September 11, 2012

       There is such great value in worshiping God that the answers may very well be endless. Even the mere contemplation of the question causes our hearts to well up with intense love and appreciation.  With every breath we take, a tear of appreciation could fall.  How does one qualify or quantify the worship of not only the giver of love, but the source of love?  “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)


     Nevertheless, we will attempt to provide answers and we ask that you keep in mind that worship is better understood by the experience of it, rather than the explanation of it.  And when we experience what true worship is, we are led internally to the answer as to ‘Why.’


      Worship is the highest privilege and the first duty of all created intelligences. Worship is the conscious and joyous act of recognizing and acknowledging the truth and fact of our intimate and personal relationship with God.  As we progress in our knowledge of God, we begin to attain to the highest experiential delight and the most exquisite pleasure known to created beings.


     Our worship of God renews the mind, inspires the soul, and enables us bravely to face our  problems.  It obliterates debilitating fear and equips us with the assurance that we can dare to ‘be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48) because it makes us increasingly like the One who is worshiped. 


     Worship is a transforming experience whereby man can gradually approach and ultimately attain the presence of God.  It relieves tension, removes conflicts, and mightily augments the total resources of the personality.  It is an interchange of strength for weakness, courage for fear, and the will of God for the mind of self.


      Worship is the act of a part identifying itself with the Whole; the finite with the Infinite; the son with the Father.  It is the act of the son's personal communion with the divine Father, the assumption of refreshing, creative, fraternal, and romantic attitudes by the God-knowing soul.  


     We do not worship God because of anything we may derive from such veneration; we render such devotion and engage in such worship as a natural and spontaneous reaction to the recognition of the Father's matchless personality and his lovable nature and adorable attributes.


     Yet the worship of God does eventuate in tangible benefits to man.  Worship of God is the only avenue of personality survival after death.  No other endeavor of man can satisfy his unquenchable yearning for eternity.  Without God, all of man’s personal achievements return to dust. 


Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.”

 Psalms 146:3-4


      We would even venture to say that man’s quest to explore the universe and outer space is an unconscious effort to satisfy his heavenly longings – to answer his internal call to be with his Father in the heavens.  Yet no scientific discovery, no mathematical calculation, no mechanical creation can take man to this destiny.  Only worship of the ineffable Father can.


     Finally, on an earthly level, worship of God eventuates in the emergence of the spiritual brotherhood of man.  As the brotherhood grows, man’s quest for peace on earth becomes more and more attainable as he prepares himself for the real life with the Father in heaven.


The Divine Characteristics of God


       The first thing we know about God is that He is a spirit (John 4:24) and that he resides at the very center of the universe in a realm even higher than heaven. 


Is not God in the heights of heaven?  And see how lofty are the highest stars! Yet you say, ‘What does God know?  Does he judge through such darkness?  Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us as he goes about in the vaulted heavens.’”

– Job 22:12-14


       Thus, we cannot observe Him to determine what He is like, but we can learn some things about God from the things he made:


For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

– Romans 1:20


       Creation tells of God’s power, His divine eye for beauty and variety, His justice, and glimpses of His love and mercy.  Yet, the material creations can only take us so far.  They can reveal certain attributes and indications of His nature, but they cannot reveal His divine character and personality.  There is only one avenue to receive that revelation: 


No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

– John 1:18


       Yes, we can only know God’s divine character by a comprehension of the religious life of Jesus of Nazareth, both before and after his attainment of full consciousness of his divinity at his baptism. Jesus told his followers:


All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

 Matthew 11:27


        As Jesus said to the Apostle Thomas:


If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’”

 John 14:7-9


       So, rather than enumerate the various aspects of God’s character, we invite you to examine the life of Jesus.  And when you do, take on the mental attitude of a child of this supernal Father, looking through eyes of trust and love as did Jesus.  And know that under no circumstance does this wise and loving God coerce his children into worshiping or even knowing Him.  It is our decision to search for and really find Him, for “He is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27) 


       Of course, there are certainly many things about God that Jesus did not reveal.  Nevertheless, we can be certain that Jesus revealed enough for us to know and love God and to begin the heavenly ascent to the Father’s presence. 


The Loving Nature of God


      Many have stumbled over the apparent conflict between the jealous and wrathful God of Israel and the loving and merciful Christ of whom it was said is the ‘reflection of God’s glory and the exact representation of his very being.’  (Hebrews 1:3) 


     There is, in fact, no conflict or inconsistency at all in the character of our Father.  Only our understanding has been limited.  Let us now expand our universal view and reveal the magnificent unchanging perfection of our Universal Father, the absolute personification of love, by starting with the apparent contradiction of God’s personality.


      The olden prophets tell us that God is a jealous God, a God of great wrath and fierce anger. The prophets say He hates evildoers and takes vengeance on those who do not obey His law.  Yet, Jesus teaches us that God is a kind and compassionate Father who so loves all men that He welcomes them into the kingdom of heavens.


     These teachings of the olden prophets taught the children of their generation in accordance with the light of their day.  Our Father is changeless.  But the concept of his nature has enlarged and grown from the days of Moses down through the times of Amos and even to the generation of the prophet Isaiah.  


      An examination of the scriptures reveal that during the days of Adam, Moses and the kings of Israel, God was not referred to as a Father, but as a warrior and a vengeful God. But by the time of the prophets, He becomes a national Father.  And then toward the end, He becomes the father of all nations.  But Jesus came in the flesh to reveal the Father in new glory and to show forth His love and mercy to all men as individuals – a new relationship of Father and son.


     He also uplifted mankind’s dignity by causing animal sacrifice to cease and to replace the ten commandments and all the laws and regulations of the priests and prophets with just two edicts:


Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 

– Matthew 22:37-40


      We can took at an example in our own lives.  When our children are very young and immature, we must chastise them.  When we do, they may reflect that their father is angry and filled with resentful wrath.  Their immaturity cannot penetrate beyond the punishment to discern the father's farseeing and corrective affection.  But when these same children become grown-up men and women, would it not be folly for them to cling to these earlier and misconceived notions regarding their father? 


     As men and women, they would then discern their father's love in all these early disciplines.  So should not mankind, as the centuries pass, come to a better understanding the true nature and loving character of the Father in heaven?  


     What profit have we gained from successive generations of spiritual illumination if we persist in viewing God as Moses and the prophets saw him?  And what great rejection and dishonor to the work of the Christ!  Under the bright light of Jesus’ manifestation, we should see the Father as none of those who have gone before us ever beheld Him.  And thus seeing Him, we should rejoice to enter the kingdom wherein such a merciful Father rules, and we should seek to have His will of love dominate our lives henceforth.


     As the good news of the kingdom spreads over the earth with its message of good cheer and good will to all men, there will grow up improved and better relations among the families of all nations.  As time passes, fathers and their children will love each other more, and thus will be brought about a better understanding of the love of the Father in heaven for his children on earth. Remember, that a good and true father not only loves his family as a whole – as a family – but he also truly loves and affectionately cares for each individual member.


    No, God has not changed.  Man has changed.  The Father progressively reveals himself according to our ability to comprehend.  In the days of the prophets, the nation saw themselves as slaves and servants of God, even as collective children, but never as individual and personal sons. The time for that revelation arrived with the advent of the Christ.  


     But fear not.  Throughout all of history, the Father in heaven never failed to accept the sincere worship of His children on earth, no matter how crude their concept of deity or by what name they symbolize His divine nature.  And in time, this evolving and enlarging concept of God will virtually supplants all previous ideas of our Father.  


     Now we know God as our loving Father in heaven.  Jesus’ life and teachings provide a religion wherein the believer is a son of God.  That is the good news of the kingdom of heaven.  


     And make no mistake, our understanding of the Father will continue to enlarge and brighten throughout the endless ages to come on earth, and in the heavens.  Nevertheless, at all times and during all ages, the true worship of any human being – as concerns individual spiritual progress – is recognized as having been rendered to the true Father in heaven.


     With this enlightened understanding of our Father’s character, we can reconcile our obligation to exemplify Christ as he exemplified the Father.  We pray that you sincerely contemplate these realities as you undertake an introspective look at the good news. 


The Name of God


     The Hebrew scriptures asserts that God’s name is Jehovah or Yahweh. 


Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord— that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”

 Psalms 83:18


     While Jesus prayed that the Father’s name be sanctified (Matthew 6:9) and stated that he had made the Father’s name known (John 17:25), the Christian scriptures do not record Jesus as ever speaking the name, though the assumption is that Jesus must have spoken the name when he quoted from Hebrew scriptures containing the name.  Thus, we believe Jesus meant that he increased the fame of God, not necessarily the literal name.  


     And it is not hard to understand why Jesus would not encourage his followers to use a literal name for God since Jesus’ mission was to reveal God as our heavenly Father.  Notice his model prayer.  While he says to pray for God’s name to be sanctified, he did not use the name. 


This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

– Matthew 6:9-15


     These points are not meant to discourage the use of the Hebrew name for God.  It is quite appropriate for friends and associates to refer to someone by name.  But it is not appropriate for sons and daughters.  It is even considered disrespectful.  The Father’s spirit that dwells within His children moves us to cry out Father or Abba! which means ‘Daddy!’ or ‘Papa!’


For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

– Romans 8:14-16


Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

– Galatians 4:6-7


     So while God was revealed to the Hebrews by a name, Jesus revealed God to us, His faith-sons and daughters, by relationship – as our Father.


The Father Cares About Us


     Yes, the Father does indeed cares about us!  He has set in motion an administration to adopt us as his spiritual sons and daughters in the heavens!


With all wisdom and understanding, 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 reach their fulfillment— to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

– Ephesians 1:8-10 


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

– Ephesians 1:3-5


In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.  This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.”

 Ephesians 3:4-7


     While the Father’s primary concern is for our eternal welfare, He also cares about our daily affairs.  The Bible is replete with counsel on how to deal successfully with fleshly life, whether it be with our family, our friends, our jobs, our marriages, our children, our religious associations, our governments, even our enemies.  There is not an area of life that cannot be improved by some counsel found in the Bible.


     But that does not mean life will be easy.  Many long for peace and security, and we are promised that one day, our planet will be just such a place.  In the meantime, we must develop skills and mental attitudes to sustain us during our current earthly sojourn.


     The Father does not shield us from the rigors of earthly life.  It is through the trials and tribulations of life that we are perfected.  Man only learns wisdom by experiencing adversity. And it is by finding successful ways of dealing with adversity that man makes his greatest advancements.  Really, the greatest affliction of life is never to have been afflicted. 


     Life’s difficulties may challenge mediocrity and defeat the fearful, but they only stimulate the true children of God.  For we know that whatever befalls us, our destiny is secure:


Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long;   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Romans 8:35-39


     We can face our unpleasant, difficult and even harsh circumstances by keeping ever in mind Paul’s words:


Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary,but what is unseen is eternal.”

– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18


     No, life on earth today is not a bed of roses for most of us.  But the difficulties we face are not caused by our Father or indicative of divine disfavor or punishment.  They are the realities of earthly life according to our stage of spiritual development. (Galatians 6:7-10) Yet, we can endure it:


No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

– 1 Corinthians 10:13


     We all long for a better life and it is truly within our reach.  If we are among those who find themselves at a social, financial or material advantage, we should use our advantages to assist our brothers, never losing sight of the real future, the real life in the heavens.


Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

– 1 Timothy 6:17-19


     For all of us, whether we are doing well or whether we are suffering, the counsel is the same:


Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

– Colossians 3:2


     When we do that, we will know, without question, that the Father cares for us and longs to be with us and share His true bounty:


However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him.”

– 1 Corinthians 2:9


Drawing Closer to God


     Drawing closer to God is the correct way of describing what needs to be done.  For God has already drawn close to us.  A fragment of His substantive nature dwells within each one of us:


Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  

– 1 Corinthians 3:16


     We do not need to go on a quest to far away mountains or plead and beg for His audience.  He truly loves us and wants us close.


From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

 Acts 17:26-27


     Whenever we feel the Father has abandoned us or is not with us, it is because we have not opened the door to him.  He is ever present and ever willing to receive us.  


     When we err, the Father does not leave us.  It is our own guilty conscience that causes us to turn away from Him.  But as we come to understand Jesus, and the life he led and the way he worshiped the Father, we begin to grasp the significance of the forgiveness of sin.  Truly, our sins are forgiven even before we ask for forgiveness.  That is what Jesus was teaching us.  Our challenge is to get past our guilty conscience and accept it.  


     To help us in that regard, Jesus encouraged a three-part program: (1) heartfelt prayer, (2) true worship, and (3) following his example of faith.  As to prayer, he taught:


And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

– Matthew 6:5-6 (See also Matthew 6:7-15; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 18:1-14)


     As to worship, Jesus taught:


Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

– John 4:23-24


     As to his own example, Jesus taught:


Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

– John 14:6-8


I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

– John 10:9


     If we do these three things, we will find that all other things are taken care of.  And we will find ourselves drawn to and engulfed in the spirit and the essence of the Father of All. 


Your Brothers in the Master's Ministry,


  Return to Good News for a Modern World Introduction