For the purpose of new readers just joining us this month, let's review for just a moment. This series began two months ago with my own story of several years ago, where I had become so discouraged and so disheartened at some of the horrific events in my life that I had lost the joy of my salvation. I tried to remedy it by praying more, going to more Bible studies and giving more things over to the Lord. But still, I remained shut down and joyless.
The event that finally changed my life was seeing the word "worship" at every turn. You know how it is when God tries to get your attention, He allows you to hear His voice everywhere. So, I began to question myself, "Do I personally really worship the Lord?"
Over time, He answered me: "Nancy, you don't even know what worship means, and that's why you have no joy."
Now, I've been a Christian for over 47 years, so you'd think that I would, at least, have a handle on what true worship is. The truth that the Lord showed me was, yes, I praised Him, yes, I read His Word and yes, I confessed and repented of my sins on a daily basis. But, after I did these things, I would get up and go about my business, without so much as a thought about truly worshiping Him. Oh, yes, every once in a while, I would raise my hands in church or fall on my face to pray for something specific, but He showed me that on a daily basis and on a personal level, I had never entered into worshiping Him and adoring Him. As a result, when the trials hit, I lost the joy of my salvation.
Psalm 16:11 links joy and worship together: ..."only in [His] presence [through worship], is there fulness of joy."
This new series will attempt to explore some of the incredible things that the Lord has shown me about worship and how they are absolutely changing my life.
In last month's issue, we defined worship as simply a divine encounter with God. It's coming into His presence, bowing down, falling down and showing Him our complete reverence. Worship is the place that God promises to "meet with us," because worship is something that is done on the inside - i.e., in our spirit. As Jesus tells us in John 4:23-24, "the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." Worshiping the Lord, then, means coming into His presence, adoring, praising and loving Him in the same nature as He - in the spirit.
Most believers know that they have a responsibility to worship, but when asked to define what true worship means or how it's done, they are unable to offer any answers. This is what we want to explore over the next few months. What is true worship? How and when are we to do it? And, what makes worship so important?
Whom Do We Worship?
Man, in general, has an inbuilt need to express his love and gratitude to some deity and that "someone" is who determines his worship.
Believers can worship the Lord with all their heart and soul because they have already invited Him into their lives - their spirits have already been united with and quickened by His Spirit. In other words, believers in Christ can "internally" communicate their love of the Father through the spirit. John 6:63 validates this: "It is the spirit that quickeneth [or makes alive]; the flesh profiteth nothing...."
Nonbelievers, on the other hand, cannot really worship the Lord in this way because their spirits are not yet united with or quickened by God's Spirit. In other words, they cannot "internally" communicate or fellowship directly with the Father. They can only have an external form of worship. Therefore, they cannot personally or intimately know the Father. Listen to John 3:5-6: "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the spirit , he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." We often read about being created with a "God-shaped hole" in our hearts. And, it's so true: without an intimate, internal relationship with Christ, nothing on earth will ever fill us.
Though God does not need our worship, He is seeking those who are worshipers. (John 4:23-24) Thus, one of the reasons we worship is to minister and to bless Him. Worship is the time we forget about ourselves, concentrate on Christ and experience His presence.
What Makes Worship so Important?
Worship is important because, as Tozer once said, "...it's the reason Christ came, the reason He was crucified and the reason He rose again." Furthermore, the entire book of Revelation concerns the importance of worship and what God thinks of worship. Listen to Revelation 4:8-11 as an example: "The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for Thou hast created all things and for Thy pleasure they are and were created." Other pertinent Scriptures are Revelation 11:16 and 19:4.
There are many other Scriptures in the Word that tell us God is seeking true worshipers. Scriptures like Psalm 95:6-7: "Oh, come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand..." And Psalm 99:5, "Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at His footstool; for He is holy."
Worship is critical because it's the key to God's presence. It's what brings us intimacy with the Father. In other words, worship is a two-way communication. We come into His presence by loving, adoring and exalting Him. He then makes Himself known by communicating His Love and His inspiration (and revelation) back to us. This, of course, results in inexpressible joy for us.
This daily communion is what allows us to endure difficult circumstances. If we are hearing from the Lord and keeping our eyes only on Him, we can withstand anything. Worship, then, is not only the key to intimacy, it's also the key to withstanding trials and problems and restoring the joy of our salvation.
Our Modern Worship Services
Our ability to worship is developed through application. In other words, we learn to worship by worshiping . The problem is, most of us have not been taught exactly "how" to worship. Sadly, the motivation for most Christians to worship, especially in church, is so that we might have "an enjoyable experience," not necessarily to honor and please God. Our cultural context has defined our worship services. They are simply an hour where we study the Bible and sharpen our discipleship rather than bringing us face to face with God. In other words, modern worship has become "horizontal" rather than "vertical," and thus is often made up of ritual without reality, form without power.
Unfortunately, the music in many of our church services is what determines how effective the worship is. This is not at all what the Word of God says. The Bible tells us that worship is not just to engage the audience, but to have them change as a result of it . Consequently, worship that is directed toward "entertaining" the congregation is not Scriptural worship but simply a form of pleasure and gratification.
As a result, many of us don't have a heart thirsty for more of God, nor do we know how to express our love to Him. We talk about worshiping God, we exhort others to do it and we sing worship songs, but how many of us really personally worship Him? Most of us don't have the faintest idea of how to worship, let alone when to worship.
Our heart is what matters when we worship, not our voice. In other words, we can only worship God to the degree to which we know Him-the degree to which our heart is filled with love for Him. When we really know and love Him, it becomes easy and natural for us to worship. When we love other things more than the Lord, then we'll end up serving two gods. (Exodus 20:3; Jeremiah 25:6) Anything that is more important to us than the Lord - money, other people, careers, status, beauty, sports, etc. - becomes another god.
It's interesting, because Scripture tells us that we become like that which we worship. My Chuck often uses the example of the Egyptians who worship the dung beetle. If you visit Egypt, you will notice the dung piles everywhere. It's a graphic illustration that we do become like that which we worship.
Our true relationship with God is, thus, expressed and shown in our worship of Him!
What Is the Purpose of Worship?
The goal and purpose of worship is to magnify, exalt, love and adore the only true God, Jesus Christ. In other words, worship is simply a prayer of relationship in which the "created" lauds and magnifies the "Creator." It's our expression of His worthiness. When we worship, we join the angels, the cherubim, the seraphim, the prophets, the apostles and the host of heaven falling down on their faces and exalting the one and only true God. Listen to Revelation 7:11-12, "And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God, saying, Amen! Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God forever and ever. Amen."
Seven further reasons why we worship are:
- Worship is the primary reason behind all creation.
- Its our realization of the holiness of God.
- It's the prescribed ritual of the Temple in the Old Testament.
- It's the proper response of a believer.
- It's the recognition of our unworthiness before God.
- It's the result of our fearing and reverencing God.
- It's the manifestation of our relationship towards God and it's what makes everything else secondary.1
I truly believe that if the Body of Christ were really taught how to genuinely worship, it would revolutionize the Church! Noah worshiped God, and as a result a brand new creation was born. (Genesis 6:9,18; 8:16-9:3) Abraham built an altar and worshiped the Lord and, again, a whole nation resulted. (Genesis 12:7) Moses worshiped the Lord, and because of his obedience, God freed an entire people from the bondage of slavery. (Exodus 34:1-8) Men and women who truly learn to worship can change their world!
It's interesting to note that prior to Moses' revelation of God's glory on Mt. Sinai, he prayed, interceded, wept and pleaded with God, but he never worshiped. In other words, Exodus 34:8 is the first mention of him worshiping the Lord. This tells us that we too can pray, seek, weep, plead and call on the Lord, and yet never really worship. I know I did!
Even though the Lord is a Spirit, He still is passionate and expresses emotion. Thus, our worship can also be emotional and passionate as we express our love for Him. Worship is not simply an act of our willpower, but an all-consuming yearning in our spirit, as well as an overflowing of our emotions of gratitude and love. Throughout the Bible, you will see the prophets, the priests and the people of God unabashedly prostrating themselves and worshiping the Lord. Consequently, worship involves all of our mental, emotional and spiritual facilities, but the specific place we worship and express our love is in our spirit. Remember John 4:23-24, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth ."
Thus, the purpose of worship is to adore, praise and love Him in the same nature as He is - in the spirit .
Faithful Is He Who Promised
Our external act of prostration simply denotes our inward attitude of humility and submission to His will. Worship communicates to the Lord that we are more concerned about His Being than His gifts . How often we confuse these two! We beseech the Lord for what He can give us, not simply for who He is. In other words, we worship and pray for the gift, not the Giver. I know I have certainly been guilty of this in the past.
Back in 1990, God gave me some incredible promises about future events in my life that would be mind-boggling. As I began to wait for these events to unfold, my eyes began to slip from a preoccupation with the Giver of the promise to the promises themselves. As I wearied myself through seven long years of waiting, God finally showed me my sin: His promise had become more important to me than His Presence . He began to teach me that real transformation can only occur when we learn to worship Him, occupied and satisfied with Him only, asking nothing in return.
An graphic example we might all relate to is that of being loved by our children. One mother recently wrote me this precious account: "Nothing gives me more pleasure than to receive a kiss or a hug from my daughter without my asking for one . I love it when she extemporaneously takes me by the hand and wants me to be involved in whatever it is that she is doing."
Well, it's the same thing with our Heavenly Father. Nothing brings Him more joy or pleasure than to receive a kiss or an expression of our adoration when He least expects it.
Our ability to worship Him does, however, depend upon our ability to trust and rely totally upon Him. In other words, being assured that He will perform what He has spoken in His Word is absolutely essential to our worship. We must know that He will be faithful even amidst our greatest doubts, fears, trials and tribulations. In Romans 4:20, it is recorded that Abraham and Sarah "...staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but were strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform." In other words, they believed the promise because they believed the Promiser. They saw, they embraced and they received , even though it took 13 long years for that promise to be fulfilled.
When God's promise seems to fail and the vision tarry, it's not a time to grow weary and give up, but a time to trust the Lord even more. The triumph of faith is seen just as much in the bearing of a temporary defeat, as it is in the securing of a victory. Overcomers are the ones who, in faith and love, find their way into the Holy Place through worship and experience an intimacy and a joy with the Lord they never thought possible.
Psalm 16:11 again, "...only in His presence [through worship] is fulness of joy!"
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To be continued next month: "The Fulness of Joy." This article has been excerpted, in part, from Nan's new book Private Worship: The Key to Joy. See The King's High Way.