Does It Matter How You Worship?
THE small African town is baking in the noonday sun. From a nearby valley can be heard the sound of wild drumming, singing, and joyous clapping. But this is no social affair. It is traditional African worship. The sounds compete, however, with the cacophony of voices coming from a nearby charismatic church. There ecstatic worshipers perform miraculous “healings” and speak in tongues. At the other end of town is yet another brand of worship. The sonorous voice of a muezzin calls fellow Muslim worshipers to prayer.
Yes, religious devotion in great variety can be seen in many African cities and towns. For generations Africans were content to follow their own religious traditions. But then Christendom’s missionaries came, following the armies of different European nations, and ruthlessly attempted to “Christianize” everyone—including even their names.
The result? A breed of religion that mixed traditional African beliefs and practices with imported religious faiths. To this day many “Christian” worshipers utilize traditional charms and amulets. Still, Christendom’s missionaries grossly misrepresented true Christianity, and they left behind a legacy of resentment. To a great extent, they are responsible for the closed-minded attitude toward the Bible that exists among some Africans today.
Nevertheless, many forms of “Christianity” are still widely practiced. In recent years charismatic religious groups have become particularly popular; faith-healing churches have proliferated. One newspaper columnist explained the appeal of these churches by observing that ‘the African concept of religion is largely utilitarian. To the African mind, religion must be capable of giving direct material satisfaction to human existence. Therefore, to the African who believes that spiritual media are necessities in almost everything, the modus operandi of spiritual [or faith-healing] churches is in accord with the demands of his way of life.’ Sadly, however, many charismatic churches have clearly been established as little more than moneymaking ventures.
Today, more than 6,000 religious sects operate in Africa. Perhaps you have felt that all these religions and sects hold the key to salvation. But the real question is, How does God feel?
Could Just Any Religion Please God?
Surely, the Creator of the universe would not leave us without direction in this regard. (Amos 3:7; Acts 17:26, 27) And the evidence is overwhelming that divine guidance can be found in the Bible. No, the Bible is not, as some call it, the white man’s book. In fact, no man—black or white—can take credit for it. “All Scripture is inspired of God,” says 2 Timothy 3:16. The Bible’s truthful, down-to-earth teachings, its great antiquity, its survival in the face of vicious attacks, its accurate prophecies and unequaled global circulation—these are clear evidences of its divine authorship.
What does that book teach us? For one thing, it tells us that there is only one “true God.” (John 17:3) Such being the case, how could there be truth in all religions? Do not religious groups conflict with one another when it comes to the very identity and nature of God? The Bible writer James spoke of “pure and genuine religion.” (James 1:27, Today’s English Version) If there is a need to identify genuine religion, there must also exist false or counterfeit religion. This would contradict the notion that all religions are just different ways of approaching God.
The Creator’s Standards for Worship
What is the proper way of worshiping God? The Bible teaches us that genuine worship is rooted in accurate knowledge. The great prophet Jesus Christ once told a Samaritan woman: “You worship what you do not know.” (John 4:22) Could this, perhaps, be true of you too? Have you been taught that Almighty God has a personal name, Jehovah? (Psalm 83:18) Do you know what his purposes are concerning man and the earth? (Matthew 6:9, 10; Ephesians 1:9, 10; 3:11) Does your religion offer you a realistic hope of a better future? And if you consider yourself to be a Christian, can you explain your beliefs from the Scriptures, or are they merely a hand-me-down legacy you have taken little time to investigate?
If you find yourself lacking in accurate knowledge, you can obtain it through a study of God’s Word, the Bible. Jehovah God expects his true worshipers to be familiar with what that Sacred Book teaches. More than that, he expects them to apply it in their lives. Our attitude must be like that of the psalmist who said: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.” (Psalm 119:105) To what extent has your religion helped you to know and understand the Bible?
Another important feature of true worship is faith in Jesus Christ, not only as a great prophet but as God’s only-begotten Son. The Scriptures clearly declare that Jesus is “the Chief Agent of life.” (Acts 3:15; 4:12) Many profess faith in Jesus, but how real is their faith? Genuine faith in Christ calls for obeying his instructions. God himself encouraged this when he declared: “This is my Son, the beloved; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7) True worshipers thus endeavor to walk in Jesus’ footsteps as closely as possible. (1 Peter 2:21) One way they do so is by engaging in the public preaching work that he began. (Matthew 4:17; 10:5-7) Does your religion encourage you to have a personal share in this work?
Love is also a requirement of genuine worship. Jehovah God is described as the very personification of love, and Jesus told his followers that they would be identified by the love they showed among themselves. (John 13:34, 35; 1 John 4:8) Considering the many millions of people today who claim to be Christians, should not the world be virtually saturated with love? In reality, though, our world has proved to be a most loveless place. Wars have snuffed out millions of lives in this century alone. Crime and violence continue to escalate. So ask yourself, ‘If everyone belonged to my religion, would the world be a more loving place?’
Finally, the Bible shows that true worshipers must keep separate from the world that does not know God. When God set the ancient nation of Israel apart as custodian of pure worship, he warned his people to avoid close association with the degraded nations surrounding them. (Deuteronomy 7:1-6) At John 17:16, Christ Jesus likewise said of his followers: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” True worshipers of God have no part in politics, immorality, greedy commercialism, or any God-dishonoring philosophies. (John 18:36; 1 John 2:15-17) They obey the command recorded at Romans 12:2: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things.” Is that what your religion encourages you to do?
Help Is Available
Yes, the way you worship really matters with God. As far as he is concerned, there is only one true religion. (Ephesians 4:4-6) Our brief discussion has touched some of the key points of Bible teaching. Why not endeavor to learn more?
Regardless of your religious upbringing, Jehovah’s Witnesses can assist you in this regard. They are known globally for their intensive Bible educational work. They are committed to helping people of all races and religious backgrounds to gain a deeper understanding of the Bible. (Proverbs 2:1-6) They publish well-researched Bible literature.* In fact, they will even come into your home free of charge to teach you the Bible on a personal basis. Millions of people worldwide are currently benefiting from this Bible educational program. Why not do so yourself? Indeed, it is vital that you do because it really matters how you worship.
One such publication is Mankind’s Search for God, published in 1990 by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. Many people have appreciated its intelligent and scholarly discussion of the world’s major religions.
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Christendom’s missionaries grossly misrepresented true Christianity
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Many charismatic churches are moneymaking ventures
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Faith in Jesus is a vital part of true worship
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Jehovah’s Witnesses help millions to gain accurate knowledge by means of free home Bible studies