Ministering to God
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. He was sitting on his throne, high and exalted, and his robe filled the whole Temple. Around him flaming creatures were standing, each of which had six wings. Each creature covered its face with two wings, and its body with two, and used the other two for flying. They were calling out to each other:
“Holy, holy, holy! The Lord Almighty is holy! His glory fills the world. ” The sound of their voices made the foundation of the Temple shake, and the Temple itself became filled with smoke. —Isaiah 6:1-4
There can be no true worship unless the worshiper sees the Lord. When Isaiah saw the Lord in all His honor and glory, he sensed his own unworthiness and he bowed in humility before the Lord. Then the Lord took away his guilt and atoned for his sin. This is the result of true worship.
The Father is looking for true worshipers. The church is called to worship. This is its ministry to God. The church has three ministries—to God, to itself, and to the world. In this lesson we will discuss the church’s ministry to God—in worship, in submission, and in service.
Worship As A Ministry To God
The Necessity of Worship
The church at worship is the truest picture of ministry. We were created to bring glory to God (Isaiah 43:7). As members of His church, we give Him glory through our worship. Worship is the church’s highest privilege and duty, and its most important service here on earth. Worship is also to be the church’s main function in heaven (Revelation 5:8-13).
Let’s look at some reasons why worship is necessary as a ministry to God.
1. Worship is necessary because God desires that we worship Him. God created man to worship Him and enjoy fellowship with Him forever. We have already seen that Adam, the first man, enjoyed close fellowship with God. This is what God desired for all mankind. But when Adam sinned he lost his fellowship with God. His sinful nature was passed on to all mankind. But in a sense we might say that Adam also passed on to all mankind a memory of what it is like to be in fellowship with God. That is, Adam’s fellowship with God before he sinned gives an indication of what God wants to restore in our lives through Christ.
2. Man is born with a deep desire to worship. All men everywhere have a form of worship because they are all born with a desire to worship. But that does not mean that all forms of worship are correct. Those who are not Christians worship what they consider to be their gods. Many people believe that God and nature are one. To these people nature is God, so they worship it. Others have made themselves gods of many kinds. There are even those who believe in an “unknown God” (Acts 17:23). The result is that they worship ignorantly—they do not even realize how wrong they are. Their worship is empty. The Bible says, “Worship the Lord your God” (Matthew 4:10). Worshiping the Lord satisfies our longing to have fellowship with our Creator.
3. God reveals Himself to us when we worship Him. The true God who created man for worship and who desires worship has made Himself known. He has revealed Himself through His creation, through His Son, through His written Word (the Bible), and through the Holy Spirit. God wants to be revealed through His church also. But to reveal God, the church must first have communion with Him and see His glory. “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away . . . . And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:16, 18 NIV).
What Worship Is
The word worship means “to give worth.” When we worship we take notice of the worth or value of someone. Some people misuse the word worship to describe their feelings for someone. You may hear someone say, “I just worship my father,” or “He just worships his children.” What is really meant is “I love my father,” or “He loves his children.” But in both cases the value or worth given to someone is being described.
The word worship properly should be reserved for God alone. To worship God is to recognize His worth. His worth is beyond measure. However, His worth is not to go unnoticed. God’s worth is to be directly related to our worship. “Our Lord and God! You are worthy to receive glory, honor, and power” (Revelation 4:11).
Worship starts with God coming near. God always begins the action to start fellowship with man. God comes close enough to us that we may see His worth and splendor. John 1:18 says that no one has seen God at any time. We do not see God as we see natural things. Worship deals with the unseen and spirit world, for God is Spirit (John 4:24). But as we have already stated, we see God in Creation, through His written Word, and in Christ.
God has come near to man in many ways. He came to Moses in a cloud (Exodus 34:5-8). He came to Isaiah in the temple (Isaiah 6:1-6). But in these last days the writer of the book of Hebrews says that God reveals Himself in His Son, Jesus. Christ “reflects the brightness of God’s glory and is the exact likeness of God’s own being” (Hebrews 1:3).
Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). God made himself known to the disciples through Jesus. They saw Him, they touched Him, and they heard Him. They worshiped Him. But He did not come to stay on earth. He came to die on the cross to atone for our sins, and then He returned to the Father. He left this promise with His disciples: “In a little while you will not see me any more, and then a little while later you will see me” (John 16:16).
When Christ returned to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to be with us. Christ said, “The Spirit will take what I give him and tell it to you” (John 16:15). The Holy Spirit reveals God through His Son to the church. So through His Spirit, God is present in the church, and He draws us unto Himself. Jesus said,
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him to me; and I will raise him to life on the last day (John 6:44). When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me (John 12:32).
Worship is the believer’s response to God. As God comes near and we recognize Him, it causes us to love, reverence, adore, and praise God. God becomes real to us and our understanding of God’s worth results in worship. True worship is spiritual and total.
God is a Spirit, and Jesus said that our worship was to be “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24 NIV). Worship in its highest nature is inward and spiritual. It is not just the outward ceremony of believers. Our spirit has communion with the Spirit of God! This is the type of worship acceptable to God.
The worshiper’s response is with his total being. The Bible says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). The worshiper no longer needs to come before the Lord with animal sacrifices, but with a thankful heart (Psalm 50:7- 15). Worship involves the feelings of the one who worships, as well as the understanding. The more we learn about God, and the better we know Him, the better we will be able to worship Him in truth. The Psalms show man worshiping God with his total being: “Praise the Lord, my soul! All my being, praise his holy name!” (Psalm 103:1). And in Psalm 95:6 the Psalmist says, “Come, let us bow down and worship him; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker.” The act of bowing down or kneeling before someone indicates an attitude of complete submission to that person.
The God We Worship
Who He Is
In the time of the Old Testament, names were often given to people to describe their character. As we read the Old Testament we read many names for God, and these names describe His personality and character. His names tell us who He is and what He does. They help us to understand Him better.
God’s names answer to the needs of His children. When we ask God for something in our prayers, we communicate with Him in a real way—but this is not worshiping. However, God’s goodness to answer our prayers and meet our needs produces the grateful hearts with which we worship Him. The names we use as we worship Him are often related to who God is and what He has done for us.
We cannot list all of the names for God given in the Bible, but here are a few of them:
God of Heaven James 1:17
God of Hosts Psalm 80:7
The Holy One Job 6:10
The Living God Deuteronomy 5:26
Jehovah—The Lord Exodus 6:3
Jehovah-Jireh—The Lord Will Provide Genesis 22:14
Jehovah-Nissi—The Lord My Banner Exodus 17:15
Jehovah-Shalom—The Lord Who Sends Peace Judges 6:24
Jehovah-Shammah—The Lord Is There Ezekiel 48:35
Jehovah-Rapha—The Healing Lord Exodus 15:26
Jehovah-Tsidkenu—The Lord Our Righteousness Jeremiah 23:6
El Shaddai—The Almighty God Genesis 17:1
Immanuel—The Almighty God With Us Matthew 1:23
As you read these names of God, did they remind you of God’s character? Have you experienced in your own life the aspect of God revealed in any of these names? Has He sent peace to your heart? Has He provided healing? Do you feel His presence? How can we do anything but worship and praise our Almighty God!
Now let’s look at three names which describe God’s relationship to His church in His redemptive act:
1. God our Creator. The Bible begins with God in action— He is the God who acts! The first verse in the Bible tells us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). The world did not come into existence by chance. Our God is a God of purpose, and there is a definite purpose and design in all of His creation. We worship Him for His creation. Psalm 19:1 says “How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what He has done.”
Man is God’s special creation. In Psalm 8:5-6 the Psalmist is praising the Lord for His creation of man: “You made him inferior only to yourself, you crowned him with glory and honor. You appointed him ruler over everything you made; you placed him over all creation.”
2. God our Savior. The God of Creation has planned for the redemption of the world which He created. Ever since man fell into sin, God’s actions have been directed toward his salvation. God sent Jesus Christ into the world for man’s redemption, to be his Savior. He saves the individual but He has also promised the redemption of the whole world (Ephesians 1:10). All who will call upon His name will be saved.
The Savior is called the Lamb of God because He has been offered as a sacrifice for the salvation of the world. He is to be worshiped for His salvation. Every creature of all the universe will sing in praise “ . . . to the Lamb, be praise and honor, glory and might, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).
3. God our Eternal King. “To the eternal King, immortal and invisible, the only God—to him be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17). We praise and worship God because He is eternal. “O Lord, you have always been our home. Before you created the hills or brought the world into being, you were eternally God, and will be God forever” (Psalm 90:1). His time has no beginning and no end—He is the first and the last (Revelation 1:8; 21:6).
The rule of the eternal King includes all men—the church and the world. The rule of the King will come as Christ overcomes all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers. Then He will hand over the Kingdom to God the Father. Christ will continue to rule until all enemies are destroyed. Then God’s eternal Kingdom will become a reality:
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. There shall be no more night, and they will not need lamps or sunlight, because the Lord God will be their light, and they will rule as kings forever and ever (Revelation 22:3-5).
What He Has Done
1. God has redeemed us. Not only did God create man, but He has also provided the way to redeem us. It is His desire that no one perish, but that we all live forever. God planned our redemption to save us for Himself. God wants all men and women to be saved so that we will bring honor to Him. All of God’s purposes for us are to bring Him honor and glory. Isaiah 43:7 says, “They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory.” He has provided our redemption so that we might worship and glorify Him.
2. God has given us access to Himself. In the Old Testament the person who would not be cleansed was cut off. He could not come close to the Lord. (See Numbers 19.) In Exodus 30:18 the bronze basin or laver is described. The priests were to wash their hands and feet at the laver to cleanse themselves before they could enter into the presence of God. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read that now we are all made priests. This means that we can come to God directly in the name of Christ. We have been cleansed by Christ’s blood and God’s Word, so that we have access to God (Hebrews 10:19-22).
3. God provides for our needs. God supplies everything for His children. Psalm 23 has brought much comfort to many people. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need” (v.1). The God who gave us life also provides for us while we are on earth. He is not a God of the soul alone, but of the body also. God “gives food to every living creature” (Psalm 136:25). In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus informed His disciples that God cared for them, saying, “Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these things.” We worship Him because He provides all that we need.
4. God has prepared a place for us. The believer’s hope is that in eternity he will enjoy a new heaven and a new earth in the presence of God (Revelation 21:1; John 14:1-3). At that time the kingdom of God will be forever established. The rule of God over all the universe will bring all things in heaven and on earth under the Father. Then the believer will live in an eternal home in an everlasting fellowship with the Father. There we will worship Him forever!
We have seen many reasons why the church ministers to God in worship and praise. Now we will turn our thoughts to ways we minister to God.
How The Church Ministers To God
In Public Worship
The church was born on the Day of Pentecost during a public celebration. The Bible records that the believers met daily and broke bread together. They met in homes or in the temple. They praised God continually, and all the people respected them (Acts 2:41-47). This was their service of worship to the Lord. It was a simple outward expression of their everyday inward communion with Christ.
Where two or three people are gathered in the name of the Lord, there is a church. They may meet in a home or in a hall. The church may be two or three families meeting for prayer or service, or it may be thousands of people gathered in a beautiful building. During a worship service we, the church, show by visible and spoken signs that we live in fellowship with the Lord.
God’s people in the Old Testament met in a temple which was built especially for worship. God talks about His people coming to worship:
“They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge” (Ezekiel 44:16 KJV).
We minister unto God in public worship. This ministry takes place in the sanctuary. It is a place of goodness, truth, and beauty. David sang, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (1 Chronicles 16:29 KJV).
A worship service is a call to worship. The minister leads believers in worship of their Lord. Believers are called to receive in thankfulness God’s gift of fellowship with Him. A Christian worship service contains these elements:
1. Music. Music is a vital part of our expression of worship to the Lord. Glance through the book of Psalms in your Bible and notice the many references to singing praises unto the Lord, or praising Him with musical instruments. When we lift our voices together in songs of praise we are making a joyful noise unto the Lord, and He is pleased with our worship.
2. Prayer. God desires that our prayers include worship and praise. “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; . . .’” (Matthew 6:9). “Come, praise the Lord, all his servants, . . . Raise your hands in prayer in the Temple, and praise the Lord!” (Psalm 134:1-2).
3. Testimony. The Psalms are filled with testimonies of the goodness of God. When we publicly share what God has done for us, the entire body of believers is led to worship the Lord and to believe Him for their own needs.
4. Offering. Giving back to the Lord a part of the material blessings He has given to us is an act of worship. We give out of a heart filled with thanksgiving because of His goodness to us. It is a privilege to give our offering unto the Lord.
5. The preaching of the Word. “Your word is a lamp to guide me and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). “I solemnly urge you to preach the message, to insist upon proclaiming it . . . to convince, reproach, and encourage, as you teach with all patience” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). When we gather together and listen to the preaching of the Word, our hearts are drawn to God in love and worship.
Here are some guidelines to help you create the conditions for meaningful worship of the body of Christ during the worship service:
1. Plan and prepare before the worship service. It is the minister’s responsibility to lead the church in worship. He should prepare his own heart through prayer, and plan the various parts of the service to enable God’s people to enter into worship.
2. Allow for the Holy Spirit to move. There are few experiences in life that compare with worshiping God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24 KJV) A good worship service releases the spirit of man toward God. God meets His people during times of worship. There should be liberty in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit, like the wind which blows where it wills, is not subject to man’s order. Be sensitive to His direction as you worship. There is never disorder when the Spirit is in control.
3. All members of the body should participate in worship. The worship service should be a corporate worship—or worship as a body of believers. The Lord is pleased when the church is worshiping together: “How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1). The body participates in music, in prayer and praise, in testimony, in living, and in responding to the message from God’s Word. Many times in a worship service members of the body are led to minister to one another.
True worship should be sincere. Sincere worship comes from the heart. It should be uplifting and inspiring. It lifts up the Lord, and it draws men to Him. Worship should be reverent. There should be a deep sense of respect and honor towards God. When the church joins together in ministering unto God in worship, there is dignity and a holy, reverent atmosphere.
In Daily Submission
The believer does not worship only in the company of others. The church’s ministry to God depends upon each believer’s personal commitment to the Lord. Our daily life must be submitted to the Lord. He must have first place in our lives.
It will be natural for you to want to worship the Lord privately. Here are some things to keep in mind as you minister to Him personally, and submit to His will:
1. Worship God with faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). It is by faith that we come near to our Lord. Believe that He is the God of Creation and the God of your salvation. Trust in His promises to provide for you all that you need.
2. Worship with real meaning. “Do not use my name for evil purposes, because I, the Lord your God, will punish anyone who misuses my name” (Exodus 20:7). As we call upon the name of the Lord we must sincerely believe in the power of that name. We have seen how the names of God reveal His very character. If we say to others “I am a Christian” (which means “Christ-like”) and then behave in a way that brings dishonor to His name, we are misusing His name. We can worship with real meaning when we are obedient to His Word and honor and respect His name in all our actions.
3. Worship with joy. Psalm 33:1 says “Shout for joy for what the Lord has done; praise him, all you that obey him.” Can you see how true worship depends upon our obedience? When we obey Him we please Him, and He fills our hearts with joy, which we express in our worship.
4. Worship with freshness. Psalm 33:3 says to “sing a new song” unto the Lord. God our Creator is pleased when we create new expressions of love and gratitude to Him. New experiences with the Lord will result in new “songs” for the Lord.
5. Worship with hope. God is our comfort and security. Let us “put our hope in the Lord; he is our protector and our help. We are glad because of him; we trust in his holy name” (Psalm 33:20). In your daily trials and problems, remember that God is the Lord over all the forces of nature, over time, and over every other power. He has given us victory in every situation. We will rejoice in His victory. There is nothing too difficult for God.
In Service to Others
Another important way the church ministers to God is through its service to others. We worship God by serving others in the name of the Lord. Jesus said,
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward (Matthew 10:40, 42).
The apostle Paul also said, “Let love make you serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).
To serve one another can be a physical or material service, but it can have the spiritual purpose of glorifying Christ. A cup of water in His name is a spiritual service. Christ gave an example of service when He washed the disciples’ feet. He fed the multitudes bread, rather than sending them away hungry.
A Spiritual Service
God has given special gifts to the church for the purpose of ministry and service to others (1 Corinthians 12:7). The particular gift or gifts we receive are dependent on God’s place for us in the body, but each gift is given that we might use it in service to other members of the body. We will be talking more about the gifts in the next lesson. Let us be good managers of God’s gifts. The apostle Peter wrote these words concerning our service to others:
Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins. Open your homes to each other without complaining. Each one, as a good manager of God’s different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. Whoever preaches must preach God’s messages; whoever serves must serve with the strength that God gives him, so that in all things praise may be given to God through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and power forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:8-11).