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Today's Bible Q&A with John MacArthur

True Worship, Part 2

John 4:20-24 January 3, 1982 2005


It's important for us to understand what the Bible teaches about worshiping God. We began our series by briefly looking at John 4:20-24 as the basic text (which we'll examine in more detail later on) and then by moving to a definition of worship. We defined worship as "honor, homage, reverence, adoration, praise, or respect given to God." In John 4:23b, our Lord instructs us to "worship him." Worship, then , is giving respect or honor to God. It is to that end that we are called.


In our last lesson we discussed the following:


A. Scripture Is Dominated with It

B.  Destiny Is Determined by It

1.   Unacceptable worship (see pp. 14-16)

a)   The worship of false gods

(1) Earthly / material gods

(2) Heavenly / supernatural gods



Now, picking up where we left off last time, let's look at three more kinds of unacceptable worship:

b)   The worship of the true God in a wrong form

God will not accept the worship of a false god, nor will He accept the worship of the true God if offered in the wrong way. Why? Because the worship of the true God is very specifically established in Scripture, along with the proper mode and manner.

An illustration of worshiping the true God in a wrong form is found in Exodus 32. Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the law from God. And while he was gone, the people, under Aaron's leadership, decided to gather all their gold together, melt it down, fashion it into a golden calf, and worship it. Now, they were not worshiping some other deity; the golden calf was their representation of Jehovah God. They reduced God to an image and were worshiping Him in an unacceptable way. When Moses returned from Mount Sinai and saw what was going on, he got so angry that he threw down the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written and shattered them (v.19). Even God's wrath was so great that He threatened to destroy the entire generation (v. 10); but He was gracious (v.14), and only 3,000 men lost their lives as they were executed on the spot (v. 28).

God will not accept worship that is offered to Him in an unacceptable manner. It's unacceptable to reduce God to an image, a material representation, an idol, or anything that is a result and product of one's own thinking. I often hear people say, "I worship God as I perceive Him to be." Well, if your definition of God doesn't square with the Word of God, your worship is unacceptable-even though you may identify it with the true God.

That leads me to a third kind of unacceptable worship:

c)   The worship of the true God in a self-styled manner

Not only is it unacceptable to worship God by reducing Him to an idol or image, but it's also unacceptable to reduce the activity of worship to some personal definition. Let me show you what I mean by giving you a few scriptural illustrations of people who worshiped God in a self-styled way.

(1)   Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2)

Aaron, the high priest, had two sons, Nadab and Abihu, who were entering the priesthood. Leviticus 10:1 records for us the great day of their ordination into the priesthood. This was the first actual day in which they were to lead the people in the worship of God. But look what happened: "And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of  Aaron, took either of them his censer [which, when filled with incense, was symbolic of worship, as its fragrance rose to the nostrils of God], and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord."

It's very possible that Nadab and Abihu were drunk, because in verse 9 the Lord gave the following stern warning to Aaron, suggesting to us that his sons were drunk: "Do not drink wine or strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die." So, it may well have been that Nadab and Abihu got drunk, went into the Tabernacle, and began to fool around and do things that were not according to God's law for the priesthood-so God devoured them with fire! God will not accept self-styled, self-invented modes of worship. We are not to worship God on our own terms; we are to worship Him according to the terms prescribed in Scripture.

(2)   Saul (1 Sam. 13:8-14a)

King Saul worshiped God in a self-styled manner. In 1 Samuel 13, starting in verse 8 we read, "And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed; but Samuel came not to Gilgal, and the people were scattered from him. And Saul said, Bring here a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering."

"Now," you say, "is that any big deal?" It sure is! Nobody was allowed to function at the altar except for the priests. Saul wanted to put on a display of power and confidence before the people, so he intruded into the priestly office. Verse 10 continues, "And it came to pass that, as soon as he had ceased offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might bless him. And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash, therefore, said I, the Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord; I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee; for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel forever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue. The Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart."

God will be worshiped only by someone who is after His own heart. In other words, someone who obeys God's Word. Because of Saul's self-styled worship, there would never again be anyone in Saul's line on the throne.

(3)   Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:1-9)

Uzzah was a member of a group known as the Kohathites, who were responsible for transporting the Ark of the Covenant. The Kohathites were raised, from the time they were small, to know nothing but how to transport the ark, and, according to Numbers 4:15, it was never to be touched. The ark had large rings on its sides, through which the Kohathites slid poles and lifted them to their shoulders. This was always how the ark was to be transported - and Uzzah knew that. He was trained from childhood to do it that way, but he took the liberty of putting it on a cart. That was his first mistake, because God will not be handled at the whim of man in a self-styled way-no matter how good the intentions. So as the ark was being transported on a cart (which was in violation of the rules God had set down), verses 6-7 tell us, "And when they came to Nacon's threshing floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it [i.e., it looked like it was going to fall off the cart]. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error, and there he died by the ark of God."

You see, Uzzah knew better. He had been trained all his life to never touch the ark. But in his own way, he thought he could intrude into God's commandments. The true God cannot be worshiped in a self-styled way!

(4)   The Pharisees

The Pharisees tried to worship the true God with their own self-styled system-not according to God's commandments or standards, but according to their own inventions.

(a) Matthew 15:1-9-"Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, who were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread [i.e., a traditional, ceremonial washing]. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"

You see, they told Jesus that He wasn't worshiping according to their tradition, but Jesus told them that they weren't worshiping   according to God's commands. They had invented their own system.

In verses 4-6, Jesus gives them an illustration of how their traditions violated God's commands. Then in verses 7-9, He says, "Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth near unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

God isn't interested in all the holy hocus-pocus that goes on in so many "Christian" churches where the traditions of men have been substituted for the commandments of God. God is to be worshiped in spirit and in truth-not through images, rituals, or liturgies.

(b) Matthew 23:23-28-The Lord further indicted the Pharisees in the following passage: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, who strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess....For ye are like whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."

So, what I'm trying to show you is that there is a category of unacceptable worship. One cannot worship false gods or the true God in a wrong form or in a self-styled manner. It must be according to the prescription of Scripture.

d)  The worship of the true God with a wrong attitude

If we eliminate all false gods, all images of the true God, and all self-styled modes of worship, our worship will still be unacceptable if our heart attitude isn't right. This kind of unacceptable worship really hits us right where we live. Very few of us worship a false god or an image of the true God. And most of us don't invent our own ways to worship God. We try to worship according to Scripture. But a question each of us needs to ask himself is: Do I have the right attitude? If you don't, it's unacceptable to God!

Let me show you some passages that develop this truth.

(1) Malachi 1:6-14; 3:13-15; 4:1-6

Malachi the prophet indicted the people of God because of their sin. In this marvelous prophecy he pointed out at least seven monumental sins of which they were guilty. But the one that stands out and dominates them all is that they were involved in worshiping God with the wrong attitude. They were just going through the motions, with their hearts far from God.

Let's look at Malachi's indictment. Starting in 1:6, we read, "A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master; if, then I be a father, where is mine honor? And if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, In what way have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, In what way have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table [or 'altar'] of the Lord is contemptible."

Do you know what they were doing? They were treating their worship with contempt. It was strictly a function, strictly a routine, strictly a ritual. Not only was their heart not involved, but they were actually bringing to God that which was the least rather than that which was the best. But before we pounce on them with both feet, may I remind you that to come to worship with any kind of a wrong attitude-any kind-is to have contempt for worship.

Now, what were they doing? Verse 8 tells us that they were offering the blind for sacrifice. In other words, they would bring blind animals to sacrifice because they were useless to them. A blind animal, since it would have difficulty finding food, would probably die anyway; so they would get rid of it by sacrificing it to God. In addition to that, the blindness might have been caused by disease, so they were offering God diseased animals as well. The worship that they offered to God was to give Him what they couldn't use.

Verse 8 continues: "And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us. This hath been by your means; will he regard your persons? saith the Lord of hosts." In other words, "If this is how you treat God, how do you think He's going to treat you? Do you think He's going to regard you any differently than you regard Him?"

Then he says in verse 10, "Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nothing? Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nothing. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand." There are some things that God won't accept-worship offered in a materialized way, in a self-styled way, and in a half-hearted way.

Verse 11 continues, "For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the nations, and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the nations, saith the Lord of hosts." God told them to bring a pure offering. When they were to sacrifice a lamb, it was to be the best lamb in the flock-without spot or blemish. But they weren't doing it!

Look at verses 12-14: "But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit of it, even its food is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! And ye have sniffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering. Should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord. But cursed be the deceiver, who hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing; for I am a great King, saith the Lord of  hosts, and my name is terrible among the nations."

Remember, Malachi started out indicting the priests. The priests were the leaders in the sin, but it filtered all the way down to the people. The whole system was rotten from top to bottom. They had contempt for the table of the Lord-and the key is in verse 13, where it says, "Behold, what a weariness." To them the whole exercise of worship, they probably said something like, "What a drag! We have to go down there and worship again. Well, let's just get rid of that blind or lame lamb-we don't need it!" They went through the function and the form, but their hearts weren't in it. There was no reality there.

In chapter 3, they went even further. In verses 13-14 they    apparently start to bad-mouth God: "Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?" In other words, they decided that they didn't make enough money serving the Lord-there wasn't enough profit in it.

The results of unacceptable worship are in chapter 4:1, 3: "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn like an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch...And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts."

Do you worship with the right attitude?

The previous illustration in Malachi shows that the people of God had come to the place where they were worshiping the true God, in the true way, with the wrong attitude. Their hearts weren't in it. Now look at your own heart. You say, "Well, I don't worship false gods-I worship the true God, I haven't reduced Him to an image, and I haven't invented my own way of worship-like sitting on a mountain contemplating my navel. I'm trying to worship according to God's standards as recorded in His Word." Now, let me ask you some questions: Is your heart in your worship? When it comes time to give, do you give the best of all you have? When it comes time to make your promises to God, do you make Him the promise that is the most reflective of His magnanimity and generosity? Is your heart filled with awe and reverence? If your heart isn't right, your worship is pointless and unacceptable.

(2) Amos 5:21-27

God said, "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not take delight in your solemn assemblies [i.e., 'I can't stand your worship']. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meal offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts." Now even the good animals are being offered here. They're doing it the right way, externally, but God will not accept it.

Verse 23 continues, "Take away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thine harps. But let justice run down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun, your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts."

In other words, God said, "I'm through with you! On the one hand you come and offer sacrifices to Me, but then you turn right around and worship false gods. You're so engrained, engulfed, and involved in the system of the world, that your worship is hypocritical and unacceptable.

(3)   Hosea 6:4-7

"O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goeth away. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth; and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth. For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they, like men, have transgressed the covenant; there have they dealt treacherously against me."

(4)   Isaiah 1:11-20

Again God indicts Judah in a similar way to His indictment in Amos, only this time it's through the prophet Isaiah: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord; I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats." In other words, God said, "I've had it! I'm through!"

Verse 12 continues, "When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot hear; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and you appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary of bearing them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea,  when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." And they rebelled and refused the invitation to salvation.

The point is this: Whether it's in Malachi, Amos, Hosea, or Isaiah--the people were doing the right thing, to the right God, in the right way, but with the wrong attitude-and God doesn't accept that!

(5)   Mark 7:6

This is similar to Matthew 15 (see pp. 22-23), but I want to look at it since I feel it wraps up this point. "He (Jesus) answered and said unto them (the Pharisees), Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." That is unacceptable worship.

If you worship false gods, or if you worship the true God reduced to some kind of image, or if you worship the true God in a self-styled way, or if you worship the true God in the right way with the wrong attitude-it's unacceptable and will effect your destiny. God cannot accept one who is unacceptable.

Now, that is the first kind of worship that determines one's destiny. Let me tell you about the second.

2. Acceptable Worship

a) The picture of true worshipers

Psalm 24:3-6 gives a very significant definition of a true, acceptable worshiper: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place [i.e., 'Who will He accept?']? He who hath clean hands, and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them who seek him, who seek thy face." Those who are acceptable, true worshipers are the ones who have "clean hands: (i.e., they are obedient to God, purified, and made clean), "a pure heart" (i.e., their motives and desires are right), and who truly "seek Him."

b)  The production of true worshipers

(1) Synonymous with salvation

Acceptable worship is really a key to understanding the whole matter of salvation. Why? Because the goal of salvation is to produce acceptable, true worshipers. If you're truly saved, you're a true, acceptable worshiper. Therefore, as you examine your worship, you're also examining your salvation.

Let me show you some passages to help you understand this.

(a) John 4:23- "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him." Notice the phrase "true worshipers." That is a term to describe a Christian, a saint, a believer. We could be called true worshipers as easily as we could be called Christians, believers, saints, children of God, or any other term which describes our identity and union with Christ.

Also notice, at the end of verse 23, that the Father seeks true worshipers to worship Him. Do you know why the Father sent the Son into the world? Well, in Luke 19:10 Jesus says, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Why did God send Christ to seek sinners and save them? We just saw why at the end of verse 23: "For the Father seeketh such to worship Him." The primary reason we're redeemed is to worship God-not to make us happy. If He wanted to keep us out of hell, He could have just not created us. But He created man and set out to redeem him, because He seeks to be worshiped. So worshiping God is synonymous with Christian existence--with being a believer.

(b) Acts 18:7, 13- " And he [Paul] departed from there [Athens], and entered into a certain man's house, named Titus Justus, one who worshiped God." The phrase "one who worshiped God" is just another way of saying he was a believer. A believer is one who worships God. Further, in verse 13, the Jews attack Paul and make the following accusation: "This fellow persuadeth men to worship God." Do you know what Paul was doing in his ministry? He was persuading men to worship God-which is synonymous with salvation. We're not to evangelize men primarily to keep them from hell or to put them in the sphere of God's blessing. Primarily, we're to evangelize men so that they might worship God, showing them that to live apart from worshiping Him is an affront to His holy nature and a rebellious act in His world. The heart and soul of evangelism is to call men to worship the God who is worthy of worship.

How tragic it is for the Christian who understands that he is called and redeemed to worship God, to not worship God as fully as he ought.

(c) Acts 24:14a-When Paul discussed with Felix his perspective on life, he said, "But this I confess unto thee that, after the way ['the way' was another term for the Christian faith] which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers." So not only did Paul call people to worship God, he included the fact that he worshiped God as part of his testimony.

(2) Supported by the gospel record

The gospel record supports the fact that people are redeemed for the purpose of worship. In fact, what we find is that when people see the truth of Christ, they have an immediate response of worship-giving honor, homage, respect, reverence, adoration, and praise to God Himself. For example:

(a) Matthew 2:11a-"And when they [the 'wise men' of verse 1] were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him." The first thing these king-makers did when they came into His presence was to fall down and Worship Him. Why? Because that is the initial response to the reality of Christ.

(b) Matthew 8:1-2- "When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshiped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." You see, the leper knew who Jesus was, so he responded in worship.

(c) Matthew 9:18a- "While he spoke these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshiped him."

(d) Matthew 14:33-After the disciples witnessed Jesus walking on the water and stilling a storm, verse 33 tells us, "Then they that were in the boat came and worshiped him, saying, Of a truth, thou art the Son of God."  You see, whoever it is, whenever it is, wherever it is, the instantaneous, spontaneous response to Christ is worship.

(e) Matthew 15:25 - "Then came she [a woman of Canaan] and worshiped him, saying, Lord, help me."

(f) Matthew 28:9 - "And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshiped him."

(g) Matthew 28:16-17a - "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshiped him."

(h) John 9:31 - Jesus healed a man who was born blind. When questioned by the Pharisees about Jesus, he said, "Now we know that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshiper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth." This man makes an interesting contrast and says that there are only two kinds of people - those God hears, and those He doesn't hear. The people He doesn't hear are sinners, and the people He hears are worshipers. So the contrast is between sinners and worshipers. In fact, the whole world can be divided into "the sinners" and "the worshipers." Therefore, to be saved means to be a worshiper.

(3) Seen in Israel's calling

When God called Israel out as a nation, He called them out for one express purpose - they were called to worship. In fact, the reason for the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the priesthood was to cause the people to focus on worship. In Deuteronomy 26:5-11 Moses, speaking to the Israelites who were to enter the Promised Land, says, "And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians badly treated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage; and when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with awe-inspiring terror, and with signs, and with wonders; and he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey."

Now, the Old Testament picture of redemption was deliverance from Egypt. Basically, then, verses 5-9 portray Israel's redemption. Then in verses 10-11 we see the direct response to redemption - worship and rejoicing: "And now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God. And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you." So, worship (v.10) arose from redemption (vv. 5-9), which resulted in rejoicing (v. 11).

(4)  Stated by Paul

In Ephesians 1:3 Paul says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Now, that's a statement of worship, isn't it? And the reason for his statement of worship follows in verses 4-7: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him, in love having predestinated us unto the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, through which he hath made us accepted in the Beloved; in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." You see, worship is the result of redemption.

I submit to you that we're called to worship. Without question, we are called to render acceptable, true, spiritual worship - not just sometimes or once a week - it's to be a way of life.

c) The perspective of true worshipers

We have been saved to worship. Look at Hebrews 12:28: "Wherefore, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved [i.e., the eternal kingdom], let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably  with reverence and godly fear." The word "serve" is the Greek verb latreuo and should be translated "worship." In Hebrews 10:2, the noun form of latreuo is translated "worshipers." Basically, then, the idea of verse 28 is as follows: "Since we have received the kingdom which cannot be moved, and since we have become worshipers of God, then let us have the graciousness to respond to God who has made us worshipers, by worshiping God acceptably." Put in Pauline terms, it comes out like this: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service [lit, 'spiritual worship']" (Rom.12:1).

Going back to Hebrews 12, notice verses 28b-29: "By which we may serve [lit., 'worship'] God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire." In other words, we'd better worship God acceptably - or else! Acceptable worship, first of all, is the result of salvation. But filling out that worship and living up to its fullness comes as a result of the graciousness of the believer who willingly offers his body in an act of spiritual service - worshiping God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. And because God is a consuming fire, we need to be worried about the consequence if we don't worship Him properly!

By way of application, if you have trouble and problems in your life, and you're going through a checklist to determine why these things may be occurring, put at the top of that checklist: "Perhaps I'm not worshiping God with a true heart and a true spirit and don't have the grace to worship God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." If so, the consequences may be His chastening.


Focusing on the Facts

1. Besides worshiping false gods, what other kinds of unacceptable worship are there?

2. How did the Israelites worship the true God in an unacceptable manner? What were the consequences of that misdirected worship?

3. What happened to Nadab and Abihu, who failed to worship God in the proper manner?

4. Although Saul had good intentions, was his priestly display acceptable to God? Why? As a result, what type of person did the Lord seek to lead His people (1 Sam. 13:14)?

5. What should Uzzah have known not to do as he was transporting the ark?

6. Why did Jesus condemn the way the Pharisees were worshiping God (Matt. 15:1-9)?

7. How did the Pharisees appear outwardly? What really characterized their lives (Matt. 23:28)?

8. For what primary sin did Malachi indict the people of Israel? How was that expressed?

9. What are the results of worshiping God with the wrong attitude, according to Malachi 4:1 and 3?

10. Why did God not take delight in the worship of Israel, according to Amos 5: 21-27?

11. According to Psalm 24:3-5, who is the one whose worship is acceptable to God? What are two things such a person receives from God?

12. What is the goal of salvation? Support your answer with Scripture.

13. What is the primary reason for evangelizing? What would be some secondary reasons?

14. When did people worship Jesus in the gospels?

15. What two categories of people did the blind man of John 9 correctly recognize (v. 31)?

16. What function did the Tabernacle, the Temple, and the priesthood play in the nation of Israel?

17. Identify the Old Testament picture of redemption. What are the two responses to redemption, according to Deuteronomy 26:10-11?

18. How often are we called to render acceptable worship to God?

19. Why should man be worried about the consequences of not worshiping God properly (Heb. 12:28-29)?

Pondering the Principles

1. We live in a permissive society that condones all kinds of self-expression - however bizarre. We are careful to not infringe on anyone's personal rights as they adamantly request, "Let me do things my way. I've got to be me. I'm not hurting anybody." We hesitate to burst the bubble of someone who has a self-deluded perspective of reality. But it may be necessary to open such a person's eyes. When you share the truth of the Bible with someone like that, prepare yourself with prayer that the Spirit would guide your thoughts and words and that He would soften the person's heart. If you know of any published materials that can acquaint you with his religious world view, become familiar with them. Don't be afraid to shine light into his darkness just because you don't fully comprehend his religious beliefs, since your primary objective is to present the gospel.

2. Since you are reading this book, you probably aren't worshiping false gods or even the true God in the wrong way or in a self-styled manner. However, you may be worshiping God with the wrong attitude. Are you worshiping Him because He has created you and saved you from sin and death? Do you go through the same routine Sunday after Sunday without really considering what God has done for you? Are you using church attendance solely as a means of blessing or acceptance by God? If so, begin this very day to praise God for who He is and what He has done. Then, as you worship next Sunday in church, make a point of concentrating on the hymns that are sung, the Scripture that is read, and the message that is preached, that your heart might offer gratitude to God as you depart to serve Him with your life. Meditate on Psalm 86, noting the psalmist's requests and his reasons for worshiping God.