"Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matt 4:10).
The idea of worshipping God has always been a central theme to all religions, both ancient and modern. As Christians, the stated reason why we go to church is to worship God. However, the idea of worshipping God is something we often do without consciously thinking about what it actually means. In fact, if most people were asked to define what constitutes true worship they would be hard pressed to give a clear definite answer. The most common definition is that "worshipping God" means giving praise to Him for His goodness. Among most Christians, heaven is thought of as a place where the angels stand before the throne of God singing praises to Him eternally.
There are many places in the scriptures which command us to worship God. But, if worshipping God means praising Him, the question can rightly be asked: Why does God want us to worship Him? Is He so vain that He can't get enough of hearing about how great and wonderful He is?
However, the verse of scripture Jesus quoted to Satan comes from Deuteronomy 6:13 which actually reads, "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God and serve him." The Hebrew word used for "fear" in this verse is "yare" which means "to be afraid, or to tremble" (Strong's Concordance). And, indeed, in many places in the Old Testament God is defined as being a "terrible" and "dreadful" God. Therefore, is worshipping God the same as being afraid of Him?
But, the scriptures state that we must do more than just give praise or be afraid of God. Associated with the idea of worship is the command that we are to serve God. Is service to God the same as worshipping Him, or is it something extra that is required beyond our act of worship? More than that, the question can be asked: If God is so powerful and almighty, why does He need man to serve Him at all? What is it that we can do for God that He can't do a thousand times better by Himself?
And then there is yet another question. Without a doubt, we are to worship God, but to Christians, God is comprised of three beings - the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Do we worship and serve all three, or just the Father, or just the Son, or just the Holy Ghost? Mainstream Christianity teaches that Jesus is God. Therefore to worship God means we worship Jesus. Yet, these same Christians declare that the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the same as the Father. Instead, Christians teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all distinct individual beings from one another, even though they are all the same God. Does that mean then we neither worship the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Ghost, but merely worship "God" or are we suppose to worship all three simultaneously, or does worshipping one count toward worshipping the other two?
If we are commanded to worship and serve God, then it becomes important for us to understand why, how, and who we are to worship.
The dictionary defines the word "worship" as "the act of reverent love, respect or devotion to someone or something." The scriptures tell us that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul (Matt. 22:37). That is the biblical definition of what it means to worship God. When we worship someone it's because we greatly admire them and look up to them. And the reason we admire them is because they exemplify the kind of person we wish we could become. As such, we have a burning desire to be with them and to emulate them. When we worship someone, we are willing to do whatever they ask of us out of a sense of devotion and adoration.
This is how God expects us to worship Him. But why does He expect our devotion and adoration?
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that God's purpose for us - His children - is to help us become exalted, which means living the kind of life that our Father in heaven lives. But in order to do that, we have to become the kind of being our Father is. Thus, it is necessary for us to worship God in order to become like Him, because one of the purposes behind our worship is the desire to emulate Him whom we worship. When we fail to properly worship God we are indicating by our actions that we don't want to become like Him.
But there is more to worship than this. True "love" means that we care more about someone else than we care about ourselves (not that we don't care about ourselves but we care more about the other person - we put their interests ahead of our own). If we love God to the point of adoration and devotion (which is what it means to worship someone), then we would genuinely care more about Him than we do ourselves. And the way we show that kind of love to God is by doing things His way rather than our own way. Of course, that is also the definition of being a servant.
Jesus taught His disciples saying, "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise great dominion over [others], and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister (i.e. servant)" (Matt. 20:25,26). In many of the parables that Jesus gave, he illustrated the kingdom of God by portraying the Father as the master of the house and we as His servants. In fact, the concept of us acting in the capacity of servants is a common theme throughout all the scriptures. By definition, a servant is someone who subordinates their will to that of another. In fact, it is impossible to serve someone without becoming subservient to them.
The dictionary defines the word "subordinate" as: "to put in a lower rank; to be subject to the control or authority of another; to make oneself subservient." The word subservient" means: "to subordinate in function or capacity." Often the words "servant," "subservient," and "subordinate" can be used interchangeably because they all express the same idea.
We see this concept of service most clearly in the United States military. Often we refer to those who volunteer to enlist in the military as "serving their country." In the military, there is a definite hierarchy of authority, known as the chain of command. According to the military code of conduct, someone of a lower rank is "subordinate" to someone of a higher rank. As such, they are "subservient" to those of a higher rank, meaning that they willingly subject themselves "to the control or authority of another." Even though, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the highest ranking officer in the entire military as a five-star general, yet, he is "subordinate" to the President of the United States. That means, he is subservient, or subjects himself to the control or authority of the head of our country. When the President tells this General what to do, it doesn't make any difference how the General feels about the matter. He has no other choice than to subordinate his will to that of his Commander-in-chief.
However, to be subservient to someone is not the same as worshipping that person. Most of the military despised their former Commander-in-chief, Bill Clinton, but they were subservient to him nonetheless. As we saw earlier, to worship someone means we have great love and admiration for them to the point of adoration and emulation. Thus, the terms "worship" and "subservient" do not mean the same thing. They can exist independent of one another. However, it is just as true to say that they can also exist together. For example, a five star General could have great admiration for his President, and, as such, would willingly and gladly submit himself to the authority of his Commander-in-chief because of the feelings of awe and respect he has for that President.
Jesus declared, "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38). We believe that Jesus Christ was Jehovah of the Old Testament. He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was the God who gave the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. The apostle John wrote that Jesus Christ created this world and that nothing that was made was made without Him. I think it can be said without argument that Jesus Christ is a person of great authority. Yet, not withstanding this fact, He subordinated Himself to the will of His Father. He did more than just merely "obey" when told what to do, He served His Father with His whole heart, mind, and soul. And He did that out of a sense of absolute loving admiration and respect for His Father. Thus Jesus worshipped His Father.
While in the garden of Gethsemane, the time came for Jesus to literally take upon Himself the sins of all the world. This was in preparation for offering Himself as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins. There would have been no sense to His death if He had not first had our guilt transferred to Him. Jesus was God in the flesh. He knew no fear. But as our sins began to distill upon Him, he became "sore amazed." Modern scripture tells us that as this happened, His suffering became so exquisite that we can't even comprehend how hard it was for Him to bear up under it. His suffering was so intense that it caused God, the greatest of all, to tremble and bleed because of the pain. This suffering was so intense that Jesus pleaded with His Father in heaven to let this cup pass from Him. Yet, despite what He was going through, Jesus subordinated His will to that of His Father. Thus, Jesus, our Savior and our example, served us out of love as an act of worship to God, His Father.
Yet, despite His sacrifice for our sins, surprising at it may seem, nowhere in the scriptures are we told to worship Jesus. It is true that people did worship Him, but there is not one verse of scripture where we are commanded to do so. In fact, Jesus specifically commanded us to worship the Father, not Himself. (see John 4:21,23). Although Jesus is God, it is the Father alone who is the true God. He is the God whom the Son said was greater than He was. He is the God who anointed the Son and gave Him all power. He is the God whom the Son yielded obedience to. As such, He is the God whom the Son not only worshipped, but whom the Son taught us to worship as well. (for a more in-depth look at this subject, read Our God is One. ) And it is the Father, not the Son, who we seek to become like.
But why does God, our Father require us to be subservient to Him? The answer isn't because He is vain or that He needs our obedience. In reality, it is actually the other way around. We need to become subservient to Him for our own spiritual advancement because the way to becoming exalted is through the process of learning to serve others. As Jesus stated, "whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant."
But why is this so?
The power of the priesthood comes from being righteous. Without being righteous, a man may hold the priesthood but it does him no good because he has no power to do anything with his priesthood (D&C 121:36,37). Therefore, it becomes extremely important for us to understand how we become righteous.
The scriptures tell us, "For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Galatians 5:14). "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:10). Love is the basis for all righteousness. It is out of a sense of love for others (including our Father in heaven) that we do our home teaching, fulfill our callings, and obey the commandments of God. To do these things without love for others doesn't do anything to increase our righteousness. The more we learn how to truly love others, the more righteous we become. And the more righteous we become, the more power we attain.
If our goal is to become like our Father in heaven, then we need to know what kind of Person He is. The apostle John wrote, "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). John specifically states that "God is love." Love isn't just one of God's characteristics, or one of His endearing qualities. God is who He is because He is litterally a being of love.
In 1 John 1:5 we read "that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." If someone is light then how is it possible for there to be darkness in them? Modern scriptures explains, "And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things" (D&C 88:67). We are a mixture of light and darkness. To have no darkness at all means that we are filled with light. The reason why God is full of light is because He is full of righteousness, or, in other words, love. There is no darkness at all within Him because He has total, complete, and unconditional love for everyone and everything. Thus, He is totally, completely, and unconditionally righteous. And because of such righteousness, He has total, complete and unconditional power. In order for us to become like Him and to have the kind of power He has, we must become beings of love to the same extent He is.
The only way to do that is by becoming a servant to others! But our service to others has to be done out of love, not out of duty. To better understand the kind of love we need to develop, all we need to do is look at what kind of love our Father has. The scriptures declare that God's sole purpose in life is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children. As such, He spends all His time serving us! God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for our sakes, not for His own glory. God, our Father, subordinates His own will to serve us for our own good and for our eternal advancement. But He does this out of love, not out of duty, or vanity. If we want to become like Him, then we have to learn to love as He does. That is the reason why God requires us to worship Him and to serve others. It is by doing this that we learn how to become beings of love ourselves and thereby progress in spiritual power until we can attain all that the Father has.
This earth life is designed to train us how to do that. It is meant to teach us how to administer the kingdom of God so that we will know how to administer our own kingdom in the resurrection. God's work is to exalt His children, and He allows us the opportunity to work with Him in that effort. As such, we are getting "on the job training" to help prepare us for the time when we will have spirit children of our own and will need to spend our time helping to exalt them just as God is doing with us. Thus, God needs our subservience in order to teach us how to become an eternal father like He is. When we fail to submit ourselves to His instruction, in effect, we foolishly become our own instructors in righteousness.
Thus we see that the reason why God requires us to worship and serve Him is not for His praise but for our glory.
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