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Thursday: A Question of Worship — 23 Comments

  1. The existence of God is of course something we Christians defend strongly. And, for the secular mind, he does not exist or if he does, it doesn't matter. When it comes to the crunch, a logical argument is not all that useful in trying to convince people one way or another. As someone once said, "For every teleological argument there is a dysteleological argument!"

    Belief is complex and without going into a long analysis of how we come to believe, it is essentially a mixture of background, experience, emotion, and reason. And each person is different. Even when teaching mathematics, I find that each student comes to their understanding differently. My task as a teacher was to work out how to get ideas across to individual students. There was no one method that fits all. It is no use saying, "We have the truth! You better believe it". It takes more than assertions and arguments.

    Just recently I have been reading about Ethiopian Christianity. One of the interesting things about them is that they believe they have that Ark of the Covenant. As part of their religious practice, they parade replicas of the ten commandments on the two tablets of stone around ceremoniously through the streets near their churches. They argue strongly that the original is held in a particular church. Most of us of course are highly sceptical that they have the original.

    The point is that the possession and veneration of the artefacts of Christianity, the tablets of stone, the King James Version of the Bible, the books we call the Spirit of Prophecy, are not the hallmarks of Christianity. We worship God best when we practice our beliefs in such a way that others see Jesus in us. Worshipping God is not just possessing the truth but living it.

    God may as well not exist if we don't have him as the driving force in all of our living. For example, that Sabbath truth is meaningless if we do not worship God for the rest of the week in our interaction with others, even the ones we don't like.

    Here is what Paul had to say:

    Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
    Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
    Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. 1 Cor 10:31-33 KJV

    That is when worship becomes meaningful.

    • Maurice, I really like your comment especially the last two paragraphs and "We worship God best when we practice our beliefs in such a way that others see Jesus in us. Worshipping God is not just possessing the truth but living it!" And by the way, I am from Ethiopia and I have known about what you wrote on the "Ark of the Covenant" and yea it's believed here in that way (except for us Adventists) ha ha. I do share what you said the meaning of worship but would you help me how should I reconcile for what you said, "It is no use saying, 'We have the truth! You better believe it' " with preaching the Revelation 14:6-12!
      Thank you!

      • Thank you for your kind comments Jabessa. I went to Avondale College in the 1960s with a number of Ethiopian students. I wonder where they ended up

        Regarding your question: Preaching the Gospel is much more that just words. Assertions that we have the truth are no where near as effective as a life that reflects the love of Jesus. When we get that bit right, our words become meaningful.

      • I like how a pastor in Thailand put it:

        When the message and the messenger become one and the same, then we will be "preaching" the Gospel.

  2. John 1:1-5 tells us that Jesus came into this world as the true Light so that we might actually see what we otherwise aren't able to see. It isn't that people realised they were in darkness - in fact they thought they could see perfectly. But what they think is true life and reality is actually not. This is how people can think that God is irrelevant to life and living. Sadly, in John 3:19 we have Jesus 'judging'/revealing that most people prefer their darkened understanding over that revealed in by the Light (see also Romans 1:21,22).

    God is offering each and every person the opportunity to come to see the full truth of reality - that there is only one way that true life can and does exist - and is inviting us to join with Him in experiencing that reality by joining with Him in living that only true way. At the same time, Satan is working overtime to blind people's minds to this awareness by absorbing their attention in whatever way/s he can do so. Satan does this by exploiting our inherent need to worship (ie give and devote ourselves to) something. Sadly, most people are sufficiently 'ok with' being absorbed by whatever their particular absorption is because it is sufficiently working for them 'in their eyes' (as per Deuteronomy 12:8; Judges 21:25).

    As Maurice has quite rightly and repeatedly said, it's not about trying to get people to accept 'doctrines'. Rather, it is about each of us learning God's truth and actually putting it into practice in our lives so that our lives can be used by God to display God's Way of life based on other-focussed, other-benefiting love as the foundational principle of our daily life and living. This is so that those who do reach a point where they come to realise that their way of 'living' doesn't work (eg, Luke 15:17) might see an alternative option that actually does work.

    Thus we are called to be salt and light in a world of bitterness and darkness (Matthew 5:13-16). This is how we truly worship God.

  3. Does this "totem pole" help us to worship the LORD or will it draw us away subtly to eventually worship "other gods".
    What symbols did the LORD give to the children of Israel?
    What symbols did Jesus give us?

    Description by Artist - Dave OConnell:
    Totem pole with symbols of God's strength to help us Stand Firm,
    Lion head-Gods strength, angel wings-God's army,
    Fist-God's hands of strength, Cross-power of the cross,
    Fire-power of the holy spirit, Ram's horns(base of Totem)-
    power of salvation, Rock-Firm foundation, Waves-Storms of life.

    • Thanks for this thought-provoking question, Shirley. The artist apparently thought to encourage worship of God, but I don't see that it helps at all and, if it were an actual statue, rather than a small image, it might lead away from God.

      Israel had an interesting experience with the snake on a pole at which people could look and be healed. I believe it represented Christ as the sin bearer. The people who looked got healed. But later this image became a snare to the people, as they began to worship the image itself. (See 2 Kings 18:2-6)

      Humanity seems to have a perverse tendency wanting to worship something that can be touched and felt. That's probably why Jesus did not give us any images as symbols of salvation. Instead, He gave us the practice of washing each others' feet and having the Lord's Supper together. "This do in remembrance of me." (John 13:4-17; Luke 22:7-20)

      • Yes Inge, humans seem to need concrete items to be able to worship the 'unseen God'
        Throughout the Word of the LORD we see the choice is between the image of the false gods and the spirit of the true God.

        It might be interesting to examine the difference between the worship of the golden calf which was a symbol of the Egyptian god Apis and the Sanctuary System that the LORD gave to the Israelites.

        • I am not Shirley, but as a person who has had to study comparative religions as part of my education, I would add that there is a very good reason to do the comparison. Mediterranian religions have a lot of common elements and when I first studied Baal worship and Hebrew worship, I was surprised and confused. It helps to explain (but does not excuse) why the Hebrews so frequently reverted to idol worship. Part of the explanation is that God was guiding the Hebrews from where they were to where he wanted them to be.

          A book that I found informative a long time ago, was "The Lotus and the Robot". I doubt that it is still in print and it is not the sort of book that I recommend to confirm your faith. But it did raise an awareness of the similarities and the important and significant differences that developed between the Mediterranean religions of the time and the worship of Yahweh.

        • Brigitte, you wrote:

          Those now living have reached the end of the ages and entered the Age of Christ Jesus's Faith

          I'm light of Hebrews 11, I'm curious what you mean by that statement.

          • Inge - in short, this statement is in light of the time we find ourselves in - the time of the end of the old world. Christ's life and teaching among us is the last event to show mankind God's Way of Light and Truth.
            He sent His spirit to guide the believer as he/she walks/lives by faith in the Truth of His Light - "that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us." Rom.8:3-4.

          • I was particularly referring to this part of your comment: "the Age of Christ Jesus's Faith."
            Do you believe there was another age not of "faith available to all who believe"? (Compare with Hebrews 11)
            Are we saved in a different way than those who came before us?

        • Brigitte, Paul recounts the history of Israel as an example to warn us. Thus I want to understand the principles of what the LORD told them to do and what not to do and to apply the principles to our current lives.
          I find it interesting that the sanctuary system teaches sacrifice and purity/holiness and that sacred objects were not on display to the public and were only seen in the Holy and Most Holy place by the priests although their descriptions were recorded in the Word of the LORD. What the public saw was the cloud by day and the fire by night that represented the spiritual presence of the LORD.
          How do I apply these principles to my daily life? Our house of worship does not need to display sacred figures and objects, we need to concentrate on the Word of the LORD and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are called to offer our bodies as a living pure sacrifice and allow our minds to be transformed into the Character of the LORD.

          1Cor 10:6-8
          6 These things took place as examples to keep us from craving evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written: “The people sat down to eat and to drink, and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did,
          Deut 16:21-22
          21Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole next to the altar you will build for the LORD your God, 22 and do not set up for yourselves a sacred pillar, which the LORD your God hates.
          Exodus 34:13
          Rather, you must tear down their altars, smash their sacred stones, and chop down their Asherah poles.
          Ex 25:8-9
          8And they are to make a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them. 9You must make the tabernacle and design all its furnishings according to the pattern I show you.
          Rom 12:1-2
          1Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

          • Shirley - though I appreciate your reply, my inquiry was related to why you find it ’interesting’ to know the difference between the pagan worship of the god Apis and the Sanctuary ‘system’ God gave the Israelites. You wrote about the Sanctuary service. What difference do you anticipate to find when comparing the two?

          • Brigitte, my comments on the sanctuary system answers the questions raised in the discussions and the thoughts in the texts quoted.
            My first question was does the "totem pole/idol/golden calf/statue" help a person worship their god as most pagan and even some 'Christian' systems promote or do they tend to fixate on the literal object they can see and touch almost to the exclusion of the 'spiritual being' they are worshipping?
            Inge and I agreed that it would appear to be the case that the literal 'image' tended to distract or even replace the 'spiritual being'.
            My next question - did the LORD just replace the "golden calf" with another 'image' - the Tabernacle - what were the differences?
            I believe that Paul in essence described the pagan systems as evil, sexual, self centered and focused on literal experiences. 1Cor 10:6-8.
            Thus my comments on how the Sanctuary System was different and its implications for our worship of the LORD.

            The reason I find it 'interesting' is that we find these same differences between the worship at the end time of the Image of the Beast and the worship of the Creator.

  4. Can we consider loving God with all our heart - 'worship'? Has not 'worship' always been identified with a certain way man lives? From time immemorial, all gods seek their followers to express themselves in a certain way; worshiping them is incorporated in their way of life. The followers of false gods can be distinguished by their lifestyle; showing which god they serve by their life and worship practices.

    I encourage you to read Chapters 45 through 48 in the book of Isaiah. It records God introducing Himself to His vessel, King Cyrus, as the Creator of Heaven and Earth, as the God of Israel, speaking to him and all of Israel about who our God is, what mighty works He has done, and how His power accomplishes His ultimate goal.
    Isa.48:8:13 - v.12, 13"Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he, I am the first, I also am the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heaven; when I call unto them they stand up together."

    The Dragon is behind the worship of every false god, attempting to draw mankind away from knowing the True God and our worship of Him - the only True God, The LORD, Creator of Heaven and earth. If we truly love Him, and only Him, with all our heart and being, not leaning unto our own understanding (the 'fruit' of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil), we will be victorious!
    Rev.14:12 - "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."

  5. God being a jealous God—this is NOT human selfishness, Not the other form of jealousy … where a man follows his wife around and secretly checks her mail etc …that’s a sickness born of mistrust , NOT an abnormal jealousy from suspicion and fear - Jealous for ourselves, it is the jealousy of love, the jealousy of wanting the best for others. He jealous for our good. To me in our language - zealous would be a better word.

    • You are absolute spot on Bhong. Well unpacked and explained/described. Passionate zeal for wanting the best for others - for their good - is indeed what the biblical term translated "jealous" (when referring to God) actually means.

  6. Hi all,

    I was asked this question by a friend this week; "If God is all-knowing, does that mean he knows all our choices before we make them? And then if he knows all our choices, do we really have free will?

    • It is a common misunderstanding to believe that if God already knows the future, we have no free will. But seeing things ahead of time (because God exists is not confined inside the time-space continuum which He created) is not the same as *determining* the actions.

      Think of it this way: You can see a leader of your country speak on television, but does that mean you can control what he says. You can see what happens on the opposite side of the world, but does that mean you participate in the activity.

      The Bible makes clear that God has made us free moral agents, capable of choosing good or evil, and that means that He does not determine our choices beforehand. Whatever choice we make, He sees.

  7. Worship depends on whether it is with me and God alone, or whether it is with my family of three people, or whether it is with the Sabbath worship service with the Church Family of Pastor, Elders, Deacons, etc. and etc. But Ellen G. White in Testimonies Volumes 6,7, and 8 are very clear as to how SDA Worship service were to be done and very clearly there she indicates that sermons are supposed to be "short" and are to be of Jesus and His life and love, and that they are not needed every single Sabbath etc.


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