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worship

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Note

This talk is a series of 7 short talks about worship brought together. On the PDF download, we have put each of the intro, the Bible verses, the 7 talks and the end prayer onto separate pages so you can easily break them down and only print off the exact pages you need.

This would make an excellent small group resource - or a series of separate talks on worship over more than one week.

Intro

What kind of concept of worship do you have? If you're like me, you'll think of Soul Survivor, Hillsong, Passion, Planetshakers, Audacious.. And this is worship - a form of worship that the Holy Spirit has raised up and anointed across the globe to proclaim God's name and change lives through passionate, relevant and quality music and sound.. This is the kind of worship music that has transformed and energized countless millions of us and produced the songs that we love. But of course, we know that worship is much more. In this talk, we'll look at Abraham and Isaac's experience as one pattern of worship..

Genesis 22.1-18

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.
Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."
Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"
"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.
"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.
"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."
The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

The picture of worship

1. Worship is about a heart listening to God:

When God spoke to Abraham, Abraham was listening. To hear from God, we have to be ready to listen to his voice. This means we need to be able to recognise his voice. This happens as we experience God speaking to us in our Christian lives. The more we hear him, the more we recognise his voice - just as we recognise the voice of a friend or family member.

When God speaks it's often when we're quiet and at peace with the world. The Holy Spirit is described as a dove, so we need to realise that he is very sensitive. If we have a disturbed heart and mind, it makes it harder to hear God. Instead, we need to get quiet in our lives and in our hearts and expect to hear God. Some people call this the 'still small voice' of God. It's like little promptings in your heart and little whispered nudges! I've found it's good to obey these little nudges from God. One time, God told me to take my audio mixer and my laptop (with worship software on it) to church. When I got there, we couldn't find the church mixer and the laptop was missing.. So God will speak in the small things as well as in guiding you. And when God speaks, you'll have peace.

In the New Testament, Jesus said that "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." One of the signs that we know Jesus is that we listen to his voice and then hear him because we then follow him. If we don't hear someone's instructions, we can't follow them. One of the best places to hear God is through his Word. He speaks to us generally (for example 'love your neighbour') and often specifically for something we're going through. When I recently had to make a decision and it was unclear what to do, I was reading the Bible (in my daily readings) and 2 Samuel 7.3 jumped out at me, with the words the prophet Nathan spoke to King David, "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you."

Other times, God will speak through other Christians, through books and friends. God spoke through a donkey in the Old Testament to someone who wasn't doing what God wanted (Numbers 22), so God will use many things. But we have to listen. As many people say, God gave you 2 ears and 1 mouth because he wants you to listen twice as much as speak. So make listening for and to God a priority in your life. Our trouble is that we think we don't need God. The truth is we need God in everything, which is why prayer and hearing from God is so important.

Throughout the story of Abraham and Isaac, it's just as well that Abraham was listening to the voice of God - for Isaac's sake!!

2. Worship is about obedience and testing:

When God spoke to Abraham, he told him to take his son and sacrifice him! Not exactly the picture of worship that we'd expect. I mean, in our worship services we don't often ask fathers to sacrifice their sons... We don't know how Abraham felt, but he got on with it and set out the next day with Isaac, enough wood to make a fire and his servants. So Abraham was serious about obeying God, despite the nature. Did Abraham really believe he'd have to kill his son? Well, Abraham knew God and his character, plus the promise that God had made to him and simply believed in faith that God would either provide or raise Isaac from the dead. "Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." (verse 8).

Hebrews 11.17-19 says, "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death."

But he was prepared to obey God. Can we say the same thing? Are we ready to do what God tells us? God is always speaking to us through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit prompting us with ideas, feelings and ideas, through other Christians, from Christian books and all kinds of other ways. But they will always line up with the truth and principles in the Bible.

It is also quite incredible that Isaac - knowing what was going to happen - went through with the sacrifice. And as many Bible scholars point out, Isaac was not a young boy. He was definitely old enough to resist his father. We talk about Abraham's faith rightly, but Isaac had a strong faith and trust too.

"Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. God was testing Abraham to see what was in his heart. He also did this to David, and he does the same to us today. The fear of the Lord helps us to overcome testing because our hearts are set on God.

3. Worship is about sacrifice:

So God called Abraham to sacrifice his son. We see this now as very strange, especially since Jesus died and rose to pay the price with his blood for all the wrong we do. But what did Abraham call what God had told him to do? Stupid? Murder? Crazy? Nope, Abraham called this act, 'worship' - the first time we see the word worship mentioned in the Bible. "We will worship and then we will come back to you."

God called Abraham to go to sacrifice his son to reflect what God would do when He then sent Jesus to die as a sacrifice for our sins. But God now gives us a new way to live. In this new life, we have to die to our old self and live a new life. John 12.24 says, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." So God won't ask you to sacrifice a child, but he does ask us to sacrifice our lives to him. Unlike terrorists from other world religions who sacrifice themselves by killing themselves, God asks us to be a living sacrifice because this is worship! Did you know that by offering your life to God, it is worship?!

Romans 12.1-2, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

How do we do this? Well, by living in a way that is holy and pleasing to God. To be holy means to be right with God, to not actively sin, to ask God for forgiveness when we do, to submit to God and run from sin and to want to love & please God by obeying him. But not only does offering our lives to God become worship - God also promises to guide us and lead us. Romans 12.2 promises we will find God's will as we obey him.

Abraham found that God provided for his sacrifice - by providing a ram. When we give ourselves to God completely, he promises to provide for us according to his riches in glory. You see, in Romans 12.1, God calls us to offer our bodies as a sacrifice to him and that means every part - our heart, body, mind and tongue. Isaac was laid down on an altar ready to be sacrificed to God. This is the same process that we worship God - we have to put our lives on the 'altar' and give up all we have to God. We give up a living body to God (not a dead one) and then he takes all that we are, shapes and moulds us just like a master potter does with clay - and works with us to enable us to enjoy life and build his Kingdom.

Finally, Abraham had to place what was most valuable to him on the altar (giving his Son up to God). Then God gave Isaac back to him, provided an alternative and blessed Abraham because of what he'd done. Many times, God wants us to 'give to him' our most important things. He doesn't take them away from us - instead, when we offer him things (like our talents, our possessions etc) God takes them and increases them, doing incredible things. We get back far more from God than we give up to him.

4. Worship is about the fire of God:

In the Old Testament, one of the pictures of the Holy Spirit is fire. Moses met with God at the burning bush. The people of Israel were led by a cloud by day and a fire by night. Into the New Testament, we find that tongues of fire rested over the tops of the believers when the Holy Spirit was sent in Acts 2.

God's judgement was also expressed over Sodom and Gomorrah with fire. We also know that in Revelation 20 that if anyone's name is not written in the Lamb's book of life (God's record of his people), they will be thrown into the fire. Jesus pointed to this eternal fire in places like Matthew 18.9.

In Luke 3.16, John the Baptist was talking about Jesus and said, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

Jesus then told us about how his life would bring division as people would reject him and his message. Luke 12.49, "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!"

We also know that God is a consuming fire - Exodus 24.17, "To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain." Deuteronomy 4.24, "For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God." This is re-affirmed in the warnings about rejecting God in the New Testament - Hebrews 12.28-29, Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."

Abraham went and took a ram that God provided and used it as the burnt offering, instead of his Son. Worship is about allowing God to consume all that we are and all that we do. When the tongues of fire rested on the believers in Acts 2, it wasn't just a party trick - it was to enable them to glorify God and make his Kingdom known. God also wants to 'burn away' (refine us) and get rid of the rubbish in our lives. He does this one thing at a time usually, pointing it out to us and helping us deal with it. This may be lust, anger, or just simply not being thankful. We must also remember that Jesus is not just your homeboy, he is holy and he is God. One day, Jesus will judge the earth and bring about justice because he is holy - so another side of worship is a challenge for us to be holy and do only what God wants and says.

Finally, in Isaiah 6, we have a picture of the throne room of God (similar to that in Revelation 4). Isaiah was so overcome by the majesty and power of God, he cried out and feared for his life. Around the throne of the Lord (who was "high and exalted" with his robes filling the temple), there were seraphs flying around the throne singing "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty".

The Bible tells us that, "At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke." Isaiah was overcome until "one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched (Isaiah's) mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

Seraphim literally means "burning ones" in the Hebrew (Sarap, 'to burn'). So what can we learn from this about worship? Well, the seraphs were serving and worshipping God, singing 'Holy, holy, holy..' This should be the basis of our worship too - responding to a holy and perfect God of awesome power. Just as the robes of God filled the temple, so our lives should be filled with God. Many times we have areas of our lives not completely submitted to God. But the New Testament describes our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit. So we are the temple where God lives - and God's "robes" (presence) needs to fill our temples completely (our bodies - heart, mind, spirit, soul). But, the fire of God (the touch of God, the Spirit of God) is also what sets us free and takes away our sin. Our worship is a response to the perfect work that Jesus did on the cross when he died once for all to bring us before God blameless (if we accept Jesus!)

5. Worship is about a journey:

In musical worship, you'll often hear worship leaders talking about going on a journey through the music. There are many reasons for this and it has a Biblical precedence, as we enter God's gates with thanksgiving and enter his courts with praise. As we thank God, we enter into the gates of his presence. As we continue in worship, praise and thank him, we go deeper into his presence - into his inner courts. And there is something very special about musical worship. It has a power like no other - we know from Revelation that heaven will be filled with musical worship and more (Revelation 4).

But what of Abraham and Isaac? God called them to go on a journey to a place that he would show them - on Moriah (interestingly, the same place where Jesus would later be crucified on the cross). Like the disciples when Jesus called them, Abraham and Isaac had to stop what they were doing and follow God's leading. They had to set out on a journey with a destination. Our lives are like this. God has a purpose for your life - Ephesians 2.10 tells us that God has good works for you to do that have been planned in advance by him. Your life of worship is to walk and work with God to see these things happen.

I don't know about you, but I want to do everything God wants me to do, have all he wants me to have and go everywhere he wants me to go! This is full life that Jesus tells us about in John 10.10. But it doesn't just happen. You have to choose to agree with God, obey him and journey where he leads you. That is why Jesus is called the Good Shepherd - he leads us in all we do. Today, is Jesus really the only one in charge of your life and all you do? If he is, you will be used by God to bring transformation to wherever he calls you.

6. Worship is about revelation:

In Galatians 1.11-12, Paul made this statement, "I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ."

If you become a Christian, this happens because God reveals himself to you. We know from the Bible that we do not deserve to be forgiven by God and that nothing he gives us is deserved in any way. In fact the Bible tells us that we deserve death because of our sin. But instead, God revealed himself to us - and God reveals himself in his Word. When I became a Christian and ever since, I've been so grateful to God for taking me from a bad place and changing so many things for good. Out of God's revelation of himself to me, I've been a worshipper - especially through music, rap and words. It's my response and thanks back to God's revelation - and that is what worship really is, in spirit and in truth.

In John 1, Jesus describes himself as 'The Word'. When we look at the Greek, the word used for 'Word' is logos, which according to Strong's Concordance means 'a word (as embodying an idea), a statement, a speech.' So Jesus was the embodiment of God and of God's words. Jesus was a statement to the world, revealing God to man.

Ephesians 1.9-10 follows John 1 saying, "And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ."

When Abraham placed Isaac on the altar, he didn't exactly know what God was going to do. But God revealed himself to Abraham and provided a ram, who Abraham sacrificed as an act of worship. When God reveals himself to us and we respond, God will meet all our needs. Philippians 4.19 says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." In verses 14 and onwards in Philippians 4, we find that the context of Paul's comments was in the provisions and gifts sent to Paul by the Philippian church while he was in need in Thessolonica. "I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God" (verse 18).

So as you give money - time - gifts, you know from the Bible that God sees this as a fragrant offering and an acceptable sacrifice and that God will then provide for all your needs according to his storehouse - the earth and everything in it! God will give you what you need, so pray specifically and in faith and keep thanking God for everything.

7. Worship is about destination:

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

When God sent Jesus into the world, he was God's only Son. Through Jesus the world was changed forever. Those who say yes to Jesus to be king of their life and world will have an eternal reward in heaven, and can have a full life on earth too as we choose to work with the Holy Spirit and obey him, making the most of every opportunity he gives us. Abraham was promised a great blessing. In effect, God revealed what he would do through Abraham - showing Abraham the legacy of his obedience to God. Abraham's eternal destination would be heaven - but his earthly 'destination' would be that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and all nations on earth would be blessed through him.

What a legacy! We talk about wanting to make a difference in this world and Abraham sure did that! If we want to make a real difference, we need to get to know God, hear from him and then follow in the life and purpose, plans he has for us. We know that these are good plans (not that everything that happens is good), but God will work things for good to build you to be the person he needs you to be! Our job is find God's purpose for us on the earth. And we fix our eyes on Jesus in all that we do - keep looking to the light - a bit like we'd look to a light on a dark night. God has put certain things in your heart, certain abilities and things you'd like to do. Give it all to God and he'll most likely use you in the areas where you're gifted and enjoy life!

God had already spoken to him in Genesis 12 and given him a similar promise to the one found here in Genesis 22 - "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing." But we see that God's promises can take time to work out and be fulfilled. If you have been a Christian for some time, you will know that when God says something to you, he will do it, but often not on our timescale! Sometimes he makes us wait a week, sometimes years. This is because God is a master planner - preparing you, other people and situations and moving all the elements together while he builds character. Then suddenly - boom - God moves!

In Genesis 22, God again made the promise he had made to Abraham. God swore that this would happen because Abraham had been obedient to what God had told him to do. God re-affirmed this to Isaac later on in Genesis 26.2-5 by saying that he would fulfil his promise because "Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws."

Can we say the same today? What if you inserted your name into the verse in Genesis 26.5:

(Your name) obeyed God, kept God's requirements, God's commands, God's decrees and God's laws...

Like Abraham, if you know Jesus your eternal destination is heaven and your earthly 'destination' is to fulfil God's plans for your life completely and fully. Do you want this? I do. This is your spiritual act of worship.

Let's pray and make a commitment before God:

"Father God, thank you for your gift of eternal life. Thank you for who you've made me, for how you love me and are making me more like you daily. Thank you that you have a great, good and hope-filled plan for my life and you want me to live this kind of life. Father, I say that I want all that you have for me. I want to be all that you made me. I place my life in your hands completely, give you all my gifts and skills and ask you to use me abundantly - that means way beyond what I can think of, imagine or ask for. Reveal your will for my life and I ask that you would give me your wisdom and fill me with your love and grace daily. Let your purposes be done in and through me. I worship you alone for you alone are God. Thank you Lord. Your kingdom come, your will be done in my life and on this earth. Amen."

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