Worship (Spiritual Discipline #3)
God created us to worship Him. We cannot pursue godliness without worshipping God. The discipline of worship is essential in our pursuit for Christ–likeness.
Worship with Focus on God
When living creatures comprehend God’s great worth, they respond in worship. In heaven, every living creature venerates God for his excellence. Likewise, as we focus on God, we grow in appreciation of His greatness, and we exalt Him.
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:11–14)
Three witnesses testify to us His great worth.
- God’s creation (Romans 1:20)
- God’s written word, the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21)
- Jesus Christ (John 1:1,14; Hebrews 1:1-2)
Our worship should be based primarily on the Bible, God’s special revelation to us. Bible reading and preaching form our basis of public worship. Bible reading and meditation form our basis of private worship.
Worship must have its focus on God. Worship may include words and actions, but the core of worship involves the heart, soul and mind. Focus on God is the prerequisite to biblical worship.
Worship in Spirit and Truth
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23–24)
Worship requires the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a prerequisite to true worship. When God’s Spirit indwells every child of God in conversion, God gives Christians a new capacity to worship.
“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Worship requires sincerity.
When we worship in spirit, we worship with sincerity. When our worship is purely an outward act, it is hypocritical and false. Worship requires the genuine involvement of our deepest longings and thoughts.
Worship involves the emotions.
God does not want Christians to worship out of duty. True worship is not mechanistic. When we grasp his greatness, it should stir our minds, hearts, and emotions. Meditation on God’s attributes kindles our emotions and draw us to worship in spirit.
“Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.”1 (John Piper)
Even so, our emotions do not always follow our thoughts. Periodically, our worship can feel insincere, dry, and cold. However, the restoration of joy occurs within the context of true worship. Don’t stop worshipping. Press on.
Worship requires the truth of Scripture.
We must worship the true God revealed in Scripture. To worship a god not revealed in Scripture is idolatry.
When we worship God in truth, there are two aspects:
- We worship God revealed in Scripture.
- We worship God in the manner that His prescribes in Scripture.
Songs that we sing in public and private must be saturated by the truths of Scripture. Because God gives instructions through His word on baptism and the Lord’s supper, we incorporate these elements in our public worship. Scripture reveals the God we worship, and it reveals the method by which we worship.
Public and Private Worship
God expects his people to worship corporately in public.
Jesus participated in public worship in the synagogue, and New Testament authors exhorted the early church Christians to meeting together to worship.
“And he (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” (Luke 4:16)
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)
Our true worship needs to occur publicly. During the time Hebrews was written, meeting together must occur in public. This cannot be anonymous through electronic means like the internet. It is essential we do not live our Christian lives in secret isolation.
God expects his people to worship in private.
God gives us continuous access to him, and he desires Christians to worship routinely in private. We cannot restrict our worship to one day a week in our local church.
Geoff Thomas states, “There is no way that those who neglect secret worship can know communion with God in the public services of the Lord’s Day.”2
Discipline of Worship
Worship produces godliness. The more you worship God, the more you become like God. But like other spiritual disciplines, worship needs to be cultivated.
God’s ultimate purpose for redeeming his people is to create a body of true worshippers. Unlike angels, we can worship our God by declaring, “Christ is our redeemer. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
- Worship by the Book by D.A. Carson
- Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home by Donald Whitney
- True Worshippers: Seeking What Matters to God by Bob Kauflin
- John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1986), 70. ↩︎
- Geoffrey Thomas, “Worship in Spirit,” The Banner of Truth, August– September 1987, 8. ↩︎