Posts Tagged ‘worship’

Series: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Last week we began looking at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. We saw how Jesus crossed the social boundaries of gender, morality and religion/culture to speak to her about the living water he gives – that is, the Holy Spirit who brings eternal life. This is why he “had to pass through Samaria” as it says in John 4:4; it was the Father’s purpose.

Today we look at the middle portion of our story  and our focus in on worshiping the Father in Spirit and truth.

John 4:16-27

“16Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ 17The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’”

So they’ve been talking and Jesus turns the conversation toward her. He wants to get at a core issue in her life. Although she was bold before when she was questioning Jesus, here she becomes evasive. In fact, she wants to hide something from Jesus.

She tells Jesus, “I have no husband.” Now the word that is used here by both Jesus and the woman can mean “husband” or simply “a man.” She uses it to mean that she is not married, making her sound like she is not in a relationship.

But Jesus knows her heart and her story, just as he knows all about each of our lives. As John 2:24 says, “Jesus knew all people . . . for he himself knew what was in a person.”

He knows that she has been married five times. It’s not clear to us why, but there were almost certainly some divorces involved here. By the standards of the day (at least in Judaism) only 3 legal marriages were acceptable. So she has been in and out of a number of relationships, which would have reflected badly on her.

But more importantly, Jesus knows that she is in a sixth relationship. She is in a non-marital sexual union; as we say today, she is living with someone.

Jesus also employs the double meaning of the word husband/man and thereby takes her statement “I have no husband” as a confession of her sin. He emphasizes how true her words are, despite her intention to mislead him. He is saying, ‘Yes, you are right, you don’t have a “husband.” You are living in sexual immorality with “a man” who is not your husband.’

“19The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.’”

She’s impressed by what he knows and comes to the conclusion that he’s a prophet. So she has a theological question for him about the right way to worship. She asks which mountain is the right place to worship, Mt. Gerizim or Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.

Again division raises its head. She says that “our fathers” worshiped on this mountain, most likely referring to Abraham (Genesis 12:7) and Jacob (Genesis 33:10) who worshiped at Mt. Gerizim. And since Samaritans didn’t accept any Scriptures except the Law of Moses – the first five book of the Bible – and these don’t talk about a temple in Jerusalem, the Samaritans argued that true worship should take place on Mt. Gerizim (Some of their case: Jacob’s dream took place here, where he said, “God is in this place – Genesis 28:16, and he built an altar here in 33:19-20; Deuteronomy 27:3-5).

But Jews, of course, based on further Old Testament teaching, built the temple in Jerusalem.

mt Gerizim

If you will remember they are talking at Jacob’s well. This is a picture of Mt. Gerizim near Jacob’s well. The Samaritans did build a temple here in 400 BC. But it was destroyed by a group of Jews in 128 BC. Well, the ruins of this temple would have been in sight from Jacob’s well,
 as they were talking.

“21Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.’”

With the coming of Jesus things are changing. And his coming transcends the divisions between Jews and Samaritans. From now on neither mountain is key.

Although, for the record, Jesus confirms that prior to his coming the Jews were right about Jerusalem and right about what true worship is. He also acknowledges that “salvation if from the Jews,” both as a matter of God’s historical working through them, and specifically in that he, Jesus is Jewish. (Jesus clearly here affirms that he is a Jew. Most often in John “Jew” is used negatively for Judeans who oppose Jesus.)

“23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth . . .”

Again, things are changing and Samaritans can be a part of this. True worshipers will not be marked by which mountain they worship on, they will be marked by two things. They will worship:

In Spirit – this is worship that is inspired and empowered by the Spirit. (Jesus has just taught her about living waters that refer to the Spirit and so we should take this to be a reference to the Holy Spirit, as in almost every other case of the word Spirit in John).

In truth – this is worship that is in accord with what Jesus teaches; which is the full revelation of God’s truth.

What he is doing here is teaching her one part of this, that true worship is not exclusive to a central shrine or temple but is Spirit inspired. If the current worship of Samaritans is not fully true (you worship what you do not know – v. 22 ) they can offer true worship if they worship in accord with what Jesus says.

“ . . . for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”

This is an amazing statement. God is on a mission. God doesn’t sit back a wait for people. He actively seeks out people to know and honor him. And this includes this Samaritan woman. God wants her and all people to worship him in Spirit and truth.

When Jesus says, “God is spirit” he means that God is not physical; he is not just found in one place. He can be worshiped anywhere.

Notice that we worship the Father, in accord with what the Son teaches, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

“25The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.’”

Having heard Jesus’ answer, she isn’t fully committed. She speaks of the coming Messiah who will “tell us all things,” that is, settle this dispute and others. The Samaritans had a different idea of the Messiah. They spoke of the Taheb or restorer based on Deuteronomy 18:15-19 where Moses speaks of God raising up a prophet like him, to whom all should listen. They saw the Messiah as more of a teacher. She is saying, ‘when he comes he will sort out the differences between Jews and Samaritans.’

“26Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’”

At the beginning of their conversation Jesus notes that she doesn’t know who he is. “If you knew who it is that is speaking to you . . .” you would ask him for living water. But now he has clearly told her. This is an amazing revelation of Jesus to her, ‘I am the Messiah.’ It is very unusual for Jesus to be so clear. She is certainly blessed to have him speak this way to her.

Specifically, he is saying that he is the one Moses spoke of and he has just settled the dispute between the Jews and Samaritans as he spoke to her.

“27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you seek?’ or, ‘Why are you talking with her?’”

So we end today where we began last week, with Jesus crossing the social boundary of gender, and the disciples are duly shocked, but don’t say anything.

Once again I have two questions from the passage that should challenge us:

Do you worship in Spirit and truth?

To use the language of Jesus in v. 23, are you a “true” worshiper of God?

It is not about coming to this building each Sunday, so that you think you have worshipped because you have come to a certain place and sat through a service. Perhaps you are here but you are really distracted about your week to come and all that you have to do, or you are still trying to figure out how to deal with the problems of last week. Or maybe you are here but you are busy talking or texting to others. Or maybe your coming here is more about a weekly ritual than true worship.

True worship is about the Spirit of God opening up your heart to receive from God – as we gather to sing and pray and hear God’s word, or as you do these things during the week wherever you are at. We have to allow the Spirit to move within us and among us so that we connect to God. This is true worship.

And again, as last week, I ask –

Are you a part of God’s mission?

It is so clear in this passage, God is seeking people to worship him truly. God wants them to know him and honor him and to be made whole be recognizing our true King.

Are you a part of this? Do you let God work through you in your everyday lives to fulfill his mission? Being a part of God’s mission includes several things. We saw last week:

1. It includes divine appointments. This is why Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.” God wants this woman, with all of her brokenness and failures to worship him truly.

2. It includes crossing social boundaries. In our part of the story today all three boundaries are dealt with – gender, morality and the differences between Jews and Samaritans.

3. It includes a focus on Jesus. When possible division came as she asked which mountain is correct for worship, Jesus focused on how his coming transcends these differences.

And then we also see today two more aspects of God’s mission:

4. It includes dealing with issues:

– her sexual immorality – v. 16. Jesus didn’t shy away from this. It needed to be dealt with.
– her misunderstandings – v. 22. The Samarian errors about worship.

5. It includes leading people to true worship. This is the point of God’s mission. Once we have come alive to God by drinking of the living waters, the Spirit leads us to be in relationship with God through worship.

William Higgins


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Are you ready to worship? A checklist

Now “worship” can be a big word. It can refer to the entirety of the way we live our lives; the decisions we make and the behavior we exhibit. But I’m thinking more specifically of when we come to praise God, to pray to God and to listen to his word, whether that be personal worship or communal like we do each Sunday.

I would like to share with you about how to be prepared for these times of worship so that you can enter into it fully, freely, meaningfully and powerfully. I hope that this is something you can use as a tool to examine yourself; a checklist of seven items. (more…)

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We’ve been talking about worship for several weeks now, and I want to bring this series of teaching to a close today by talking about keys to powerful worship.

When we gather on Sundays for worship, as I have said, we are coming into God’s presence together. I have made a lot about the image of God as a King and the protocol of how to honor a king because what we are really doing as a group is coming into the throne room of God together.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Revelation 4 gives us one picture of God’s throne room, full of majesty and power, with Jesus seated at his right hand.

Our own order of service is based on this kingly analogy.

  • we offer praise to the King
  • we offer up our prayers/requests
  • we listen to what the King has to say to us

So we come to meet God, our king, but there are lots of things that can stand in the way of truly meeting with God, so that God does not receive our worship and we don’t, as Hebrews says, receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

So let’s talk about 5 keys to powerful worship. This is teaching that will help us to truly enter in and encounter our king, our God and our Father.

1. Deal with sin in your life

Our sin separates us from God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

When you try to come before God with open, willful sin in your life, you won’t have success. It’s like someone who is living in open rebellion against their king who wants to come before the king and ask for a favor!

Rather, as James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Part of our drawing near is that we get rid of our sin through repentance and forgiveness. This is how we are cleansed and purified. And then the promise is, “God will draw near to you.”

If you want to enter God’s presence, deal with your sin.

2. Deal with broken relationships

We worship together as a community. We are the body of Christ; we pray, “Our Father;” we come before God together. And so when our relationships are broken, it affects our worship to God.

Jesus talks about this in a couple of places. He teaches us that if you have offended someone seek to make it right.

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24. The context here is that you have said angry words to a brother or sister, so that they have something against you. This is such an important issue that you are to leave off worship to make it right.

Jesus also taught that if you have been offended and the person seeks to make it right, forgive them

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15. If you don’t forgive, you will be separated from God.

Now it may well be you have done all you can do to be at peace with others as Paul talks about in Romans 12:18 – “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Some people just don’t want peace and you can’t control that. But if there is brokenness and you are the one refusing to live in peace with a sister or brother,  this will affect your ability to enter into God’s presence. Just as with #1, there is separation, damaged and broken relationship with God.

So work toward peace with your sisters and brothers so that we can all enter before God and be pleasing to him.

3. Come ready to worship

Come having already drawn near to God during the week in your private times of worship:

  • be prayed up
  • spiritually alive
  • alert
  • ready to go

The assumption is that you are worshipping privately during the week.

  • Luke 18:1 – we “ought always to pray”
  • Ephesians 5:20 – “giving thanks always”
  • Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”

We ought to be doing these things always, not just on Sundays or during a crisis. If your spiritual life depends on Sunday you are in trouble! Your spiritual life will be weak.

Think about it – how would your physical health be if you ate once a week? It wouldn’t matter how much you got – it isn’t good for you.

Come ready to worship so that you can enter right in.

4. Take responsibility for encountering God

Take initiative. You can’t sit back and wait for someone to inspire you to encounter God. You can’t say the music wasn’t good, it’s not the style I like, or the prayer time was too long, or there was a child next to me that was loud, or the sermon was boring.

You are responsible for your encounter with God! No one else is. Participate! Worship is participatory. Don’t be passive!

  • Bring a gift and offer it to God
  • Offer your prayers
  • Listen to God’s word

Be determined to meet God in all these ways. Be like blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:47 – “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And though many rebuked him, telling him to be silent, he cried out all the more. And Jesus answered him.

Be focused, don’t give in to distractions and be determined to encounter God.

5. Have an attitude of expectation

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” As God said to Israel in Deuteronomy 4:29, If “you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

These are great promises that show us that if we truly seek God, God will come and bless us.

We are indeed to expect that when we seek God, we will find God in powerful ways.

The truth is, we often don’t expect much. And if we don’t expect much we limit God.

  • If we come to church – just to go through the routine
  • If we come to church and expect to be bored
  • If we come to church and feel fortunate to get something out of it

Besides the fact that these tend to be self-fulfilling prophesies, we are limiting God. With such little faith how could God possibly bless you!

Remember Jesus trying to minister the power of God in his home town of Nazareth in Mark 6:1-6? They had low expectations and little faith. Hey we know Jesus, he’s not anyone special! And Mark 6:5-6 says, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.”

We limit God through our unbelief. So come ready to meet with God and expect that it will happen! God will not disappoint.

So here are five keys to help us to encounter God as we gather together on Sundays.

May God help us all to live them out and to meet God each time we gather.

William Higgins


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Authentic Worship

Last week we saw how the most basic understanding of worship is that of bringing God a gift in order to honor God. As the Lord said in Exodus 34:20 – “no one shall appear before me empty-handed.”

We saw that instead of going through insincere rituals God really wants gifts that we give from our hearts. We talked about four gifts to bring to God:

  1. praise and thanks
  2. gifts of resources; offerings
  3. obedience; our bodies as instruments of obedience
  4. humble repentance

Today we are talking about authentic worship, or worship that is genuine, real, true. This really has to do with how we offer these four gifts so that God will be pleased with them and receive our gifts. It’s necessary to talk about this because even as we offer these gifts there are ways in which our gifts can be fake, insincere or false.

1. Our worship must be focused on God

Let’s use the example of giving to the needy as an act of worship. Jesus said, “when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” – Matthew 6:2-4.

So here is a perfectly good gift of worship to God – giving to the needy. But we can make it false by using it to focus on ourselves instead of God. Sounding trumpets has to do with displays that draw attention to yourself. We are supposed to focus on God, but instead we make ourselves the focus.

Jesus calls this hypocrisy. He means that you look like you are doing one thing, but you are actually doing something else, so you are inauthentic or fake.

  • It looks like you are praising God
  • But you are really looking for praise for yourself

And we can do this with any kind of act of worship.

Authentic worship lifts up God, not ourselves. The Hebrew word for worship means to lower yourself. We lower ourselves before God and then raise God up, we enthrone him in praise. As Psalm 22:3 says, “You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”

Authentic worship proclaims who God is to others, not who we are. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race . . . that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

When you sing praises to God do you simply want others to hear how good you sing? Or do you sing out because you want to proclaim God is praise? We have to keep it focused on God, not us.

2. Our worship must truly be from the heart

Jesus said in Mark 7:6-7 – “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me . . ..’” The problem here is that our lips are going, but our heart isn’t there. God wants our heart to be involved.

Worship can involve lots of different kinds of outward activities:

  • Psalm 150:4-5 – “Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals!”
  • Psalm 95:6 – “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”
  • Psalm 47:1 – “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”
  • Psalm 88:9 – “Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.”

All of these and more . . .. But what is important is that this all come from our heart; that there not be a disconnect between the inner and the outer so that we go through the motions outwardly while our heart is not involved.

God doesn’t receive heartless worship. The Lord said, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.” – Amos 5:21-23

We need to really mean it, when we offer our gifts to God.

The phrase in Mark 7:6 is “their heart is far from me.” There can be a lot reasons why this is so:

  • maybe we are physically present but not mentally tuned in, singing a song without even thinking about the words.
  • maybe our heart is far from God because we are not walking in obedience with God.
  • maybe we are in worship, but only because we have to be there.

Whatever the reason -we are just going through the motions of worship. As Jesus said, “in vain do they worship me” (Mark 7:7). Our worship is futile or useless. God does not receive it.

An example of authentic worship

This comes from David in 2 Samuel 6. He certainly knew how to worship as we see from the Psalms. Here a specific example from when the ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem.

First of all he worshiped from the heart. “And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.” – vs. 14-15.

Second, he focused on God. “Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart.” v. 16. She thought he was showing off before the female servants and that he made a fool of himself. But “David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord . . . and I will make merry before the Lord.’” – v. 21.

Let me end by saying God is looking for true, authentic worshipers. Jesus said, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24.

Let us offer up our gifts to God in spirit and in truth, focused on God and from our hearts.

William Higgins

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We are continuing to talk about worship and today I want to show you –

A fundamental principle of worship

It comes from Exodus 34:20, talking about proper protocol for Israelite worship. This principle is this “no one shall appear before me empty-handed.”

I mentioned two weeks ago that in an ancient near eastern cultural context when you come into a king’s presence (or anyone of great rank) you were to offer up a gift that is fitting to honor them. We talked about giving praise and compliments.

Well, God is seen as the King, the great one  in the Scriptures, and so we should definitely bring gifts when we come before God

And this is the background context of Exodus 34:20, when the Lord says, “no one shall appear before me empty-handed.”

Another text that talks about this is Psalm 96:8. It says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!” We are to bring a gift. This is connected to giving God the glory due his name. Bringing a gift is a way of honoring God; of ascribing worth to the Lord, which is the meaning of the English word “worship” – to ascribe worth.

We’re not completely unfamiliar with this practice of giving gifts to honor someone.

  • Have you ever been to a party and you thought you weren’t supposed to give a gift?
  • Have you ever seen a child who didn’t bring a gift to a birthday party?

Well in the same way, magnified greatly – we don’t want to come before God without a gift to offer to honor God. We don’t want to come empty-handed!

But . . .

What shall we bring?

In the Mosaic Temple system what you brought were things like burnt offerings, various other sacrifices, grain offerings and the like.

But as the prophets saw people were bringing these gifts before God but they were just going through the motions. The gifts were meant to be an expression of much deeper and greater gifts of the heart. But often their hearts weren’t in it. It was insincere.

Psalm 50:8-13 says, “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?”

In 1 Samuel 15:22 Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” God looks for sincere, heartfelt offerings.

Now we don’t live under the Mosaic Temple system, but as Peter tells us, we are a new temple. 1 Peter 2:4-5 – “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood (we are a temple), to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (our sacrifices).”  We are to give spiritual sacrifices and offerings to God.

Let’s get specific and look at –

Four acceptable sacrifices or gifts we can give to God

1. Our praise and thanksgiving (we talked about his two weeks ago)

We read from Psalm 50 that God doesn’t need or want insincere animal sacrifices. Instead it says:

  • “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving” –  Psalm 50:14
  • And, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” – Psalm 50:23

Hebrews 13:15 says it this way, “Through him (Jesus) then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

When we come before God, we give our praise and thanksgiving as a gift to honor God.

2. Our generosity. Giving of our resources to others in need is seen as a sacrifice to God in the Scriptures.

Hebrews 13:16 says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

In Philippians 4:18 Paul speaks of having received a gift from others to support his ministry. “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

When we give of our resources to the needy, this is a pleasing sacrifice and gift to God.

  • We can do this by bringing offering as a part of a worship service
  • Or by simply giving to those in need

When we come before God we offer these up, as it were, as a gift, a sacrifice that honors God. “Father, we have done this to honor you.”

3. Our obedience. There is a lot of material here.

We already saw how in 1 Samuel 15:22 it says, “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

Psalm 40:6-8 says, “Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’”

Specifically, such offerings of obedience have to do with how we treat our neighbor. Here are three examples focused on treating others with fairness and justice:

  • Isaiah 1:12-13; 17 – “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings . . . learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
  • Amos 5:21-24 – “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
  • Micah 6:6-8 – “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Our obedience and righteousness is a pleasing sacrifice to God. When we come before God, instead of going through insincere rituals, these texts are saying we offer up our obedience – what you have done, by God’s grace as a gift to God.

But not only that,  in the words of Paul, we bring our bodies and present them as instruments to do God’s will in the future.

He says, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” – Romans 12:1.

4. Our humble repentance

We don’t always do God’s will; we often fail. But we can bring our sincere repentance as a gift to God.

Isaiah 1:11; 16 says, “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats . . . Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil . . .”

David’s repentance is an example of this. “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:16-17.

When we come before God and we have failed, we should humble ourselves in repentance as a gift to God. And God will receive us.

These four things are the gifts that God desires and they are all gifts that we can bring. So let us not be empty-handed as we come before God. But bring an abundance of that which pleases and honors God, our great King.

William Higgins

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We are continuing to look at worship today, specifically our praise and adoration of God.

Last week we talked about why we should worship God:

  1. God is amazing, stunning, awe-inspiring. Our praise is simply a ‘natural’ response to this.
  2. God has a right to our praise since he created us and everything good about us comes from God.
  3. We should be grateful for all that God does for us – caring for us, saving us and  hearing our prayers

Today we look at how powerful the practice of worship is, that is, how it can transform us to worship God. But first we begin with some background.

Our praise is the path into God’s presence

There is actually an analogy between coming before God as our king and how people in the ancient near east came before their kings.

  • First of all, it was a really big deal to come into the presence of a king. And, of course, it is even more weighty to come into God’s presence, who is a great king. Indeed, the king of the universe.
  • Second, when you came before an earthly king, part of what you would do is offer up praise or acknowledgement of their greatness – as a way to honor the king. This was the proper protocol. With God as king we are to offer up praise and honor as well. This is only fitting for the true king of all things.
  • Finally, when you honored an earthly king, they would receive you and have an audience with you. When we offer up praise and honor to God as our king, he receives us as well. We come into God’s presence.

Psalm 100:2, 4 says, “Come into the Lord’s presence with singing! . . . Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!”

But wait, isn’t God always present with us?

Now there is a sense in which we can never get away from God’s presence. Right? Psalm 139:7 says, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” God is everywhere. But that doesn’t mean we are always in God’s presence, or that we are aware of God’s presence.

It is also true that God’s Spirit is present within us, if we belong to Christ. Romans 8:9 says, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” But just because the Spirit is within us doesn’t mean that we are always in God’s presence, or that we are aware of God’s presence.

By entering God’s presence I mean that we need to intentionally seek God out. And what I’m saying this morning is that when we seek God out with praise and thanksgiving, something special happens – we come into God’s presence in a focused and discernable way.

This has something to do with our giving our attention to God. When we do this we become more aware of God’s presence with us. But this also has something to do with the fact that God is pleased when his people worship him. And reveals himself to us more powerfully.

So let’s look at –

What happens when we are in God’s presence

1. We experience close relationship with God. If we know the Lord, we have a relationship with the Lord. But it’s something like being married. You have a relationship, but if you want to have a good relationship – you have to spend real time together and communicate.

Well, when we spend time in God’s presence, we are drawn closer to the Lord.

  • we get to know God better
  • our relationship is strengthened
  • we can be secure in our relationship with God

I ask you this morning, how good is your relationship with God? Do you take God for granted? When was the last time you had real quality time with the Lord? Enter God’s presence with praise and adoration – and experience a deeper relationship with God.

2. We are made whole. Isaiah 6:1; 5 says, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. . .. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’”

Being in God’s presence can be a powerfully transforming experience. As with Isaiah, we come to see ourselves more clearly with all of our weaknesses and brokenness.

But God doesn’t leave us there. vs. 6-7 say, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’” God works in us to transform us and make us whole. Isaiah’s sin is dealt with. And when we come into God’s presence, God can heal our brokenness and give us peace.

So, if you are struggling, don’t run away from God! Seek God out. God is the source of your renewal and wholeness and you can find this in his presence.

3. We find true fulfillment. We talked last week about the overwhelming, powerful presence of God, that can even be lethal. And we did this to show how amazing God is.

But God is merciful and doesn’t overwhelm us when we seek God out in worship. God’s presence is gentle and refreshing – giving us a sense of joy and fulfillment. Psalm 16:11 says, “in your presence there is fullness of joy.”

We were made to relate to God and be in God’s presence, and because of this, we only find true satisfaction and peace in God’s presence.

If your life is empty and feels meaningless, get to know God! Be in God’s presence. This is where you will find joy and meaning.

4. God hears our prayers and blesses us. Just as with a king, his servants come to ask for help, and so we come before God with our needs and concerns. And God is a great King and helps those who come before him.

Psalm 34:10 says, “The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

  • We come with our weights, concerns and discouragement
  • But we leave with strength, renewed faith and encouragement

Bring your burdens to the Lord, cast your cares at his feet, and he will care for you (1 Peter 5:7). Come into his presence and make your needs and concerns known, and he will hear you and give you the good things you need.

Finally, 5. God gives us guidance. When we come into God’s presence, God can speak to us and give us his word to direct us, or  tell us what we need to do.

Isaiah 6:8-9 says, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’ And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’” God spoke to Isaiah when he was in God’s presence and he was given direction to know what to do. He was even given an commission for ministry.

If you are looking for guidance in your life, you don’t need to look to self-help books or self-proclaimed gurus – come to God! The king who made you. See what God says you should do.


In all these ways, being in God’s presence powerfully transforms us. When we are done, we have not only blessed and honored God, but we are not the same person that we were before. And God gives us permission to come before him regularly to be in this kind of relationship with him.

William Higgins

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I want to start a series on worship today and have us look at this theme for a few weeks.

 I shared from Psalm 95 in our praise time. Now I want to read the first seven verses. You can follow along. It’s a beautiful call to praise and worship.

Psalm 95:1-7 – “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”

Worship is a big word. It can really cover every area of our lives – how we act, talk – all of our obedience and submission to God. But I want to use it more specifically to refer to praise, adoration, thanksgiving, acts of devotion, and expressions of love that we offer to God. Whether we do this through prayer, saying things, silence, raising hands, bowing down, etc..

Today as we begin our series on worship I want us to focus on why we should offer up worship to God.

1. God is amazing, stunning, awe-inspiring

Psalm 95:3 says, “For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Deuteronomy 10:17 says, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God.”

Not only is God awesome, God is beautiful. Psalm 27:4 says, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”

There is an amazing scene of God’s throne in heaven in Isaiah 6:1,4. This passage says, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple . . . And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. “

As we see from Isaiah 6 and also Revelation 4, all around the throne of God there is the constant chorus, “holy, holy, holy.” Holy means incomparably different & better than anything else around. This is what God is.

To get a sense of the awesome greatness of God, when people see just a glimpse of God, it is overwhelming (and more than a glimpse can be fatal). Here are some examples:

  • Israel: In Exodus 19–20 God appeared in clouds, smoke, fire, thunder and lightening. God shook the earth and there was the sound of a trumpet. Then in chapter 20:18-19 the people were afraid trembled and stood far off. They said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”
  • Moses: In Exodus 33:17-23 God showed him his glory. But Moses had to be put in a protective place – the cleft of a rock. And he had to have his face covered by God’s hand. Only then could he look at God’s back, lest he die.
  • Temple priests: 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 tells us about the dedication of Solomon’s temple. As the gathered crowed praised God, God appeared and filled the temple as with a cloud, “so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”
  • Peter, James, John: In Matthew 17 the story is told of Jesus’ transfiguration. These there disciples were able to see Jesus’ glory. Peter was confused. And then God appeared in a bright cloud that overshadowed them and spoke. It says that they “fell on their faces and were terrified.”
  • John: In Revelation 1:17 John saw the glorified Jesus. And he fell down as if he were dead!

Nothing and no one compares to God! If you have not experienced the presence of God – God’s beauty and awesome power, well you have to experience it to know what I’m talking about. It is truly mind blowing. When you do experience it, you cannot, not acknowledge the greatness and beauty of God, as you are awed and overwhelmed.

2. God has a right to our praise

Psalm 95 also helps us see this. Vs. 4-6 say, “In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his.” If we ask why is it his? It goes on and tells us, “for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.”

Then it comes to us: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” God is our Maker. And so God has a right to our worship as our Creator. Since God created us, every gift we have, every talent we possess and every good thing about us comes from God.

I Corinthians 5:7 says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” that is, from God. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” But even more basically, we should give thanks just for the chance to live and breath and experience life. It is not owed to us, God did not have to make us. It is a gift from our creator. We literally owe God everything. And so certainly we owe our worship – our thanks and praise.

3. We should be grateful for all that God does for us

God is not just amazingly awesome, not only does he deserve our praise for creating us, he deserves our praises because of all that he does for us:

Once again Psalm 95 gets us started. Psalm 95:1 says, “Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” We praise God because God saves us in our times of trouble. He is our rock of salvation.

Psalm 145 describe some of God’s deeds, and his character revealed in his actions toward us.

  • v. 8 – “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
  • v. 9 – “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”
  • v. 14 – “The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”
  • v. 15 – “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.”
  • v. 17 – “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.”
  • v. 18 – “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
  • v. 19 – “He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.”

God is not only good to us, God is good to us beyond what we deserve because of our sin, rebellion and lack of concern for God. Yet God cares for us, provides for us, and hears our prayers.


So for all these reasons:

  • because God is amazing,
  • because God created us and we owe it to our creator,
  • and because God blesses us constantly with kindness and goodness.

we should praise God!

But remember this, God is so great, that even if we fail to do what we should, creation itself will have enough sense to pick up the chorus. As Jesus says in Luke 19:40,  “I tell you, if these people were silent, the very stones would cry out” in praise to God. (Psalm 19). We don’t want to be outdone by rocks!

William Higgins

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