Sunday, November 30, 2014

Attitudes Toward Worship

In the 4th chapter of John, Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman about worship.  The Samaritan woman pointed out the traditional worship the Samaritans engaged in versus the worship of the Jews.

However, through the course of the conversation Jesus revealed two key elements of worship.

John 4:20-24  "...Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus emphasized twice that those who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth.

The word "truth" in this context refers to the correct doctrine for worship that we can find in the Biblical pattern.  This could be a whole series of lessons itself!

However, I want to focus in particular on what it means to worship God "in spirit".

To a certain extent, worshiping in spirit refers to worshiping with the correct attitude.  We simply must come to worship God in the right frame of mind and for the right reasons.

I would like to examine some incorrect attitudes we could have toward worship as well the attitudes we need to have.

Incorrect Attitudes to have Toward Worship

Attending in order to "punch one's ticket."

There are many who believe that as long as they show up on Sunday mornings they are faithful Christians.  To these individuals, Christianity is merely a one-day-a-week think.

Others may simply come to assembly only partake in the Lord's Supper; not realizing that communion is just as important as any of the other acts of worship.

These people forget that Christianity is a way of life.

Acts 1:1   The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach...

Notice in the introduction of Acts that Jesus both did and taught.  Jesus practiced what He preached, He talked the talk, but - more importantly - He walked the walk.

Likewise, we are commanded to do the same.

James 1:22  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Our attitude should be like that of the Psalmists.  He loved the Word of God so much that it became part of him.

Psalm 119:11, 97  Thy Word I hid in my heart ; O how I love thy law!

Notice that following the foundation of the church that the early Christians continued steadfastly in their work.  This was not just a one time thing!

Acts 2:41-42 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

We need to realize that a person merely attending every church service does not make one a faithful Christian...

Being a Christian is a full-time job!  We must be fully committed at all times, not just one day a week.

If we come to worship just to punch our ticket; we come for the wrong reason.

Attending worship for one's own personal gain

There is a dangerous doctrine being taught by various denominations which can be damaging.  This doctrine, sometimes called the "prosperity gospel" says that if you worship God you will be blessed with great physical wealth.  (As the basis for their beliefs they use passages such as Mark 10:29-30 and 3 John 2.)

Is this the right reason to worship God?  Should our only motivation in loving God be a hope in gaining some kind of material reward?

We should love God because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19  We love Him because He first loved us.

To further debunk this idea, if all saints are supposed to be wealthy then what about Jesus Himself?

Matthew 8:19-20  Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

What about the Apostles?

Acts 3:2-6  And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.  And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

Surely none are more dedicated to God than Jesus and the Apostles, and yet these faithful followers lived in poverty.  This is completely the opposite of what is being taught by those that preach the "prosperity gospel"!

Jesus taught that we would be blessed with what we need and that a love of riches is detrimental to spiritual growth.

Matthew 6:24  No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

It is obvious that if we are coming to worship just to obtain physical wealth that we are coming for the wrong reason!

Attending worship to be entertained

In today's world we are used to being entertained.  It's to the point that we come to expect it constantly!

As a result many congregations have given in to gimmickry in order to bring in visitors.  It is difficult to differentiate worship services from a rock concert.

Should this be the reason that we come to worship God, just to escape boredom?

Should the preacher try to entertain us?

Notice that the men present on the day of Pentecost were not entertained but cut to the heart!

Acts 2:36-37 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

When we allow the Gospel to stand on its own it yields lasting, life-altering results.  While gimmickry may attract crowds, when that gimmickry disappears so do the crowds!  The Word of God is powerful enough on its own to attract true followers.

Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

What about singing?  I'll admit that this is one of my favorite parts of worship.  I love to sing!  But should the singing merely be a source of entertainment?

Ephesians 5:19  speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,

Singing, like the other acts of worship, are to be dedicated to the Lord.  While we may derive pleasure from participation in singing we should not forget its true purpose.

Colossians 3:16  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Additionally, as we sing we need to pay attention to the words rather than focusing solely on melody.  Singing in worship is not only pleasing to God, but also a method of teaching and admonishment.

Ultimately it should be Christ that draws us to worship, not entertainment.

John 12:12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem...

It wasn't free donuts or a game of softball that attracted the multitude to Jerusalem, it was the Son of God!  We need to remember that when we attend worship that Christ is among us!  That should be more than enough reason for excitement!

Matthew 18:20  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

Again, if we come to worship just to be entertained, we come for the wrong reason.

Attending worship because of family tradition

Some attend church services merely because that's what their family has always done.  Maybe they've worshiped with the same congregation in the same building for decades.  They don't love God, want to study His word, or worship Him.  They've simply taken on their family's religion.

We must realize that your family is not going to get you to Heaven.  Notice the singular language used in the following passage.

2 Corinthians 5:10  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Salvation is an individual thing.  Again, notice the singular language.

Mark 16:16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

If we attend simply because our family has always attended, we are not attending for the right reason.

Let us switch our focus at this time to the correct attitudes we should strive to have when it comes to worship...

The Correct Attitudes to have Toward Worship


Reverence is a deep respect.  This is a perfect description of the attitude we ought to have when it comes to worship.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.

It sounds strange to unbelievers, but our respect toward God is so deep that is akin to fear.  We would not dare disrespect our Creator!

1 Peter 2:17  Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

Indeed, we ought to have this degree of respect for Him;  His power is so awesome that we can’t even begin to understand!

Job 38:4  Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding.

If we have the proper degree of deep respect for God we will not fall asleep during the service, not talk or otherwise cause disruptions (cell phones, etc...).  God is to be the primary focus during our worship.


God has little patience for show-offs in His church.

The Bible tells us that we should humble ourselves before the Lord.

James 4:10  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

We should strive to be like the Tax Collector, certainly not like the Pharisee!

Luke 18:9-14  Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

In Remembrance

I mentioned the idea of reverence earlier in the lesson, which is a word that we usually associate with solemn events such as funerals.  In a sense, worship is like a funeral.

After all, we come together to remember Christ and all He did for us.

1 Corinthians 11:24-25  ...And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

We remember His death, burial, and resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4  Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures...

    In Obedience

We must worship God according to His divine instructions in order to please Him.  If we do not, we are not showing him respect we previously discussed.

When we fail to worship God according to His own instructions for worship, we are basically saying that we know better than Him concerning how we should serve Him.

This is one of the hardest ideas for the denominational world to understand, but all must recognize that man-made worship is not according to God's will.  Such worship is described as vain.

Matthew 15:9  And in vain they worship Me.  Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.

Surely, if anyone know how we ought to worship God it would have to be God Himself!

1 John 5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

 John14:6, 15  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me..." ;  If you love Me, keep My commandments.

In Faith

 It sounds obvious, but faith is essential in worship.

Hebrews 11:6  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

The bottom line is essentially this:  We must attend worship because we love God and want to please him and not for any other reason.


We must not forget that we must attend worship in order to please God.

Hebrews 10:25  ...Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

However, if your coming for the wrong reason; you might as well stay home.

We simply must worship God in spirit and in truth.

Are you worshiping for the right reason?


Note:  This is based a sermon by Ralph Price with some added thoughts of my own.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


1 Thessalonians 5:17 - “Pray without ceasing...”

I looked up the word “prayer” on an online concordance and found in about 365 verses (appropriate number considering the above verse).

Altogether, prayer is mentioned in the Bible some 500-600 times, depending on the source and the translation.  The count could be possibly even higher if you were to count all the times someone “cried out to the Lord” or simply spoke to God, which I would consider prayer.

It’s hard for me to imagine that something mentioned that many times in the Bible could not be significant!

What is Prayer?

Throughout the Bible we can see people communicating with God.

My definition of prayer would be direct communication with God.  I say direct communication because we don’t need to go through a priest (besides our true High Priest, Christ) to make this communication with our God.

Psalm 86:1  [ A Prayer of David. ] Bow down Your ear, O LORD, hear me; For I am poor and needy.

Psalm 66:19  But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Just as we read earlier in 1 Thessalonians, we should be constantly praying!  Prayer is a very essential part of a Christian’s life!  When we fail to pray, we our doing a terrible disservice to ourselves and are damaging our relationship with God!

The Power of Prayer

The Bible is full of examples of prayers that God has answered.  There are accounts of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Daniel, the Apostles and so many others that prayed to God and were blessed through answered prayers!  I would argue that the power of prayer is as infinite as the power of God, seeing that God is the force behind prayer!

Jesus says the following of prayer in John 14:13-14:  And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.  

As a former preacher often pointed out, “This does not mean that God is like Santa Clause.”

We must understand that God draws the line at requests that are outside of His will...  But more on that later!

The Benefits of Prayer 

Let’s examine some of the benefits of prayer...  But really, how could talking to God, your Creator, not be a benefit?

  • Letting God know your needs -  Philippians 4:6-7  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

  • Thankfulness - Colossians 4:2  Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving...

  • Comfort/Strength in desperate times - Psalm 34:18 The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. 

I should mention that such prayers do not denote a lack of faith.  Quite the opposite!  Remember that Jesus prayed for strength while in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His arrest (Luke 22:44).

  • Forgiveness - 2 Samuel 24:10  [ The Judgment on David’s Sin ] And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”  
Acts 8:21-23  "...You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.  Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.  For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

  • Escaping temptation -  Mark 14:38 - “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

How to Pray

Wouldn't be great if the Bible gave us instructions on how to go about praying?  Guess what...  God's Word does just that!  The disciples asked of Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” in Luke and He shared with them what is commonly referred to as the "Lord's Prayer".

Luke 11:1-4  Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”  So He said to them, “When you pray, say:  Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done.  On earth as it is in heaven.  Give us day by day our daily bread.  And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”

While it is not necessary that every prayer we offer up match the Lord's Prayer exactly, we can derive a pattern from Jesus' prayer.  Notice that Jesus offered his prayer to God, that He prayed with a proper reverent attitude, that He prayed that God's will be done, that He thanked God for blessings, and that He asked for forgiveness of sins and strength in the face of temptation.  Again, we do not necessarily have to repeat Jesus' exact words in our prayers, but we should follow His example.

Jesus Himself often sought solitude to pray.

Luke 5:16 - So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.

Jesus encouraged others to also pray in secret.  

Matthew 6:5-8  And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.  And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

We should pray with sincerity and humility!  The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is a great example of how to pray and - just as importantly - how not to pray!

Luke 18:9-14 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

When to Pray/What to Pray for

I remember when I was very young and in Sunday School classes with my mom.  She taught us something that has always stuck with me - You can pray anywhere, anytime, for anything!

We must realize that prayer is not just for Sunday.  Likewise, it seems that many people think that you can only pray at church, or just before a meal or other special occasions.  Prayer can be done whenever, wherever!

We need to remember others in our prayers.

James 5:16  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

We should pray for family, friends, enemies (Luke 6:28 - Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.), neighbors, co-workers, those who are sick, leaders

We can also pray for ourselves.  It’s not selfishness to pray for yourself!  Praying is a sign of humility and is pleasing to God.  I think refusal to pray for yourself would actually be a sign of pride.

The Holy Spirit’s Role in Prayer

Sometimes we get flustered with words and feel like we've messed up a prayer because maybe we have said something incorrectly. We don’t need to worry about that because the Holy Spirit make intercession for us.

Romans 8:25-27  “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.  Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”  

Just as a lawyer may speak on your account to the judge, the Holy Spirit is your advocate in prayer to God.

Personal Tips on Prayer

Make prayer a priority!  Be persistent!  The Parable of the Persistent Widow demonstrates the necessity of persistence.

Luke 18:1-8  Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”  Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

Note:  I think that the widow’s persistence is different from “vain repetition” because she is demanding justice.

Have a prayer list next to your bed.  Oftentimes I pray before going to bed.  Something I did years ago that helped me was making a prayer list that I kept near my bed.

Read Scripture Probably even better than a prayer list would be to read scripture before praying!

Pray with your spouse!

What about "Unanswered Prayers"?

Many say that their faith is tested when God doesn’t answer their prayers.

As we have read before, we must pray in accordance to God’s will.  We must realize that God is the one answering the prayer, so He decides whether it’s in His will or not.

Sometimes we ask for things that are not in God’s will.  Even still, God does indeed answer these kind of prayers.  We must realize that "No" is a possible answer to a prayer.

There is actually account of Jesus Himself engaging in such a prayer, just before His crucifixtion.

Matthew 26:39  He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”  

Matthew 26:42  Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

Did this prayer make Jesus sinful for asking God for something that was not in His will?  Certainly not!  Who would want to go through the agony of the cross?  Even though Jesus prayed for some other way, He ultimately recognized and submitted Himself to God's will.

My point is this:  Just because God doesn't answer a prayer with a "Yes" doesn’t mean that we should question Him.  Nor does it mean that we are sinful.  He knows what’s best for us in the long run and can see the big picture even when we can’t.

I’ve heard people sometimes say “Thank God for unanswered prayers.”  Which sounds like a funny thing to say, but because of our short-sightedness, we sometimes pray for things we don’t actually need and God knows this!

 Isaiah 55:8-9 “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Does God hear the Prayers of the Unrighteous/Those who are not Christians?

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately and is a pretty hot topic of debate: Does God hear/answer the prayers of the unrighteous?

Two verses in particular are often cited in this debate:

Proverbs 15:8  The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.

Proverbs 15:29  The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.

Based on these two verses alone, it appears that God does not hear/answer the prayers of the unrighteous.

However, I think there is a difference between an unrighteous person and someone who is lost but seeking truth.  I believe God hears the prayers of those truly seeking Him.

Obviously, God is not going to answer a prayer from an unrighteous and unrepentant person wishing ill on someone else.  But on the other hand, I believe God does hear and answer the prayers of those that may be lost but sincerely seeking God.

We read of a situation like this in Acts chapter 10 in the account of Cornelius.  If you recall, at this point in Acts, Cornelius would have been considered lost because he was a Gentile and was not yet a Christian.

But we read that Cornelius was a person who was diligently seeking God and we read that his prayers were answered even before he became a Christian!

An angel visiting Cornelius said in Acts 10:31: Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.

We must remember that when praying, faith is necessary!!!

Matthew 21:22  And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.

Cornelius, despite not yet being a Christian, had faith in God.  Thus, his prayers were heard and even answered!

Conclusion - Prayer's Role in Salvation

Before we conclude this lesson, let’s consider Proverbs 15:29 once again...

Proverbs 15:29  The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.

Whether we are asking for comfort or forgiveness, if we are in an unrighteous and unrepentant state, the Lord is far from us which is the complete opposite of what we want!  We should be seeking righteousness so that God will be near us in our prayers!

In this study we covered a lot of topics concerning prayer, but one thing we did not talk about was prayer’s role in salvation.

Reading further into the account of Cornelius, we see that he was eventually led down the right path through an answered prayer, but we know that he was not yet a Christian until he repented and was baptized.  It was not a prayer that saved him.

We must recognize that there is not mention of a “Sinner’s Prayer” anywhere in the Bible.

There are, however, several steps to salvation that are mentioned in the Bible, and Cornelius himself  (and others like him throughout the book of Acts) followed these steps as he sought to please God.