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IsnÂ’t it interesting what Christians choose to fight about? We fuss and argue with each other over church structure, the role of women, the Holy Spirit, the Second Coming, etc. I guess it should surprise no one that Christians today are also fighting over worship. Hymns, choruses, praise songs, guitars, drums, raised hands, dancingÂ…all have become the new battlefield for many a congregation.
I have a confession regarding my stance in this battle. I love worshiping the Lord! I love hymns and chorusesÂ…fast and slowÂ…loud and soft. IÂ’m as comfortable in an acapella service as in one with a band leading. IÂ’ve even been known to slip into a time of real intimacy with the Lord with Gregorian Chant going on in the background.
ItÂ’s time we moved beyond personal preference and doctrinal watch-dogging and begin to find out what God expects of us in worship. The only place to go is GodÂ’s Word. As we study together, we will first determine what worship is. Next, we will examine the LordÂ’s perfect plan for worship.
What Is Worship?
For those desiring to obey and please God, worship is perhaps first of all a command. God says that we are to worship Him. Psalm 96:9 is one of hundreds of verses that give the command to worship: Â“Worship the Lord in the splendor of His Holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth.Â” Over and over the command is given to worship God. These commands are not put forth because God is having a problem with keeping His ego in check. Far from it! It is the common sense command of the Creator to His creation, helping us to understand our place in His plan. Worship helps us to acknowledge GodÂ’s rule in our life and puts us in our proper place before our Creator. Â“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our MakerÂ” (Ps. 95:6).
Worship is ultimately then, more than a commandÂ…it is our response to a holy God. It is young Isaiah seeing God revealed in the Temple and experiencing awe in His presence. It is Israel seeing God destroy the armies of Pharaoh in the Red Sea and worshiping him in song and dance. It is the Apostle John seeing Jesus on Patmos and falling at His feet as though dead.
When we come into GodÂ’s presence in worship, there should be a response to Him, or else we are merely going through the motions of worship. The particular response is often dependent upon the personality of the worshiper. Some will cry and others will laugh; some will kneel, while others will stand; some will sing loudly and others will whisper their songs of praise. However, there is ALWAYS a response to the perceived presence of God.
It is important for us to understand at this point, that worship is also a lifestyle. It is not simply a matter of going to a worship service, although that is important. Paul points this out to us in Romans 12:1 when he says that we are to Â“offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to GodÂ—this is your spiritual act of worship.Â” Worship is not just what happens when the church meets together. It is what happens each day as we offer ourselves to the Lord. The most powerful worship occurs when a congregation of believers who have been worshiping the Lord individually all week long come together.
How to Worship
The clearest biblical teaching on how to worship comes directly from the mouth of our Lord as He discusses proper worship with the Samaritan woman at JacobÂ’s well. In response to her questions about the proper place of worship, Jesus tells her that it is not a matter of place, but rather a matter of the heart. He says in John 4:24, Â“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.Â”
The first heaven-ordained characteristic of worship is that it must be done in spirit. It is in the realm of the spirit that we worship. Never a matter simply of the emotions, or even of the will, worship goes deeper to touch us at the level of the spirit. This means that worship must move beyond the surface things that we do. Acts of worship become a connection between the Spirit of God and our own spirit. This sort of connection is spoken of in Romans 8:16: Â“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are GodÂ’s children.Â”
In worship, we must allow GodÂ’s Spirit to touch our spirit. For God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth. Acts of worship such as singing, praise, prayer, etc. need to be seen as ways to bring us into His presence to allow Him to have His way with us. Here are some practical examples:
The music that we use in worship should bring us into His presence. Note that I didnÂ’t select a particular style of musicÂ….but simply music that draws our spirits to a place of worship. The prayers offered in worship are prayers that reach His throneÂ…prayers that are filled with awareness of the presence and majesty of God. In worship there will be times of meditation for the purpose of seeking the face of GodÂ…times of quietly waiting before Him.
Whether we are speaking of the aforementioned acts of worship such as singing, praying, meditation, or of worship that involves giving, service or sacrifice, the focus should not be on what we receive out of it. It is not a matter of how we enjoy it. Worship in spirit should not be self-seeking. Instead, it should be a glorious act of self-abandonment that focuses on God and delights in who He is.
Jesus also told us that true worship must be in truth. The object of our worship must be true. There is a lot of worship that goes on in the world today. From religions such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, to pseudo-Christian cults like Mormonism or JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, worship is pervasive. The great lie today is that there are many ways to God and the only thing that matters is oneÂ’s sincerity in oneÂ’s act of worship. Jesus presents a stark contrast to that prevalent view. He says, Â“I am the way.Â” He states with authority, Â“No one can come to the Father but by me.Â” Worship, to be true worship, must have as its object the One true GodÂ…Father, Son, and Spirit.
It is in the area of worship in truth that the Word of God takes precedence. It is in the pages of GodÂ’s Word that we see GodÂ’s self-revelation. To come to know God in truth we must become a people of the Book. I love to see the Bible as a meeting place with God. It is vital to worship that we come to the Bible, praying as we read, Â“Lord, teach me today more about You. Show me today more of Your love, power, grace and majesty.Â”
God is calling His people to a renewed passion in worship. Today, the call to worship is the same as it was in the Old Testament, as we read in 1 Chronicles 16:29, Â“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering and come before Him; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.Â”