Why Should We Worship God? He is Almighty, Part 2

“36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11:36 NKJ)”

For of Him: The preposition which is translated “of” or “from” indicates source or origin. The object of the preposition is the source or the origin of whatever the writer is talking about. What is the prepositional phrase describing or modifying? The antecedent is “all things.” So the author, Paul, is telling us that “all things” originate with God. In what sense is that true? Jesus tells us that not a sparrow falls apart from the Father. Isaiah 46:10 tells us that God declares the end from the beginning and that He will do “all My pleasure.” He made everything that exists, calling everything into being by the word of His power. As we discover more about the universe we live in it becomes increasingly clear that the very fabric of space and time itself are relative, and that they had a beginning, though there is much about that beginning that we do not yet understand. One thing we know clearly from Scripture is that it was God who brought about that beginning. He brought about the universe itself, everything in it, all the rules that would govern how it works and the people who would inhabit it.

And through Him: “Through” indicates means or instrument, how something happens. God is not a mere watchmaker who winds up the world and lets it go off on its own. His will is continual in the world and necessary to its ongoing operation. According to Psalm 104:29-30, the upholding power of God is constantly necessary for the life of God’s creatures. If He withdraws their breath, they die. In the account of creation in Genesis 1 we read about the Spirit of God hovering over the waters; in Psalm 104:30 it is the Spirit of God that continually gives life to all of God’s creatures. Proverbs 21:1 tells us that the heart of kings is in God’s hand, that He turns their hearts to go wherever He desires. He raised up Tiglath-Pileser to punish His people (1Chronicles 5:26) and then He raised up Cyrus to restore them (Isaiah 44:28).

And to Him: “To” indicates a destination, a final goal. It is the opposite of “from” or “of”, which indicates something’s origin or source. So everything comes from God and goes back to God. That is to say, all that He does is done for a purpose, and that purpose lies within Himself. Everything that exists must exist for God’s purpose, since God intended to bring it all about when there was nothing but God in existence. The purpose He has in mind is self-revelation, that He be known and glorified. The phrase, “So that you will know that I am God” peppers the Scriptures, speaking both of God’s judgment and of His redemption.

Paul’s only conclusion to all of this is to praise: “To whom be glory forever and ever, Amen!” This must be the conclusion we draw, as well. God is certainly deserving of our praise, and because He created us to this end, praising Him will be our highest joy and pleasure.

Why Should We Worship God? Because He is Almighty

“9 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying,`My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ (Isa 46:9-10 NKJ)”

God is worthy of our praise because God is powerful. Isaiah constantly contrasts the very real power of God with the fake power of the idols that the people worshiped. They had eyes but they could not see and they had ears but they could not hear. God, by contrast, has real power. Whatever He decides to do He does.

An interesting feature of our own religious climate is that people find it off-putting to think that God should be worshiped for His power, or for any of His other virtues. It’s described as arrogant or narcissistic. Yet the propensity of the human soul to be drawn to that which is greater than itself, to praise power and greatness, is obvious and undeniable. We praise an athlete for winning a game or a politician for winning an election. Nations desire a strong leader; children desire parents to keep them safe and provide for them. Atheists wax rhapsodic at the wonder of the universe that they believe produced them. People take trips to the ocean or the Grand Canyon not to be impressed with a sense of their own importance, but to be drawn into a sense of transcendence, the wonder and awe of that which is greater than themselves. We praise an author for his great book, a musician for her beautiful music, an actor for his brilliant performance. The same person who would scoff at praising God might scream and swoon at a rock concert.

Yet behind all of these things is the God who made them all, and He made us to worship. No man can choose to not worship, since we were created for it; he only chooses what the object of his worship will be- either God or the things that God has made. As great as all of the things in creation are, how much greater, how much more beautiful, how much more wise must be He who created them? If we are struck by the awe and grandeur of the night sky with its vast multitude of stars, what is our reaction to the person who spoke those stars into existence? If we are highly impressed with a scientist who can unravel the very fabric of the matter and energy around us, what do we think of the God that made the scientist’s brain, and made the fabric of the universe as a puzzle to be unlocked by that brain?

He achieves everything He sets out to achieve. There is no force in the universe which can deny Him whatever He wants. He never makes a mistake, never halts from indecision, never finds Himself unable to do what He intended to do. The vast majority of the time, He accomplishes all these things through the laws of nature and history which He created, but this should only increase our awe at His great power, that He has the power and wisdom to set up rules and principles that would govern such a vast undertaking as our universe to accomplish everything He sets out to accomplish. He intervenes in the laws of nature and history, not because He needs to but because He desires to reveal Himself in some special way to those that He has made.

He is very worthy of our worship, and we fulfill our highest purpose when we worship Him.
To Be Continued…

Worship as an Act of Faith

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

Economists describe the cost of any choice we make as “opportunity cost”, or the loss of an opportunity to do something different with whatever time or resources we committed to a particular choice. If I spend a dollar on a candy bar, the cost of the candy bar is whatever else I could have spent the dollar on. If I spend an hour watching television, even if it is free there is still a cost- namely, whatever else I could have spent the hour on.

Coming to worship always incurs a cost- the cost of sleeping in on Sunday or going to the park with your kids or whatever else might bring you short-term enjoyment. Worship itself might bring you short-term enjoyment as well- seeing friends, enjoying good music and a hopefully engaging sermon. But there are always pressing needs or more immediately enjoyable activities. That’s why God made it a commandment to observe the Sabbath. Left to ourselves, people will always allow other things to crowd out the worship of God. We do not observe a day in the same ceremonial fashion as the Jews under the Mosaic Law did, but the principle has not changed. We must make time for the worship of God.

When we gather together on Sunday for worship, we are committing an act of faith. Faith means trust, believing in God’s word and promises that He is who He says He is and will do what He promises to do. Worship is a means of grace, the way God works great benefits in His people through the power of His Spirit, but those benefits are subtle and long-term. Often they are not clearly visible in the short term.

The short term benefits of worship mentioned above, while real, should not be our main motivators for being in worship. If short term benefit is our motive, our sinful flesh will always find other things to tempt us. Our real motive should be faith, trust that God will work His work in us over time. We should “desire the pure milk of the word, that we may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2). We should desire to be taught and exhorted by the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. (Colossians 3:16). We should desire to “stir up love and good works” in each other (Hebrews 10:24). When we are motivated by trust in God’s promises, then we will be faithful in church even when we don’t feel like it, even if we’re not getting along with others, even if there are other things we’d rather do. Motivated by faith, walking not by what we can see but what we can and must believe, we will learn to attend consistently to the means of grace and have confidence that we will grow in grace as a result.

Public Worship and Evangelism

We in the Reformed Church believe that one of the key ways that God converts people to the truth of Jesus Christ is through the preaching of the word. That can happen in different environments, both public and private. In James 1:18 we read, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” (Jam 1:18 NKJ) Every sermon that is preached ought to be preached with a mind toward those who do not believe. There ought to be in any sermon a call to repent of sin and trust in the Lord. That does not mean that every sermon must be preached on the same subject of justification by faith alone, specifically. We recognize that the gospel of Jesus Christ is much bigger than the doctrine of justification by faith alone and touches on every area of our lives, and therefore a sermon about proper attitudes toward money or about a Biblical approach to raising children (for example), rightly understood, will in part be a call to repent of our idolatry and worldly attitudes, and to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ, in whom we have forgiveness of sins and the power of the Spirit in whose strength only we have any hope of success. Likewise, we can preach the whole counsel of God from every part of Scripture and see it all through the lens of Jesus Christ, the perfect Servant of God, who delivered us from bondage and who is the way of life.

In 1 Corinthians 14:23, Paul warns the Corinthian church against behaving in such a way in their worship service that one who is uninformed will think they are insane. Our worship services should then be basically understandable, even to one who knows little or nothing about Christianity. Obviously this should be understood in a relative sense, for if our worship services are to be rich in worship and praise to God, and edifying to those who are already in the church, there will doubtless be things that go over the head of one who is uninformed. But the goal must be, as Paul goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 14, not simply the spiritual good feelings of those already inside the church, but that those who do not believe will hear there an intelligible call to repent and believe in the gospel.

The question that is sometimes raised about how much of the service should be for the believer and how much for the unbeliever is a bit of a false dilemma, since the believer and the unbeliever need essentially the same thing. Both need to repent of their sin and submit themselves to the Lord, putting their trust in Him for salvation. The same message that converts the unbeliever to faith in Christ is the same message that the believer needs to hear every day. We have a continual need to be reminded of the merits of Christ’s death and the complete confidence we can have in Him. We all need to be reminded of the utter hopelessness of our condition apart from Christ. We all need to see the lies of the world for what they are and the life and truth that are found in God’s truth. We all need to see Christ as the source of our life and hope, and as the perfect example of what we are all called to be, the faithful servant of the Father. We all, in short, need to hear the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and we need to hear it in a way that is clear, direct and understandable, whether one is an outsider, a child in the faith or a mature and seasoned believer.

Inviting people to church is therefore an effective and suitable means of evangelizing your friends and neighbors. We also hope you will encourage your pastor to preach and teach in a way that is accessible to those not well versed in academic theological terminology (in a loving way, of course!) so that all can have confidence in inviting those outside the faith to come and hear the message of salvation.

Fencing the Table

The Lord’s Supper is a symbol and sacrament of the believer’s union and participation in Christ and in His death. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul says, “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” The word “communion” there indicates a communal participation, that we as a fellowship, as a body, receive from Christ the blessings and benefits of His life, death and resurrection. This is what it means to eat His flesh and drink His blood- that by faith, we are strengthened and blessed by the life of Christ, worked in us spiritually.

When we understand this concept, we can also understand why we fence the table. “Fencing the table” refers to the practice of the Reformed (and other) churches of inviting only those who are members of the Christian church to join us in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. For the church to knowingly distribute the elements to those who are not part of His body is to break the message of the Supper, to destroy the symbol of feeding on Christ, since we are actively involving people who cannot feed on Christ, since they do not have faith in Him. Therefore Paul warns us (1 Corinthians 11:28-29) that only those who have examined themselves and are capable of discerning the body of Christ are participating in a worthy manner. “Discerning the body” means recognizing the nature of the body of Christ, the church, and the fellowship the church has with Christ.

We are not to judge people’s hearts. We cannot discern if someone has true faith. But one result of true faith ultimately will mean joining with God’s people in the church and coming under the government of the church. Since the church cannot judge the heart, it can only deal with what it sees, and therefore the Reformed church has long used church membership as evidence that someone is in fellowship with Christ, as far as we can see.

This also agrees with the nature of the sign, since it is a communal participation. Since it is the body of Christ which is communing with Him, and the church is the body of Christ, those that are members of that body are those that rightly commune. Since we cannot know who is part of the church inwardly (since we cannot judge the heart), we must judge who is part of the church outwardly, by membership.

This is why we fence the table. We do so not to condemn or judge anyone, but simply to guard the purity of the symbol that the Lord has given us, as He Himself taught us to do. God alone judges the heart, but the church is called to be faithful in the outward administration of the signs and seals that God has given us.