Seven Things I'm Learning about Worship
- Wednesday, December 02, 2009
So, what's your philosophy of worship?
You don't have one? Well, as my friend Jerry Clower once said about the ego, "If you don't have one, you oughta be getting yourself one, because you're going to be needing one!"
Your philosophy of worship would tell how you think people worship best, who can do it, and under what circumstances. What kind of worship does the Lord treasure most from people like yourself? And what advice could you give a younger Christian on how to get the most--and give the most!--during an hour devoted to worship?
Personally, I'm still learning (I'd better learn quick, since I'm team-teaching a course on Worship Leadership at the Orlando extension of NOBTS the first week of January!).
But, here's where I am at the moment...
1. Worship is a verb, and an active one at that.
No one worships for you, any more than someone else eats your food or lives your life. Some things you have to do for yourself, and worship is one of them.
So, the next time you plant your carcass on a pew in church and shift into neutral, henceforth expecting the pastor and minister of music (worship leader?) to apply worship unto you, be forewarned that it is not going to happen.
If any worship takes place inside you, you will have to do the hard work yourself. No one can do it unto you.
2. Worship is work, and hard work at that.
The heart is a rebel. It resists humbling itself, resents the "intrusion" of another into its space even if that Other is the One who created it in the first place, and reacts negatively when you decide to spend time in prayer, the Word, and giving yourself anew to God.
The mind wants to dwell on its own pleasures. So, you'll have to take charge and tell yourself how things are going to be.
The Psalmist does that all through Scripture: talks to himself and orders the self to be quiet or be worshipful. "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" See what he's doing? He's ordering his inner self around. "Bless His holy name." "Forget not all His benefits" (Psalm 103).
So, when you enter the house of God or when you simply pull off into a corner of your living room, if you are like most of us, you'll have to make yourself do it.
That's one reason for praying this prayer again and again: "Lord, give me a heart of fire toward Thee, a heart of flesh toward others, and a heart of iron toward myself."
3. Worship must happen as Jesus taught, or it does not take place at all.
Jesus told the Samaritan woman, "God is Spirit and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).
Books have been written on the meaning of that verse. Here's my quick take on it:
"Spirit" means we worship with our spirit, not our bodies. We cannot plop our bodies down in a pew and somehow think that an hour later we have worshiped God just because we've been in the vicinity of praise.
"Truth" means a lot of things, and perhaps everything the word encompasses (and that's a lot!). But one thing we can be sure of--it means we are to worship God in the way He taught and not ways of our own concoction.
Through the centuries there have been people who sincerely worshiped God by tossing their children off cliffs or sacrificing them on burning altars. We will grant they might have been worshiping in their spirits--and we'll assume they were well-intended, although that's a stretch--but they were not worshiping in truth because God specifically bans such practices.
I am to worship God in the way He wants to be worshiped, otherwise it doesn't count.
4. Worship takes place better in groups, and the larger the group the better.
"Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst." (Matthew 18:20)
I'm still learning the reality of that statement (found only in this one place in the Bible). But here's what I think it means:
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