Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO WORSHIP GOD?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
4 FEBRUARY 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
What is the best way to worship God?
What do you think?
Is it to come to church, as we have this morning, and to celebrate a worship service as we are now?
Perhaps it's best on days like today, when we also partake of the Lord's Supper.
What do you think?
Last week we talked about our growth both vertically and horizontally, and the fact that our true success in dealing with the world around us, our horizontal growth, is to first have established our connection with God, our vertical growth.
So, if we talk about our best way to worship God, our logic would tell us that it should be in this vertical growth pattern.
As you probably recall, we ended last week's sermon with a review of our Christmas fruit basket which contains all the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it is given freely to all who believe in Jesus Christ.
But the key to our receiving this gift is to also use these gifts in our own life, and in our relationships with others, and to turn away from the so-called fruit of this world.
Keeping this in mind, and the fact that every one of us sins, turn with me to Isaiah 1:12-17, and see how God desires us to worship Him.
12. "When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
First of all, God does not want us to come before Him in an unworthy manner.
With a repentant heart we are to come seeking Him.
It does us no good to come before Him in arrogance and self righteousness.
And it does us little or no good to just come to church with an attitude of obligation, or with a fear that others will talk about us if we are not seen in church.
This is not worship of God. This is worship of humankind.
13. "Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies –
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
14. "I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me.
I am weary of bearing them.
What God is telling us is that if we are still living in the deeds of the flesh, and do not truly desire to turn away from them, then all our attendance at religious gatherings are worthless, for our attendance is only to satisfy the eyes of those gathered with us, and not God.
15. "So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you,
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
This is a very interesting verse, for it is telling us that the sacrificial blood of animals cannot wash away our sins, for God desires a truly repentant heart and our obedience to His heavenly will, where there is no death.
But then God confirms this, in all His love and mercy, by telling us what it takes for Him to listen and what is required for acceptable worship.
16. "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from my sight.
Cease to do evil,
17. Learn to do good;
Reprove the ruthless;
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
Have you heard the two ways of making ourselves acceptable before God?
The first is to clean up our own act.
Through our repentance we must wash ourselves in the cleansing blood of Jesus.
We are to remove the evil deeds of our former way of life from our present life as a true Christian. In other words, we are to cease to do evil.
And this includes indulging in the evil of others, such as the evil ways most farmed animals are treated, through our buying, eating and wearing of the products of the suffering.
We are to learn to do good.
We are to seek justice for all other beings (human and non-human) when it is not being given to them. We are not to ignore them.
We are to defend those who cannot defend themselves, such as orphans, the retarded, and even the animals.
We are also to plead for them.
We are to plead for the widows and others who are unable to plead for themselves, such as the animals.
And in the process of doing these things, we are to do the second thing that makes our worship acceptable.
We are to reprove the ruthless people of this world, and not just sit idly back and pretend that nothing is wrong.
I know when our collective hearts are turned toward God in this manner, our worship will be acceptable and He will respond.
Amos also speaks of the same thing. Let's take a look at what God says through him in chapter 5, verses 21-24.
21. "I hate, I reject your festivals,
Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
Such as our celebration of the Lord's Supper, if we do so in an unworthy manner.
22. "Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
23. "Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
I can imagine how many in our church, and our choir members would feel if they thought God was rejecting their offering of music.
But it is just that feeling of sorrow that points us in the right direction. It is the fact that we care, that indicates we are on the correct pathway, but not at the end.
We must truly want to serve God in all that we do, and bring glory to Him and not to ourselves.
24. "But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Remember that justice is not normally something we do for ourselves, but for all others, including the animals; and it should flow from each and every one of us as streams of life-giving water.
Let's take a look at another example of how this applies in everyday life, and how our continued indifference to the problems around us and a corrupt political system can have bad results, even when some try to correct them.
In Chicago, they were having a real problem with housing conditions in the poor inner-city neighborhoods, because the city officials had failed to make good on their previous vows to correct the situation.
A group of church people and community workers got together and tried to correct the situation, so they called a meeting in one of the neighborhood's churches.
City officials, neighborhood residents, and community workers were present to hear about the matter.
The matter seem to be resolved when the city officials said they would make good on their previous vows, and they also agreed to have another meeting in a month to see how much progress was made.
The next month the meeting was held, and to the surprise of the church and community workers, no neighborhood residents or city officials showed up.
Subsequent investigation indicated that one of the city officials had called one of the neighborhood resident leaders and told that person that he had heard a rumor: that if the residents came to the meeting, their welfare checks would be held up.
The fear of losing the money they needed to live on kept them away.
When one group of people holds such power over another, there can be no justice.
And there is no love or justice when we use our position to demoralize someone less fortunate than ourselves.
We who know better must continue to plead for their cause, reprove those who do this kind of evil, and directly help those who are afflicted to get back on their own feet, and to do so with dignity.
This is truly loving God and our neighbor.
Then everything we do, inside or outside the church, becomes our worship – a worship acceptable to God.