This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
Now, you heard that Ruth and I were going to make a proclamation. We’re going to be very generous, we’re going to make two proclamations. They’re both connected with the message I’m going to bring. The first one is from John 4:24–25:
“But the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The second one is from 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24, and we make it personal:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify us completely and may our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls us is faithful who also will do it.”
You will have understood that my theme is worship, the noblest and the loftiest theme that any preacher can ever deal with. I feel inadequate but I’m going to do the best that God will enable me to do.
To introduce this theme I want to turn to a place you wouldn’t expect which is the book of Leviticus, chapter 2, verses 1–11. I need to say something about what the theologians call types. This is a word that’s frequently used amongst Bible teachers. A type is something in the Old Testament which is simple, practical and usually material, but which foreshadows something in the New Testament which is spiritual. So we speak here in Leviticus about material things but the real thrust of them is to a spiritual realm and particularly to worship. I’m not going to read all eleven verses but I’ll just read selected verses.
“When anyone offers a grain offering to the Lord his offering shall be of fine flour, and he shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it.”
Now the grain offering was meal or flour that had to be ground very small. It typifies in a way our offering, our lives to God. God wants our lives ground very small. He wants everything just the way that He can deal with it without anything that resists or opposes His will.
Now, when we offer our lives to God that way as a grain offering, two things we have to do. We have to pour oil on it and put frankincense on it. All through the Bible oil is nearly invariably a type of the Holy Spirit. So, we can’t offer anything to God unless the Holy Spirit enables us to offer it.
Then frankincense is a kind of aromatic gum which comes from trees. In its natural condition it’s usually whitish in color and has no particular attractive qualities. But it is burned it sends forth a beautiful, very distinctive aroma. That aroma typifies worship. In fact, in most places in the Bible where you find the word describing incense or scent or aroma it refers to worship.
And so, when we offer ourselves to the Lord we have to do it by the Holy Spirit and we have to do it with worship.
Now, something different happens to the oil and the frankincense. If you go on in verse 2:
“He [the offerer] shall bring it [the meal offering] to Aaron’s sons the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense. The priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.”
So, there has to be a priest to offer the offering. He takes just a little portion of the flour and the oil and casts it into the fire of the offering. But, this is very important, he takes all the frankincense. This is a lesson the Charismatic movement needs to learn. The worship goes only to the Lord. It is a sin to offer worship, to give frankincense, to anyone but the Lord. And in recent decades we’ve seen many distinguished and well known Charismatic figures come tumbling down in disaster. I think one main reason has been that they have sometimes permitted their followers to take a little of the frankincense and give it to the preacher.
As a preacher I want to say I never want frankincense. Sometimes people come up with flattering words, I’m grateful for that. But bear in mind worship only goes to one person and that’s God. The one whom we worship is our god. And if we worship a preacher we are making him our god. That is a terrible thing to do.
Then in chapter 2, verse 11 it goes on:
“No grain offering which you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven or any honey in offering to the Lord made by fire.”
These are further instructions. You must not offer any leaven. Now, in 1 Corinthians 5:7–8 you, you don’t need to turn there, Paul speaks about celebrating our Passover, which is Jesus Christ, with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. So, withholding leaven means you’re offering in sincerity and truth. Bear in mind it’s very dangerous ever to make any commitment in prayer or worship to God which you won’t stand behind. Because, the book of Ecclesiastes tells us there’s an angel recording everything we say. One day you’re going to have to answer to God for what the angel has recorded. Ecclesiastes says don’t say it was a mistake. It’s too late to take it back. You have to be sincere.
Somebody said once it’s just as much a sin to sing a lie as it is to tell a lie. I’ve thought of that many times. When we sing that beautiful hymn, “All To Jesus I Surrender,” I ask myself, not cynically, I wonder how many people are really doing it? So remember, no leaven.
And no honey. Honey is sweet, it’s tasty. But, when it’s burned it’s a sticky mess. So don’t offer any honey. No sweet words. Don’t say anything to God that you won’t stand behind. That’s excluded.
All right. One more, Leviticus 2:13:
“And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt. You shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offerings. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.”
That verse explains the significance of salt. It indicates a covenant relationship. And so, when we offer to God, God requires that it’s on the basis of our covenant relationship with Him. And the key word for covenant is commitment. God only receives acceptably offerings that come from a committed heart and a committed life. A life that is in covenant relationship with God through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Let me just recapitulate and move on. It’s important to lay hold of these principles before we go into what I could call the mechanics. Every offering has to be offered with olive oil and frankincense. Olive oil typifies the Holy Spirit. We have nothing that we can offer to God acceptably without the Holy Spirit. A little of the meal and the oil is put in the fire but all of the frankincense is put in the fire. Never offer worship to anybody but the true and living God.
And then it says no leaven or honey. Unleavened means sincere and truthful. Don’t say anything to God you don’t really mean.
And then it says salt, that means pray out of a covenant relationship with God. God only relates people permanently on the basis of a covenant. There is no pattern anywhere in the Bible of God entering into a permanent relationship with any person or any group or any nation except on the basis of a covenant. We only have a permanent relationship with God on the basis of the covenant that He has made with us and we have made with Him through the blood of Jesus Christ.
All right. Now the next thing I want to say is something I’ve discovered. I’ve had the privilege of being able to read the Bible both in Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New. I decided some time ago to look at all the words which described worship both in Hebrew and in Greek. I made a discovery which to me was surprising because it altered my whole concept of worship. I discovered that every word that describes worship describes a posture of the body, without exception. Every word describes a posture of the body. I’ll give you some examples.
We’ll start with the head and work downwards. Genesis 24:26, Abraham’s servant had been sent to Mesopotamia to seek a bride for Abraham’s son Isaac. He didn’t know where he was going and he didn’t know whom he would meet. But, the Lord directed him without his knowing it to the family of Abraham’s brother, which was the traditional way to seek a marriage in those days. And so, when he realized that Rachel whom he’d met was Abraham’s niece, it says:
“Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the Lord.”
So one specific act of worship is to bow down your head.
And then in Exodus 4:31 we have the scene when Moses and Aaron returned from the desert to bring to the people of Israel in their slavery in Egypt that God had come down and committed Himself to deliver them from their slavery. They gave the message to the elders. How did the elders respond? It says in Exodus 4:31:
“So the people believed and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.”
Now there’s hardly any situation in which you cannot bow your head. There are other situations where some of these physical postures would be difficult. For instance, when Ruth and I have a meal in a restaurant we nearly always say our famous prayer which lasts a long while and I won’t repeat it. We really couldn’t easily adopt some unusual posture but we can always bow our head. That’s a thing you can do almost anywhere. So bear that in mind next time you have a meal in a restaurant, presumably you’ll say a grace. Don’t keep your head upright, bow it. It makes a total difference to your whole relationship with God. It’s a very simple act but it’s a very significant act.
And then we have some examples from David who was a great worshiper. David gives us two different postures of the hands that represent worship. In Psalm 63, a very well known passage because there’s a chorus attached to it. Psalm 63, David begins with some beautiful words:
“O God, you are my God. Early I will seek you. My soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”
He was in the wilderness of Judah when he gave this prayer to the Lord. Then he goes on to say in verse 3:
“Because your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you. Thus I will bless you while I live. I will lift up my hands in your name.”
The lifting up of your hands in the name of the Lord is an act of worship which is described many times in the Bible. Certainly, in most churches you can lift your hands up. In some churches they might think it a little strange but maybe you can help them to understand.
And then in Psalm 141:2 David describes another posture of the hands. He says:
“Let my prayer be set before you as incense...”
Now what does incense tell you immediately? Worship.
“...the lifting up my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
You know in the temple they had to offer every day a morning and an evening sacrifice. David says:
“Accept the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice at the close of the day.”
And then in Psalm 143:6 David describes another posture of the hands:
“I spread out my hands to you. My soul longs for you like a thirsty land.”
Notice the language of longing for God again.
“I spread out my hands to you. My soul longs for you [as in] a thirsty land.”
I think there’s a difference in the significance of those two attitudes of the hand. When you lift up your hands you’re acknowledging God’s majesty, His sovereignty. When you spread out your hands you’re open to receive.
I remember last year Ruth and I were in a meeting in Holland and they were having some really wonderful worship. Ruth stretched out her hands as they were worshiping. Then she said to me, “My hands are getting so heavy I can’t hold them up.” The Hebrew word for glory is the same as the word for weight: cheved and chevon. I said, “God is putting His glory in your hands.”
See, I want you to see how real God is dealing with our bodies. We’re not disembodied spirits floating around, we are people who live in very real physical bodies. God wants complete control of our bodies in worship.
I don’t know how many of you, most of you, some of you don’t know who painted it but this famous, famous picture which is, I suppose, the best known work of art representing prayer, Albrecht Dhurer’s “Praying Hands,” isn’t it remarkable that he didn’t portray the mouth or even the face. It was the hands that represented the attitude of prayer and worship.
Now, another person who spread out his hands to the Lord was King Solomon when he dedicated the temple that he’d built in 2 Chronicles 6:12–13. But Solomon went a little further, he didn’t only spread out his hands, he also went through into the next attitude of worship. 2 Chronicles 6:12–13:
“Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel and spread out his hands. Solomon had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits broad and three cubits high, and had set it in the midst of the court. He stood on it, knelt down on his knees before all the congregation of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven.”
Now, I’m not going to do that but you understand not only did he spread out his hands but he went down on his knees.
I grew up in the Anglican church and there are some things in the Anglican church I didn’t fully appreciate. But two things I like about the Anglicans. First of all, they always read the scriptures. When I got saved I was a pagan, really. But the people that I was fellowshiping with, Pentecostals, they said, “How do you know so much about the Bible?” I said, “It’s all come back to me. The Scriptures that I heard read in boyhood in the church, they just came flooding back to me.” So, don’t underestimate the importance of reading Scripture.
And then the other thing they used to do is kneel down. I was well enough brought up to know when to kneel and when not to kneel. I didn’t always appreciate kneeling. They used to have in those days one of those sort of little benches with a pad that you put your knees on which was very comforting. But, I have to say don’t despise everything that the, quote, liturgical churches do because a lot of what they do is more right than some of what the Pentecostals and the Charismatics do. Nobody has all the answers.
Now another person who knelt down, how many of you know where I’m turning to in the New Testament? Ephesians 3:14. Paul said:
“For this reason I bow my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So when Paul prayed, worshiped, one of the things he normally did was to bow his knee. You see, bowing your knees is an act of total submission and it’s very important. I find lots of Christians who are not totally submitted to God. When God does what they like they’re submitted. When God does things in a different way from what they want they complain. They argue. They get upset. One of the key words that we all need to learn again today is the word sovereignty. It’s almost dropped out of most Christian’s vocabulary but it’s a fact about God. He’s absolutely sovereign. I define it this way, “He does what He wants when He wants, they way He wants, and He asks no one’s permission.” I’m going to say that again. “He does what He wants when He wants, the way He wants, and He asks no one’s permission.” The sooner you get hold of that fact and bow your knees, the easier it will be for you to lead a victorious Christian life. God does things in our lives we don’t think He ought to have done. A lot of you here have got some kind of complaint with God. Be very careful.
One of my great-grandchildren, a little girl who is about seven years old now, was born with a heart problem. She went through a very difficult time. For several years she didn’t put on weight, she didn’t become as strong as she should have done. But then the problem was wonderfully resolved by surgery. Now she’s healthy, active. But her father, my grandson, said, “I had a difficult time really in some way getting through to her.” As a matter of fact, Ruth and I were on the phone with the parents. We said, “You know what the problem is? She really hasn’t forgiven God for what she suffered. It proved to be the key to that situation.
It’s very interesting, this isn’t part of my sermon but I’ll just give it to you for free! The other son in that family, the grandchild, is a son. He’s a little younger than his sister. While he was watching television he saw something horrific or frightening and he couldn’t get it out of his mind. He couldn’t sleep at night. My grandson spent hours with him praying for him to go to sleep. He’d stay up till 2 a.m. and it didn’t work. Then God spoke to my grandson and he said, “Who decides what your child watches on television? Is it you?” He said, “Lord, it ought to be.” He said, “You’re responsible for that condition in your son. You have to go and ask his forgiveness.” And when he did that and asked the forgiveness of his son, the whole problem was resolved.
See, sometimes our problems have different roots than what we think.
So, bowing the knee is an act of worship. Furthermore, sometime in the future everybody is going to do it. So you might as well beat the gun and do it now. Isaiah 45:23, it’s the Lord speaking:
“I have sworn by myself that to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.”
God is going to insist at a certain point an acknowledgment on His total sovereignty from every living creature in the universe that has knees. That includes grasshoppers and all sorts of things. Every knee shall bow.
And again, Paul says in Philippians 2 it’s going to be specifically to Jesus that we’re going to bow, not just to God the Father. Speaking about the exultation of Jesus in Philippians 2:9–10 he says:
“Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”
So one day you’re going to have to do it. You might as well do it voluntarily now. That, remember, is an act of worship.
And then there’s another activity of the hands that we didn’t deal with which I believe could be called an act of worship. Sometimes the borderline between worship and praise is very fine. I’m not trying to come up with some final definition. I think praise and worship often merge into one another. Either we go through praise into worship or we come from worship back into praise. But here’s another activity which I love. Psalm 47:1:
“O clap your hands all you peoples, shout to God with a voice of triumph.”
So when we clap our hands we’re worshiping God. Worship is not some rigid posture that you sit in, it’s an activity of the whole body. It says also shout to God with a voice of triumph. A lot of Christians think that to shout means to sing loudly. It doesn’t. Not at all. It means to shout. I’m glad it does because I couldn’t sing to save my life. But I can shout and I’m going to show you how to do it. I think you should stand up at this point if you don’t mind. I’ll give you one demonstration. I’m a little hoarse today. “JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!” Okay? All right. Now you feel better. You see, you changed your position, your circulation was beginning to suffer.
Now, I want you all to do it. Altogether with all your lungs so that they can hear us even down in Miami. All right? I’ll give you a 1, 2, 3. “JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!” Hallelujah! You see how that liberates us? We’re silly if we don’t do it. I didn’t expect a reaction like that but I thank God for it. You may sit down if you can.
We come to another which is the most used description of worship in the whole Bible and it is falling prostrate on your face before God. When you do that, that has a meaning too. The root problem of the fallen human race is the desire to be independent of God. It started with Adam and Eve. They wanted knowledge so that they wouldn’t have to depend on God. And when they got the knowledge, the first thing they discovered was they were naked. But that is born into every descendant of Adam, it’s this innate desire to be independent of God. It’s called technically the old man, the old Adam. God has only got one remedy for the old Adam. Do you know what it is? He doesn’t send him to church or Sunday School or teach him the golden rule. Or, get him to join the Kiwanis. His solution is execution. But the good news is the execution took places nearly 2,000 years ago. When Jesus died on the cross our old man was crucified with Him.
I think I’ve got time to relate an experience that happened to me many years ago in the 1950s when I was pastoring a very small congregation in the center of London. We would go out three times every week and hold an open air meeting at Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch. Some of you have been there maybe. I want to tell you it’s not anything like it used to be because they changed the whole layout. And also in those days people didn’t have anywhere to go. There was no television, they probably didn’t have money for a movie. And so we got hundreds of people there. And most of our congregation was built up by people that we won to the Lord through those street meetings.
Well, one night I had a dream and in this dream I was watching a street meeting like we have with the people standing around in a ring and a man in the middle preaching. But I said to myself what he’s saying is pretty good but I don’t like the way he looks. He looks kind of hunchback and he had one leg with a built up boot. There was something a little bit crooked about the whole of him. So I thought that’s strange. About a week later I got precisely the same dream. I thought to myself God must be trying to say something to me. I said to the Lord, “That man in the middle of the ring, what he was saying was all right but he wasn’t attractive to look at. Who was the man?” And God answered as Nathan answered to David, “Thou art the man.” He said, “Your preaching is all right but there’s things in your nature that I don’t approve of.”
It was just about Easter time and as I walked around I had this inner mental picture of three crosses on Calvary’s hill. The middle cross taller than the other two. The Holy Spirit, He’s got a sense of humor. He said, “Now tell me, for whom was the middle cross made? But think before you answer.” I thought and I said, “For Barabbas.” And He said, “That’s right.” But He said, “Jesus took the place of Barabbas.” That’s a thing you don’t often realize. The cross was made for somebody else.
Then the Holy Spirit said to me, “I thought Jesus took your place.” I said yes. Then He said, “You must be Barabbas.” It came with a revelation. I never argue with people but I saw that I was the criminal for whom that cross was made. It fitted me exactly. This was my old nature, the old Adam. Then I realized God’s remedy. Our old man was crucified with Him. It’s an historical fact. It’s true whether you know it or whether you believe it. But if you know it and believe it, it can change your life.
You see, all my days in the Anglican Church, I don’t want to keep going back to that but I think we would kneel down and we would say, “Pardon us miserable offenders,” which was the correct thing to say at that time. And my fifteen year old mind said was if all religion can do is make you a miserable offender, I can be an offender without religion and not nearly so miserable! So that was my conclusion which was not a good conclusion.
But then I would say to myself as I walked out of church, “I wonder if my sins were forgiven?” I didn’t have any assurance, I thought maybe they weren’t. But then I said to myself, “Listen, I know perfectly well I’m going to go out and commit exactly the same sins that I’ve already confessed. So does confessing my sins make me acceptable to God or does it make Him angry if I confess sins that I know full well that I’m going to repeat again.” You see, I didn’t have the answer. The answer is not only are your past sins forgiven but your old rebellious nature is dealt with. When he’s dealt with you don’t have this rebel inside you urging you to do the things that are wrong.
I’ve met people, like most preachers have, who travel halfway around the world to resolve their problems, run away from a wife or a situation or, I always tell such people, “Listen, you can run as far as you like but you’ll never get away from your problem because it’s inside you. That’s your real problem.”
Now, how did we get there? Tell me that. I was dealing with the fact that the ultimate act of worship and the most commonly described one in the Bible is to prostrate yourself on your face before God. This, too, has a meaning. It means total dependence on God. It means, “Lord, I can do nothing without you. I can’t even start.” See, every time I preach now, I did it this morning, I tell God, “God, I’m totally dependent on you. If you don’t give I have nothing to give.” I always feel secure when I say that. I don’t always get down on my face, although Ruth and I were both on our faces this morning before this meeting in our bedroom. I’ll tell you, I feel secure on my face because I can’t go any lower. I think it was John Bunyan who said, “He that is down need fear no fall, he that is low no pride. He that is humble ever shall have God to be his guide.” See, when you’re on the floor and say, “Lord, I’ve come as low as I can come. There’s only one way I can go from now on, that’s up.” It’s a secure feeling.
Let’s look at a few of the people that ended up on their face before God. In Genesis 17, the Lord appeared to Abraham twice. It’s a very important chapter because the Lord made an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants to be their God and to give them that little strip of land at the east end of the Mediterranean as an everlasting possession. I just mention that, I’m not going to dwell on it. So the first time when the Lord appeared to Abraham, Abram he still was at that time, in Genesis 17:3. It says:
“I am Almighty God, El Shaddai. Walk before me and be blameless. I will make my covenant between me and you and will multiply you exceedingly. Then Abram fell on his face and God talked with him.”
And a little further on in the same chapter, and we’ll read from verse 15:
“Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai, your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her and also give you a son by her. Then I will bless her and she shall be a mother of nations. Kings of people shall be from her.’”
Remember, she was well past the age of bearing children.
“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed.”
Incredible, he said, how could the Lord say such a thing. But at the right time it happened. But you see, Abraham was pretty used to being on his face before God. I think if you check, almost all the great men of the Bible at some time or another, every one of them was on his face before God. That’s the way to greatness. Get on your face before God.
There’s one more act of worship. I’m not saying these are all but these are the ones that I have traced. 2 Samuel 6:14. David had at last succeeded in getting the ark up to Jerusalem. He had a lot of problems because the first time the first crew that was assigned to do it, God killed one of them and they had to take the ark off into a place and wait and see what they had to learn. The lesson was nobody may touch the ark but the Levites. And that’s the lesson we still need to bear in mind. There are things of God which may only be touched by the people whom God has set apart to touch them.
Well, eventually they got back with all sorts of music. There was the ark installed in Jerusalem. And it says in verse 14:
“Then David danced before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod.”
Which is an item of clothing you put on over, which makes you, in a sense, a priest. So David danced before the Lord with all his might. David was a mighty man of valor so when he danced with all his might I don’t think there was any muscle in his body that wasn’t moving. It’s clear from the description that he was leaping up and down. What’s that? Worship. See, you’re not really liberated until your whole body is liberated.
I’ve gotten to the stage in life where my legs don’t always do what I want them to do. But I learned this secret many years ago, about 1965. I was in a church in Chicago and there was an English preacher whose now with the Lord, a dear brother of mine named Harry Greenwood. Harry had a tambourine and a voice and he danced. Some of you may have been in meetings that he held. I sat there more or less in the front row, looked at him and I thought, “I wonder if that’s right.” But he went on dancing, he didn’t ask my permission. After a while I said to myself, “If he can do it, I can do it.” So when I got up on the platform I started to dance. When I started I lost count of time. I mean, I went on so long that somebody went away to their apartment, got a camera, came back and photographed me. But I’ll tell you what, I was liberated. I’ve been an instrument of God to liberate many.
I was in the big meeting of the Tennessee-Georgia CFO camp in Tacoa, Georgia. I was up there on the platform, I finished my message, I didn’t know what to do next. I’ve been a real fan of the ballet. I mean, there was a time in my life many years ago when I would be in the front row and know all the movements and everything. I thought, “I’m going to dance.” It was a large platform, I danced all the way around the platform and came back to the pulpit. Well, the Spirit of God just moved into that meeting. Everybody was liberated. Not because of me but because that’s one of God’s ways of liberating His people.
Now there’s another side of this story. If you look down at the end of chapter 6 in verse 20, David returned to bless his household.
“Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet David and said, ‘How glorious was the King of Israel today? Uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself.’ So David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore, I will play music before the Lord and I will be even more undignified than this. I will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be had in honor.’”
And the last verse is sad.
“Therefore, Michal, the daughter of Saul had no children till the day of her death because she despised her husband for dancing before the Lord.”
That’s sad, isn’t it? But it’s very, very dangerous with your natural, critical, carnal mind to criticize people that are enjoying the Lord. They may be inexpert, they may be not highly educated but God likes it. He wants to be enjoyed. So be careful.
I think this will probably have to be removed from this cassette but some of you have heard about the quote, Toronto Blessing. Thousands of people have gone to Toronto to see what’s going on. A friend of a friend of ours, a minister, went there and when he’d seen things he said, “Lord, how much of this is really of you?” This is his testimony. The Lord said, “About twenty-five percent. But that’s a lot more than in most churches.” I’m not saying that’s an authoritative statement. Those who criticize, let alone to do it better, that’s all I can say.
When I speak with a family in a foreign language and they speak in English to me and it’s a little incorrect I say to myself, “I’ll not criticize you until I can speak your language better than you can speak mine.”
So, let’s move on. I know you’re thinking why the body? What’s the importance of the body? Jesus said we must worship in spirit and in truth. Well, the second scripture we proclaimed was “may our whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless.” So total personality is spirit, soul and body. You have to understand the interaction between them. It’s brought out in one very familiar verse, Psalm 103:1 where David says:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
Now, what was talking to David’s soul? His soul wasn’t talking to itself? What was saying to the soul, “Bless the Lord?” David’s spirit, you see? David’s spirit was on fire. David was in contact with the Lord. And bear in mind it’s the spirit that makes direct contact with the Lord, not the soul, not the body. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:
“He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”
Not one soul or one body. Your spirit is the highest part of you that can be God conscious and can be united with God.
Your spirit being stirred up by the Spirit of God says, “We’ve got to do something about this. Don’t just sit there, do something. Get excited. Bless the Lord.” The soul which is what you’d call the gear lever of the personality, the soul is what makes decisions. The soul says, “All right. I decide. I’ll get my lips, my organs of speech, doing it.” So that’s the route that’s followed. The Spirit deals with the soul and the soul deals with the body.
Now in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says there’ll be a difference between our present body and our resurrection body. Verse 44, he says:
“Our present body...”
The English translation says natural but that doesn’t by any means express the meaning. It’s a soulish body. Our body in eternity will be a spiritual body. So what’s the difference between a soulish body and a spiritual body? Well, a soulish body has to have the soul to set it in motion. See? The spirit can’t operate the body direct, it has to go through the soul. I don’t know how this will work out but in heaven, in eternity, we’ll have a spiritual body. The spirit won’t have to go through the soul, the spirit will just say, “Let’s praise the Lord,” and that will be it. “Let’s dance.” Do you believe they dance in heaven? I certainly do.
So, what I’m saying is to get your whole personality in tune with God and responding to God as God desires, your spirit has to work through your soul to move your body. That’s the way it comes. And so, when your spirit wants to worship God there’s not much it can do without the cooperation of the soul and the body. And a spirit that cannot worship God because the soul and the body do not cooperate is an imprisoned spirit. The body for that spirit is a prison, shut up, unable to respond. And you see, that’s the problem with millions of Christians, especially Christians who’ve got their Christianity from what we call the west, whatever that may be. We have given people a picture of Christianity, and thank God we give people the Word, we give them the Bible, but we give them a very incomplete picture of church, of worship. Now when people do the real thing they feel strange because we’ve conditioned people to expect the abnormal.
It’s slightly different in this congregation, I’m glad to say, but basically when most people go into church their physical movements are very limited. They walk in, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up and walk out. Isn’t that right? I mean, I went that way for years. That is not what God wants. We are frustrating God if we conduct ourselves like that. God wants worship the way I’ve described it, from the head to the toes and everything in between.
I just want to take one further pattern. I want to speak about three things that are very closely related. Thanksgiving, praise and worship. All of them are good but none of them are a substitute for the other. By thanksgiving, and this is a generality, we acknowledge God’s goodness, His kindness. By praise we acknowledge God’s greatness. But by worship we acknowledge what? The one indefinable quality of God which is holiness, that’s right. This is where it’s at, you see. Without true worship there’s very little that relates to God’s holiness.
You see, God’s holiness is unique. God has many, many other wonderful characteristics. He’s wise, He’s strong, He’s just, He’s clever. But we can see all those to some very fragmented extent in people around about us. But holiness we can see only in one person, in God. This is the unique revelation of God. We’ll come to it a little further.
So, let’s consider the relationship between thanksgiving, praise and worship. We’ll turn to Psalm 100:4:
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, into His courts with praise. Be thankful of Him and bless His name.”
That describes the appointed way of access to God. It never varies. If you want to get in through His gates it’s with thanksgiving. If you want to pass through His courts it’s with praise. God has never changed that. You can pray without all that but you’re at a distance. You’re like the ten lepers who stood at a distance and cried out to Jesus for mercy. And, He had mercy, He heard their prayer, but they never really had access to God.
I make it a general principle and I only make an exception if there’s some immediate crisis. I never pray without starting to thank God and then to praise Him. After that I know I’m in contact with Him. So, that’s the way into God’s presence.
What do you do when you get into God’s presence? Psalm 95 tells us. We’re going to read the first seven verses but not all at once.
“O come let us sing to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.”
We won’t go through that again but note it says shout, not sing loud.
“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God and the great King above all gods.”
So, how do we get into the presence of the Lord? Thanksgiving and praise, exuberant praise, shouting joyfully. That brings us into the presence of God.
Why do we praise Him? Because of His greatness. He is the great creator.
“In His hands are the deep places of the earth. The heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it. His hands formed the dry land.”
We are relating to Him as the great creator of all. But that is not the end of the journey. How would you think about me if every Sunday morning I got an airline ticket from Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta, got off at Atlanta, bought a ticket back and came back to Ft. Lauderdale. You’d say what are you spending all that money and time for? Why don’t you do something in Atlanta? That’s like the majority of Christians. We go through all the procedure to get into God’s presence and then we get a ticket and go back again. We haven’t done the thing we came for. If I can communicate this to you it will change the way you think.
So, what do we do next? We’ve come into His presence with praise and thanksgiving. Verse 6:
“O come let us worship and bow down.”
You see what worship is? It’s a posture of the body. What did we get to go through all the process for? To do what? To worship. It is ridiculous to go through all that wonderful song service and whatever else, get there, turn around and walk out. You’ve missed the whole purpose for which the thing was ordained.
Now, what happens? Verse 6:
“Let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our maker...”
You see how uniformly it’s an attitude of the body.
“...for He is our God...”
How do we acknowledge Him as our God? By what one thing? Worship. Worship is only to God. You can praise men, you can thank men but you cannot worship anybody but the Lord. This is the unique act by which we say, “God, you’re our God. We worship you.” We just don’t stand up and say we worship you, we kneel down and we stretch out our hands and we bow down. We put our whole being into it.
You know what I’ve noticed in the world of entertainment, and I’m no expert on this, but there are two racial groups that really are particularly successful as entertainers. One is the Jews and the other is the blacks. I mean, this is my observation. You know, I asked myself what do they have in common because I’ve had a lot of dealings with both. The answer is they put all they’ve got into it. You see a Jewish entertainer or a black comedian, they are totally involved. It’s not just the performance, it’s them.
That’s the key to worship. Be totally involved. This isn’t the end. Verse 7:
“For He is our maker and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.”
Now you’d think that verse 7 would stop there but it begins a new sentence and doesn’t finish the sentence till the next verse. Now this is astonishing.
“Today if you will hear His voice...”
When do you hear His voice? When you are in worship, that’s where you hear the voice of the Lord. We have prophecies that are given at many times and I always listen carefully and many of them are wonderful. But, when there is an atmosphere of worship and a prophecy comes it’s nearly always right on because that’s where we hear His voice.
You see, if you just go through the exercise, fly up to Atlanta, turn around and fly back, you’ve missed it all. You haven’t heard the voice of God. Desperately we need to hear the voice of God.
Now, there’s something that goes with worship, I don’t have much time to go into it. You read the story of Mary, the sister of Martha. The two things we know about Mary. Number one, she sat at the feet of Jesus. There was Martha cumbered with much serving. How many Christians today are cumbered with a lot of service? Mary just sat at the feet of Jesus. Martha said, “Listen, this isn’t right. Tell her to help me in the kitchen.” Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the better part which shall not be taken away from her.”
Then later in the house of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, after Lazarus had been raised from the dead they made a banquet, which is a good thing to do to celebrate somebody who has been four days dead and come alive again! I mean, at least you can make a banquet. It says Martha served, Lazarus sat at the table but what did Mary do? Oh, this is so beautiful! She took the most precious thing she had, an alabaster bottle of very precious ointment. It was worth about two thirds of a year’s salary. It was nothing cheap. She broke the alabaster, it could never be replaced; and poured all the oil on the head of Jesus. What was the result? Fragrance. What’s fragrance? Worship. All the religious critics, and some of them were disciples, said, “Why did she waste this money? This could have been given to the poor.”
It’s funny. Some people are very concerned about the poor just when somebody is spending something on something else. Jesus said, “You always have the poor with you. You can help them any time.” The one who criticized the most was the one who was taking money out of the box for the poor, did you notice that? See, what a mistake they made. There was this beautiful fragrance and their critical attitude kept them from enjoying it. Jesus said, “She’s kept this for my burial.”
See, sitting at the feet of Jesus she learned something no one else had learned. She knew He was going to die. She said, “I want to anoint Him in good time.”
You read in Mark 16:1, the other women came after He was resurrected with all their perfumes. Too late, He was risen, He didn’t need the anointing.
I want to emphasize going together with worship is sitting in the Lord’s presence. This is something God has been teaching Ruth and me for a few years now. We have a dear brother names Johannes Facius who is the leader of International Intercessors. He’s one of the ones who’s spearheaded this in the contemporary church. He says sitting in God’s presence is wasting time on Jesus. Just like the women wasted the ointment on His head. Some people would consider it a waste but in the Lord’s sight it is precious. You see, there is a direct connection she sat at the feet of Jesus. She was the one that worshiped. So, don’t separate time in God’s presence from worship. In fact, the two really flow together.
Over the years Ruth and I have had a prayer list that we used to pray ever Wednesday, quite a long prayer list. We keep records of it. But some years ago God showed us that He wanted something different. The way it’s developed now is when Wednesday comes we have no agenda. We just literally sit in the Lord’s presence. You’d be surprised, we are surprised what comes up. It’s never dull and it’s never a repeat. God has got something new for every Wednesday. I want to encourage you, take time, sit in the Lord’s presence and worship Him. It will change you. It will change you radically. More than anything else you do, worship changes you.
I just want to take a quick look at Isaiah 6. This is one of my favorite chapters. This is the first scripture that was read in the meeting when I got saved. It has a special meaning for me but I won’t go into that right now. Just starting at the first verse in Isaiah 6:
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting on a throne high and lifted up. And the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim [or seraphs], each one had six wings. With two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.”
Now, seraphs have six wings, cherubs have four wings. You find the cherubs in the first chapter of Ezekiel, you’ll find the seraphs again in Revelation 4, the four living creatures each had six wings. So, we’ll just look at what these ones in Isaiah 6 did with their wings. It’s such a wonderful picture of the relationship between worship and service.
With two they covered their face, with two they covered their feet. That’s a posture. What is it? Reverence, worship in the presence of almighty God. With the remaining two they flew. What’s that? Service. How many wings for worship? Four. How many wings for service? Two. Do you see the relationship? That’s the heavenly pattern. Twice as much given to worship as to service.
I believe it should be that way in the body of Christ. I don’t think we can improve on heaven’s pattern. I think much of our service which does not proceed out of worship is wasted time. Only service that really proceeds out of worship will accomplish the purposes of God.
We have a dear friend who is known to a few of us here. A very wonderful, active sister. I mean, active is an understatement. We were talking about this to another brother and Ruth said, “Well, she uses all six wings for flying.” This brother said, “Yes, but she has eight wings.” But how many people do you know like that, they use all six wings for flying, they never take time in the presence of the Lord. They never offer Him the most sacred thing which is worship.
You know the word seraph means a burning, fiery creature. The modern word in Hebrew for a fire, serefa. In other words, it has that meaning all through the Hebrew language. What do they say? “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” You turn to Revelation 4, which we won’t turn, you find the same seraphs saying the same thing. It never changes. The word holy is the only word that’s applied three times to God, it’s unique. It’s in the Old Testament, in the New. It is the unique characteristic of God which is without anything that we can relate to it on earth until we relate to God. Until you’ve come into a relationship with God you have no concept of holiness whatever. Holiness is not righteousness. Righteousness is wonderful. Job was a righteous man and he maintained his own righteousness before the Lord for chapter after chapter but when he saw the Lord in His holiness he said, “I’m unclean.” That’s the difference. You can meet righteous people, thank God. But anybody who hasn’t met God cannot be holy.
Then it says in verse 4:
“The posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out and the house was filled with smoke.”
What kind of smoke? Incense. What does that mean? Worship.
And notice just one more thing which is very significant. In verse 8 Isaiah says:
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?’”
The Lord wasn’t talking to Isaiah, He was just talking. Why did Isaiah hear His voice? Because he was in an attitude of worship. That’s where you hear the voice of the Lord.
Now, let’s come to the fifth chapter of Revelation and this is where we’re going to close. Some time ago, a year or two ago, I said to Ruth, “We don’t read Revelation often enough.” I said, “It’s a hard book to understand but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t read it.” So we said we’ll read it. We read it once, didn’t get anything out of it. Read it the second time, didn’t get anything out of it. I said, “Never mind, it’s the Word of God, we’ll read it.” Well, the third time it began to mean something to us. Now when Ruth says, “What shall we read?” she knows the answer before she asks. Revelation 4 and 5. I could spend all day in these chapters but we don’t have all day to spend. This is the throne room, Revelation 4, it’s where the universe is run from. There’s one key word, it’s the word throne. In a chapter of eleven verses it occurs fourteen times. This is what goes on at the throne room of the universe and there’s one supremely characteristic activity, it is worship. And the four living creatures say just the same as they said in Isaiah 6, they haven’t changed. I’m sure they haven’t changed today. They’re still saying the same:
“‘Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God almighty who was, and is, and is to come.’ Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne.”
That’s a pattern of heaven, that’s worship in heaven. They fell down before the one who sits on the throne.
You know, sometimes we sing things we don’t know what they mean. When I was a regular churchgoer in the old days, now we don’t sing these hymns so much so it’s a pity we don’t, really, what does it say? “Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him Lord of all. Let angels prostrate fall.” I’ve looked at churchgoers standing stiffly in their pews and singing, “Let angels prostrate fall,” and I said, “That would be fine for angels but not for us. Don’t ask us to do anything so undignified.” Well, that’s the way they do it in heaven so if you can improve on heaven, you try. I’m content to do my best to do what they do in heaven.
Now we have this scene of the one who sits on the throne with the scroll, which is the unfolding revelation of the book of Revelation. A strong angels says with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and read?” No one was strong enough, no one could do it in all of heaven. John began to weep because he, like me, wanted to know what’s in the scroll. One of the elders said to him, “Don’t go on weeping, it’s all right. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed to open the scroll.” John turned around expecting to see a lion but what did he see? A lamb as if it has been slain. He says:
“I looked and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as though it had been slain, having seven eyes which are the seven spirits of the God sent out into all the earth. He [the lamb] came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.”
What is the lesson? The lesson is if you want to be a lion you have to learn to be a lamb. God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Paul said, “I will most rather glory in my infirmities, in my weaknesses, in my problems.” A lot of you think, if you think anything, “I’m not strong enough. I can’t really serve the Lord, I don’t have the strength.” You’re problem is, my dear brother or sister, you’re too strong. If you could learn to be weak God’s strength would operate through you. This is a wonderful lesson. The lesson of the lion is the lamb.
Now, we close with this, it’s a picture of the whole universe worshiping. It’s worth taking just a few moments. Beginning at Revelation 5:8:
“When he had taken the scroll the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the lamb...”
What did they do? Fell down.
“...each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”
That’s exciting but we don’t have time to dwell on it. That’s how our prayers get up to the presence of the Lord, in golden bowls full of incense. What does incense typify? I didn’t hear you. Worship.
“They sang a new song...”
I’m giving you the version of the NIV. The reason I’m doing that is I’m reading from the New King James but the text followed in the newer translations is a much better text. It’s not a question of translation, it’s a question of the text. It makes a difference here so I’m going to do it. Verse 9:
“They said, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals. For you were slain and have redeemed men to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made them a kingdom and priest to our God. We shall reign on the earth.’”
So this is the first circle of worship. It’s the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders who fell down and praised God for His mighty act of redemption through Jesus.
Then it goes further. John says:
“Then I looked and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures and the elders. The number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand...”
Incidentally, this is the way they still speak of millions in the Chinese language. Ten thousand times ten thousand is a hundred million. And then there are millions more. When you think that one angel in one night could destroy 175,000 Assyrian soldiers, what do we need to worry about? I mean, there’s millions of them, hundreds of millions.
So, they took up the refrain. They said:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”
Now it’s spread to the whole heavenly host but that’s not the end. Verse 13:
“Every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and such that are in the sea, and all that are in them are heard saying, ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.’”
Every creature to the farthest bounds of the universe involved in one thing, worshiping Him.
And then it goes back, verse 14, to the four living creatures. They said amen and the twenty-four elders, guess what they did? It’s getting monotonous. Fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. Can you see that picture? The center of worship is the throne and it extends in ever widening circles to the utmost bounds of the universe. Everything, everything is doing one thing. What’s that? Worshiping. And who’s at the center? The Lamb. Isn’t that glorious. Amen.