The True Worship of God:
Servants of the Most High God

by Rev. Sterling Durgy

Click below to:

Go to the previous article about worship.

Go to the next article about worship.

Return to menu of articles available here.

Return to The American Night Watch home page.

Two closely related concepts help us to understand the true nature of Christian worship. These concepts are found in the Old Testament and remain important in the New.

The first is the concept of reverence for God signified by prostration, bowing down before the Lord. Abraham "fell on his face" at the presence of the Lord as God appeared to make His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:3). Abraham "bowed himself to the earth" as God approached him at the Oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18:2). There is more than Oriental courtesy here. This is an act of obeisance -- obeisance being the honor one gives to a ruler. It is the recognition of the sovereignty of that ruler over one's life. Moreover, in Judaism and Christianity it is voluntarily yielding control of one's life to the only true God, the Most High God. In Scripture, this honor is never given correctly to an impersonal force. It is honor and respect given from a creature to the living God. Even when actual bowing down does not occur, the attitude of heart represented by prostration is the attitude of the one acceptable to God. This respect for God is so strong that it is often described as fear (Proverbs 9:10, Psalms 111:10, II Corinthians 7:1). It is not a fear that debilitates, but a fear that leads to comfort and trust in the power of the God who loves us.

The second concept is that God's people are His servants. The service of God separates Judaism and Christianity from all other religions. Other religions are means whereby people seek to manipulate God, gods, or nature to serve themselves. In paganism, ceremonies, magic, and sacred writings are the means whereby a worshipper seeks to control what God does. Often the goal is to "merge" with God or nature in some kind of ecstasy - an ecstasy that seems to confirm a special relationship with God or nature and, thus, special favors. In Judaism and Christianity, the worshipper places him or herself at God's disposal as a servant.

The twin concepts of "reverence" and "service" are not simply found sprinkled throughout both testaments, they are pervasive. They are seen not only in the words that are chosen in the Old and New Testaments to describe worship, but in the acts and attitudes of those approved of God throughout Scripture. Even when Jesus tells us to call God our Father, even "abba," which is a term of endearment, respect and readiness for service are never absent. We see this dual attitude in Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre as he bargains, respectfully, for any righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah to be spared judgment (Genesis 18). And, of course, we see this supremely in Jesus Christ, whenever He addresses God the Father and whenever He acts (John 17, 4:34, 8:29).

In Philippians 2:5 Paul writes, "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus." Paul then describes how Jesus, knowing that He was God and had all the privileges of God, lowered himself, not just to become human being, but to become a servant. This attitude of service was so strong, so loyal, that Jesus even submitted Himself to the cruel and despised death of crucifixion on behalf of mankind. It was because of His attitude of service, unique in all of history, that, Paul writes, Jesus is exalted and every knee shall someday bow to Jesus and give Him praise. Paul continually presented himself as a servant, and at the beginning of the letter to the Philippians introduces both himself and Timothy as "bond-servants of Christ Jesus."

The dual concepts of reverence and service describe what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of God. Jesus drove this lesson home at the last supper by taking a washbasin and a towel and washing His disciple's feet - then telling the disciples that they must live their lives as servants of one another, as He had just demonstrated (John 13:3-17). Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).

This attitude transforms all of life into an arena for the service of God. There is no more distinction between the spiritual and the unspiritual. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31). Just as the Mosaic Law reached out into all parts of life (diet, health, community, law, religious life), so too, the Gospel reaches out to transform all parts of life. The challenge is to love God by doing all things, even the common everyday things of life, in such a manner that God is honored. As compasses point continually to magnetic north, we, by the way that we live, in truth, integrity, and honor, point always to God (II Corinthians 5:9, 14-15, Titus 2:11-14). This is why there is so much practical advice in the New Testament about how to conduct our daily lives. This is why the apostle Paul wasn't wasting time when he was making tents - for even here he had a spiritual motivation for what he did - and was living in such a manner as to bring glory to Christ (I Corinthians 9:18, I Thessalonians 4:11).

In such a life, though not in a strained or superficial manner, and as appropriate, Christians speak of and to the God they serve. These habits of life, together with the willingness to witness to faith in Christ, help others to know why we live the way we do. This, in turn, brings more honor to God, especially when others decide to serve Him as well.

Formal times of worship, public or private, are times set aside to come before the Lord we serve. The more important and frequently used words that we translate "worship," proskuneo, latreia, leitourgia, all tie reverence and service to the worship of God. Seen from this perspective, worship is not an entirely different part of life. Instead, it is a part of a larger whole in which the service of the Most High God, motivated by love, is the goal. It is for this reason that the Word of God traditionally plays such a central role in Christian worship, just as it does in the synagogue. Worship is, therefore, governed by all of the same freedoms and constraints as all Christian life. Coming before God to learn about Him and His ways is preparation for service that is lived out when formal worship is over.

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume IV, Part 6, June 1996.

Copyright 1999 Sterling M. Durgy. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.

Return to top of page.

Go to the previous article about worship.

Go to the next article about worship.

Return to menu of articles available here.

Return to The American Night Watch home page.

Click here for Sterling Durgy's e-mail address.

This page was last updated October 22, 1999.