WHAT IS WORSHIP? by Bishop Dr. J. Akin Atere

LECTURE DELIVERED AT THE IJESA NORTH EAST DIOCESAN CLERGY EASTER RETREAT ON SATURDAY 17TH MARCH, 2018 AT IPETU IJESA BY 11AM. PRESENTED BY RT. REV’D DR. J. AKIN ATERE

THEME: WORSHIP BEFORE SERVICE

TEXT: ROMANS 12:1-2

INTRODUCTION

WHAT IS WORSHIP?

Worship is not limited to the slow song we sing at neither services nor the amount we use as offering. These can only be the expression of worship life. Psalm 96:9 “O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth”. The psalmist gives a true model and circumstances that should warrant a divine worship. A true worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a life style of holiness. The one that expresses the beauty of holiness through an exaggerated love of God and living in extreme submission to God.

The word ‘worship’ could also mean many things to many people, to worship is to acknowledge and accord worthiness to a deity (in this case to God) it includes such associated ceremonies and devotion directed towards God. Indeed, it is an interaction or such interactions between God and man, leaving the man with definite sense of awe, duty and clear faith to please God. Biblically, the Hebrew word “Shachah” and Greek word “proskuneo” means “to prostrate in homage to royalty or God”, “to bow oneself down”, “fall down to make obeisance or reverence” {“And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the LORD, and blessed the LORD God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter unto his son.” (Gen. 24:48) “That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.” (Exodus 12:27) “And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?” Josh.5:14; Jer.7:2; John 4:21; “And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” (Heb.1:6)}. It can then be said that worship is an experience in due acknowledgement of the worthiness of God both in the life of the worshippers and in the whole surrounding universe. Whichever way we look at worship, it must start with human experience, appreciation and consequent response to the revelation of God.

Jesus told the woman at the well “true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the father seeks. God is Spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). In the ancient Israel, it is touching the forehead on the ground in reverence, adoration, veneration. Paul tells us that our reasonable worship is “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship to God!” (Romans 12:1) Rather than worship being limited to specific activities, we must agree that it’s a lifestyle; that every moment of our existence is to be an occasion of worship. Our worship is to be altogether momentous, urgent and glorious” Worship is not confined by time, place or practices but must be all that we do. “Worship is a lifestyle not an event”. It is not what we do but who we are and what we are about. It is our life a day to day relationship with Christ.

WHAT IS SERVICE?

Worship and service are two different words and certainly they both mean different things but closely related. “All robins are birds, but not all birds are robins,” “All canoes are boats, but not all boats are canoes.” Equally, all worship is service to God, but not all service to God is worship. The Samaritan woman was not inquiring whether one should live at Mt. Gerizim or in Jerusalem, but whether one should worship. When the Ethiopian Eunuch went to Jerusalem, it was a worship not to live (Acts 8:27). Likewise, Apostle Paul had gone to Jerusalem for worship (Acts 24:11), but clearly his service to God was elsewhere (Acts 9:15; 13:47; Romans 11:13; 15:16). Each of these reveals a distinction between our daily service and worship. Daniel and his friends served king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:3-7, 19) but they would not worship him or his gods (Dan.3:12-18). Daniel faithfully served Darius (Dan.6:1-4) but would not obey a mandate which forbade petitions to anyone but the king (Dan.6:6-11). Their experiences declare plainly that faithful service and worship are not synonymous. Nebuchadnezzar was not satisfied with their steadfast service as his subjects; in addition, he sought their worship. In like manner, our diligent service before God is not acceptable to Him as worship.

The word “service” therefore from the scripture is “to work” “to serve” “to till” used in Exod.1:14 “And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.” in describing work in the field, work in Tabernacle “All the vessels of the tabernacle in all the service thereof, and all the pins thereof, and all the pins of the court, shall be of brass.”(Exod.27:19) Sanctuary Service {Number 7:9. Service of Yahweh “And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the LORD.” (Num.8:11) Levitical or Priestly Service “And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them.” (Num.8:22). In the New Testament “diakonia” means to “run an errand” an attendance, aid, a servant in ministry, relief against, etc. Simply put one undergoing certain service on behalf of another.

A centurion described to Jesus, the manner of service which he received from those who are under his command. He stated thus “I say to one ‘Go’ and he goes; and to another, ‘come’, and he  comes, and to my servant: ‘Do this’ and he does it” (Matt.8:9). So is the nature of our service to God. As the Lord speaks, so we do (“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21), “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Luke 6:46). Yet, this faithful obedience is not worship but is still our reasonable service.” To our master. It was the culture of Jesus to worship the Lord on the mountains (Matt.14:23; Mk6:46, Luke6:12; John 6:15).

WORSHIP BEFORE SERVICE

Apostle Paul described worship before service repeatedly in Roman 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

This passage contains all the elements of worship. First, there is the motivation to worship “the mercies of God” God’s grace includes everything he has given us that we don’t deserve; eternal love: – saving faith, comfort, strength, wisdom, justification, reconciliation, sanctification, forgiveness and intercession.

Description of the manner of worship before service “present your bodies as living and holy sacrifice” present our bodies means, giving to God first, our lives, be born again. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3), all our hearts, mind, hands, thoughts, attitude, all our human faculties are to be presented to God. Jesus Christ before performing any miracle or going for any assignment, will always worship His Father. Little wonder that he fasted for 40 days to prepare Himself for earthly ministry.

Human conduct and lives are built around certain beliefs. Services rendered by such men even within and outside religious circles are also influenced in great measure by some beliefs. Biblical Characters acted and also refused to act based on their worship experiences or lack of it. For examples – Moses, David, Esther, Peter, Judas and Paul to mention but a few. Outside the Bible are others service givers in and outside government, in this category are government worker, ministers, governors, local government Chairman, Civil Servants, Contractors, Sales Agents, etc.

MOSES: Not until his experience through the burning bush. Exd.3:1-4. His encounter with God on Mount Sinai on the third month of the journey to Canaan. Exod.19:1-6, 33:12-23; 33:11. After the encounter his mundane life made direct contact with the Lord and then proceeded to follow God’s call on his life. His whole life changed for the better. It affected all his leadership services. The Israelite was constantly complaining, murmuring, and belly aching about their lot. Not enough food, water, etc. Moses was constantly surrounded by negatively and pessimism and yet Moses never get tired of talking to God and making sure that all of God’s laws and commandments were enforced among the people. Moses was said to be the meekest man on earth Number 12:3 “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Meekness or humility is a necessity for being in presence before service.

NOAH: Before God sent His judgement of water against a wicked world according to Gen.6:5. But Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. “By this he condemned the world and became the heir of the righteousness that comes by father.” Heb.11:7 and because of this “Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord. Gen.6:8 and Noah, who lived a righteous life, led his family into the ark for safety.

ABRAHAM: Left home, family, occupation and everything to go to a place that God called him, to do what he had never done before. God simply told him “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” Gen 12:1. Hebrew 11:8 “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”

DAVID: THE 2ND King of Israel was a man after God’s heart, before going to any war or for any assignment he would not but enquired from God for direction 2 Sam.5:17ff

JACOB: God told him in Gen 35 “Arise, go up to Bethel” (Bethel was where God has encounter with him in a dream). Thereafter, Jacob instructed his household (35) to get themselves prepared for God’s service in bethel by  putting away every strange gods, he caused everyone to remove every government that are stained with idols worship.

As a priest you want God to use you, the whole scenarios is to ask yourself what must qualify you for God’s service as you have it in 2 Chron.16:9 “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” The types of worship we are talking about as we have seen in the lives of each character we have mentioned above are:

  1. KEEP YOUR LIFE CLEAN: Personal cleansing, by dealing with personal sin in your lives before God. He uses small, plain and even broken vessels. But He will not use dirty vessels 2 Timothy 2:21 “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” You must be born again and understand the plan of God in all of its phases.
  2. KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN; You must understand what is called “vision”. This is not prediction. Vision is seeing God at work in your present situation and moving with Him. It is about getting in on what God is doing in the world and being part of it where he has placed you. The psalmist says in Psalm 105:4 “Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.”
  3. KEEP YOUR HEART GRATEFUL: God uses grateful people. Gratefulness is one of the keys to longevity in the ministry. Doctors refer to gratitude as the healthiest of all emotions because of its physical benefits. If you don’t stay grateful, you’ll become cynical. Paul said “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual favour, serving the Lord” (Rom.12:11 NIV). We need to constantly remind ourselves what a priviledge it is to serve God.
  4. KEEP YOUR PURPOSE FIRM: Remember the basics. You were planned for God’s pleasure, formed for God’s family, created to become like Jesus, shaped for service and made for mission. These are the purposes for which God made you! One verse of the scripture that has kept me going through all the years of my ministry is Acts 13:36 “David served God’s purpose in his own generation”. That is my desire and that is my desire for you.
  5. KEEP YOUR MIND ON JESUS. Meditate on Heb. 12:2
  6. IDENTIFY YOUR GIFT: The spiritual gift is a divine enabler for service given, to be developed through intensive preparation.
  7. SPIRITUAL MATURITY: You must be spiritually mature in the sense of being familiar with the whole counsel of God’s word both by academic understanding and by application in his own life. Maturity and the ability to do God’s work come through years of study of God’s word and practice in using doctrinal principles. (2 Timothy 2:15). This can also join with spiritual endurance. The idea is expressed in “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7, 8) as having iron in the soul “Thou therefore endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” or “Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” 27:17.

 EVIDENCE/REWARD OF WORSHIP BEFORE SERVICE can then be summarized thus:

  1. DO IT RIGHTLY AND ACCEPTABLY – God reward you for doing things according to His word and purpose, not according to your own way. When Uzzah tried to steady the ark when the oxen stumbled, God struck him and he died (2 Sam.6:6-7). He did a good thing but not the right thing. It was not acceptable before God. Also the lady in Songs of Solomon 1:6 was working but not her own work. The work that will fetch her rewards she left undone. There is no pay for unassigned work done.
  2. DO IT JOYFULLY: serve God with joy and gladness of heart. Otherwise instead of rewards you will get sorrow and losses. “Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (Deut 28:47). God loves a cheerful giver – 2 Cor. 9:7. Give your service with joy and cheerfulness and it will be acceptable to God.
  3. SERVE WITH YOUR HEART: God’s reward is for those who serve Him with their hearts. Man looks at the outer appearance but God looks at the heart (1 Sam.16:7). God knows if your heart is not in what you are doing. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”15:8. Man may reward you for it but not God.
  4. SERVE DILIGENTLY: God rewards them that diligently seek Him (Heb.11:6). When you constantly and earnestly put in efforts in doing the will of God. He takes record of it and reward you greatly in due season. God causes the diligent to stand before Kings and not before mean men (Prov. 22:29).
  5. LABOUR BEFORE GOD: Put your mind and body to work, let your service be productive. Your labour in the Lord is never in vain. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58). Everyone receives reward according to their labour.
  6. SERVE IN FAITH: You need to plough in hope and great expectation for rewards. You don’t serve because of what he will give but believe that he is not a “use of men” but a rewarder.
  7. SERVE WILLINGLY: You receive God’s reward when you serve willingly. “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.” (1 Cor.9:17). Serve God not by compulsion but willingly not for dishonest gain but eagerly 1 Pet.5:2. Serve with willing heart, will always attract God’s attention and blessing.
  8. SERVE IN LOVE: God can never forget your labour of love. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Heb.6:10). Any service done without love profit nothing. 1 Cor.13:3. It could best be regarded as demonstration of SKILLS.
  9. SERVE TIRELESSLY: Don’t grow weary in your service, “for in due season, you shall reap if you do not faint” (Gal. 6:9). Even if the reward tarries, wait for it because it will surely come. Heb.2:3 Don’t give up at the last minute God will not be please with you if you draw back. Heb.10:38
  10. SIGNS Read 2 Cor.6:4-10

4  But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,

5  In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;

6  By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,

7  By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,

8  By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true;

9  As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;

10  As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

Above all you must be an example servant that can not only be followed but emulate.

Remain blessed.