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19 February 2008

Who Can Worship God?

Open-ended questions on a blog are not always a good thing for a number of reasons:

1) I can't control comments; I can only perform damage control, and the damage control (deleting a comment) may be more damaging than the comment itself.

2) A lot of you are "lurkers." That is, you read but never comment. Therefore your thoughts are never made known. This may be due to insecurity -- you fear that someone will read your comment and poke holes in your reasoning or think it's generally silly. Or I suppose it may be that you simply have better stuff to do with your time.

3) There may not be many (or any) comments, and then the whole purpose of the post will be defeated.

Nevertheless, I will dive in with this question-post. I ask that you be overly kind to one another in your comments. Also, be aware that the comments made by others may not jive with your beliefs (that's why I preface the question below with "Based on Scripture...").

Church fellowships typically meet on weekends for "worship services." With the arrival of Easter, there will doubtless be masses of people joining in those services for the once-a-year ritual to please mom and dad, to get their neighbor to shut up about God and the church, to ease their conscience enough for them to check the "Christian" box on the Harris Poll they'll fill out in the coming year, to wear a suit or dress they'd otherwise never wear, or for any of a number of other reasons that I can't think of.

By saying these things, I am not suggesting that those in this group are inferior to those who attend church regularly. I'm not suggesting that I'm superior because I've arrived at any particular place in my life or spiritual journey or that God somehow loves me more than He loves them. I certainly do believe, though, that I've met Someone they need to know personally. But I digress. Back to the worship service...

Based on Scripture, who can worship? That is, who is able to worship God? I shall jump-start things with Psalm 24:3-4 (NKJV):

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
         Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
         Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
         Nor sworn deceitfully.


Tony M said...

In Exodus 12, God provides instructions that are potentially inclusive of foreigners among the Hebrews who wish to celebrate the passover, and in Exodus 20, He similarly indicates that the laws (the ten commandments) apply to foreigners living among them as well as to the Hebrews (specifically in regards to keeping the Sabbath). (These are fresh on my mind from the one-year-online Bible reading plan, which is why I mention them first.) So it is evident that non-Hebrews were allowed to participate in the celebrations (and required to participate in the laws) of the Hebrews.

Several passages in the Psalms call for all the earth to worship (e.g., in chapter 66, verse 4; in chapter 96 verse 9). In Matthew 15:21-28 a Gentile woman comes and makes a request of Jesus, and when He initially "refuses" her she worships Him. And in Luke 23:44-49 we see even a Roman officer in charge of the execution worshiping God.

From these passages, it seems to me that anyone can worship God; however, they also hint that it does require a realization of His majesty, authority, reality, etc. in order for that worship to be genuine. At least, that's my initial take on it... feel free to correct my Biblical nearsightedness - you won't offend me in the least.

Christy said...

Tony did a great job answering this one, I think. My input will be that anyone with a submissive, reverent and surrendered heart can worship God. Also, I believe that it is ONLY those with the above mentioned who will WANT to worship God.

Preston N said...

I hope my response is not too "theological" here, but I feel it is very beneficial to biblically define a topic before entering into a discussion - so my apologies if I get a little "theo" here.

First, how does the bible define "worship". If we look to either the Hebrew or Greek definitions we see common terms used to define this word. The Greek word for worship is proskuneō - it literally means to "kiss your masters hand" or to bow or humble yourself. The Hebrew word is shâchâh - the root of this word literally means to prostrate yourself or submit and be in full obedience to either a King or master. Therefore, I think we get a pretty good word picture here of how we are to see and understand God's definition of worship.

So with these definitions in mind we must then ask does the bible give a clear instruction on how God desires man to worship him? The first verse in scripture that gives us a very clear idea of God's standard for worship is Exo 34:14 where is says:

"for thou shalt worship no other god: for Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God"


Deu 30:16-18 in that I command thee this day to love Jehovah thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, that thou mayest live and multiply, and that Jehovah thy God may bless thee in the land whither thou goest in to possess it. (17) But if thy heart turn away, and thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; (18) I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish; ye shall not prolong your days in the land, whither thou passest over the Jordan to go in to possess it.

So the question that bears asking is a sinner one who fully loves God or is a sinner one who is actually an enemy of God and loves himself more than God? If God's standard of "worship" is complete and total submission of the heart and mind, then I would say that sinners definitely do not fall within God's standard and will not be recognized as true or genuine worshippers (as a matter of fact there are many verses where God gets pretty upset and insulted when sinners would try to worship Him thinking they could sway Him to their side). When a sinner worships God they do so with selfish reasons or ambitions in mind and not because they truly love Him. Sorry for how long this is - but thats my 4 cents.

Jeff M. Miller said...

Dean, you might be interested in this post over at my friend Stephen's blog.

My 2¢: Anyone can "worship" God in a surface way, and I think the reasons given here speak to that. However, only those with the Spirit of God within them can worship "in spirit and in truth." Without the Spirit, true worship, the kind of worship God is worthy of receiving, is impossible.

But that's just me...

Jane said...

OK, so I read this post this morning, but didn't have time to write before I left the house. Been thinking about it the whole time (well, not the WHOLE time, but a lot), and was ready to post my reply... only to see that everything I was going to write has already been written!

Still, I won't let that stop me from commenting. (As if!)

My very first thought was along the lines of Preston's... let's define the "what" (worship) before we define the "who." I'm so glad Preston posted his comment first, as it saves me time! :)

Anyone can participate in what we, the modern-day American church, call acts of "worship" -- anyone can attend a service, sing songs, give money, join in prayer, listen to a message, join in a responsive reading, take communion (and, yes, I know it is intended for believers only, but it's not like we're checking IDs), even shout out an occasional "Amen!" and "Praise the Lord!" Yes, anyone can do this. And these can most definitely be acts of worship (please don't think I mean that they are not).

But the greater challenge is laid out (no pun intended) for us in Romans 12:1.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. (emphasis mine)

I have to say that a recent study on this passage gave me a greater understanding of Paul's exhortation here. It would take too many paragraphs to really get in depth, but the idea conveyed here is one of a burnt offering -- where ALL of the animal is laid out and consumed.

Kay Arthur brought it to life when she explained that, with a burnt offering, if a part of the animal fell off the altar, the priests would use flesh hooks to pick up any part that had fallen, and put it back on the altar.

That's what God is looking for: people to be fully laid out on the altar for Him. This is a kind of worship that only those who truly know Him and love Him will be willing and able to do, because He is the enabling us to do so. (He will pick up those flesh hooks and bring us back on the altar, where we belong, because He loves us and He has called us!)

Interestingly, this word "worship," latreia in the original Greek, means "service." Anyone can serve, yes, but in this context (Rom. 12:1) He is calling us to present our ENTIRE BODIES for service/worship. Every part of it. Inside and out. The beautiful parts and the ugly parts.

Why? In view of God's mercy. When we finally recognize what, by the grace of God, we have been saved from, where we would be without His grace and mercy, we will not be able to do anything but worship Him. How could we not?

Ummm... wait. What was the question?

Oh, right... can anyone worship?

Bottom line, anyone can go through the motions. None of us will ever know if the brother or sister beside us is genuinely worshiping Him or just faking it, nor is it our place to know. Someday God will separate the wheat from the tares; that's not our job.

So, maybe the only question we should be asking is, "Am I really worshiping God?"

[Sorry if this went way oof topic...]

Jane said...

"Oof" topic?!

That would be "OFF" topic.

Tony M said...

I think most of you have correctly interpreted what I failed to adequately imply: that real worship requires the relationship, while anyone can demonstrate "outward" worship. I know there's no scripture backing this post, but I think that's been adequately and sufficiently covered by the previous comments. And I like the comments about needing to define what is meant when you say "worship" - that does make a difference in who can.

Dean Lusk said...

Thanks for the comments and references.

I believe that "worship" is really a self-defining word, and that's what I was hoping to get at.

Cecily said, "None of us will ever know if the brother or sister beside us is genuinely worshiping Him or just faking it, nor is it our place to know."

This is something that I had to learn through repeated conscious effort. In most settings today, where we often see certain people once a week (in a church service), this is truth.

But I also believe that as we live worship daily (by loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength), there will be little doubt as to whether or not our personal spirits shine with the reflection of God's glory as a result of being in His presence.

(By the way, now I want to post something examining the use of the phrases "worship service" and "church service.")

Tony M said...

"Now I want to post something examining the use of the phrases 'worship service' and 'church service.'"

Heh-heh, you go gir- er, guy! Sorry, that doesn't really belong, and I don't really say that, ever; it just seemed to fit...

Anyway, looking forward to that post and the comments it'll be bound to generate (assuming, of course, you don't say everything that needs saying about the two terms in your initial post).

Still enjoying the blog/discussions, by the way! Keep up the good work!

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