Many years ago, I moved, and began to visit a few churches in the neighborhood to find one my family could settle in. We ended up in a Pentecostal church just 4 blocks from our home. The only reason we chose this fellowship was the exuberance of worship which I was seeking. Why was worship the criteria rather than the doctrinal, ministry and teaching aspects? Somehow, worship is something I value and relish. Not endowed with a wide vocabulary, my personal worship in prayer is so limited and short. Whereas worshiping in the church with the lyrics flowing on helped me to see God in his Glory and Greatness. One of the churches we visited was definitely sound and solid in the bible. But when I thumbed through the church hymnal, I could literally count about 25 hymns / songs devoted entirely to the worship of God out of 600 songs in the hymnal! The other songs were all about our Christian lives – e.g. Onward Christian Soldier etc etc.
John Philips observed that Worship takes precedence over our walk and work before the Lord, as recounted in Hebrews 11!
Heb 11:4 Abel Worship
Heb 11:5 Enoch Walk
Heb 11:7 Noah Work
Wanting to really worship and enjoy my Lord, I listed down passages (25 years ago) on worship with the help of a concordance; and read books on the subject. And the outcome is an outline which can be read in its entirety here.
I read books which describe the worship services of various denominations, complete with the liturgy; while others speak of the value of worship. I realized that believers expressed their worship in diverse ways, according to their culture, denominational creed and the conditioning (influence) of the group they identify and grow up with. Regardless of the outward expression of the worship, the experience of God is always personal; having been touched by His Holy Spirit and responding with awe and amazement. And before I can even experience and express my worship, I believe I need to be convicted of what the Almighty God has to say about worship ie. The Essence of Worship. Knowing the essence would definitely help me to come to Him, in season and out of season.
And the experience of worship flows from us in expressions and forms consistent with our conviction, our culture, the circumstances and context of the gathering, our exposure and upbringing (conditioning) and our character and temperament. The various expressions of worship as in the various churches and cultures must be seen in this light. We do not have to be twins to be brothers and sisters. We only need to love, adore and worship our Heavenly Father to be brothers and sisters
“Where was Moses bringing the children of Israel when they left Egypt?” The normal response is “the promised land.” Yet that’s not true. He was headed for Mount Horeb, or Sinai. Remember God’s words to Pharaoh, through Moses, “let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert.” (Ex 7:16) John Bevere in ‘Drawing Near’
THE ESSENCE OF WORSHIP
- THE WORSHIP WHICH GOD DESERVES
- He is the Sovereign – worship Him for Who He Is
- He is my Saviour – worship Him for what He has done
2. THE WORSHIP WHICH GOD DESIRES
3. THE WORSHIP WHICH GOD DELIGHTS
4. THE WORSHIP WHICH GOD DEMANDS
“Worship is to be exercised now or it will be enforced later”
“In commanding us to worship Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”
THE EXPERIENCE OF WORSHIP
My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God…” Ps 84
- OUR WORSHIP MUST BE SPIRITUAL
- OUR WORSHIP MUST BE SCRIPTURAL
“… the context of our worship is the doctrinal system of the Bible. Whether in preaching or praise or prayer, every activity will be governed by the truths of the Bible. The first question to be asked is not whether some aspect of our worship is helpful or stimulating or enjoyable, but whether it is true. … It is the ultimate criterion, namely the self-disclosure of God who has spoken clearly and decisively to men.” (in ‘Christian Worship’ by Herbert M. Carson.)
- OUR WORSHIP MUST BE SINCERE
Hos 6:6 “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice.”
Matt 12:1-8 (What our Lord emphasized here was that the act of sacrificing and offering must ever be accompanied by the consistent life and sincere attitude of the offerer, if his worship is to be acceptable. If the choice is between strict observance of ritual, and goodness and sincerity of life; then the latter must always take the precedence.)
THE EXPRESSION OF WORSHIP
” … Declare the praise of Him who called you …” I Pet 2:9
- WORSHIP IS VERBAL
- WORSHIP IS VISIBLE
Gen 24:26 “Then the man bowed down and worshipped the LORD,”
From the book “Worship” by R. Allen pg 132 :-
“We are not simply spirit beings. We are more that hearts or souls or ‘inner beings.’ We are persons possessing an intricate complex or physical and spiritual realities. We who worship God truly with the heart, do so with our physical bodies as well.
We err if we think that by merely doing an act we will necessarily be different, posture being a means to the end or worship. We may often find that the outward act might well lead to an inward reality. Eugene H. Peterson explains this in commenting on Psalm 134 with its command to lift up one’s hands.
We are invited to bless the Lord; we are commanded to bless the Lord. And then someone say, “But I don’t feel like it. And I won’t be a hypocrite. I can’t bless the Lord if I don’t feel like blessing the Lord. It wouldn’t be honest.”
The biblical response to that is, “Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord!” You can lift up your hands regardless of how you feel; it is a simple motor movement. You may not be able to command your heart, but you can command your arms. Lift your arms in blessing, just maybe your heart will get the message and be lifted up also in praise. We are psychosomatic beings; body and spirit are intricately interrelated. Go through the motions of blessing God and your spirit will pick up the cue and follow along. “For why do men lift their hands when they pray? Is it not that their hearts may be raised at the same time to God?”
If we always waited until we felt like worshipping, we might not worship at all. We simply do not jump out of bed every Sunday morning shouting “Hallelujah, today we get to worship the living God!” There are likely some Sunday mornings in which we barely make it to church at all. But there are times among those “down” mornings when we are surprised by the grace of God and we find ourselves worshipping in spirit in truth. That would not have happened if we had not first got our bodies (to church) in motion.
“Heart worship and body worship are not mutually exclusive, they complement each other. “To tie it all together – we simply can’t be spiritual without being physical. For man was never created to be either just a soul or just a body. We are not one or the other, but both.” -Peter E. Gillquist in ‘The Physical Side of Being Spiritual’
- WORSHIP IS VIBRANT
“The person and nature of God can be seen by the worship displayed by His people.”
Christianity Today ran a splendid article by J. Daniel Baumann on the importance of true worship. Baumann argued in the article that “biblical worship … is celebration” … insisting that “the characteristic note of Old Testament worship is exhilaration. He explains ‘That is not to say we are to be flippant or careless (see Ps 89:7), nor that we gather in order to exchange emotional highs and get spiritual goose pimples. When I was a child, I was given to occasional restlessness during church services. I was admonished to “sit still, you’re in church.” Somehow I got the wrong message. My folks never intended it – but I was getting the impression that God was a grouch; I wasn’t convinced I could even enjoy him. I’ve changed my mind, or, better yet, the Bible is changing my mind.’
Charles H. Spurgeon wrote : “There are no people in the world who have such a right to be happy, nor have such cause to be joyful as the saints of the living God … Why, brethren, true praise sets the heart ringing its bells, and hanging out its streamers. Never hang your flag at half-mast when you praise God; no, run up every colour, let every banner wave in the breeze, and let all the powers and passions of your spirit exult and rejoice in God your Saviour.”
Herbert M. Carson in ‘Christian Worship’ :
“A healthy stirring of the emotions is produced by the truth of God applied by the Holy Spirit to the mind and conscience and will. It is from that impact of the Word that the deepest emotional experiences emerge, and it is here that we find the secret of the depth of feeling associated in Scripture with true worship. It was this appreciation of the truth which led the psalmist to tears of repentance. It was truth also which stirred him to joy and gladness, and at times to exaltation of spirit. A false emotionalism acts like a drug which dulls the sensitivities even while it seems to stimulate, so that the addict needs more frequent and stronger doses. A true emotional stirring is one that not only stimulates us to worship, but deepens our spiritual zest and gives us a capacity as well as a passionate desire for deeper experiences of the fullness of God.
It is possible to err in this matter is different ways. There are congregations where the stress is all on objective truth. There is little scope for emotional release and the result is a people who are strong in doctrinal knowledge, but apparently dull in spirit. The service of worship in such a situation can become frigid and lifeless. At the other extreme are those who live in a state of constantly induced excitement. The subjective element has taken over as the objective has receded. The result is a sorry condition of superficiality where all too often people are ready to grasp at any new novelty, and to be led astray by all kinds of doctrinal aberrations.
Worship is far more rooted deep within our heart, mind and spirit than we can ever imagine. It emanates from our knowledge of God, of Who He Is, What He Is to us, and what He has done in our lives.
Knowing His demand for our worship, His desire for our worship, His delight in our worship and His worthiness of our worship propels us to acknowledge His Supremacy and Lordship, adore His Highness and Majesty and appreciate His Mercy, Grace and Peace. This conviction drives us to exalt His glory and to enjoy His greatness.
This experience of worship flows from us in expressions and forms consistent with our conviction, our culture, the circumstances and context of the gathering, our exposure and upbringing (conditioning) and our character and temperament. The various expressions of worship as in the various churches and cultures must be seen in this light. We do not have to be twins to be brothers and sisters. We only need to love, adore and worship our Heavenly Father to be brothers and sisters.
The believer’s worship can now be found in Rom 12:1-2 – that which is spiritual, sincere and sanctified by obedience to scriptural truth.
1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.