“Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” -John 4:20-24
by A.W. Tozer
What Is Not Acceptable?
THE STARK, TRAGIC FACT IS THAT THE EFFORTS of many people to worship are unacceptable to God. Without an infusion of the Holy Spirit there can be no true worship. This is serious. It is hard for me to rest peacefully at night knowing that millions of cultured, religious people are merely carrying on church traditions and religious customs and they are not actually reaching God at all. (Whatever Happened to Worship?, p. 46)
The manner in which many moderns think about worship makes me uncomfortable. Can true worship be engineered and manipulated? Do you foresee with me the time to come when churches may call the pastor a “spiritual engineer?” (Whatever Happened to Worship?, p. 85)
You are not worshipping God as you should if you have departmentalized your life so that some areas worship and other parts do not worship. This can be a great delusion—that worship only happens in church or in the midst of a dangerous storm or in the presence of some unusual and sublime beauty of nature around us. I have been with some fellows who became very spiritual when they stood on the breathtaking curve of a steep mountain cliff! (Whatever Happened to Worship? p, 124)
It is impossible for any of us to worship God without the impartation of the Holy Spirit. It is the operation of the Spirit of God within us that enables us to worship God acceptably through that Person we call Jesus Christ, who is Himself God.
So worship originates with God and comes back to us and is reflected from us, as a mirror. God accepts no other kind of worship. (Whatever Happened to Worship?, pp. 44-45)
I can offer no worship wholly pleasing to God if I know that I am harboring elements in my life that are displeasing to Him. I cannot truly and joyfully worship God on Sunday and not worship Him on Monday. I cannot worship God with a glad song on Sunday and then knowingly displease Him in my business dealings on Monday and Tuesday.
I repeat my view of worship—no worship is wholly pleasing to God until there is nothing in me displeasing to God. (Whatever Happened to Worship? pp. 124-125)
Lessons from Cain
There are many kinds of worship that God cannot accept. Cain’s worship in the Old Testament was not accepted because he did not acknowledge the necessity of an atonement for sin in the relationship between God and fallen man. (Whatever Happened to Worship?, p. 40)
The kind of worship Cain offered to God has three basic and serious shortcomings:
First is the mistaken idea that God is a different kind of God than what He really is. This has to do with the person and the character of the sovereign and holy God. How can anyone ever worship God acceptably without knowing what kind of God He really is? Cain surely did not know the true character of God. Cain did not believe that the matter of man’s sin was eternally important to God.
Second is the mistake of thinking that man holds a relationship to God that in fact he does not. Cain casually assumed that he was deserving of acceptance by the Lord without an intermediary. He refused to accept the judgment of God that man had been alienated from his God by sin.
Third, Cain in the Old Testament record, and with him an unnumbered multitude of men and women since, have mistakenly assumed that sin is far less serious than it really is. The record is plain, if men and women would only look at it and consider it. God hates sin because He is a holy God. He knows that sin has filled the world with pain and sorrow, robbing us of our principle purpose and joy in life, the joy of worshipping our God!
The kind of worship offered by Cain is inadequate, without real meaning. Bringing it as an issue to our own day under the New Testament, I assure you that I would not knowingly spend an hour in any church that refuses to teach the necessity of the blood atonement for sin through the cross and the merits of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ! (Whatever Happened to Worship?, pp. 41-42)
Emptiness of the Average Church Service
It will be seen how empty and meaningless is the average church service today. All the means are in evidence; the one ominous weakness is the absence of the Spirit’s power. The form of godliness is there, and often the form is perfected till it is an aesthetic triumph. Music and poetry, art and oratory, symbolic vesture and solemn tones combine to charm the mind of the worshiper, but too often the supernatural afflatus is not there. The power from on high is neither known nor desired by pastor or people. This is nothing less than tragic, and all the more so because it falls within the field of religion where the eternal destinies of men are involved. (The Divine Conquest, [now titled The Pursuit of Man], p. 90)
The Whole Life Must Worship God
It is possible to worship God with our lips and not worship God with our lives. But I want to tell you that if your life doesn’t worship God, your lips don’t worship God either. (Sermon, “Doctrine of the Remnant,” Chicago, 1957)
The total life, the whole man and the whole woman, has got to worship God. Faith and love and obedience and loyalty and conduct and life—all of these are to worship God. If there is anything in you that doesn’t worship God, then there isn’t anything in you that does worship God very well. If you departmentalize your life and let certain parts of you worship God but other parts of you do not worship God, you are not worshipping God as you should. It is a great delusion that we easily fall into the idea that in church or in the presence of death or in the midst of sublimity that we are spiritual. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #6, Toronto, 1962)
There is Samaritan worship
Samaritan worship is heretical worship in the correct meaning of the term. A heretic is not a man who denies all of the truth, he’s just a very persnickety man who picks out what he likes and rejects the rest. Heresy means I take what I like and I reject what I don’t like. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #3, Toronto, 1962)
There is nature worship
It is the poetry of religion. It is the high enjoyment and the contemplation of the sublime. We have an awful lot of nature worshipers and worshipers of God through nature, which is a better way of saying it. It is a high enjoyment, a concentrating of the mind upon beauty as distinct from the eye and the ear. If your ear hears music, that’s beauty. If your eye sees beauty, that’s art. But if you think beautiful thoughts without music or art, that’s poetry and you write that down. Some people mistake rapt feeling for worship. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #3, Toronto, 1962)
Some mistake the music of religion for worship
Whatever elevates the mind and raises to near rapture the soul, that’s supposed to be worship. (The Chief End of Man, Sermon #3, Totonto, 1962)
Not all worship is acceptable with God. And there is a lot of worship in our cultured society that God will never receive in this world or the next. There is religious experience that God will never accept. There is the warm feeling of personal friendships with religious people. There is the sound of the organ and the beauty of the hymns. But apart from truth and the Holy Ghost there is no true worship. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #3, Toronto, 1962)
You cannot worship just as you please
This is one of the tricks of the devil and a very favorite pet of unconverted poets and unconverted people with a bump of sublimity on their head but without the new birth. They teach that we just worship God any way we want to worship God and all will be well. Authentic religious experience is altogether possible apart from redemption. It’s entirely possible to have authentic religious experience and not be a Christian and not be converted and be on our way to eternal hell. You remember that Cain had an experience—an authentic religious experience. He talked to God and God talked to him. It is possible to have an experience with God and yet not have a saving experience with God. It is possible to worship and yet not worship aright. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #3, Toronto, 1962)
Worship has to be in the Spirit and by the Spirit
The notion that just anybody can worship is all wrong. The notion that we can worship without the Spirit is all wrong. The notion that we can crowd the Spirit into a corner and ignore Him, quench Him, resist Him and yet worship God acceptably is a great heresy which we need to correct. Only the Holy Spirit knows how to worship God acceptably. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #8, Toronto, 1962)
Worship Comes Before Work
It may be set down as an axiom that if we do not worship we cannot work acceptably. The Holy Spirit can work through a worshipping heart and through no other kind. We may go through the motions and delude ourselves by our religious activity, but we are setting ourselves up for a shocking disillusionment some day.
Without doubt the emphasis in Christian teaching today should be on worship. There is little danger that we shall become merely worshipers and neglect the practical implications of the gospel. No one can long worship God in spirit and in truth before the obligation to holy service becomes too strong to resist. Fellowship with God leads straight to obedience and good works. That is the divine order and it can never be reversed. (Born after Midnight, pp. 125-126)
Whatever keeps me from the Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be. Whatever engages my attention when I should be meditating on God and things eternal does injury to my soul. Let the cares of life crowd out the Scriptures from my mind and I have suffered loss where I can least afford it. Let me accept anything else instead of the Scriptures and I have been cheated and robbed to my eternal confusion. (That Incredible Christian, p. 82)
A Hard Message
If there is anything in me that does not worship God, then there is nothing in me that worships God perfectly! I do not say that God must have a perfection of worship or He will not accept any worship at all. I would not go so far; if I did, I would rule myself out. And we would all hang our harps on the willows and refuse to sing the songs of the Lord in a strange land. But, I do say that the ideal God sets before us is that we should worship as near to perfectly as we can. And that if there are areas in my being that are not harmonious and that do not worship God, then there’s no area in my being that worships God perfectly. (The Tozer Pulpit, Book 1, p. 55)
See to it that there isn’t a spot or an hour or a place or a time or a day or a location that isn’t consecrated and given over to God. You’ll be worshipping Him—and He’ll accept it! (The Tozer Pulpit, Book 1, p. 53)
The Three Stages of Grace
We’ve died once to the penalty of sin:
Titus 2:11 ¶ For the grace of God has appeared, with salvationa for all people,
Saved by grace.
All of man’s estate from birth hopelessly marred in the fathomless effects of sin. By nature we are all children of wrath, sons of disobedience, slaves to sin; with the only merits of our righteousness compared to the riches of dirty, filthy rags. From the moment of our conception in the womb– we are completely sinful. The wages of sin is death; all who sin die. That is why even infants die; they are sinful, sinners, and worthy of eternal perdition (Roms. 5:12-19).
What about infants who die; the mentally handicapped; or those who are ignorant of and have never heard the gospel? Are they given an exemption from the effects of sin, eternal judgment and punishment, and the righteous justice of a holy God? Are they somehow insulated from eternal wrath because of their age, mental capacity, and ignorance and that salvation is granted to them due to their “state of being” and not due to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Those that assert that all babies who die receive instant heaven, do so to sooth the aching hearts of grieving parents (which we all understand). But our hope beloved in the tragic death of an infant is not in the destiny of the child, but in the character of God. A baby’s perceived “innocence” affording them instant heaven is only an accommodation afforded by the sentimental whims of man. “In sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). We are all sinners (including children) not because we commit acts of sin; but because we are sinful to the core of our being – by nature. There is not a God-sized hole within us that needs filling by divine intervention. Our entire being is corrupt–and it is the same for our children.
Someone’s age is not that which insulate one against God’s holy divine judgment anymore than someone’s mental cognation or ignorance from not hearing the good news of the gospel. Something are still a mystery to us beloved and we must leave them in the just hands of a righteous God. It would be wrong for any of us to be inflexibly dogmatic on the guaranteed eternal salvation of all infants, all who are mentally handicapped, and all those who die in the ignorance of never hearing the gospel. Those that do, IMHO, out of good motives, are promising false hope. And that promise is not up to us, but only up to God Himself.
We need to be born again. Paul leaves no doubt in the bankrupt abilities of man and the greatness of the grace of our God in salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation…” and without grace, there is no hope of eternal life.
Grace is “hard” to live by; for grace robs man of his glory, of all boasting in his own abilities to be made acceptable to God, and dashes his religious pride to the ground. Grace strips us self-confidence, perfectionism, and our own goodness. Grace crushes our arrogance and exalts Christ; lifts holiness and dashes human morality
We die daily to the power of sin:
Titus 2:12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age,
Sanctified by grace.
No man through human effort can perfect himself. “Having begun in the Spirit are you trying to perfect yourself in the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3). It is a temptation for any of us once we have tasted of the fount of God’s grace in salvation, to then revert back to a life of works in our sanctification. Paul says here in Titus that grace is our teaching; “instructing us to deny…” We are new creations in Christ, but yet we are incarcerated in unredeemed flesh (Romans 7). The things we want to do, we don’t do; and the things we don’t want to do, we do. “O wretched man am I” Paul says in the midst of this struggle.
Sanctification does and must flow from genuine regeneration; but we must remember beloved, it is all of grace.
One day we will be free from the presence of sin:
Titus 2:13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:14 He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a special people, eager to do good works.
Glorified by grace.
Grace will see us through til the end. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1: 24-25)