How can we truly honor God in a way that is pleasing to him? How can we give Jesus Christ our glory and praise in a way that truly worships him? And, who decides how this should be done? Do we? Or, does God? Or, does it matter? Is God pleased with whatever way we decide to worship him? – As long as we are acknowledging him? Or, does he have a say in this? And, does he have a definite thought or a certain input on this subject?
“When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you
this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.”
Isaiah 1:12-14 ESV
God definitely has an opinion about how or how not he should be worshiped (honored, praised). But, this is more than just an opinion. It is a strong exhortation.
For, the people were doing what they wanted to do. They weren’t listening to God. They weren’t following him in obedience to his will for their lives. He wasn’t Lord of their lives. They weren’t really seeking his face with regard to what he wanted from them in the way of worship. They weren’t in fellowship with him. Yet, they went through the motions of worship anyway. But, they did it their way, not God’s way. For, what he wanted was them turned away from sin, following him in obedience, and worshiping him in truth.
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause.”
Isaiah 1:16-17 ESV
So, this was the Lord’s counsel to them. This is what would be pleasing in his sight, not their empty festivals and sacrifices. And, this is the same thing he asks of us today, that we turn from our sins and that we follow him in surrender and in obedience to his commands. He asks that we cease to do what is evil in his sight and that we learn to do what is righteous in his sight.
He doesn’t want empty forms of worship of him that are not what he has required of us or that would be dishonoring to him in how we go about our worship of him.
Truly what he desires of us is “our all on the altar of sacrifice laid,” our hearts do “the Spirit control” (1). He wants us saying “No” to ungodliness and fleshly lusts, and “Yes” to living self-controlled, upright and godly lives, holy and pleasing to him. And, he wants us no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but he wants us walking in fellowship with him according to the Spirit of God and in his light and truth (Rom. 12:1-2; Tit. 2:11-14).
“Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure…”
Isaiah 58:2-3 ESV
And, this is really the crux of it. For, true worship of God is not outward. It is inward. It is not in form only. It is of the heart. For, we can read our Bibles and go through the motions of prayer, and we can listen to Christian music and good Bible teaching, and we can memorize scripture, and even espouse scripture to others, and still not be worshiping God at all.
If God requires that we fast, and we do it out of obedience to him, and for the right reasons, then that is good. But, if we do it hoping that he will be pleased with us while we disobey him in other areas of our lives, willfully, then that is bad.
For, this is a lot like a husband or a wife regularly cheating on the other and then lying about it, and then trying to get in good graces with the other by performing outward deeds, and then thinking that his or her spouse should be happy with that, and see it as love. And, then it is like the cheating spouse getting angry with the injured spouse if the injured spouse does not see the outward deeds of the cheating spouse as love. Do you see this?
We can’t do it “our way” and expect God to jump on board. We can’t decide for ourselves what is true worship of God. We need to find out what the scriptures teach on this subject, and we need to do it prayerfully, inquiring of God as to what would bring him honor, praise and glory. And, his Word, Old Testament and New Testament alike, has much to say on this subject.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
Isaiah 58:6-7 ESV
There is nothing wrong with fasting from anything if we believe God is leading us to do so. But, if we decide to fast, thinking that God is going to see that as us doing right, in order to impress God with our “worship” of him, but while we withhold our surrender to him, and while we practice certain sins, then God is not going to be pleased with our fasting.
So, the point here is not that physical fasting is bad. But, it is bad if what we are doing is trying to do something outward to appease or to impress God with our “obedience,” so that he will be pleased with us, while we are doing evil in his sight, or while we are ignoring serious matters of the heart (see the example above of a cheating spouse and the injured spouse).
Again, true worship of God is not outward but inward. It is not of outward form and ritual, but of the heart, and of surrender to God. And, it is doing the will of God, which is to be sharing with others the full gospel of our salvation so that they can truly be delivered from their slavery to sin, and so that they can be empowered of God to walk in true righteousness. And, it is to care about the needs of others and to minister to their real needs.
“In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
Psalm 40:6-8 ESV
Jesus quoted this passage from the Psalms about himself (See Heb. 10:5-8). And, this should be true of all of us who are his followers. We should live lives which are surrendered to our Lord, eager to do his will. His Word, his commandments should be within our hearts, not just in our intellect.
We should love God, and to love God is to obey his commandments. And, we should delight in that. We should want to do what is truly pleasing in his sight. We should long to be in his presence. His Word should be in our hearts and in our thinking and on our lips continually. And, we should want to serve him with our lives and to do what he requires of us in thought, word and deed.
And, we should honor God by worshiping him in truth and in the ways in which he says are true worship of him, and in ways which truly honor him and give him glory.
We don’t get to choose how to worship him. He chooses. And, we need to do what he says. So, we need to search the scriptures and find out what he says about what honors him, and what is for his glory and praise. Then we need to do it, because we love him, because he first loved us and he gave himself up for us that we might live in freedom from slavery to sin, and in his righteousness, and with him for eternity.
You Loved Me
An Original Work / December 3, 2019
A song based off the poem by the same name
When I was lonely and afflicted,
You were there to pick me up.
You took me in Your arms,
And You held me tenderly.
Your love embraced me.
Your grace sustained me.
When my heart cried out to You
In my fear and my despair,
You never turned away,
But You let me know You loved me.
Your grace forgave me.
You did not shame me.
Then, when I answered the call,
“Here, Lord, send me.”
You sent me to where I must be.
Your mercy held me, did not fail me.
All this, You had planned, to use me.
And, when all trials and scorn
Came to test me.
You gave me all that I would need.
You strengthened me so I’d not fail You.
Your kindness blessed me, it touched me.
And, when I needed the church
To lift up me,
To hearten me so I’d not fail,
You blessed me with folks who would love me.
Their presence with me, Your praise hailed!
And, when I walked through the valley
Of the shadow of the death,
And tears flowed from my eyes,
Still Your kindness was there for me.
Your touch, it healed me.
For I believed You.
When now I think about the ways,
Of the many, many ways
That You in Your great love
Show me that You’ll always care for me,
My heart, it thanks You,
And gladness fills me, fills me.