The Herald Weekly Vol XVI : 46


Church growth experts claim that the main reason why churches are not growing is that there is nothing in their worship that attracts people. They say that churches must use special effects to create a thrilling and emotionally uplifting atmosphere that will make people want to come back for more and bring all their friends along.

However, worship is meant to bring the greatest pleasure and glory to God rather than to the worshippers. Our worship must first and foremost be acceptable to God. Hebrews 12:28 says – “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” The word ‘serve’ here means worship. Since it is qualified by the word ‘acceptably,’ this implies that not all worship is acceptable to God.

If you are assigned to host a dinner for a very important dignitary flying in from overseas would you choose the cuisine that you enjoy eating most? No. You would probably find out what food he enjoys most and what he cannot eat or is allergic to. The same thing applies to worship: Our manner of worship should be acceptable to God. We should offer only what is most pleasing to Him, and not offer what is most pleasing to ourselves. What kind of worship then is acceptable and pleasing to God?

The latter part of the verse leaves no doubt about the kind of worship that is acceptable to God – it has to be filled with the attitude of reverence and godly fear. If we lack this attitude in our worship, God will not accept it.

The Worship that God Accepts

Our attitude in worship ought to be like that of Isaiah and of the angels that he saw in the vision that he described in the sixth chapter of his book. This shows us more precisely what reverence and godly fear are all about.

A Response to His Sovereignty

The first thing that Isaiah mentions is that God is “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” This teaches us that He is the absolute sovereign over all things. His throne speaks to us of His supreme authority to rule over us. There He rightfully sits, as “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15). The God we worship exercises complete authority over the entire world. What response should this bring from us?

If you are a student, imagine what it is like to be called to the Principal’s office. If you are a soldier, think of how you would conduct yourself before the Commanding Officer of your unit. If you were to receive an invitation from the President to have dinner with him, would you dress casually and arrive late? The point is that if we take care of the manner in which we appear before human authority, how much more should we be careful of the way we come before God.

A Response to His Holiness

In the next verse Isaiah describes the seraphim that hovered around the throne of God. The word seraphim literally means “burning ones” and it implies that they were very bright creatures. Each of them had six wings which served two different functions – to fly with, as well as to keep their own faces and feet covered. Why did they need to cover themselves? Even though they were bright creatures they still needed to shield themselves from the greater brightness of the One who sits on the throne.

Since God’s angels display such godly fear in their worship, how much more should we be fearful to stand before God, being much lesser creatures than they! The brightness of God in this vision speaks to us of His perfect holiness (cf. 1 John 1:5-6). This is reinforced by the words which the seraphim cried out to one another in v.3 – “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts…”

The God we worship is the thrice-holy God whose light shines infinitely brighter than all the angels heaven can boast! We come before Him every Sunday after spending a week in an unclean world of sin. For six days we have been soaking in the moral and spiritual filth from a sinful and worldly environment, and we are thereby defiled with much unholiness in our thinking and in our being (just as Isaiah confessed in v.5 – “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips”). And now we presume to come into the presence of a Holy God who is absolute purity. What attitude should this produce in us, but godly fear and reverence?

A Response to His Glory

In the last part of v.3 the seraphim said, “…the whole earth is full of His glory.” This glory was so overpowering that at the mere mention of it, the the huge doorposts of the temple shook and the temple itself was instantly filled with smoke!

God never shares His glory with anything or anyone else (Isaiah 42:8). To claim any glory for oneself is to rob God of His glory. Thus it is impossible to worship God acceptably when one is filled with pride. True worship leaves no room at all for pride or self-glory in our hearts. It must produce humility in us.

From v.5 onward, we observe how Isaiah responded to God in this vision. He was no mere spectator but a participant. What he saw and learned evoked a deep-seated response from within him. It is only when we have a similar response to God that we can say that we have truly worshipped Him.

This awesome vision of God made Isaiah realise how sinful he really was: “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah was probably more righteous than any of us. But even when the saintliest person in this world stands before God, he will give the same response: “Woe is me, for I am undone!” No one can sincerely worship God without realizing how unworthy he really is and how hopeless his plight would be if it were not for God’s mercy and grace.

A Response to His Goodness

An attitude of godly fear and reverence in worship will be met with God’s revelation of His own goodness. This is what Isaiah experienced in vv.6,7. God immediately sent one of the seraphim to cleanse him with a burning coal from the altar. How grateful Isaiah must have been to be cleansed so mercifully from all his sins and iniquity! This led him to yield himself to God most willingly.

A Response of Giving to God

Worship is not about what we can get from God. It is all about what we ought to give to God. Isaiah carried out an act of acceptable worship when he said: “Here am I, send me.” (v.8) His reverential fear of God made him give himself completely to God.

If you come for worship because you are looking forward to get something you want from God then your purpose is wrong. Worship is all about giving – giving to God what is rightfully His by virtue of His awesome glory, majesty and holiness. It is about giving to Him of our time, our attention, our thoughts, our meditations, our wills, and our whole-hearted praise.

The reason why we seek to maintain a solemn atmosphere of reverence and godly fear in our worship services is that it is most conducive for giving unto the Lord. The more our souls are able to grasp the awesome sovereignty of God, the holiness of God and the glory of God, the more we are drawn to give of ourselves most willingly to Him. And we would then put our heart into all that we do in the worship service.

Worship from Our Hearts

You need to come early to spend time to prepare yourself for worship, to ‘tune out’ all worldly and selfish thoughts from your mind and to ‘tune in’ to God’s channel. Doing this will enable you to have the attentive and expectant attitude that you need for sincere worship. You ought to dress appropriately, not in shorts and T- shirt, but in attire that matches the sanctity of worship and that will not draw anyone’s attention to yourself.

And when the service begins, remember that you are there as a participant and not as a spectator. Do not let your thoughts wander away but engage your mind fully in everything that goes on and give a spontaneous personal response to it from your heart. Since this requires full alertness, please ensure that you have a good night’s rest before Sunday.

To maintain full attention, no one should be talking, eating or texting during worship. That is why coming late for worship is not a good habit: It distracts worshippers to see people walking in, trying to find an empty seat. Let us always be punctual.

Little children are most welcome to join the worship service as Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not.” (Mark 10:14) But parents should help their kids to sit quietly and not distract anyone from the worship.

Maintaining the sanctity of worship is every worshipper’s responsibility. It helps all of us to focus our thoughts fully and entirely upon God. It enables us to worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness (Psalm 29:2) and to give ourselves fully unto Him. Nothing must be allowed to shift our focus away from Him.

Our ultimate aim is to glorify God by responding to Him acceptably, reverently and with godly fear, and with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength, because God is worthy of nothing less than that.

Rev Charles Seet
Life B-P Church Weekly, 11 Nov 2018

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