Guaranteed Encounters

Written by Charles Ekong

20/05/2024

I’m part of a team hosting a worship gathering this weekend, and you’re welcome to come along if you’re in the UK. Unsurprisingly, I’ve recently been reflecting on worship in Scripture. The word itself means the acknowledgement of worth – inferring that what we worship must be worthy. Sadly, our society worships many things that aren’t worthy of worship: transient things, many with derived meaning or significance. However, if worship implies voluntarily esteeming the worthiness of another, then who is more deserving of our worship than the God of the whole earth [Psalm 24:1]? Who or what could we place in the same class as Yahweh [Romans 1:19-23]?

The Bible presents worship as the primary way we relate to God. It’s not just something we do in Church. It must be a believer’s way of life [Colossians 3:23-24]. We don’t approach Him as peers but with the honour He’s due as Creator: the one before all things, who holds all things together and sustains them by the word of His power [Colossians 1:16-17, Hebrews 1:2-3]. John recounts a picture of such worship in Revelation 4, as those esteemed by heaven cast their crowns before the Throne in worship. These elders credited their lives and accomplishments to God by casting their crowns – a recognition that any worthiness they had belonged to God, not them. Their example is instructive for a society like ours enthralled with status, fame, accolades, etc. because we often allow them to hinder our worship. Anything we can’t cast down before God can easily take His place in our lives or prevent us from hallowing Him as Lord in our hearts [1 Peter 3:15]. So, we must guard against self-gratification in our worship [Jeremiah 9:23-24, 1 Corinthians 1:29].

The first occurrence of the word worship in the Bible is in Genesis 22. It’s a story which demonstrates that hallowing Jesus as Lord in our hearts is costly but, in time, very rewarding.  The passage begins with God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering [Genesis 22:1-2]. Isaac was Abraham’s future. It would’ve been understandable if Abraham had said: “Lord, I’ll give you anything but Isaac”. But he didn’t. Instead, he arose early the next day to do as God commanded. His action was an extraordinary act of worship which effectively said: “Lord, You are worthy of it all, including my future” [Genesis 22:5]. Abraham’s example teaches us to give God our very best in worship. For believers, giving our best to God implies presenting our bodies to Him as a living sacrifice, set apart for Him alone [Romans 12:1]. In other words, for believers, worship is synonymous with total submission [Luke 22:42]. 

Only our best is acceptable to God, and giving Him our best must be the aim of our worship [Deuteronomy  10:21, 15:21]. That said, we can only give Him our best if, like Abraham, we trust Him unreservedly and see Him as our Life-Source, Saviour and Master [Genesis 15:1-2, Romans 10:9]. However, when we give God that which truly costs us, He always responds – a pattern illustrated in the lives of Abel [Genesis 4:4], Noah [Genesis 8:20-22], Abraham [Genesis 22:15-18], Solomon [1 Kings 8:5-11, 62-9:9], the sinful woman at Bethany [Mark 14:3-9], the Church at Antioch [Acts 13:1-2] and others. Like Abraham, none of these regretted their sacrificial act of worship [Genesis 24:1]. As Jesus told the woman at the well, His Father desires true worshippers who worship Him in spirit and truth [John 4:23-24], and when they do, He meets with them [Isaiah 45:19]. As such, the reward for true worship is God’s manifest presence, and in His presence is fullness of joy and everlasting delights [Psalm 16:11].

Our worship doesn’t change God; nothing we do can make Him more than He already is. But His response to our worship changes everything for us. It provides direction, guidance, revelation and empowerment. Furthermore, since no evil can withstand God’s manifest presence, we can expect supernatural deliverance, miracles, healings, and other manifestations of the Spirit [1 Corinthians 12:1-11]. Encounters with God reveal His purposes for our lives. Then, as we walk in our purpose, we’re blessed and satisfied immeasurably as our lives bear fruit and glorify Him [Isaiah 43:7, John 15:16, Colossians 1:9-10]. Consequently, we must be expectant as we worship, aware that God always responds to faith-filled acts of worship because, as Jacob demonstrated, it’s possible to be oblivious to God’s presence and miss out on a life-changing encounter [Genesis 28:16 Hebrews 11:6].

Tucked in the middle of Isaiah is a familiar promise: “…your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or the left.” [Isaiah 30:21]. Paul’s life is an example of the outworking of this promise. All believers continue to benefit from his ministry because Paul was a true worshipper submitted to the Holy Spirit [Acts 16:25, 20:22, Romans 8:14]. This promise is the heritage of all believers, not just a select few [John 14:26, 16:8-13]. However, it occurred to me that a beneficiary of this promise must be doing something for God with their life [Luke 2:49], and they must also have eyes that see to see the way and ears that hear to receive guidance and direction. Such discernment is sharper when we cast out every idol in our hearts, destroy every argument and opinion that exalts itself above the knowledge of God, and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ [Isaiah 30:22, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5].

So, on Saturday, I’ll be exhorting those gathered to pray for hearing ears and seeing eyes as they lay aside every constraint and desire to worship God just for who He is. I can’t wait for the testimonies afterwards.

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