Summary: Worship will always challenge us. We can not stand in the holy presence of God and not feel His challenge. This text shares three ways in which we are challenged when we worship.
THE CHALLENGE OF WORSHIP
Famous researcher, George Barna recently conducted a survey on worship in American churches. He had some very interesting things to say, so let me share just a couple of them with you. “Worship is a non-negotiable obligation and privilege of every Christian…We agree that when it comes to worship, God deserves it, the Bible commands it, and churches try to facilitate it," he stressed. "But we have a problem when it comes to worship. ... True worship is rare.” According to his results, he found that in American churches, thirty-two percent have never experienced God’s presence in worship, forty-four percent have not experienced his presence in the past year. And the younger the person, the less likely she or he has experienced that presence. Isn’t that astounding? Barna continues, “Only one third of church-going adults identify worshiping God as "the most important responsibility of a Christian.” And less than half of them defined worship as a "top priority" in their lives. “The focus needs to be on God, not us. We worship for God’s benefit,” he stressed. “The reason why we’re doing this is God commands it, God deserves it, it pleases him.” “Worship is as much an attitude as an activity," he added, "and the right heart allows intimacy with God.”
I suppose that if you were to ask every church that participated in Barna’s study about the importance of worship in their church, almost everyone would respond that worship is important. We ourselves during our study of the church talked about the importance of worship. We have been created for worship. According to what Paul wrote the Roman church, one of the chief sins of humanity is that as a whole, we have failed to worship God. Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
However, one reason I believe that so many fail to worship God is that they never accept the challenge of worship. True, genuine worship presents a challenge to everyone who would come before the present of God. The text that I have read today is one of the most difficult to understand in the entire Bible. I don’t necessarily mean understand in the sense of translating from Hebrew to English, but rather because the insinuations of this story can be un-settling. It presents a view of God that often makes us feel uncomfortable. How could God demand such a thing of Abraham? We generally think of this story in terms of testing and faith, Abraham’s faith was tested and proven when he offered Isaac his own son to the Lord. However, I believe that the one great reason that this story is revealed is so that we can know that God is serious about worship. Some of you are thinking, “Pastor, you’re not going to tell me that this story is all about worship, are you?” After all, we have no record of songs being sung, and surely Abraham wasn’t shouting or rejoicing as he went up Mt. Moriah. to offer his own son. However listen to Abraham’s description of what this was all about. Genesis 22:5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. Abraham said, “We’re going to worship.” Did you know that this is the very first time that the word worship is used in the Bible? Obviously, men and women worshipped before this, Abraham had bowed down to God as God and two angels visited with him to tell him the news that Sodom was going to be destroyed. Noah had offered offerings before the Lord, and Cain and Abel also had offered offerings before the Lord. But here is the very first time that the word worship is used. There is something that Bible scholars call the “law of the first mention”. This “law” simply states that if you select an important biblical word, you will find that it’s first appearance in the scriptures sets the tone for all the richness of its meaning through out the rest of the Bible. In other words, the first mention gives us the clearest picture of the meaning of the word. We often think of worship as singing, or rejoicing before the Lord, but I want you to understand that worship is deeper than that. I have already told you, singing, praying, shouting, and rejoicing are all outward manifestations of worship, but you can do all of those things and never really worship, because you have not accepted the challenge of worship. Abraham had a heart of worship, even when it was heavy with sadness. Outward circumstances don’t dictate our worship, the worthiness of God is what demands our worship and God’s worthiness does not change. I want to share three aspects of the challenge of worship with you this morning that this text show us. May God help us to accept the challenge.