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Sunday, September 12, 2010

What Is Worship?

How can anyone be commanded to worship? Doesn’t this have to come from the heart?
Yet, the Bible commands us to worship God alone. Is this because we were made to worship? We are bound to worship someone or something. God is simply telling us that it must be Him. 
I hear people saying they are going to worship. It means they are about to attend a worship service. This does not mean they will worship. Worship is much more than attendance. 
I went to a high school football game this past week. There were several hundred children with their parents that didn’t know anything about the game. They went back and forth with their nachos, hot dogs and other junk food. They ran to meet other friends and played. I suppose they could say they went to the game but they were certainly not engaged in what was happening on the field. 
I think most people come to worship services and leave the same as they came. They listen for the preacher to tell a joke or think about how they disagree with him or generally just enjoy the choir or singing but they are not engaged. They will say they went to worship but they left without noticing who was being worshiped. They did not hear Him or even truly acknowledge Him.
A minister of music once told me that music was the only act of worship. He said that the people worship then hear the preacher. I wonder where he believed the message originated. Worship involves giving God worth. We do so with our singing, our praying, our giving and our commitment to what He has said. Sometimes I want to say, “Look folks, this is what God has led me to tell you.” They shouldn’t believe that it comes from my education or study alone. God uses these things, along with my personality and personal commitment to Him to bring a message, just as He did when He inspired people to write the Bible. 
This doesn’t make me equivalent to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or Paul in the magnitude of what they wrote but it does have the same characteristics. I read, pray and read what others have said. I ask how this might be best communicated. It is not a new word from God but the explanation and application of His Word. John said that Jesus was the Word. I am never more aware of that than when I am preaching. I know I am bringing Him to the congregation.  I worship in the preparation. I worship in the delivery. 
I have no idea if I have a voice that sounds like God’s. I sincerely doubt it but I have never heard God audibly and don’t know anyone who has. Maybe this is one-dimensional thinking. Maybe God sounds like everyone’s voice. The sound, however, is not what matters anyway. He speaks in a whisper or louder than the most violent thunderstorm. My voice doesn’t matter. In fact, I should not matter. What God says is all that matters in worship.
Generally, people who worship have prepared to do so. Of course, some simply find themselves in a place where God is and know they must worship as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6. The problem comes when that is the only time people worship. They enter a “Worship Center” and say, “Okay, I’m here. Now, thrill me!” That isn’t what worship should be.
The spirit of each person should worship. It should be something that can’t be helped because the person has prepared for it. It should be like swimming in the ocean. You go our so far and you will either swim or drown. The preparation for worship is to go out that far so that you have to worship or run out of the room. The presence of God should be that real. But that will seldom happen unless the individual prepares spiritually.
I have seen so many people who are so encumbered by their past that they can’t worship. They must hear a certain song or kneel or say certain words at the right time or they do not feel as if they have done worship correctly. They have not worshiped spiritually and thus have not worshiped at all. They have become like the Pharisees who carefully followed the traditions of worship, believed they were worshiping but had no contact with God. They have begun to worship their methods of worship rather than God Himself. God is not fooled.
Worship is both the truth of His Word and the spirit of the individual uniting with His Spirit to give worth to our Lord. Anything else is just attendance.
John 4:23 (NASB)
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”

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