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The Year Long Celebration of God is all about real worship. It’s about giving God exactly what is due Him . . . all of the time.
Romans 12:1 plainly tells us, “I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
The Greek word holy refers to something that is consecrated to God with a spiritual significance.
The word “sacrifice” is the exact same word used to refer to a burnt offering.
The word “spiritual” is used only one other time in Scripture and refers to the Word of God itself.
And every time the phrase “service of worship” is used in the New Testament, it’s referring to the kind of service that is reserved for God Himself — even service that was done within the temple.
“I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
That’s the worship God deserves when we’re at work, playing pinball, shoveling, feeding the cat, snuggling our spouses, and clipping our toenails.
He deserves it on Christmas and Easter, and He deserves it on Thursday at 2:27 pm.
That’s what The Celebration of God is all about . . . helping disciples of Christ worship God better.
But here’s the thing — what if your worship of God isn’t only personal?
What if your faith and religious convictions were never intended to be kept to yourself. What if your spiritual service of worship requires that you have an impact on your friend’s spiritual service of worship?
Well, my friends, that’s exactly what it means.
With no further ado . . . let’s do a quick review of the first three parts of our “What is Worship? Series.
During part 1 we defined worship, and we learned that worship is everything we do. Every action, work, feeling, desire, and belief is either a sacrifice to self or to God.
Christ-honoring worship is True Worship or the Best Worship. But if the majority of time is spent worshipping self, then we call that Failed Worship, and we talked all about that in part 2.
Part 3 was about Split Worship. That occurs when some people are worshipping God, but the others aren’t. And it was there that we started to see the unique dependence our worship has on others.
And today we’re going to discuss Unified Worship. Lord willing, we’re not just going to define it and see the blessings of it, we’re also going to talk about how to make it a reality in your life.
And we’ve rooted this entire study in God’s thoughts concerning the Old Testament kings.
Throughout the books of I and II Kings and I and II Chronicles, God summed up the success of many of their reigns by pointing out how they responded to the High Places.
There were kings who worshipped themselves at the High Places, and there were kings who refused to participate in the idol worship . . . but those kings did allow Failed Worship to continue among the people.
However, throughout the approximately 500 years worth of kings — both in the Northern and Southern Kingdoms — only two not only refused to sacrifice at the High Places, but also did everything they could to annihilate High Places from the entire kingdom.
It wasn’t good enough for them to avoid Failed Worship, they worked hard to avoid Split Worship as well.
Only Hezekiah (II Kings 18:3-4) and Josiah (II Kings 23:4-15) had the courage to destroy all the high places in the land of Judah.
This is what God has to say about Josiah in II Kings 23:4-20, “And [Josiah] commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel. And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens. And he brought out the Asherah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had made offerings, from Geba to Beersheba. And he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one's left at the gate of the city. However, the priests of the high places did not come up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brothers. And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech. And he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the precincts. And he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. And the altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars that Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, he pulled down and broke in pieces and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. And the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And he broke in pieces the pillars and cut down the Asherim and filled their places with the bones of men. Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah. And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it, according to the word of the Lord that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. Then he said, “What is that monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things that you have done against the altar at Bethel.” And he said, “Let him be; let no man move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Samaria. And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the Lord to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. And he sacrificed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned human bones on them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.”
Now, I read that entire passage for many reasons, but I’m going to talk about it more detail in a few minutes.
But first let’s consider Hezekiah.
II Kings 18:1-7 says, “In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it. He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.”
And II Chronicles 31:20-21 says of him, “Thus Hezekiah did . . . what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.”
Before we talk about the practical applications of these passages for you and your fellow disciples, I want to point out two really cool things that God did for these kings.
Keep in mind that of the approximately 40 kings of Israel, these were the only two who wiped pagan rituals from the land.
So, it should make all the sense in the world to hear that — other than King David himself — these two kings were the only ones who brought major revivals to the land of Judah.
Now, I realize that the idea that everything rises and falls on leadership can be biblically dissected, but I hope you see the correlation.
When the kings sacrificed at the High Places, the people followed right along, and the nation failed to glorify God.
When the kings refused to participate — yet allowed the people to continue their self worship — the nation failed to glorify God.
But when the kings set the example and then did everything they could to annihilate self-worship in the form of High Places, God used those kings to light the fires of revival among the people!
Not only that, but Isaiah 37:36 tells us of an amazing miracle the Lord did specifically for Hezekiah and his people. It reads, “And the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.”
Let me set the stage:
And that evening the Angel of the Lord, the preincarnate Christ Himself, killed 185,000 Assyrians.
I’ve encountered may people in my life and ministry who bemoan not seeing miracles in their day. They read accounts like this from Scripture and they hear about preachers of old who would give their last loaf of bread to someone in need and — later that day — a bread truck would break down outside his house and offer him the bread. They hear stories of pagan warlords who tried to kill missionaries, but who stopped because the missionaries’ camp was surrounded with hundreds of soldiers in shining armor. Of course, the missionaries knew nothing about their angelic army.
And these people whine about the fact that God doesn’t work like that in their lives.
Well, here’s the question I pose to them: did you give away your last loaf of bread? Did you sacrifice your comfortable life to take the good news to people living in third world countries? Did you destroy the High Places and dedicate yourself to helping other people do the same?
I don’t say that to shame them. I say it to point out the fact that we so often want God to do amazing things for us when we’re not prepared to do average things for Him.
But these two kings did above average things because they understood the fact that they served an amazing God. So God blessed them by sending revival to their country and miracles in their land.
Both of the passages we read earlier said that God caused Josiah and Hezekiah to prosper because of their allegiance to Him.
Now, before we get super practical, I need to ask . . . what about you?
Are you worshipping at the High Places?
Are you living your life with very little though to God? Do you do what you do for the comfort or the satisfaction or the benefit you think you’ll receive? Or do you bathe your life choices in prayer and search God’s Word for His direction?
You cannot accidentally glorify God. Your life — your worship (because you need to remember that everything you do is worship to someone) — your life needs to be lived in God’s way for God’s reasons in His power to be true, genuine worship.
We all need to start with our own High Places. Dig deep; ask yourself the hard questions. Why do you do what you do? Who are you really worshipping?
Don’t let yourself off the hook until you discover the true answer. Be man and woman enough to get wise counsel. Let people shine God’s Truth into your life and be humble enough to admit where your life doesn’t line up with God’s expectations.
But, let’s say that you are living your life — for the most part — in accordance to God’s Word. You’re doing the right things in the right ways for the right reasons in the right power. Great!
But . . . if you’re tolerating the High Places still standing in your family’s heart or your friend’s hearts or your coworker’s hearts or your pastor’s heart or your student’s hearts . . . I believe you’re falling short.
This may very well be why you’re not seeing revival in your community. This may be why you’re not seeing the hand of God at work in your home.
So, maybe you’re in that position. Maybe you’re trying to premeditatedly glorify God in your life, but you’ve noticed that the worship of other people in your life is Failed Worship — maybe it’s your kids or your cousin who’s worshipping themselves more than God. When you broaden your gaze to your larger community, you see Split Worship abounding.
What do you do?
How do you help them turn from the Failed Worship of self to the True Worship of God. How can the two of you enjoy Unified Worship — both of you helping the other to give God the spiritual service of worship that He deserves?
Here we go:
1. You need to actively keep the High Places of self-worship from creeping back up in your life.
Yes, it always starts with you and God. And you need to be vigilant on this one.
I Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
The moment we stop applying weed-killer they will grow back with a vengeance. The same is true for our spiritual lives. We need to — on a moment-by-moment basis — actively follow Christ.
2. Like I’ve said time and time again, no one can worship God who doesn’t have a relationship with Him.
Now we turn our eyes outward.
Our first responsibility to our kids or our friends is to be an Evangelist. Nothing is more important than helping the people in your life know they have a genuine relationship with God. This is the first step in being that salt and light to which Christ calls us.
And we need to share the Gospel time and time and time again until God does the work in their hearts necessary for them to submit to and choose to follow Him.
3. If the people in your life profess to be born again yet appear to be double-minded — meaning they vacillate between worshipping God and worshipping self — then I encourage you to follow the example of Hezekiah and Josiah.
Okay, now before I continue . . . last time I acknowledge that physically removing the actual High Places in Jerusalem is a very different task than removing the self-worship from another person’s heart. In fact, the latter cannot be done by anyone other than the person themselves.
Even though Josiah destroyed and desecrated the High Places, he didn’t have any power to change the heart of the people who had previously worshipped there . . . and yet God still used Josiah’s actions to bring revival. And I believe He’ll do the same for us.
So, what can you do to help your fellow disciples tear down their high places?
Are you familiar with Moses’ battle with Amalek?
In Exodus 17 God told Moses that the children of Israel would win the battle only as long as Moses held his arms in the air, but the battle wore on and he was tired. Long story short, Aaron and a man named Hur helped Moses hold his arms in the air until the Israelites won the war.
In the same way, each of us must lovingly assist the other disciples in our lives to worship God. We can’t do it for them, but they can help them by following the plethora of New Testament commands.
“Well, Aaron, that sounds an awful lot like being a busy-body. I don’t feel that I have the right to stick my nose into other people’s business, and I don’t want them sticking their noses in mine. Doesn’t the Bible tell us to just let love cover a multitude of sins?”
Here are just a few biblical answers to such thinking. Let’s start with the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.”
I Thessalonians 5:14 urges us to “admonish the unruly.”
Proverbs 27:17 provides the tangible example that we can impact each other for good. “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.”
Galatians 6:1 reads, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.”
II Timothy 2:24-26 tells us, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
James 5:19-20 gives us a promise, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” By the way, “covering sin” is not ignoring it. When the Bible talks about covering sin, It’s referring to repentance and forgiveness.
James 5:16 commands that we “confess [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be [spiritually strengthened].”
Hebrews 10:24 commands us to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.”
Luke 17:3 warns, “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”
I Timothy 5:20 demands, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.”
Galatians 2:11 illustrates this relationship and the impact it has, “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.”
II Thessalonians 3:14-15 warns that "If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
Acts 20:31 shows an example of the extent of such admonition, “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”
And Ezekiel 3:18 tells us, “When I [God] say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”
My friends, we really are responsible to God to get into each other’s lives. It’s not respectful, loving, honest, holy, or fair to leave people in their sin. It’s not right to ignore the High Places when the ones we love are frequenting them. Split Worship should be unacceptable to us.
So, let’s finish today by pulling some principles from the Old Testament passages we read earlier to see how we can best help our friends truly worship God with their lives.
1. Figure out where in your life God is not allowed, then invite Him in.
I did a whole episode for Truth.Love.Parent. about this concept. I’ll link it in today’s description if you want to continue this study.
The basic question addressed in that show was “Is there anywhere in your home that God isn’t talked about, prayed to, or actively worshipped?” If there are any areas like that, then you know there are some High Places in your home — places where self is worshipped instead of God.
When it comes time to address these Godless corners of your life . . .
2. Make the issue about loving God, not about a list of do’s and don’ts.
In II Chronicles 31:21 we read that Hezekiah “undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart.”
I love the personal pronoun there. God was “his” God.
Rarely do you have a romantic relationship built on a list of do’s and don’ts. Usually, the care we have for one another keeps us from wanting to hurt the person we love.
If my wife is allergic to certain flowers, I’m not going to pick those flowers for her . . . because I love her not because she laid down an edict that I “shalt not get her those flowers.”
Now, it’s true that God has written out His law, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that our obedience of the law is going to be rooted in our love for God, not mere adherence to a list.
This is why Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
And when we make a big deal of God, His person, His love, His power, His awesomeness, then it makes it easy to do number three.
3. Hate sin but keep the commandments of the Lord.
Like I alluded to on the last point, when we see our need and His grace, we will desire to serve Him.
I have a friend who would often pray, “Dear God, help us to hate sin and love you more.”
The two go hand in hand.
I did another series for TLP about the ten things parents should hate. We need to understand that there are a bunch of things God expects us to hate. But it can’t simply be about taking a stand against sin, it must be beautifully complimented by our love of righteousness.
This devotion to God and detestation for evil must then motivate the next point.
4. Remove the negative influences and instead celebrate the things that glorify God.
If you want to help other people tear down the High Places in their lives, you need to start with the obvious external areas.
What items, belongings, activities, schedules, and the like are providing your friend an easy excuse to worship self?
This can be anything from the sport they sacrifice to themselves, their entertainment system, their bedrooms, their music, their jobs, their toys, their relationships . . . anything.
And you probably noticed that nothing I mentioned was inherently sinful. We all know we need to remove the drug paraphernalia and liquor and wicked music and pornography, but what about the otherwise good things?
Do you remember the II Kings 18 passage? Way back during the Exodus, God commanded Moses to make a Brazen Serpent that would be used to heal the people from the snake bites they received after they sinned against God.
Well, it seems the Jews held onto that keepsake. I know I would have.
But the problem was that they’d started worshipping themselves by sacrificing to the Serpent! That’s why Hezekia “broke [it] in pieces, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it.”
The unfortunate reality is that we’re all prone to taking the good things in this life and using them to glorify ourselves instead of God.
So, as you work to help your family and friends tear down their High Places, you’re going to have to acknowledge that even “good” things can be used in a sinful way, and you’re going to have to ask the hard questions and investigate closely to keep them accountable.
But — again — I think too often we spend all of our time talking about the negative instead of focusing on the positives.
We need to make an even bigger deal about the things that glorify God!
Celebrate church. Encourage righteous living. Teach your friends and family how to use their possessions to actively worship God instead of self.
Many people default to self-worship — in part — simply because they don’t know any other way. But we can teach them a new and better way.
And lastly, not only do you have to remove the negative influences . . .
5. Remove the negative influencers and celebrate the people that glorify God.
Josiah not only deposed and executed the false priests, but he first surrounded himself with the priests and keepers of the threshold and the soldiers that wanted to do right.
It was with the combined might of these followers of God that they were able to stand up against the many people who sacrificed at the High Places.
But it’s also important to note that Hezekiah rebelled against the king of Assyria. Now, I don’t know what the king of Assyria wanted from him, but whatever it was, God was pleased that he rebelled.
Civil disobedience is completely appropriate when you’re disobeying a sinful command. We must always obey God rather than men.
I think more Christians need to make a bigger deal out of appropriate disobedience.
We don’t have to obey the scientists who tell us God doesn’t exist. We don’t have to listen to the culture that tells us it’s okay to celebrate sin. We don’t have to obey people who encourage us to disobey our parents.
If our friends or family are especially susceptible to the lies of the world, we should help them remove those negative influencers from their lives — as much as possible.
Yes, we have to acknowledge that they’re going to have negative influences in their lives simply because they know us (and we’re sinners), but that doesn’t give us an excuse to encourage relationships that are damaging.
If we’re talking specifically about the fellow disciples in your life who also happen to be your kids, I have a few other episodes to which you can listen that builds on this concept. The first is episode 42, “The Most Potentially Destructive Influence in the Life of Your Child.” Then we have episodes 23 and 24 about how the world uses its music to teach our kids to sin. And episode 14 talks about the most destructive content in our movies. Then there’s the Spiritual Warfare in Your Home Series which pulls the curtain back on the dark realities plaguing each of our lives. We also have a series all about friends which starts in episode 164.
But here’s one more thing I want to observe before we finish up. We need to take a stand against negative influencers even if they’re famous. And I’m not talking about the ones who are obviously evil. We need to take a stand against sin no matter if it comes from an atheist or our favorite Christian speaker.
Consider what Josiah did. I Kings 23 mentions a number of shrines he tore down, but many of them had the names of kings attached to them. Josiah didn’t care about removing something that a former king had erected because it didn’t please the King of Kings.
But please note that even Solomon was on that list. “And [Josiah] defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built.”
Of course, we need to not only remove the negative influencers, we need to help our fellow disciples thrive in a community of positive influencers.
Now, please understand, I’m not suggesting that you and your Christian friends never interact with unsaved people. I did another episode about how to take a former influencer and turn them into someone to be influenced. That’s the kind of relationship we need to have have with unbelievers.
But the problem is that too many immature believers are more followers than leaders. They’re more easily influenced than they are influencing.
Remember, I’m not talking about breaking contact with just anyone who sins or who is a negative influence. I’m talking about breaking contact with people who are actually influencing you and your friends for evil — people by whom you’re happy to be negatively influenced.
Thanks for sticking with me. I knew this episode would be longer as we finalize our thoughts on Christ-honoring Worship.
But before we go I want to do a quick review of today’s content and then add a new closing thought.
But before I do that, please share this episode and download the episode notes from our blog.
And be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of our episodes.
So, do you want to help your fellow disciples tear down the High Places in their lives — the places they sacrifice to self instead of to God?
1. Figure out where in your life God is not allowed, then invite Him in.
2. Make the issue about loving God not about a list of do’s and don’ts.
3. Hate sin, but keep the commandments of the Lord.
4. Remove the negative influences, but celebrate the things that glorify God.
5. Remove the negative influencers, but celebrate the people that glorify God.
These steps should create an atmosphere in your life that God can bless and in which God can start a revival.
And lastly, please consider some of the final comments concerning Hezekiah in Kings: “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.”
I think most of us consider David to be the greatest king of Israel, but that’s not what God thought. And then the verse continues . . .
“For [Hezekiah] held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.”
There you have it. Do you want to be a parent, a friend, a coworker, a spouse who God can use to establish True Worship? Trust the Lord, hold fast to Him, do not depart from following Him, keep His commandments, and feel free to rebel against sin.
And then trust God to prosper you and your Christian community.
To that end, I’ll see you next time.
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.