I often hear people say that their church has the best worship and that other church worship services are inferior! Or I hear that a person has moved churches, because the experience is different and better there! What are we to think as Christians in the twenty first century about biblical worship?
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 105:1-6: “Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. Sing to him; yes, sing his praises. Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds. Exult in his holy name; rejoice, you who worship the Lord. Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him. Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given, you children of his servant Abraham, you descendants of Jacob, his chosen ones.”
Today there are many different churches using different worship styles to worship the one True and Living God! We can even think of different churches in the New Testament worshipping differently, such as the church of Philippi church being more liturgical and ordered, while the church of Corinth is more free and less controlled! As His followers and His worshippers, we are required to worship God and to worship Him publicly and with others! There is a meaning of worship, whereby our very life is to be a spiritual act of worship according to Paul in Romans 12. Paul meant that every aspect of our life is to be an act of worship, where our life is to be for the majesty and honour of God! However, the definition of worship I want to talk about today is about public acts of worship, such as in a church or chapel service. Where worshipping is to give respect, honour and glory to God! When this is done in reverence, in truth and in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, then the Christian Disciple continues to mature and grow spiritually. Let us look at the what, why and how of Biblical worship!
What is worship?
Worship is, by way of act, attitude, or thought, a way of giving supreme honour and reverence to God! As Christian Disciples, God Almighty alone is worthy of our reverence, submission and worship. There are many other things that are worshipped and thus are ‘gods’, with a small ‘g’. Money, careers, possessions, other people are 21st century examples of things which are worshipped by humans. Thus the threat of materialism is a huge danger to Christian Disciples, because the worship of material possessions takes the supreme place of worship to God, and some Christian Disciples have been duped by it! But the Bible clearly states that God alone is to be worshipped. For God is to carry the worshipping Christian Disciple, and not the Christian Disciple to carry the god.
Perhaps the greatest reason that we worship is because God commands it! The 10 Commandments (Exodus 21v1-3) insist that God alone is worshipped, adored and paid homage to! As humans we are made in His image and as Christian Disciples, He owns us because we claim Jesus to be our Lord and Master! So it is right and just that we give worship to this God who paid the penalty for sin, so that we may be His children, and wants us to call Him Father! As Christian Disciples, we discover an inner personal satisfaction when God is worshipped and adored, both for the present and in the future (Romans 12v2; Col 3v24)!
Another reason to give worship is that God deserves our worship! All of God’s attributes demand that we revere and worship Him! His holiness, goodness, love, mercy and providence are but a beginning as to why He, and He alone, is worthy of our worship. It is by His grace, and through His grace alone, that we worship Him!
How are we to worship?
In some church services, a general confession of sin comes at the start. This is because before engaging in exultant praise, Christian Disciples should approach with penitence and examine their inner selves just as Isaiah did in Isaiah 6. We also gather in expectation of meeting God and that He will receive the worship!
Worship services should consist of more than just singing songs. The church is 2000 years old and in that time a lot of resources can be found to help people worship, apart from singing songs! There are items like responsive prayers and psalms, whereby prayers and psalms are spoken between the congregation to each other and to the leader!
There are times of silence, or times of spoken liturgy where truths of God are both spoken and heard. Saying the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed help build the body in affirming their belief in an awesome God worthy of worship! Times of worship should be more diverse than just singing songs and should express the cultural and personality diversity of the people worshipping! Remember, Jesus and certainly the early church participated in services which would certainly have contained liturgy, Scripture reading and songs!
Other core parts of some worship services are the Holy Communion and Baptism!
These were fundamental in churches in the New Testament period and are just as important today!
- Holy Communion is where we as Christian Disciples remember Jesus’ death for our sin, acceptance of His death for us, and our dependence on Him for our spiritual life.
- Baptism is where Christian Disciples identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- The third element of worship is the reading and preaching of the Bible! This where God’s word is read in public! This is where God’s Word is preached so as to that God’s word can be applied to the hearer’s lives!
- Sermons can be the pinnacle of a worship service as God’s revealed word is expounded, talked about and explained! Yet, sadly, for a lot of people its not considered worship! It most certainly is!
The whole of a church worship service should be where the spiritually comfortable are discomforted and those spiritually uncomfortable are comforted! From 1 Corinthians 14:25, worship should be where non-Christians present can proclaim, “God is really among you”. So often our church worship services are flat, feeble and weak spiritually. At one extreme in churches, we have worship services that are flippant and no consideration to make worship an awe-inspiring time of devotion to an awesome God! At the other extreme, we have worship services where everybody looks like they have been sucking on lemons and where grace is obviously lacking. Somewhere in between, is where public worship should be.
In the broad spectrum of being neither trivialized nor grace-less, is where our church worship services should be! Sometimes we need to worship, even if we don’t feel like it and pray for God to help us worship Him. Over all this, is 1 Corinthians 14v26, which plainly states: “Everything that is done must be useful to all and build them up in the Lord”.
Public worship is for the encouragement of the gathered worshipping group of believers and not for the individual worshipper.
The modern construct of only worshipping when its enjoyable or because the experience feels right is not a biblical construct. When you find yourself in a worship service with others, as long as what is being said and sung is biblical, keep worshipping. Even if the style or method is not to your own personal taste! Just because the church down the road from you worships in a different style to you, doesn’t make their worship in valid! We have a God worthy of all types of worship!
Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by trying to validate your own style over a different style, by saying your church worships better than any other! The Holy Spirit works in different places in different ways! Stop limiting the Holy Spirit! Through the energy and power of the Holy Spirit, any and all acts of church worship are done in reverence, in truth and in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. Done regardless of our own personal taste, enjoyment level or experience. Main thing is to worship in Spirit and in truth, and that is surely to be a cause of joy, regardless of worship style! Let us use the diversity of worship styles to worship the One True Living God!
For more to think about please do read 1 Corinthians 14v26-39.
Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. When I attend worship services, is it for the encouragement of others or just for myself?
Q2. What are my favourite elements of worship and how should I react to those elements I don’t like?
Q3. Does my life of following Jesus Christ, match the words I sing and words I speak in church worship services?
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