The Good News for a Modern World | Part 2
Who is God?
Why should we worship God?
This question is so far-reaching that the answer is practically 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 an answer 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 benefit 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 go to the worm.
“Do not put your in nobles, Nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; In that day his thoughts do perish.”
– 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.
What is God like?
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 the height of heaven? Also see the sum total of the stars, that they are high. And yet you have said: ‘What does God really know? Through thick gloom can he judge? Clouds are a concealment place for him so that he does not see, And on the vault of heaven he walks about.’”
– Job 22:12-14
Thus, we cannot observe Him to determine what He is like. Of course, we can learn some things about God from the things he made:
“For his invisible [qualities] are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.”
– Romans 1:20
They tell of His 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. There is only one avenue for that revelation:
“No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom [position] with the Father is the one that has explained him.”
– 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 delivered to me by my Father, and no one fully knows the Son but the Father, neither does anyone fully know the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.”
– Matthew 11:27
As Jesus said to the Apostle Thomas:
“If you men had known me, you would have known my Father also; from this moment on you know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him: “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him: “Have I been with you men so long a time, and yet, Philip, you have not come to know me? He that has seen me has seen the Father [also]. How is it 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.
Does God have a name?
The Hebrew scriptures asserts that God’s name is Jehovah or Yahweh.
“That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, 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 wonder if 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.
“You must pray, then, this way: ‘Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth. Give us today our bread for this day; and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.’ For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; whereas if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
– 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, Abba! which means ‘Daddy!’ or ‘Papa!’
“For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which spirit we cry out: “Abba, Father!” The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
– Romans 8:14-16
“Now because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: “Abba, Father!” So, then, you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God.”
– Galatians 4:6-7
So while God was revealed to the Hebrews by a name, Jesus revealed Him to us, His faith-sons and daughters, by relationship – as our Father.
Does Jehovah care about us? Rather, “Does the Father care about us?”
Of course, the Father cares about us! He has set in motion an administration to adopt us as his spiritual sons and daughters in the heavens!
“This he caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and good sense, in that he made known to us the sacred secret of his will. It is according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.”
– Ephesians 1:8-10
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in union with Christ, just as he chose us in union with him before the founding of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love. For he foreordained us to the adoption through Jesus Christ as sons to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
– Ephesians 1:3-5
“In other generations this [secret] was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by spirit, namely, that people of the nations should be joint heirs and fellow members of the body and partakers with us of the promise in union with Christ Jesus through the good news. I became a minister of this according to the free gift of the undeserved kindness of God that was given me according to the way his power operates.”
– Ephesians 3:5-7
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 made better 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 mortal life. It is through the trials and tribulations of life that we are perfected. Man only learns wisdom by experiencing tribulation. And it is by finding successful ways of dealing with adversity that man makes his greatest advancements. Really, the greatest affliction of the cosmos 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 will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword? Just as it is written: “For your sake we are being put to death all day long, we have been accounted as sheep for slaughtering.” To the contrary, in all these things we are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love 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 give up, but even if the man we are outside is wasting away, certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day. For though the tribulation is momentary and light, it works out for us a glory that is of more and more surpassing weight and is everlasting; while we keep our eyes, not on the things seen, but on the things unseen. For the things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting.”
– 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 mortal life according to our stage of spiritual development. (Galatians 6:7-10) Yet, we can endure it:
“No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to 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.
“Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real 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:
“Keep you minds fixed on the things above, not on the things upon the earth.”
– 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:
“But just as it is written: “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:9
How can we draw 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:
“Do you not know that you people are God’s temple, and that the spirit of God dwells in you?”
– 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.
“And he made out of one [man] every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth, and he decreed the appointed times and the set limits of the dwelling of [men], for them to seek God, if they might grope for him and really find him, although, in fact, he is not far off from each 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 Jesus’ example. As to prayer, he taught us:
“Also, when you pray, you must not be as the hypocrites; because they like to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the broad ways to be visible to men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full You, however, when you pray, go into your private room and, after shutting your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; then your Father who looks on in secret will repay you.”
– Matthew 6:5-6
See also Matthew 6:7-15; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 18:1-14
As to worship, Jesus taught:
“Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”
– John 4:23-24
As to his own example, Jesus taught:
“Jesus said to him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you men had known me, you would have known my Father also; from this moment on you know him and have seen him.”
– John 14:6-8
“I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved, and he will go in and out and find pasturage.”
– 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.
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