I suggested to you last week that there are spiritual laws, just as there are physical laws.
I suggested that just as it is impossible to suspend or amend a physical law, it is also impossible to suspend or amend a spiritual law.
They are always in force, all the time. Imagine if the law of gravity worked only sometimes. If you never knew whether putting your foot down would stop you falling, or it would send you soaring into the air.
Just before he died in his seventies of a terminal illness, the theologian Selwyn Hughes tried to distil his list of 50 or so great insights into a handful of core ‘laws’. He came up with seven, and it is these seven that I want to share with you over the next few weeks.
I believe that if you apply these laws to your spiritual life you will see fruit. If you live in violation of them you will see troubles.
Those things that matter most must never be at the mercy of those things that matter least. So let’s start with the most important law first.
Worship is our top priority.
Someone once said of their Sunday gatherings, “We have good preaching here, good music and good services; everything always has to be upbeat. But we are so preoccupied with praising God that we have no time to worship him.”
As we talk about this law today, we are concerned not so much with corporate worship as with a life or personal worship.
Worship is not praise. They are different things. Praise is appreciating God for what he does, while worship is adoring God for who he is. Worship is to be in awe of God.
The first responsibility of every Christian is to worship God, but we don’t really understand what worship is. It is the first law, and violating it puts our spirits at risk.
When Satan tempted Jesus, part of it was to do with worship. Luke records the conversation in chapter four of his Gospel, starting at verse five:
Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”
In our reading this morning we heard how Satan attacked Job, and then Job worshipped. When Abraham takes his son out into the desert to sacrifice him on God’s orders, he says in Genesis 22:5 that it is for worship.
Deep in our hearts we all have a desire to worship God, because God designed us for worship. God created us to be able to freely and intelligently worship him.
He didn’t create us to work for him. How often to we take converts and try to mould them into workers for the kingdom, instead of first teaching them how to worship.
Only after people have learned to worship do we allow them to work. Take our musicians for example. They have to demonstrate spiritual maturity on a daily basis to join the band and to stay in the band. They are not in the band because they are good at music, though that does help. The real test is, do you worship God in your private life and in your public life.
This is because God’s first interest is not hiring labourers to work in his fields and bring in the harvest. God’s first interest is restoring his relationship with us.
In John 4:23, when he was talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus said: “The time is coming – indeed it’s here now – when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.”
Jesus then adds an instruction: “God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
You cannot serve God until you worship him. You cannot go to China as a missionary until you have learned first how to worship as Job did when Satan was given freedom to attack him. Any work we do without first being worshippers will be straw work and it will be consumed by fire on the day of judgement.
But I deeply believe it is right. When my worship dims, things go less well; and when my worship brightens, things go better.
Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10? Martha thought work was the priority, while Mary saw another priority. Jesus always knew the difference between urgent and important.
He said, ‘Mary has chosen the better thing.’
And to Martha he said, ‘Only one thing is needed.’ Jesus points out that although the work is important, it isn’t the thing that is needed. We too must learn from this lesson.
Worship is more important than work.
I find it tragic when I see people working really hard for God, obsessed with working for God, more interested in their work for God than they are in God himself. There are people who are so preoccupied with the mission of the Messiah that they have almost forgotten about the Messiah whose mission it is. Others are so in love with the words of the Messiah that they spend less and less time with the Messiah who spoke those words in the first place.
Where is your heart? Who or what are you in love with?
Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 28. This is after Jesus has been crucified and resurrected. He is about to leave this world and his disciples. The 11 disciples are following Jesus’ instructions to go to a mountain, when they see him. They start to worship Jesus there on the road in Galilee. He comes up to them as they worship and he says: “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The important point here is that they worshipped first and then Jesus came to these worshippers and gave them instructions. If you aren’t getting clear instructions to go and do, maybe you still have to learn how to worship.
Worship God for who he is. Develop a profound sense of awe. Put these things first and the work will follow when God decides you are ready.
Please take a moment this week looking at how you spend your time, how much of it you spend in work for God and how much in work for worldly things, and how much in worship. Please be honest with yourself. I think you will know in your heart already what the answer is. And if you have someone who loves you enough and knows you well enough, you might ask them to be honest with you too.
Next week we’ll spend some more time looking at the spiritual law of worship. I hope you will have prepared yourselves by trying to worship more.