The Issue of Worship
In the previous lesson we saw that the Bible is God’s word to us and speaks with the authority of God to us regarding many things. One of the most important revelations we can receive from the Bible is the character of God. The Bible tells us what God is like – his attributes, his ways in dealing with mankind, his heart. Our traditions, preconceptions, experiences and reasonings do not always tell us the truth about God. The Bible does however.
God wants us to worship Him and know Him personally. This can only happen through the work of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, we may know about God, but we will not know Him and experience relationship with Him. God reveals Himself to us through the Word and the Spirit working together. The Spirit will never reveal God as being different to what the Scriptures reveal. We must not believe every spirit, but test the spirits. (1 John 4:1)
It is true that there are many religions in the world today that seek to capture the heart and mind of man. These religions consist in a set of beliefs about the world and what we must do to be all we should be. Religion derives its main sources from the traditions of men, and from the inspiration of Satan and his evil spirits. It always involves man working to make himself better. The power of false religion comes from Satan and evil spirits. Like occultism, false religion is a tool of Satan to deceive people. If necessary, Satan will use visions, dreams and miracles to enslave people in false ways. Many times all he needs to do is to appeal to the pride of man – the desire of man to improve himself and be praised by others.
All forms of Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Animism and other non-christian religions – while perhaps containing some elements of truth here and there, are basically the product of evil spirits and the fallen minds of men. As Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” (John 10:7,8). All witchdoctors, shamans and religious teachers of non-Biblical doctrines and practises being used by Satan to destroy the souls of men, whether they know it or not. Even in this life the destruction coming from their teaching is evident.
True Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. We are called into a relationship with God – not into bondage to a set of rituals, observances, traditions and customs. Many of the largest so-called churches have mixed much paganism and religious tradition with the teaching of the Bible – and thereby teach a false way of salvation. They still teach that man must save himself through rituals, good works and faithfulness to the organisation. This is not the Bible way. “For by grace you have beensaved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8,9).
We are called to worship God in Spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). We worship God because of who He is. We must worship from the heart, and according to the truth the Bible reveals of who He is and what He wants from us. No ritual or religious observance or act of charity can ever substitute for our first duty to worship God alone in spirit and truth.
God wants us to know what we worship. We cannot know what God is like except through what he shows us of Himself. We cannot decide who God is, and we cannot know the truth about Him guided by our limited reasoning power alone. A committee of men cannot decide who God is. God cannot accept religious compromise or traditions which contradict His word, no matter how many people want to follow them. His Word is the final authority in matters of worship and faith.
In the ten commandments (Exodus 20) we read:
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or likeness of anything that is in heaven above … you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God.
The second commandment in essence says that we must not falsely represent who God is and worship a God of our own imagination, desires and preferences. We cannot represent God by any object, picture, piece of art. We certainly must not worship or pray to any such representations. Doing this insults God. It would be like someone representing you by a picture of a cockroach.
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in Truth! (Jn 4.24)
God is revealed in six ways:
a. Through creation.
b. Through conscience.
c. Through the Bible.
d. Through Jesus Christ.
e. Through direct revelation by the Holy Spirit.
f. Through Christians filled with God.
WHAT CREATION REVEALS OF GOD
The heavens reveal the glory of God. (Ps 19.1). God’s glory is the manifestation of how great He is. This includes His power, His riches, His majesty, His importance, His beauty and something of His nature.
The firmament shows his handiwork. Creation, especially space, reveals God to be an infinitely intelligent, wise and knowledgeable Being. As old as the Universe is, its Creator must be older. In fact, He is eternal. This message has gone out to all peoples in all times. (Ps 19:3-4).
While wicked men try to grasp hold of the unproven and ever-failing theories of evolution, the fact remains that the multitudes of beautiful designs evident in the earth point to a good Creator of infinite wisdom and knowledge and power. Furthermore, the knowledge of God throughour consciences – the inner sense of right and wrong, reveals God to have a moral character and to be the Judge of all. Paul the apostle concludes on the basis of all this that sinful mankind is totally without excuse. They suppress the truth that God has shown them, and thereby bring down God’s judgment on themselves. (Romans 1:18- 20).
Creation reveals God’s goodness. God made nature to be full of balances and protection for his creatures. Despite man’s abuse of the world, things go on thanks to God’s infinite wisdom and foresight. Creation reveals God to be an artistic and scientific master who pays attention to detail and creates many good things for people to enjoy.
WHAT THE BIBLE REVEALS OF GOD
Concerning the Attributes of God:
1. God is omnipotent (Jer 32.17) He’s got the power to do whatever He wants. Rev 19.6
2. God is omniscient (knows everything). Ps 147.5. 1Jn 3.20
3. God is omnipresent. (Ps 139.7-12; Jer 23.24) He fills heaven and earth and there is no place where He is not there, watching. Not only that, but as Creator God also stands outside the heavens and the earth (Gen 1.1) He is not, as the doctrine of Pantheism says, simply “everything that is”.
4. God is eternal, before all things (Col 1.17), and without end (Ps. 102.27) (Ps. 90:1-2)
5. God never changes. (Mal. 3.6; Heb 13.8)
Concerning the Character of God :
1. God is love (1 John 4:8). God is the great lover of people – even people that have been corrupted by sin. He cares about us, He is patient and kind with us, He has good plans for us. (Jer. 29:11)
2. God is Holy (Ps 99.3). Holiness is spiritual beauty. It is also total moral uprightness and separation from all that is unclean or evil. Like a diamond in the light with many faces, each of God’s attributes shines out in perfect balance. There is no defect in God’s character or nature.
3. God is righteous (honest, impartial, fair). (Deut 33.24; Ps. 116.5). What he does is always right and fair from a moral point of view. As Judge of all the earth, God is a just judge. He judges with fairness, knowing all the facts and all the intentions of the heart. (Rom 2.16)
4. God is good. (Ps 136:1). He wants good things for people and for the universe. Jesus did the will of the Father, doing good and healing those who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38). However, God does not force people to be good, and it is because of the evil in people that there is suffering in the world.
5. God is truthful & has integrity, as does His Word (Num 23.19; John 17:17).
6. God is faithful (keeps his promises). 2Tim 2.13.
7. God alone is wise in Himself (Rom 16.27) – that is, he knows what He is doing and is doing it in the best way. Any wisdom we may have received comes from God, not from our own independent creativity. Wisdom is knowledge correctly applied to achieve the right purpose.
8. God is forgiving and kind by nature (1 Jn 1:9; Pr 28:13; Matt 5:45). He blesses even His enemies at times and longs that his kindness will lead them to repentance so that He can forgive them. (Rom. 2:4)
The Doctrine of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit
A mark of a false cult is that they deny the Trinity. That is the doctrine that God is one, yet manifested in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each is God and yet there are not three Gods but one.
How can we understand this?
We cannot fully understand God or we would be greater than God. It is therefore not surprising if we cannot fully understand this Biblical idea. However, an illustration from nature may help. Ice, liquid water and steam are all water and have the same chemical formula. Yet they manifest differently, although than can all exist at the same time (at 4%C). Like this the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God, yet may manifest differently yet at the same time. A good example of this is found in the story of the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3.16-17. Jesus, the Son of God is baptised, the Spirit descends as a dove, and the Father speaks “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
The Bible reveals that God is one (Dt 6.4). But Jesus said, “I and My Father are One.” John 10.30. Christians are not worshippers of many Gods, as some Muslims may claim. But with God there is plurality in unity. Just as we are spirits, have souls and live in a body and yet are not three individuals but one (1 Thess. 5.23), so God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and yet One. In fact the word for “one” in Hebrew does mean a plurality in unity.
Then God said, “Let US make man in OUR image…” (Gen 1:26). Man is a three part unity just as God is three-in-one.
God is revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Mt 28.19). Clearly the Father is God. (Eph 1.2, 1 Cor. 8.6). But from the Bible revelation we can also say that Jesus is God. He is not just the Son of God as seen in Lk 22.70 and Matthew 16.16. He is fully God because all of God dwells in Him bodily.
For in Him [Christ] dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus accepted worship (Mt 8.2; Mt 28.9) but He Himself said to worship only God (Mt. 4.10). What could this mean but that He knew Himself to be God? God’s angels will not accept worship. Rev. 22:8-9. That is why Jesus is not an archangel as some false cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses claim. They say Jesus is just a “mighty god” when shown the passage in Isaiah 9:6. But this passage also calls Jesus, Everlasting Father. That is because all of the Father dwells in Him. Jesus is not created. He is the firstborn over creation (Col. 1:15) which in Greek means that He is inheritor and Lord over Creation. Not surprising, since through Him all things were made. (John 1:3). He is the eternal Wisdom of God. Although He submits to the Father within the Godhead, as does the Holy Spirit, He is not less than God.
Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (Jn 14.9). Jesus’ life revealed the Father heart of God to man.
We should also know that the Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit is not a force or a power. He is a person. Acts 5.3,4 reveals that the Holy Spirit is God, since lying to the Holy Spirit is called lying to God. He speaks (Acts 13.2; Jn 16.13). He guides. He has a mind (Rom 8.26,27) which searches even the deep things of God. He has feelings. He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30). A force or power does not have these properties.
LOVE AND THE NATURE OF GOD
As we have stated before, God is good (Ps. 136:1; Nahum 1:7) He wants to do good. He has given good things for us to enjoy (1Tim 6:17). The Bible says that God is love (1Jn 4:8)
God acts for the good of the entire universe according to His infinite knowledge and wisdom. Yet He leaves room for the free will choices of men and the activity of Satan’s Kingdom so that he can have tested, mature sons who love Him from the heart. That is His purpose. This explains why God permits evil to exist for the time being.
God’s thoughts and plans for us are plans for good, not for evil. (Jer 29.11).
God’s love for us caused Him to sacrifice His precious Son Jesus for us, to take the guilt of our sins away and to make it possible for us to become transformed as adopted sons of God.
Being Love, it is not surprising to know that God is also compassionate (Mk 6.34). He is moved by our sufferings and wants to help us. We may have been evil, but God is also forgiving & merciful (Ps. 103.3) to those who confess and forsake their sins, trusting Him. (Pr. 28:13; John 3:16)
THE FATHER-HEART OF GOD
God is a Father (Matt. 6:9). A true father is a protector, a healer and a provider who provides not only things necessary for life but also identity to his children. God provides a place of security for His family. God is all these things to us also who have received His Son Jesus as Lord and Saviour. You can be sure that God is thinking many thoughts of love towards you. (Ps. 139:17).
Being a good Father, He gives good gifts (Jas 1.17), especially to His children who come to Him in trust and ask Him. (Mt 7.11). God’s children can come to the Father through Jesus (Jn 14.6) and His shed blood. (Heb 10.19-22). We will understand this better in later lessons.
The Father is our Healer (Ex. 15.26). We can come to Him knowing that He wants to heal our hearts, souls and bodies. Jesus revealed this by healing all who came to Him with faith. If you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father, since God’s Character is Revealed in Jesus Christ (Jn 14.9)
SATAN AND EVIL SPIRITS
Our understanding of the basic spiritual realities of the universe would not be complete without also understanding something concerning Satan and his forces. Satan is the great enemy of God who rebelled at the foundation of the earth. Some ask how Satan ever came into existence. Here is the Bible answer.
God created multitudes of angels, including at least three archangels: Lucifer, Michael and Gabriel. Angels are spirit beings which may or may not manifest themselves in a visible form (usually not). All angels were created good and holy but Lucifer, the chief worship angel decided to exalt himself and led a rebellion in heaven against God (Ezek. 28:13-15; Is 14:12-14). Lucifer and his angels were cast out of heaven and became Satan and his evil spirits (2 Peter 2:4). Satan is active today in the air (Eph 2:2), in the earth (Job 1:7) and also under the earth, in hell. Not being everywhere at once, as God is, he works through his forces, including fallen angels and demons. These spirits seek to live in and work through people, usually in a hidden way – usually not openly. The results of Satan’s work are still evident in our world today. Jesus came to destroy these works. (1 John 3:8).
Satan is therefore the author of evil. His chief desire is to receive the worship that belongs only to God the Creator (Matt. 4:8-10; Rev. 13:4). He also works in his hatred against mankind to destroy them as much as he can for time and eternity.
Why does God permit Satan to exist and have so much power? Is God unable to destroy Satan? No, God could do it, but Satan is permitted to operate for certain reasons. Firstly, so there could be a choice – people must choose to worship God now – there is an alternative. Secondly, Satan and his kingdom exists to ensure that people reap what they sow. Thirdly, Satan is permitted to operate while God gives mankind time torepent. For God could not forcibly remove evil from the Universe justly unless He also destroyed sinners at the same time. God instead is holding back his wrath, giving men time to turn to Him.
Like his evil spirits, Satan has a mind, emotions, and a will which is in rebellion against God. They are persons, not forces. See Luke 11.24 for proof of this. No matter what people may say, these spirits still exist and work in different ways around the world. Many pagans know this fact better than ignorant preachers and ministers who in their pride no longer trust the account of the Bible.
CHIEF ACTIVITIES OF SATAN AND DEMONS
1. They tempt people to sin, by putting various kinds of imaginations in the minds of men and women and speaking words of deceit. (Gen 3:1-6)
2. They deceive (2 Cor 11.14). They especially lie about God, blaming all the evil on God. Many religious leaders are deceived by Satan.
3. They hurt and torment through sickness (Acts 10:38), death, breakdown of human relationships leading to strife, war and violence.
4. They threaten (producing fear) (2Tim 1.7).
5. They dominate, or enslave (2 Tim 2.26). Satan seeks to recruit slaves through the power of witchcraft and other forms of false religion. He gives power or money or sexual pleasures in exchange for various forms of worship and obedience. But Satan always double-crosses his servants, so they too become victims of his hate. Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
6. They accuse God’s people so that they have reduced effectiveness in their prayers and their relationship with God.
7. They harrass – through repeated attacks on mind, emotions, body or through inspiring persecutors to make life hard for Christians.
8. They glorify themselves through witchcraft, false religion and other tools like the occult and much of today’s popular rock-and-roll, rap and metal music.
Fear, hate and pride are the major motivations in Satan’s kingdom.
Jesus said that the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. If you make friends with such a person you are a fool. (John 10:10).
We are called to war against Satan and evil spirits (Eph 6.12). Only in Christ’s power and authority can we drive them out of their positions of influence. If we are in right relationship with God we have nothing to fear. If not we should cry out to God for deliverance.
Satan’s works include sickness, inspiring false religion, strife and wars, creating poverty and oppression, leading people to torment and hell. He tries to rob Christians of their inheritance in Christ.
The subject of deliverance from evil spirits will be dealt with in a later lesson.
FALSE VIEWS OF GOD
These false views of God are chiefly promoted by Satan and his demons. They themselves are responsible for much of what people blame on God.
Lie #1: God is hard and unfeeling, and enjoys seeing us suffer. This can be seen from the things that happen to us in the world.
Biblical answer: God has compassion on people. (Mk 6.34) He feels with us our pain, and has provided salvation for us. He is not hard and uncaring, distant and unmoved. Suffering is the result of the evil choices of man and the work of the devil. God has given our moral choices real significance. Sin causes pain, curse, death and judgment. But God did not make us to sin.
Lie #2: God is impersonal and doesn’t care what we do. He just administrates the Universe like a giant computer.
Biblical Answer: This is the lie of Deism. The truth is, God is love, intervenes in creation all the time, and wants to be a loving Father to us, if we will just let Him. The Bible speaks of God’s personal involvement with people. And millions of Christians can testify of God’s concrete involvement in their lives, backed up with hard facts.
Lie # 3: God is so loving He would never punish anybody and certainly never in hell.
Biblical Answer: WRONG! God is also a just God, taking delight in justice and judgment as well as in lovingkindness (Ps. 9.17. Jer 9.23). Jesus warned of hell more than anyone (Matt. 5:29,30). God will not renounce justice in order to save you from your folly and rebellion. Justice demands that the crime of rejecting God and doing evil must be punished. The good news is that Jesus took the punishment for you so that if you turn back to God you can stay in loving relationship with God and know eternal forgiveness and salvation.
Lie #4: God is always looking to find our mistakes and judge us for them.
Biblical answer: NO. God takes no pleasure in finding sin. He is not like the Pharisees who looked for a reason to accuse Jesus. He wants mercy, not sacrifice. (Mk 3.1-6; Matt. 12:1-7; Lk 9.51-56) For this reason also, God has provided the blood of Jesus to cover our mistakes, faults and sins.
CONCLUSION: To relate with God properly we must understand that He loves us, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb 11.6). We should believe the Word – not the world’s view of God, the teachings of religious tradition or our own philosophies or imaginations.