial giving.
When we give money to the Lord, if we only give what we can afford, it is not a sacrifice. If we only give what’s left after we get everything else we want and need that month, there is no sacrifice. It is not the amound per se, but it is the affordability. When we give an amount that is difficult to give according to our budget and lifestyle, then our hearts are on the specific path of worship and communion with God.
If we only give to the Lord the time leftover after we finish all of our earthly obligations, then it is not sacrificial. The specific path to worship calls for us to spend time daily with the Lord, to pray and talk to Him throughout our day, to gather with other believers for worship at least every seven days. These represent to God a sacrifice of time given to Him. When we stop to read the Bible only when we feel we have time, when we only go to church when we don’t have something else to do, if we only pray when we want something, there is no sacrifice. This is deformed worship. Deformed worship produces separation from the life God gives. The spirit of death works its way into our lives and we begin to experience depression, sadness, anger, bitterness, and the like.
The Bible teaches us that God requires a sacrifice of praise. If, when you sing and praise God, your heart is not in it, then it is only lip service, but it is not sacrificial praise. If you are worried about what people think of you if you sing loud, weep, shout, raise your hands, dance, then there is no sacrifice of reputation. It is deformed worship.
The specific pathway to communion requires sacrificial worship.
Worship must come from a Servant's Heart
The first time David attempted to restore communion by bringing back the Ark to its rightful place in Israel, he lowered God and exalted Himself. Though he would have told anyone that God was greater than he, his actions reflected his own disposition as King and God as a servant or enchanted possession to garner blessing. This was deformed worship and continued the absence of intimacy. When David returned to do it right, he did not come as king, but as a priest. He took off his kingly attire. Laying aside his royal robes, he dressed in a linen ephod. This was a specific garment worn by priests in their time of worship. There was nothing ornate about it, but represented absolute humility as a servant before the King of Heaven.
When we fool ourselves into thinking we are worshiping God, we can easily deform our worship by treating God like a genie in bottle only to be called upon when we need something. We live as if we are the king of our life and God is a useful instrument for us to get what we want. Worship must exalt the Lord as King which means we must humble ourselves as His servant doing His work. We do not ask God to bless what we want to do. We are blessed by God when we do what He wants. When we try to get God to bless our agenda instead of sacrificing our agenda, we deform worship.
The Lord has a Divine Appointment for you to do great things for Him. You are His minister carrying in you the wisdom and power of God to help people overcome their past, their fears, their anxiety, their depression, their anger to find the perfect peace of God. You are ordained a miracle worker for God. He has called you to insert Him into the lives of others by your words, prayers, love, and service to others. David recognized this. When David finally reformed his worship, the Ark was returned. He was so ecstatic that he danced violently, so much that some of his clothes fell before the people. His wife ridiculed him, but David was fully aware that God was calling him to be used by God to do miracles for the nation of Israel. The thought of being God’s chosen instrument to deliver Israel overwhelmed him to the point of dancing as he worshiped God. He told his wife that he would become even more undignified in his passion for the Lord.
Our Worship must be Passionate
David was willing to ruin his reputation by dancing so engaged in God’s presence so much that he lost his clothes. Passion is the willingness to suffer to honor and love someone else. The crucifixion of Christ is called the Passion of Christ. He was willing to die for us, loving us so intensely, knowing His death was the only thing to make it possible to be in communion with us again.
The first time David went, there was singing and dancing, but not from David. He remained exalted in his eyes and the eyes of his servant. He acted as the king of his own life. He was not passionate and his worship was deformed.
When we embrace our calling from the Lord fully convinced that we are going to be used to do miraculously wonderful things, it fills us with a joy unspeakable. But there will always be someone or something that makes us aware that some people think this is dumb. They will say it is dumb to sing to a God you can’t see. They will say it is dumb to give your time in service to the Lord. They will say it is dumb to give your money to the church. The enemy wants to keep your worship deformed. He does not want you to have communion with God because He knows once you have tasted the glory of our God on a higher level, you will only want to go higher with God. You become more than a conqueror and continually, you will ruin his plan of destruction. You will crush the devil’s head just as Christ did.
Worship Him with all your heart. Sing with passion. Serve with sacrifice. Exalt the Lord as the King of your life. And You will no doubt see miracles in you, for you, and through you for others that you love.