Fifty years ago, A.W. Tozer of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, wrote a booklet on “Worship, The Missing Jewel of the Church”. Though well received and popular, the emphasis of the book troubled me as a thirty year old preacher at that time. In churches where the Bible was honored as the inspired Word of God and faithfully proclaimed, worship of God was alive and well. No, the missing jewel of the church back then was not a lack of worship, but a lack of fidelity to the Bible by those who were compromising the Fundamentals of the Faith.
Since that time, the downward trend towards apostacy has continued as churches have increasingly focused attention on seeking worship experiences more like rock concerts and feel good preaching that appeal to the masses, as Paul warned Timothy in II Timothy 3:1-5.
Though I am almost 80 years old, I am not one who thinks all church music must be that of past centuries. Beautiful Christ-honoring music has been written and sung throughout church history up to this present time. If it honors and magnifies Christ and His blood sacrfice for sin and if the melody and harmony and rhythm are married to the message (that is, the music fits the message and it is easily singable even by those who are not musically gifted), then it ought to be used. Let the trained choirs and the gifted musicians sing the more difficult Christ-honoring music.
I grieve over an increasing, disastrous misunderstanding of worship in the Church, as people have sought pious, euphoric, self-centered, emotional feel-good experiences, influenced by the deceptive, divisive, unbiblical Charismatic Movement of the past half century. This is so unlike the genuine worship experience of Isaiah as recorded in Isaiah 6:1-8.
Under the category, WORSHIP I offer you some Bible studies on this topic. For more studies on this topic of worship, go to my series on EZRA, where you will find more messages on this topic, including Thanksgiving and Worship and The Breadth and Depth of Worship.
Back in 1983 Pastor John MacArthur wrote a book on worship, The Ultimate Priority. Recently this year, 2012, he has updated and republished that book under the new title WORSHIP, published by Moody Press.
This is the latest and the best I have ever read on this crucially important topic and I encourage you to secure and read it.
Those who know me, know that I am quiet and never boisterous about anything. Very little excites me enough to raise my voice. Though I am repulsed by the filthy, sexual innuendo of most television comedy today; I thoroughly enjoy clean comedy and tend to laugh quietly and even silently. Canned laughter on noisy slapstick television comedy irritates me and I will reach for the remote to silence it.
Sports have never interested me, but even if they did, I can’t imagine myself joining in with the roar of the crowds.
Politics excite me, especially when my side is winning. I enjoy listening to the speeches of both my political friends, as well as my opponents. Most exciting is election night as the votes are coming in and are tallied; but even then, my excitement is muted and usually silent.
There is a time for a preacher to raise his voice in the pulpit, but I am wearied by preachers and evangelists who believe that they must shout continuously to be preaching in the Spirit.
There are times when I preach with passion; but even then, it is a quiet, earnest passion. Occasionally, I will lift up my voice, as Isaiah 58:1 commands me to “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet and show my people their transgressions.” I lift up my voice by speaking plainly; not so much by volume.
Most of my times of worship are in silence. Psalm 46:10 teaches us to “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen.” You will find a mini series on this topic on this web site under the title, BE STILL.
But then in the very next Psalm, chapter 47, we are taught to clap our hands and shout in triumph and worship of God.
Yes, there is a time and there are occasions when we ought to shout the glories of God from the house tops and clap our hands in praise to God. We are to worship God with loud voices and with musical instruments, singing with all our might and strength as we sing the glories of God.
Our music ought to be loud enough that passers by outside will turn in to see what’s going on. The loud music that comes from our churches ought not be like the loud, raucous music, shouting, laughter and drunken brawls that come from a road house or tavern late into the night; but it ought to be loud, joyful music as we sing the praises of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Psalm 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 149:1`instruct us to “Sing unto the Lord a new song; that is, a song different from the world’s songs. The new birth engenders a new song. The unregenerate world has always had their songs. The world’s songs over the past century have included the sensuous jazz of the 20’s-40’s and and the rock beat that began in the 50’s and continues to this day. The new song, spoken of in the Psalms, is the spiritual song spoken of in Ephesians 5:19. A spiritual song is a Scripturally based song that lifts our spirits to God in worship and speaks of His love and grace to us or testifies to our love for Christ. Such a song that blesses is found in a setting of beautiful melody and harmony. As the beauty of a diamond ring is enhanced by its setting, so an excellent spiritual song is enhanced by its musical setting.
Psalm 98:4 tells us to “play skillfully with a shout of joy.”
You are. no doubt, familiar with Psalm 100. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.
Again, Psalm 150:5-6 encourages us to “Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let everything that hath breath, praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”
The worship that we’re experiencing in church now is only a small foretaste of our worship in Heaven, as described in Revelation 5:11-14. That will be glorious beyond our imagination.
WHY SHOULD THE MUSIC BE LOUD?
Because God is awesome!
Why should we shout and sing our hearts out in church? Psalm 47:2 answer that question. The King James Version answer ” For the Lord most high is terrible.” A much better way of expressing God’s glory is with the word “awesome”. God is an awesome God. Today that adjective awesome is overused to describe everything from ice cream to movies and Rock stars. I prefer to reserve that word to describe only God and His creation. It describes that which is indescribably glorious. Only God can properly be described as awesome.
God is King over the whole earth.
Not only should our singing in church be loud because God is awesome; but also because He is the King over all the earth. Not only is He king over the so-called “Christian nations”. but all the nations of the world, even those that are openly opposed to the Gospel of Christ.
One day when He returns He is going to subdue all nations; not only under His feet, but also under the feet of Christians. That’s what Psalm 47:3 tells us. One day Christians will rule with Christ over the whole world. That is truly an awesome experience awaiting Christians who are willing to suffer with Christ in their identification with Him in this world now, according to II Timothy 2:12.
God chooses our inheritance for us.
Another reason for us to praise God with all our strength is because He has chosen an eternal inheritance for us, according to Psalm 47:4 and I Peter 1:3-4. We’re already blessed in this world and greater blessings await us in the world to come.
Jesus ascended back to Heaven with a shout and is returning with a shout.
That’s the messages of Psalm 47:5. Though in the Acts 1 account of His ascension back to Heaven, there is nothing said of shouts on earth, we can be sure there was shouting and rejoicing in Heaven as the Son of God returned in His glory, having dealt a death blow to sin and Satan when He died on the cross and rose again the third day as prophesied in the Old Testament.
Yes, there are many reasons for our rejoicing and singing loudly our praises to God.
Experiences from the 1940’s
I will never forget my years as a young boy in the People’s Church located then in the heart of downtown Toronto, Canada. How, with the choir and orchestra, the congregation of 2,000 people sang the great hymns of the church. The music was loud and glorious and was a major attraction to those outside. Many were drawn in by the excitement and enthusiastic singing. Week after week, people streamed down the aisles every Sunday morning and evening during the World War II years in response to the invitation to receive Christ as Saviour and Lord.
In the mid fifties I will never forget, when as a student at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., we gathered for chapel each day. The music of the many trained voices of three thousand students, singing in four part harmony was absolutely thrilling.
Our sovereign God reigns over the heathen who do not even bow to Him now, Psalm 47:8 informs us. Though they presently rebel against God now, when He returns to reign, the shields and banners and flags, representing all the nations of the earth will be under His absolute sovereignty then. We, His victorious Church will exercise Christ’s authority over the earth. Read the following passages that describe that time.
Psalm 47:9 speaks about the princes of the people, Which people? The people of the God of Abraham. That’s us, those of us who share in the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. Christ is the fulfillment of that Covenant and we are blessed through Christ. To delve into this, go to my series on FREEDOM, a study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.
Note also these other references to Christians reigning with Christ in His Kingdom Age which begins when He returns for us. Revelation 5:9-10, 20:1-6, 22:1-6 and II Timothy 2:12.
May God bring back in these dark days of sin and apostasy a revival of God’s people. Not just a revival of holy living, but also a revival of rejoicing, loud, joyful singing in our churches.
Solomon’s temple, one of the architectural wonders of the world, was built silently. According to I Kings 6:1-7 there were no sounds of iron tools such as hammers, chisels, etc. All the measuring and cutting of stones was done at the quarry. The temple went up at the building site in total silence as the men put the pre-measured, pre-cut stones into their proper places.
Is this just mere trivia? Not at all. Nothing about the Bible is trivial. Everything is for a reason. There’s something intriguing about this silence. It tells us something about God and of how He works. Consider
OUR SILENT GOD
The universe moves in its orbit in total silence. The sun rises and sets in total silence. At the Grand Canyon and other marvelous natural wonders, the hushed silence is noticeable as people ponder God’s creation.
Oh yes, there is the occasional roar of thunder and lightening storms, of tornadoes and hurricanes and other natural disasters. That’s all part of the curse of sin on this earth. So are the angry screams and roarings of anger and rage as sinful people vent their sinful hearts.
Babies are formed silently in the womb. They continue to grow from infancy to old age, all in silence. All of God’s creation moves through time and space in total silence.
Though God moves and acts in silence; the redeemed respond in worship and praise in a great variety of beautiful melodious and harmonious music to God and in joyful fellowship with Him and with one another.
By contrast there is the mind-numbing dissonant cacophony of discord and confusion in hell’s music.
As one who loves God-glorifying music, I can’t wait to hear and participate in its variety and perfection in Heaven.
In the midst of God’s silence, when it seems as though nothing good is happening and God is not answering our prayers; we can take comfort that God is at work in our lives and working all things together for our good.
Listen to the third stanza of the Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem as it speaks to us of Christ’s coming into this world.
“How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is given.
So God impart to human heart the blessings of His Heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin;
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”
As physical growth takes place silently in the body of a child who eats, drinks, exercises and rests; so spiritual growth occurs silently in those who feed on His Word and surrender to His will.
In this message, consider the silence of:
1. Worshiping God
2. Serving God
3, Effecting change in individuals, churches, nations and the world.
THE SILENCE OF WORSHIP
Habakkuk 2:20 instructs us regarding worship, “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” Reverential silence is to be desired in worship. It’s not that there should be a funeral-like silence in the church; but a respectful, reverential silence is often missing.
There is a place in worship for loud, joyful, Biblically-based, instrumental and vocal music as David describes it in the Psalms, some of which are Psalm 33:3, 66:1-2, 81:1-3, 95:1-3, 98:4-9, 100. Quiet, peaceful music that turns our thoughts to reflecting on Christ and what He means to us also has a place in worship.
Not only should we joyfully sing from our hearts, but we should reach out in Christian fellowship to others in genuine love, warmth and friendliness.
Let us show respectful, reverential treatment of our church property, including our rest rooms, sanctuary and hymn books. At the same time, keep in mind that our bodies are the true sanctuary in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. As much as it is important to take care of our church sanctuary, it is even more important that we recognize our bodies as the true sanctuary and holy property of God, as I Corinthians 6 teaches.
The highest form of worship takes place silently in our hearts as we worship the Lord in Spirit and as He prepares our hearts for the Truth of His Word, the Bible. John 4:24
Certainly singing hymns and choruses from a wicked, rebellious heart is blasphemous, according to Amos 5:21-24.
THE SILENCE OF DOING GOD’S WORK
As Isaiah prophesied of Jesus’ ministry in Isaiah 42:1-4, Jesus ministered quietly. He was not a rabble-rouser. Though we are to always be ready to share the Gospel; our witness is empowered by the silent witness of a consistent godly life. If we are failing to live it, it would be better to be silent about our love for Christ, because our hypocrisy brings shame to His name.
Paul writes in II Thessalonians 3:11-12 that we are to mind our own business as we do our own work quietly. Jesus gives a wonderful description of the attitudes of the Christian life in His Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-16. For more on this, go to my link, Beatitudes, on this web site.
God’s work takes time, energy and commitment; however, we must avoid frenzied activity. Yes, we get physically tired and emotionally drained, but in our weakness, He promises His strength. Read some of the wonderful promises upon which we can rest in our times of weariness. Isaiah 40:29-31, 30:15, Zechariah 4:6 and Matthew 11:28-30.
THE SILENCE OF EFFECTING POLITICAL CHANGE
The political situation in America and throughout the world today is not encouraging, to say the least.
I am convinced from Scripture that my calling as a preacher is not to get caught up in politics and political and social causes. I believe that through my faithful preaching of the Word and magnifying Christ, I can quietly be used of God to effect changes in values and thus changes in political thinking as changed people seek political leaders who best reflect their changed values.
As Christians are grounded in God’s Word, they become like King David’s mighty men described in I Chronicles 12:15-40 Note especially verse 32 as the men of Issachar are described. They were men who “had an understanding of the times and knew what Israel ought to do.”
God is not impressed with big crowds nor majorities. In fact, God does not get the biggest crowds in this world today. The devil does. He not only gets the biggest crowds, but he also makes the most noise. We accomplish nothing by trying to out-shout him.
God still speaks with a “still small voice.” I Kings 19:11-12
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
“Stand in awe and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still. Psalm 4:4
Our strength in times of trouble is to sit still. Isaiah 30:1-7
We are to study to learn to be quiet before God. I Thessalonians 4:11.
We are to pray for our leaders that we may enjoy a peaceable and quiet life. I Timothy 2:1-2
A woman’s greatest strength is her “meek and quiet spirit”. I Peter 3:4
How does God change our nation? Quietly without any big show or loud commotion as we Christians get right with God. II Chronicles 7:14
Many people think they are worshipping God, but are not worshipping Him at all.
They express their worship in everything from formalism to wild emotionalism. It is one thing to follow a formal order of service; it’s another thing to worship formalism. It’s one thing to worship with deep emotion; it’s another thing to give ourselves to emotionalism. Formalism and emotionalism are not honoring to God. They had false worship in Jesus’ day and He was not pleased. Matthew 15:7-9 They had it in Old Testament times and God was not pleased. Amos 5:21-27
Worship has little to do with externals.
Church buildings, worship centers, altars, crosses, so-called worship music and sacraments have little to do with worship. Preachers and worship leaders cannot work up genuine worship by setting the atmosphere for emotional experiences. I have observed preachers orchestrate phony “worship experiences.” I’ve seen them turn it on or turn it off on command.
Worship can take place anywhere.
You may truly worship God in a church service as you listen to God’s Word preached or as you participate or listen to the singing of Christ-honoring hymns and spiritual songs. You may worship God as you lie on your bed at night, unable to sleep, or as you are hiking in the woods or driving through rush-hour traffic.
Worship can be expressed privately and quietly,
It may be expressed with great exuberance as when David danced before the Lord with all his might. II Samuel 6:14 One thing is certain. Any outward expression of worship or service offered to God in pride or to show-off to others our “spirituality” offends God and it offends those who love the Lord.
Worship is a response to the knowledge of God.
God seeks true worshippers to worship Him in spirit and in truth. One of the best explanations of worship is found in John 4. Here we read the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. While Jesus was dealing with her about her sins and her need of salvation, she tried to divert the conversation to questions concerning where to worship. Jesus gently focused her attention on to the substance of genuine worship. He teaches her that worship is a spiritual matter; not a fleshly, emotional experience.
True worship is based on the truth of the knowledge of God. It is a response to hearing God’s truth. Those who simply want to experience excitement and a pious feeling will be misled. Those who hunger to know God by listening to the preaching of His Word, will always respond in true worship and adoration of Christ. Such worship will always result in a changed life, a life in which Christ is the center.
True worship is the most intimate experience a Christian has with God.
It ought to continue day and night without ceasing, even as we are commanded to “pray without ceasing.”
True worship takes place wherever Christ is honored.
When hearts are humbled and overwhelmed with the grace of God, only then does true worship takes place. We honor Christ as we eagerly listen to His Word and sing hymns and songs that glorify Him.
Sin is the only thing that hinders worship.
It is my desire as a preacher; not to lead my congregation in “worship experiences”, but to faithfully preach God’s Word so that people can recognize sins that hinder their relationship with God, confess them and be cleansed and restored to a right relationship with God and begin living a life of worship.
Steps to worship and service
As we hear God’s Word and are made aware of our sins; we confess them to Him and He forgives and cleanses us by the shed blood of Christ.
When we are forgiven and cleansed; our hearts are filled with gratitude and praise to God.
When our hearts are filled with gratitude and praise to God; only then can we worship Him.
True worshippers of Christ alone are able to effectively serve Him. All other worship and service offered to God is insulting and an affront to Him.
If you live in or are traveling through the greater Albuquerque area, we invite you to visit us at Alameda Bible Church and open your heart to God’s Word and allow Him to teach you and draw you into a life of ceaseless worship and faithful service to Him.
In the Matthew 6 account of the Lord’s Prayer, we conclude with a doxology to God, “For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever, Amen.” We pray to God who alone has wisdom and power and authority to answer our prayers in such a way that our needs are met and He is glorified.
Having laid our requests before God, we cease focusing on our needs and concerns and turn our attention to God Himself. Let us not deceive ourselves. As long as we are concentrating on our needs and our concerns, it is impossible to truly worship Christ. It’s only when we have laid our burdens on Christ that we are free to praise and worship Him. We cast our burdens on Jesus and He gives us rest. There is no further need for worry or fretting.
In this prayer we learn that worship and praising God are always fitting when making requests of Him. We see this truth as we study the prayers of Old Testament saints. The Psalms are filled with prayers of praise to God. In the New Testament Paul’s prayers echo this praise to God. A good example is his prayer for Christians found in Ephesians 3:14-21. Read this prayer and note how he bursts forth into a doxology of praise to God. Jude concludes his brief epistle with a doxology to Christ. “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
Worship is essentially our praise and gratitude to God, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We exalt Him for who He is and for what He has done for us. Worship involves more than praising Him with our lips. It involves the surrender of ourselves to Him and it results in the enjoyment of intimacy with Him.
Dr Harry Ironside, a well known Bible teacher I heard as a child, tells this story, “My wife and I stood one day looking down on Niagara Falls. How our hearts were stirred as we watched that mighty cataract pouring its tremendous volume of water over the great cliff unceasingly. Soon we noticed that from below a mist rose up that actually reached the point where we stood on the ledge above the Falls.
I said to my wife, ‘This is like worship- God’s mighty love and grace pouring down upon us; then our love and praise rising up and ascending back to Him, the source of all our blessings.”As we receive God’s spiritual and material blessings from day to day, it is as natural as the mist rising from the Falls for our worship, adoration, thanksgiving and praise to rise to Him.
We bless God by surrendering our lives to Christ, who is our Lord and King and submitting to His authority, “for Thine is the Kingdom.”
We bless God by coming to Him in our weakness and confidently depending on His strength. “for Thine is the power.”
We bless God by coming to Him in humility as we live our lives for His glory and by ascribing to Him all the glory for what He is doing in our lives. “for Thine is the glory.”
In Heaven we will worship God perfectly, even as we desire to worship Him perfectly now on earth. Revelation 4:11 and 5:12 describe that Heavenly worship of the saints.
Only as we magnify Christ and give Him the preeminence in our lives do we truly worship Christ. All else is empty emotionalism and vanity. Revelation 22:13 teaches us that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega (the A to Z ) of our lives.
Any experience we have is less than worship if it does not result in our total surrender to Him. He is our Saviour through faith in the sacrifice of His shed blood.
He is our life, our purpose in living. Colossians 3:3-4 Life is mere existence and has no purpose apart from our relationship with Christ.
He is our King and we bow before Him.The more we read and study His Word, the more we to come to know Him.The better we know God, the more effective our prayer life and the more genuine our worship and the more we are blessed.
True worship is grounded on knowing God through His Word. The more genuine our praise and worship, the more He blesses us.
When are we blessed? Psalm 67:5-7 answers that question. When people praise and worship God THEN God blesses. When God’s people are blessed, then we impact the world for Christ.Because He is Almighty, He has the power and the ability to do whatever He pleases.
There is nothing too hard for Him. We recognize and bow to His power and authority to do whatever He pleases through us. What encouragement for us to pray!
As our Heavenly Father, He loves us and cares for us.
As our Almighty King He is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all we could ever ask or think, according the power that works in us.”
In contrast to the earthly kingdoms that have risen and fallen throughout time; consider the perpetuity of Christ’s Kingdom which goes on forever. Psalm 89:2 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
Amen indicates our faith in God and our fervent desire for the fulfillment of these requests. May God take the things we have learned from the Lord’s Prayer and make them so precious to us that we pray this prayer with joy and understanding. May we never again mumble the Lord’s Prayer as a thoughtless, meaningless ritual.
-Taken from my series of messages on The Lord’s Prayer. You can find the entire series under PRAYER on this site.
Worship is much more than an event that takes place or a feeling we experience in a church service.
Worship is more than singing a particular style of “worship music”; whether it be “Jesus, The Very Thought of Thee” written by Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century, or “How Great Thou Art” written in 1885, or whether it be a contemporary praise chorus.
Worship is practically expressed by giving of our time, talent, money and other resources which God has enabled us to acquire to be used for His glory.
Worship is a sacrificial response to God for His great sacrifice on Calvary for us. It is giving Him our best? He gave His all for us. Can we do anything less than give our all to Him? Abraham worshipped God by being willing to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice on an altar as narrated in Genesis 22.
The very word “worship” is derived from an old English word that eventually became “worthship” By our devotion and sacrifice for Christ, we express to Him how much He is worth to us. Worship is presenting our lives to Christ with our talents and spiritual gifts to be used only for His glory.
Paul pleads with us in Romans 12:1-2. to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice: holy, acceptable unto Him, which is our reasonable service. With this commitment Paul warns us to not be conformed to this world system which is under the control of Satan; but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may prove His good, acceptable and perfect will for our lives.
Worship is a 24/7 lifestyle.