Lesson 9 Worship

The noblest activity of any human being is divine worship. It occupies the spirit, mind, and mouth of man with the greatest of all subjects, God in all His glory. This unique capacity for considering and adoring God separates man, as a spiritual being, from all of the lower creation. Worship renders to the Supreme Lord and Creator that which is ours truly to give. Thus God considers it most precious. Worship is only for Him. The first and greatest commandment declares that we are to worship no other god (Exod. 34:14). Yet Satan has attempted to steal this honor for himself (Matt. 4:9). Heathen rulers have sought and received it. Men have given worship to demons, idols, animals, trees, mountains, rivers, stars, the sun, and other men. Godly men and the angels of God have always refused it (Acts 10:25-26; 14:14-15; Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9). Significantly, the Lord Jesus accepted worship without rebuke, a clear mark of His claim to being God (Matt. 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 28:9; Mark 5:6; John 9:38).

God seeks worshipers, but only on the proper basis. The Lord Jesus said, "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" (John 4:23-24). This suggests that there is a worship which is in error, just as it is possible to worship false objects. In Old Testament times, God gave detailed instructions for worshiping in the tabernacle in the wilderness and later in the temple in Jerusalem. New Testament worship also must be according to God's order. One distinction of this new order is that all believers, not a select group, are now called "a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).

An activity of high priority for Christians is worshiping God. Part of our eternal occupation will be to praise the Lamb as worthy (Rev. 5:9-14). Praise is also our present calling. We should long to grow in our ability to praise Him who alone is worthy. Growth as a worshiper is a significant area of needed spiritual development.

Meaning of Worship

What is worship? Many believers think of it as the morning exercises of a church, including preaching, announcements, choir singing, or rituals. Often these are called "Morning Worship." A believer may indeed worship God at this time in a silent way or in singing some particular hymn. However, such a church service is far from the Biblical concept of worship.

The definition of "worship" indicates a bowing down, even prostration, to do honor to a superior. W. E. Vine in his "Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words" tells us that it is "the direct acknowledgement to God of His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deed done in such acknowledgement." Worship renders reverential honor, adoration, devotion, and submission by word, thought, attitude, and action to the one true God. It is a response of loving appreciation, an overflow of a grateful heart, an outpouring of a redeemed soul occupied with God. Worship is not a discussion about God but is a direct address to God.

Worship is attributing worth to God for who He is or what He is like. This requires the study of what He has revealed about Himself in Scripture. As we do this, we find He is not exactly like anything or anybody we know. God is unique. Some traits are true only of Him. For example, He is self-existent (John 5:26), eternal (Psa. 90:2), unlimited (1 Kgs. 8:27), all-powerful (Job 42:2), all-knowing (Psa. 147:4-5), all-present (Psa. 139:7-12), changeless (Mai. 3:6), self-sufficient (Acts 17:24-25), and sovereign (Eph. 1:11). He also has certain characteristics in which we are called to be like Him. These include love, grace, mercy, holiness, righteousness, truth, patience, wisdom, goodness, and generosity. We can also share His wrath against evil and ungodliness (Rom. 1:18).

He is to be worshiped also for what He does. He is the Creator of all things, including man (Psa. 95:6). He is Helper, Deliverer, Redeemer. By His Word, He accomplishes His will (Psa. 33:6). He condescends to hear the prayers of lowly mortals (Psa. 65:2). He forgives sins and reaches out in grace to draw men to Himself (Psa. 65:3-4). He tests and refines His people (Psa. 66:10). He is an all-victorious Commander (Psa. 136:10-15).

Worship dwells upon the worthiness of Him who sits upon the throne of the universe (Rev. 4:10-11; 5:12-14). God, not self, is the focus. This is well illustrated by the woman who wiped the feet of Jesus with her hair (John 12:3-7). Worship also involves bringing sacrifices or gifts of great value to the Lord as did the wise men to the young child (Matt. 2:11). The very first mention of the word in the Bible shows the costliness of the sacrifice and the humble submission involved when Abraham offered up Isaac (Gen. 22:2-9).

Attitudes of praise help us define the true character of any spiritual offering. True worship:

Approaches God with lowliness and humility. Come as to "His footstool" (Psa. 99:5; 132:7).

Expresses the joy of an inward delight in God Himself. "Let us shout joyfully" (Psa. 95:1-2; 66:1).

Is exuberant and outward in its expression at times. Hence we sing praises unto Him (Psa. 135:3; 30:4; 47:6).

Is deeply reverent and never flippant. "Holy and awesome is His name" (Psa. 111:9).

Bubbles forth from within, rather than being worked up from without. "My heart overflows with a good theme" (Psa. 45:1).

Forms of Worship

How should we worship? There may be either individual or group expression.

1. Personal Worship. Private spiritual life is where worship needs to develop as a way of life. This may come as a time of rejoicing and appreciation before God. An example is when the servant of Abraham was given success in a great mission (Gen. 24:26). There may be a time of humble submission to God in the midst of calamity (Job 1:20). Morning or evening prayers ought to begin with worship. This is suggested by what is called "the Lord's Prayer," a pattern for -*» believers. "Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy name" (Matt. 6:9 NASB). This praise is a holy offering to God. For example, we read, "Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that 70 is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name" (Heb. 13:15 NASB).

The presentation of our bodies as a living sacrifice to God is an act of worship (Rom. 12:1). Gifts to the Lord's work offered in Christ's name are like a fragrant incense to God, representing sacrifice to Him (Phil. 4:18). Giving should be an act of worship.

2. Collective Worship. God's people should gather to praise Him unitedly. The Old Testament order was elaborate. There was a central sanctuary, animal sacrifices, a special ministering priesthood, and carefully prescribed rituals. The significance of all these comes to light later as pictures of the Lord Jesus, His sacrificial work, and the way of approach to God. This is explained for us in the book of Hebrews. This book teaches that the former order of worship has now been done away as mere shadows of the true. New Testament provision for worshiping the Lord is quite simple. Early church practice included teaching of God's Word, fellowship, prayer, and what was called "the breaking of bread" or communion (Acts 2:42). This observance seems to have been central to the gatherings of believers (1 Cor. 11:23-34) on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). There was a participation by several believers in this corporate gathering (1 Cor. 14:26). All believers were now priests (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6). The only altar was His sacrifice on the cross (Heb. 13:10). No holy locations were necessary (John 4:20-23).

A.W. Tozer has called collective worship "the missing jewel" of the evangelical church. Spiritual leaders today are calling for a revitalization through changing old forms or seeing that new life is put into the old forms. Often our worship is "holy but dull," as someone has said. There needs to be a relief from deadness and a curing of the lack of joyful celebration. Until close attention is given to worship, there will be no relief. The great lack must be recognized. The people of God must cease being mere spectators at a service, as though it were a concert. They must become God-focused as they come together. There needs to be preparation for worship beforehand and an opportunity to worship once they have arrived. Evangelistic or expositional messages from Scripture are not worship. In worship, the issue is not "what I get out of it, but what I give to God."

3. Family Worship. Here perhaps is one of the oldest forms. From the earliest days of man on earth, the father acted as a priestly head who led his family in praise and offerings to God. Today, a need exists for a revival of times in the home when families pray and worship God together. The sessions need not be lengthy, and children can be taught from early years what it is to worship the Lord in a simple way. Children cried out the praises of the Lord in the temple, although some observers objected. Jesus replied, "Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself" (Matt. 21:16 NASB).

Requirements of Worship

When is our worship truly acceptable to God? When do we enter the presence of God with spiritual offerings that honor Him? Is it when the form is right? Is it when our words are correct? Is it when we feel good about it? Is it when the spiritual leaders or others about us say spiritual things? Is it by merely being present at a service? Here are some important necessities.

1. Relationship With God. Acceptable worship in God's sight requires a spiritual relationship. No person can enter the holy presence of God apart from being cleansed by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19). Remission of sins and access to God are impossible without that blood (Heb. 9:22). Seeking to approach God on our own merits, apart from blood sacrifice, is called the "way of Cain" and is under a curse (Jude 11; Gen. 4:3-5). Even if the form of approach is correct, an ungodly life will evidence a pretended relationship and bring rejection to the one who brings offerings to God (Isa. 1:11-17).

2. Fellowship With God. Walking in the light is necessary for fellowship with God and fellow-believers (1 John 1:7). Defilement excludes one from God's presence (Psa. 66:18). Self-judgment must precede worship lest we be disciplined by God (1 Cor. 11:27-32). Clean hands and a pure heart are necessary (Psa. 24:3-4). We are in the spirit of praising God when we are in step with Him, appreciating His character and grateful for His goodness. When Paul and Silas were in prison, they were singing hymns of praise to God (Acts 16:25). That is the kind of fellowship that does not depend upon circumstances. Walk with God and your mouth will be filled with His praises.

3. Knowledge Of God. To worship God in truth we must know Him. To know Him we must become aware of what He has revealed about Himself in His Word. We must also be growing in a working knowledge of Him in the school of life. We are called to increase in that knowledge (Col. 1:10). To know Him in our inner being is more important to God than burnt offerings (Hos. 6:6). Uniquely we know God when we know in truth the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 4:13). The attributes of God such as grace, love, holiness, righteousness, and mercy are the very substance of the most glorious passages of worship in Scripture. The glories of the Son of God, who is the Lamb of God, form the theme of New Testament worship passages (Heb. 1:3-10; Rev. 5:9-13). He is a wonderful, glorious Lord, and we need to learn more and more about Him that we might increase the substance of our praise.

4. Appreciation For God. The Lord Jesus illustrated the question about who will love Him the most by a story of two debtors (Luke 7:41-47). The point of the story is that the one who believes that he has been forgiven the most will love the Lord most. The Psalms of David are outstanding examples of worship. The writer felt that God had forgiven him much and blessed him much. The Lord Jesus is sensitive to ingratitude and lack of appreciation (Luke 17:17). The thankful believer therefore will be careful to enter His courts with praise (Psa. 100:4-5). We want to give glory to God (1 Chron. 16:29). If you count your blessings and rejoice in the One who blesses you, then you can magnify the Lord and exalt His name (Psa. 34:3).

Suggestions for Worship

Adoration of the Lord does not come out of technique but out of life. The following thoughts may be helpful, however, in developing as a worshiper.

1. Thirst For Deeper Fellowship With God (Psa. 42:1-2; 63:1). Complacency and apathy are enemies of the life of praise. Seek continually to deepen your roots in Him. This will require a deeper experimental and Scriptural knowledge of Him.

2. Be Serious About Worship. Give it priority in your life. Determine that you will regularly enter His courts with praise, whether your circumstances are favorable or not.

3. Have An Exalted View Of God. Stand in awe of Him (Isa. 6:1-7). Tremble before His greatness (Isa. 66:2).

4. Be Sincere In What You Tell Him. He is sensitive to hypocrisy or attempted flattery (Matt. 6:5; Psa. 78:36).

5. Be Continually Fresh In Your Offerings. Do not use empty repetitions of words (Matt. 6:7). Take time to review His character and ways before beginning. Directly address the Lord in honest appreciation. Be fervent.

Someone has said that the devil fears true worshipers. There seems to be a greater working of God in power and blessing when praise ascends to God's throne. Praise or thanksgiving glorifies God (Psa. 50:23). Particularly when there is united praise for God from His people, the glory of the Lord comes down to fill the house (2 Chron. 5:13-14). We need not wonder then that worship is costly (Gen. 22:2; 2 Sam. 24:24; John 12:3). Here is where God is glorified supremely, and He has called us all to this ministry.

Worship

Each day this week we will do a devotional from a passage in Scripture dealing with the content of worship. At our next meeting the workshop period will be given entirely to worship of the Lord. We will not use our Bibles or notes during the workshop. We will not discuss the worksheet or talk to each other. The workshop will consist of worshiping God in direct address to Him. Therefore, it is necessary that we come prepared. We should not offer to God that which cost us nothing (2 Sam. 24:24).

The following order is suggested to help in our preparation:

1. Pray for illumination by the Spirit of God.

2. Read the passage several times.

3. Give each section a short title. Write a brief summary of the main point. Make a personal application.

4. In step 3 it may be helpful to ask questions as you think about the passage. Who is (are) the speaker(s)? Who is being addressed? What is the occasion? What can I learn about worship from this passage? What attributes of God are mentioned here? What motives are involved? How will this help me worship God better?

5. After completing your devotional each day answer the questions on the back of this worksheet relating to that passage.

 

Devotional Schedule

 

Day 1—Psalm 103

Day 3—Revelation

Day 5—Luke 1:46-55

Day 2—Psalm 95:1-6;

4:8-11; 5:9-14

Day 6—Psalm 145

96:1-10

Day 4—Psalm 139

Day 7—Review

Sample Devotional Worksheet

Passage:___________________________________Date:___________________

Title______________________________________________________________

Summary:_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Application:________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Day 1—Psalm 103. List benefits you personally have received from the Lord (based on vv. 3-5). List character traits (attributes) of God (vv. 6-19). How will you include these thoughts in your worship today?

Day 2—Psalm 95:1-6; 96:1-10. Write as many different words or phrases you can find in these passages which are an expression of worship (as "sing for joy"). List reasons given in the passages as to why we should worship the Lord (as "the Lord is a great God"). How will you include these ideas in your worship today?

Day 3—Revelation 4:8-11; 5:9-14. Use your own words to describe two things for which the living creatures worship God (Rev. 4:8-11). Who is the center of praise and what is being said about Him in worship (Rev. 5:9-14)? How will you include these thoughts in your worship today?

Day 4—Psalm 139. What thoughts do you find about God here? What do you learn about God's attitude toward you? How will you include these in your worship today?

Day 5—Luke 1:46-55. What does Mary say about God's character? His acts? What progression do you notice in the focus of Mary's worship? How does this passage motivate you to worship God today?

Day 6—Psalm 145. List the character traits of God for which He is blessed. How does God treat all of His creatures, deserving or not? How will you respond in worship today?

Day 7—REVIEW. How have you been challenged in your own worship? What are your greatest needs in the area of worship? What steps will you take to become a better worshiper of God?

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