"The Foundation of Worship (Part 3)"
November 1, 2022 | Jim Micheff | President
Worship starts as an attitude (reverence) and results in action (submission to God). Over time it becomes a state of being. The foundation of true worship is a reverent love so strong we are willing to give our entire self, our thoughts, and emotions, to God’s use. All of life then becomes an expression of our submission to God. Worship originates in the heart temple before any outward expression is given.
Paul describes this in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 when he says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own. For you were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God’s.”
Ellen White says, “All men have been bought with this infinite price. By pouring the whole treasury of heaven into this world, by giving us in Christ all heaven. God has purchased the will, the affections, the mind, the soul, of every human being. Whether believers or unbelievers all men are the Lord’s property” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 326).
God refuses to force allegiance, granting each of us the choice to accept His offer of reconciliation or reject it. If we accept it, we must also cooperate with Him in preparing us for heaven. We do this by exercising our power of choice. The Holy Spirit gives both instruction and power to obey but Satan is constantly opposing by suggesting doubts and mixing truth with error. Our choices in life shape who we become.
Who Will You Worship?
Character formation is a normal process but without divine power we will naturally develop characters stamped in resistance and defiance against God. If we accept God’s offer to recreate a Christlike character in us, we must also allow Him to establish an inseparable connection with Him maintained through reverence and submission. Your character will determine who you will serve and ultimately how you will worship.
When God set aside a special time to meet with Him, the Sabbath was established as an integral part of worship. The Bible tells us that the Sabbath is a sign of allegiance to God and Sunday is a sign or mark of the Beast’s authority. Whichever day we choose to identify with and how we observe it will determine who we acknowledge as our Master. The line in the sand between heaven and hell is over worship–more specifically who you worship.
The Seal of God and the Mark of the Beast both essentially delineate character. God reads the heart. Before Jesus’ second coming (Revelation 7:2, 3) an angel is sent to place the seal of God or the stamp of His approval on those who have Christlike characters. Everyone else has the stamp of Satan’s character set in insubordination and disobedience.
God’s plan is not to just rescue us out of this sinful world but to demonstrate His power to transform us in the very presence of rebellion. Because worship involves every aspect of our life there are many different factors that influence and even inhibit our connection with God. False worship is manifested when one gives lip service to God but their heart longs for the world.
The children of Israel had pledged their love and loyalty to God. While Moses was still on the mountain receiving the 10 Commandments, the leaders of Israel grew restless and desired to engage in the worship style they had been accustomed to in Egypt. With the sound of God’s voice ringing in their ears saying, “You shalt not make for yourself a carved image... you shall not bow down to them nor serve them...,” they demanded Aaron to make an image of a golden calf that would represent God. Under the pretense of worshiping Him, they proclaimed a special service to the Lord incorporating the false worship of Egypt. Satan was able to manipulate all who chose to participate by appealing to their emotions and carnal desires. The result was a total disregard for God and His law.
The Music, Worship Connection
There is a special connection between music and worship. When King Nebuchadnezzar set up his image in the plain of Dura and called all the leaders throughout his kingdom to submit to his absolute authority by bowing down to his image, he was demanding that they worship him as god. To facilitate this, he incorporated music. Only those who refused to participate in this false worship were able to stand true to God.
God created music to draw His creatures to Him. Music itself is not worship, but it gives us a way to express our love and submission to God–which is worship. Music can be controversial, perhaps, because it can either enhance or inhibit true worship by subtly setting the attitude of the mind.
Paul explains in Romans 8:7 that “the mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God, it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” He is simply telling us that we are in rebellion against the authority of God and, without help from above, we will never change.
Lucifer, before his rebellion, led the heavenly choir and directed all praise and worship to God. He understands that when God is the center of worship the natural result is allegiance and loyalty. When creatures offer their praise through music, their hearts are naturally drawn to the Creator’s goodness, love, and majesty.
After his rebellion, Satan tried to turn attention away from God. He cannot create something from nothing so the only thing he can do is rearrange what God has already created. By rearranging and reorganizing notes, beat and tempo, he can redirect the focus of music from God to man, strengthening the natural resistance to God.
Satan does this by subtly turning the focus, and unsuspectingly shifting the emphasis away from God to the performer’s abilities and skills. The natural effect is applause for man. This type of music can be presented loud and fast or soft and slow, but both are in step with the beat of the carnal heart and instinctively we desire more. One of Satan’s most successful deceptions is to get people to believe that the different music styles are just about preference. We must acquire a taste for heavenly things.
There are only two kinds of music – one that leads to God and one that leads away from Him. Because the devil tries to make some of his music appear to be God’s music, it can be hard to distinguish between the two. It makes it even more complicated when the music resonates within us, and we experience an initial feeling of connection with spiritual things.
God’s music always leads to Him and magnifies His Word. For example, psalms/praise songs extol the goodness and mercy of God. Hymns contain theology written in poetry and set to music. Knowing that Jesus resisted temptation using scripture, Satan wants to distance us from hymns and the theology woven through. One method is to arrange and design praise songs so that there are few words placed in repetition, relieving the intellect from processing the content while the beat of the music moves the emotions. Jesus warned about vain repetitions in prayer and that principle can also be applied to music.
Meaningful words repeated can be constructive, but vain or shallow words set to the right beat can numb the mind and allow the emotions to direct the body. In many cases the produced effects on the body are like those at worldly events where emotions are heightened and jumping up and down and swaying to the beat of the music is expected. Our expressions in worship cannot be a mirror image of the world. In scripture, when people encountered the manifested presence of God, they immediately bowed down in reverence and submission recognizing God’s power and authority.
John warned, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him....” (1 John 2:15).
How has God instructed us to worship who are alive just before Jesus comes?
Before the death of Christ, the worship service consisted of sin and thank offerings sacrificed to God on altars. This was a symbol of God’s Gift to us. God accepted these sacrifices if offered with reverence and submission to God. It was by faith people offered blood sacrifices. It is still by faith that we claim Jesus’ blood sacrifice and God’s promise of redemption after His death.
Our form of worship, post-resurrection, is to bring ourselves, our own lives, as a living sacrifice to God. This is holy and pleasing to Him. “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture” (Psalm95:6, 7).