The True Worship of God:
Gaining the Divine Perspective

by Rev. Sterling Durgy

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In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul discusses the complete change in point of view that comes as a result of conversion (5:16). Before conversion, we look at people, and even Christ, from the viewpoint of our own wisdom alone. We view things "according to the flesh" to use Paul's terminology. The person who does not know God looks at all things from a purely human point of view - a point of view that only includes what can be learned through thought or senses. After conversion, our view of everything is changed. Our affections and judgments are fully affected by the new nature that God gives to us. We then become "spiritual," people who are informed and directed by the new nature imparted by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Paul discusses this new nature in the latter part of II Corinthians 5. The person who comes to know God is controlled by the love of Christ (Romans 5:5). This is part of the new nature God gives us during regeneration, when we are "born again" and become a "new creatures in Christ." But it is also a matter of exhortation in Scripture, meaning it is not something that God simply communicates directly to us by His Spirit, it is something that we must cultivate (I John 4:7-16, Romans 12:2). Surely this is part of "sowing to the Spirit" Paul speaks of in Galatians (5:25, 6:7-8). Paul's letters to both the Corinthians and the Galatians demonstrate that if we do not pay attention to cultivating God's point of view, worldliness can take over our minds again, making us "carnal" or "fleshly minded."

It is in times of worship that we look to the building and restoration of an accurate view of ourselves and our world. The prophet Isaiah stood out from his generation because of his piety and devotion to God. But in Isaiah chapter 6, we find that as Isaiah comes before the Lord, he becomes aware of things that he had not fully realized before. As he draws closer to God, He becomes aware of his own sinfulness and the sinfulness of his people. It is before God that he accepts the commission to serve God. It is also before God's throne that Isaiah sees reality of his task, for most of the people Isaiah comes to will not heed God's call to repentance.

To say that we must determine to develop God's perspective in our lives is another way to say that Christianity is a revealed religion. That which God reveals to us He does so primarily through His Word rather than through experience. Therefore, it is not just through times set aside for "spiritual activities" that we develop God's perspective, it is as we focus upon and receive the Word of God. This is why the Word of God had a central part in the worship of the synagogue and why it must remain a central part of Christian worship today.

A true spiritual perspective is not just something that we fantasize or feel into existence. It is only as we open our minds to what God tells us that our minds become fully molded into the "mind of Christ." A time of "worship" that centers upon human culture, human ideas, or human experience, no matter how spiritual they may sound, brings us to ourselves. God's Word brings us the voice of God. This is why Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth" (John 17:17) and the Psalmist wrote, "Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee . . . Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:11,105).

Several disciplines, which have traditionally been a part of Christian worship, help us to find God's perspective:

First, Scripture and the teachings of the Scriptures have a central place in worship. Formal Christian worship included a great deal of Scripture reading now absent from most of our services. There were regular readings from the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets, as well as readings from the New Testament. This was organized so that all Scripture was read publicly in a certain period of time. Sometimes, Scripture reading was presented as a unison or responsive reading. Further, hymns and confessions of faith brought doctrine together in such a way that worshippers could see the relationship of the teachings of Scripture to each other and to the lives of the worshippers. The "message" or "sermon" served to clarify the meaning of Scripture.

Secondly, worship services and prayers are organized to lift us to God before focusing on things of earth. By focusing upon God first, worshippers are brought, like Isaiah, before God; and from this perspective return to look at the world. Hymns that led worship generally spoke of God or Christ, then of God's work on our behalf, and finally of our service to God or Christian experience. This was true not just of hymns, but of the service in general. In our time, songs exalting experience often replace or are intermingled with songs that speak of God, and are often the first thing our services focus upon. Prayer should also follow the general order: Adoration and praise, confession, intercession (for the needs of others), petition (for our own needs), and thanksgiving. These orderings are not rigid, of course. They are not a law. There is a great deal of room for variation. But as a discipline, they help us toward a frame of mind molded by God's. Psalm 90 is a perfect example of how worship begins with God and ends with daily living.

Thirdly, Christian mediation helps us incorporate God's viewpoint into our thinking and practices. The reading of Scripture is not helpful if it becomes just another set of information to be mentally stored. For it to be fully useful, we have to make a connection with our own lives. How do teachings of Scripture relate to one another? Let's take the Scripture that we just read and think of other Scriptures to examine this. What do the Scriptures say about the specific problems we are wrestling with? Let's take a look at our problems and try to apply Scripture. This may include reading books that help us to understand and apply the Scriptures. A Christian can do these things with complete confidence, because when coupled with confession, we can be sure of forgiveness and God's enabling presence (I John 1:9).

These and other disciplines can, over time, help us to see things as God sees them. Repetition over time is not a problem, for the mature Christian knows that the world presses its own view upon us every day. Paul wrote to the Philippians, "To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you" (3:1). Peter wrote, ". . . therefore, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. And I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder . . ." (II Peter 1:12-13). Only by continual practice can we keep God's perspective in a sinful world where problems and temptations press so hard and so continually. It is not unlike a world-renowned musician never coming to the place where practice is not required to remain familiar with his or her instrument.

True worship brings us to the place where we can "gaze with knowing." This is as much a mental exercise as a habit of mind if we are to see what is really there and not what we imagine to be true. Many nights I have taken out my small telescope to look up into the sky. What made the difference between amateur astronomers like myself and others is not only that we practiced techniques to help us find faint objects in the sky, but when we did see a galaxy, nebula, or cluster of stars, we knew something about it. A picture taken from a large observatory would have shown more detail. But because we knew what we were looking at, and had some idea of how big it was, how many stars it contained, and how far away it was, we were thrilled to be able to see it with our own eyes; no matter how dim or small it looked through our small scopes.

The author of Hebrews talks about this "gazing with knowing." This was a characteristic common to those who served God victoriously in this world. It could not have been immediate reward that drove them, because they all, each and every one, died without receiving what they sought (Hebrews 11:13)! What kept them going . . . what enabled them to live for God when everything was against them? It was the ability to see that which God had revealed but was not currently in view, the ability to look at the world around them and see it as God saw it - which is to look with faith, to look at the world and know - know more about it than is revealed to us by our senses alone. Moses, for example, chose "to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin" (Hebrews 11:25). And why? Because Moses, ". . . was looking to the reward . . ." and ". . . endured as seeing Him who is unseen" (Hebrews 11:26,27).

But faith does not develop in a vacuum. Faith develops as we consider carefully how God has revealed Himself to us in history and what He has communicated to us through His Word. Paul wrote, " . . . faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). It is possible to "gaze without knowing," to guess or surmise, and to be wrong. Both Jesus and Paul marked the difference between people who render opinion about spiritual things and those who really know (John 4: 22, Romans 10:2). True faith results from a lifelong, relentless commitment to seek and live by God's revealed truth.

After listing many who were faithful to God because of their faith, the author of Hebrews then directs our attention to Jesus, who was able to endure and conquer the cross because of the reward that He saw before Him (Hebrews 12:1-2). In the first chapter of I Peter, Peter takes us continually towards God and spiritual things and then brings our attention back to our earthly lives. After acknowledging the reality of trials, Peter also directs our attention to Jesus, ". . . and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls" (I Peter 1:8-9). True worship lifts us away from our perspective to God's so that we can see the world as it truly is - not with a foundation built upon fantasy or mysticism, but upon those things that will remain true for eternity.

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume IV, Part 10, October 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.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.