Worship is central to the Christian life and the Bible gives us many examples of the worshipping person. Worship in scripture is not just something for worship services but rather shows the attitude of our heart in every part of our lives. Let us look at some examples of what the Scripture says.
In Psalm 119:57-64 we see one example of the worshipping believer,
57 You are my portion, LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, LORD;
teach me your decrees.(Ps 119:57–64)
Here we see that the Psalmist in confessing that God is his portion also realise that his whole life must be governed by who God is and his relationship to the living God. It is because of his heartfelt thankfulness that he sees that his life comes under the authority of God. He wants to conform his whole life to God’s ways and therefore, he treasures the word of God. As a result of his meditation upon the word of God, he sees the extent of God’s love.
In Psalm 100 we see another approach to worship which complements what we have already looked at.
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Ps 100:1–5).
This is very much more in line with what we normally think of about worship but we need to see that God is always at the centre of Biblical worship and that his Lordship is acknowledged. What is important to observe here is that our joy comes from who God is and the wonder of his gracious dealings with us. Because of this, we are to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. When we centre on God everything else falls into its proper place.
Psalm 95 helps us to fill out a little more about what Biblical worship is,
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” (Ps 95:1–11
The Psalmist glories in the greatness of God and we here that joy and reverence are combined, he sees a place for shouting to the Lord but also kneeling before him in reverence and awe. sometimes in the Church, we separate these things and even have traditions that seem to major in one or the other. But the Psalmist does not see joy and reverence as an either/or situation but a both/and situation, we need to hold these things together. This reverent and joyful praise is followed by a call to hear God as he speaks in his word. Listening to God’s word in scripture and through the sermon are vital parts of Christian worship.
Jesus in his encounter with the women at the well also adds to our knowledge of what worship is,
Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (Jn 4:21–24).
In this passage Jesus tells us that the Father seeks those who will worship him in the Spirit and in the Truth, here we see the importance of having all our worship led by the Holy spirit and also empowered by him, this is absolutely central to biblical worship. To worship in Truth according to John is to worship with Jesus who is the Truth at the centre. Jesus is the Word of God and the Scriptures that he gives to us lead to him. This is why we need to have a constant openness to the Holy Spirit which is deeply rooted in the word of God. The apostle Paul shows us that true worship flows as we are full of the Holy Spirit, he says to the Church at Ephesus,
Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:18–20).
For the apostle Paul, one of the direct of being filled with the Holy Spirit is that it leads God’s people to worship. Notice that we also address one another as we bring our songs to God, here we see the way worship overflows into fellowship. As we worship together we are also united together in fellowship as God’s children. Singing God’s praise is a natural part of the Christian life and should be encouraged both in the corporate worship of the Church and in our private worship. Paul commands us to be filled with the Spirit, being Spirit-filled is not an optional extra or a deluxe form of Christianity rather it is of the essence of the normal Christian life. so let us be truly those who are fully open to the Holy Spirit and all that he has to give us.
We have seen so far that our worship needs to be God centred and it needs to respond to who God is in the power of the Holy Spirit, this applies to our individual worship and our corporate worship. But there are still more dimensions that we need to look at for corporate worship. When we come together in worship we do so as a people united together because of what Christ has done for us but we are also in different parts of our spiritual pilgrimage and this can lead to tensions and we are reminded time after time in the new testament that love is to be a mark of the Christian. We cannot just manufacture love by our own strength but we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit as he produces his fruit within us to be able to love one another.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Ga 5:22–23)
If we are indwelt by the Spirit and we are filled with him we will begin to manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit, this fruit is very important in corporate worship, sometimes we hear of what are called the worship wars, these should not exist where the fruit of the Spirit is manifest. Part of the problem that we manifest in the flesh is that we want to do things our way and we don’t like it when others don’t see it our way, Worship is all about doing things God’s way and in his power and therefore we will want to worship in a way which draws all into the worship rather than excluding any. We will want to draw closer to one another as we draw closer to our God.
Another vital element in corporate worship is the use of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, God has given certain gifts to his body to build it up and they are diverse gifts which should all be treasured. There are lists of the Gifts in Romans 12 and 1Corthians chapters 12 and 14, Paul also teaches about the ministry gifts in Ephesians chapter 4. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are there so that God can speak to and encourage his Church, some of these gifts reveal god’s purposes for his people, others bring his healing and encouragement. It is vital that we should be open to all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
If we rejoice in our God and seek to serve him with gladness and in the power of the Holy Spirit, he will be glorified and his people will be edified. So let us worship the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.