Elements of Worship

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What is worship? Wiliam Temple makes the following comments, “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, nourishment of mind by His truth, purifying of imagination by His beauty, opening of the heart to His love, and submission of will to His purpose. All this gathered up in adoration is the greatest of all expressions of which we are capable” (quoted in Cries of the Heart by Ravi Zacharias, 207).
Worship is adoration of deity. There is only one God and worship is to be directed to Him. God is a spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
What are the Elements of Worship?
In Malachi chapters one and two, the prophet addresses the sins of the people of God who had perverted worship. Perverted worship is a sign of perverted hearts. He calls God’s people back to pure devotion and adoration of God. He calls them back to holiness. Adoration of God in the spirit of holiness is needed today.
It is impossible to worship God without love. God loved His own people, but they failed to love Him back. Malachi 1:2. Love for God is manifested by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). Disobedience to God is iniquity. Love rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in truth (I Cor. 13:6).
It is impossible to worship God without reverence. Malachi states, “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name…” (Mal. 1:6). The priests corrupted worship and so despised God’s name (authority). Reverence for God involves listening to God’s authority in Scripture.
It is impossible to worship God without sacrifice. Malachi continues his rebuke of the priests. “Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts? (Mal. 1:7-8). God deserves the very best that we can offer. Our sacrifices must reflect our love and reverence for Him.
It is impossible to worship God acceptably with the wrong motive. Malachi chastises the people because they had profaned the sacred (Mal. 1:12). They were more intent on pleasing themselves than pleasing God. Worship demands God pleasers.
It is impossible to worship God without instruction in truth. Malachi offers some strong words in 2:7, “For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.” Honorable worship is guided by truth. Pure hearts are guided by truth. Vain worship is defined by teaching the doctrines of men rather than of God (Matt. 15:9).
It is impossible to worship God without obedience. Malachi addresses the desparity between the everyday lives of the people and their approach to God. They mistreated the wives of their youth by divorcing them (Mal. 2:13-16). What they did in their family life had an impact on their worship. They failed to honor God in their daily lives. Corruption has a way of permeating all of life. They failed to maintain the sanctity of marriage as God had commanded. Their corrupted hearts led to perverted judgment (Mal. 2:17).
Malachi cries out against the sins of the priests and the people. He calls for repentance that will lead to a renewal of the love of the sacred. Pure hearts will lead to pure worship. Corrupt hearts find worship wearisome. The pure in heart delight in the presence of God. Don’t measure your worship experience by externals. Measure it by your own heart.

Impenitent Hearts

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Consider the following words from the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:4-6). The word impenitent means “without a change of mind.” The impenitent will not turn away from sin to serve the true and living God. Repentance is a change of heart that affects a change of life. This change is in God’s direction and is always for the better. Repentance is a universal command of God (Acts 17:30). Failure to obey this command results in a state of hardness and impenitence.
There are several features of impenitence that Paul reveals. The first is ingratitude. The impenitent despise God’s goodness. The goodness of God is seen in many ways, but especially in the unspeakable gift of His Son (John 3:16). When men refuse to repent, they manifest ingratitude for redemption through Jesus Christ. God’s forbearance and longsuffering provide opportunity for man to repent. However, the impenitent do not take advantage of this opportunity. Second, there is hardness of heart. The human heart can be hardened through unbelief and the practice of sin (Heb. 3:12). A hardened heart resists God’s Will. The hard hearted rebell against God. Third, there is contentiousness and disobedience (Rom. 2:8). The impenitent fight against God and refuse to obey the truth. Impenitence produces an antagonism against God. The impenitent become the enemies of God.
Notice some causes of impenitence. The first cause that we must consider is pride. Pride is inordinate self-esteem. It is unreasonable conceit of superiority. It is thinking of oneself more highly than what should be done. A good synonym for pride is arrogance. Pride is at the root of every sin man commits. When we sin, we are saying that we will do things our way rather than God’s way. Second, impenitence is caused by a lack of godly sorrow. In I Cor. 5:2, Paul reveals the apathy of the Corinthian brethren regarding the sin of fornication that was present in the church. He states, “And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” Pride and lack of godly sorrow for sin were the cause of the toleration of sin in the church. Godly sorrow produces repentance. Repentance is an essential aspect of salvation (II Cor. 7:10). The impenitent fail to mourn their sins. Another cause of impenitence is ignorance of sin. Ignorance of sin is dangerous because it results in a false sense of security. Paul persecuted the Lord’s church because of ignorance (I Tim. 1:13). The Jews crucified Jesus because of ignorance (Acts 3:17). Closely related to ignorance is unbelief. When we act in ignorance, we often manifest unbelief (I Tim. 1:13). Paul, before his conversion, rejected the truth that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and consequently, he consented unto the death of the saints and imprisoned them. His zeal against the Lord’s church was miguided and wrong. Unbelief causes men to turn away from God and turn against God.”
The cure for impenitence begins with brokenness. Brokenness is the result of a combination of humility, sorrow and pain caused by sin (Luke 4:18). Brokenness destroys pride. It produces godly sorrow. Impenitence can be cured through the knowledge of the truth. Truth destroys ignorance and convicts of sin (John 16:8-9). We must be convinced of our need for Christ. Impenitence can be overcome by faith. Faith involves being convinced of righteousness. The human mind must be informed in the right ways of God or there is no motivation to change. The Word of God provides us with the necessary content of the knowledge of God and produces faith in God (Rom. 10:17). Impenitence can be overcome with hope. Faith and hope go together. Where there is faith in God, there is hope in God. There is a better way to live life than in the pursuit of wickedness. Following Jesus points us in a better direction and gives us a better future–a future with God (Heb. 8:6; 6:18-19). Finally, impenitence can be overcome by considering the righteous judgment of God. God’s wrath and punishment will fall upon the unrighteous. God will render to every man according to his deeds. There is a reward for the righteous and punishment for the disobedient. The impenitent will face the wrath of God. This should be sufficient to turn them away from sin to God (Rom. 2:7-10).
The impenitent heart will never see God. The way of the transgressor is hard. You can choose this path for your life or you can choose to follow Jesus. We can change our lives for the better if we choose to walk with God.

Normalizing Evil

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     In Christianity Today, July, 2009 p. 17 an article appeared titled, “What To Do About Polygamy.”  Jacob Zuma was recently elected as South Africa’s fourth president.  He is a polygamist.  He has three wives.  The question that captivated observers has been which of the Zulu traditionalist’s wives would be first lady?  Polygamy, traditionally the practice of men with the land and money to support a large family, is now practiced by middle-class and poor men.  The African church is not united on what should be required when polygamists convert.  Earlier Western missionaries felt a need to confront polygamy at the point of conversion.  Many African church leaders today feel that  treating polygamous marriages as invalid raises a number of serious problems:  what to do about the children; the economic plight of the women involved, and demanding divorce.  
     What is wrong with normalizing polygamy?  What is wrong with normalizing any sin? (gambling, homosexuality, fornication, adultery, etc.).  I think that these questions can be answered by asking three questions:  What is truth?  What is sin?  and What is repentance?
     What is truth?   Whenever we normalize evil we pervert the truth.  Isa. 5:20, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”  Whenever we call evil good, we prevert the truth and distort reality.  Truth is that which conforms to reality as God defines it.  In order to normalize evil, we must prevert the truth and, consequently, we no longer have a correct view of reality.  When we make decisions based upon a distorted view of reality, we are destined to destruction.
     What is sin?  The only intrinsic evil is sin.  Sin is a transgression of the law of God (I John 3:4; 5:17).  “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”  Jesus clearly teaches God’s will concerning marriage is that one man and one woman come together in covenant relationship for life (Matt. 19:1-9).  Jesus teaches monogamy not polygamy.  Polygamy is a form of fornication (I Cor. 6:9,10).  Polygamy is a sin.
     What is repentance?  In Acts 17:30,31, the apostle Paul declared, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.  Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”  Repentance is a change of heart that affects a change of life.  Repentance means to turn away from sin and to turn to God.  Repentance involves the intent of stopping sin and starting to live righteously and godly before God.  The Gospel call involves a call to holiness (I Thess. 4:7).  We must purpose to cease sinning and begin living according to God’s Will.  Once we become a Christian, we do not continue in sin (Rom. 6:1-2).  We are dead to sin and alive unto Christ!  Repentance demands that sin be confronted at the time of our conversion.  We are saved from sin not in our sins!  (see I Thess. 1:9 for an example). 
     All sin must be confronted at the point of conversion.  A knowledge of the truth, of sin, and of repentance demands it.