|Worshipping should be
of the most important things in our lives.
David expressed this in Psalms:
164 Seven times a day do
I praise thee because of thy
14 Offer unto God
thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the
1b I will bless the LORD
at all times: his praise shall
continually be in my mouth.
28 And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of
thy praise all the day long.
8 Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy
honour all the day.
2 Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name
for ever and ever.
In the New Testament, we find the same admonition to
where worship is a daily, continual affair:
15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to
God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his
From these verses, we see the preciousness of worship.
Unfortunately, many Christians have seldom expressed true or acceptable
worship. I've seen long-faced worship, and the frenzied rock-concert
styled worship. True worship isn't in either of these. Absence of
emotion belies a serious problem, but so does frenzied emotion.
True worship must start with the sacrifice. The Old
Testament tabernacle system taught this. What does this sacrifice mean?
It means we come before Him in holiness. We deal with any sin in our
lives. Following that, worship is given in the beauty that God delights
1. Why Do Christians Gather?
Looking into worship, we need to start with this
fundamental question, "Why do Christians gather?"
Giving & Getting
There are a number of reasons. People often go to
This is good, but some think that's the only reason. I remember a woman
telling me she went to church, but quit because she didn't get anything
out of the Pastor's sermons. If she quit for this, it tells me that was
the reason she went to church. She went for what she could get out of
it, not considering what she could give. Never, never should Christians
gather only to get. It's vital we give. We give to each other, and we
give to God. We give materially and of ourselves (Hebrews 10:24,25).
For now, I want to focus on giving worship to God.
Most churches call their main service their what? Their
Worship Service, right? Why don't they call it their Teaching Service?
Because worship is supposed to be the main focus, theoretically. Most
people seem to be ignorant of how to truly worship, or what's
acceptable worship. With this basic ignorance, the worship is only
formality or playtime. The period of worship should be serious, with
the goal of acceptable perfection in what we offer God.
A starting point for refurbishing the worship portion of
the Worship Service is in defining worship:
In Webster's we find "to perform acts of homage or
In Vine's Dictionary we find "to worship, prostrate
oneself, bow down" for the Hebrew word for worship. For the Greek words
we find, "not confined to praise; broadly it may be regarded as the
direct acknowledgment 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 acknowledgment."
In the Bible, God's worship isn't actually defined.
In summarizing these definitions, we have the humbling of
ourselves before God, and acknowledging Him as supreme. We offer
thanksgiving (not merely being glad you have something), praise (truly
recognizing our unworthiness and His infinite grandeur), and adoration
(heart-smitten, goggle-eyed infatuation).
Unless we really see ourselves and God, we're unable to
offer true worship. We can dance a jig, look solemn, get down on our
knees, but we can't worship.
2. What Part Do Emotions Play?
Many are familiar with the illustration of how emotions are
the caboose of the train. They follow, don't lead. At least, that's how
it is supposed to be. You know something though, when the heart isn't
really leading, just habit or formality, the emotions will never
follow. When the formality isn't appropriate to the emotion that should
flow, it will likewise stifle that emotion.
I want to address the two crowds in this issue. One is
solemn, the other wild and dancing:
Let me first pick on the solemn. I've seen solemn
worshippers who watch football games. These self-proclaimed
mild-emotionals in church, scream and yell when the football game is
on. Why such a difference? Their heart's in the game. With football,
they're zealous, adamant and fiery. You couldn't keep them down. The
emotion naturally flows from placement of the heart. So what happened
in the Worship Service? To put it bluntly, they're bored! Duty,
obligations, what they feel they should do, carries them on. They may
have loved God, but have become bored with Him (Revelation 2:1-6). He's
no longer their excitement. What should one do about this? First,
repent. Set Him as first priority in your heart! (Proverbs 16:3; Mark
12:30). Ask Him to restore you:
9 Hide thy face from my
sins, and blot out all mine
iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right
spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not
thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;
and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Second, make sure your worship's not only at Worship
Service, but all day, every day. Third, make sure your worship fits the
natural emotions of true Spirit-led worship. If it doesn't, it stifles
it. It isn't natural.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking old-style hymns. There
is more than one way to sing the same hymn. One is bored silly, the
other pours out with heart and emotion. When the worship leader and the
organ player are just going through the motions, the hymn may tend to
be rather lifeless. To fix this, start by seeking first things first,
make sure the assembly's heart is truly humbled before God. With hearts
that have honestly faced sin, the heart of worship will truly follow.
The following verses illustrate our worship time of God
should be joyful. The songs we sing should clearly show this joyfulness:
2 Let us come before his
presence with thanksgiving, and
make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
5 My soul shall be
satisfied as with marrow and fatness;
and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:
12 I will praise thee, O
Lord my God, with all my heart:
and I will glorify thy name for evermore.
1 Praise ye the LORD. I
will praise the LORD with my whole
heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.
Could an outsider watch your Worship Service and say, "Man,
is that group ever fervent in their worship!"? They should.
Let's examine the rambunctious crowd. I watched a
Pentecostal service on TV. I turned the volume down. The electronic
keyboarder started screeching to the message to emphasize points. When
it got in to praising, the electronic screeching continued. In no way
could I deign to call it music. Even turned down, it was giving me a
headache. I endured to see how it concluded. That was a sacrifice,
The Pentecostal crowd is adamant in defending their way of
worshipping. They often refer to David's dancing before the Lord with
all his might. I'll give them that (2 Samuel 6:14), and Psalm 150
mentions numerous loud instruments that don't exactly go with hymn
3 Praise him with the
sound of the trumpet: praise him with
the psaltery and harp. 4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise
him with stringed instruments and organs. 5 Praise him upon the loud
cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. 6 Let every thing
that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
True, acceptable worship can indeed be lively, but
so can a
rock-concert. I use the comparison of a rock-concert, because that's
exactly what that Pentecostal Revival looked and sounded like - Hard
Rock. This total abandon to emotions can even fall upon less
I want you to see the problem here. The flesh sets emotions
first. Since man fell, the proper order of spirit first, soul second
and flesh following, was abandoned. The new order became flesh first,
soul going sometimes second, sometimes first and the spirit dead. For
the Christian, the spirit is reborn, but unless care is taken, will be
shoved back to the bottom. In worship, we can easily take something
wonderful and right and indulge the flesh in that direction. We take
less caution because we think, "We're worshipping right, so nothing can
be wrong." Wrong! We can defile worship by turning it from spirit and
truth to flesh. Any form of worship or music that panders to an
emotional frenzy leaves us undiscerning and flesh feasting. I don't
want to stifle joyful worship, but I must call for discernment and care.
Let me give an example of the flesh danger that develops in
the religious arena with humor. I've heard "Christian" comedians who
have the church audience in stitches. Their humor takes a dip into
something inappropriate. The audience still laughs. They've freed
themselves to the point they're not discerning what they're involved
with anymore. Emotions are so powerful they can quickly override the
still-small voice of the Spirit (Psalms 4:4; 46:10; 1 Kings 19:11-14).
Looking back to David's dancing. Lively worship is proper
at appropriate times. His dancing and the instruments of Psalms 150
show lively worship. I cannot emphasize enough, however, discernment
must be maintained to avoid degenerating into fleshly frenzy. Such
doesn't bring glory to God. The world, that watches, isn't fooled into
thinking something "spiritual" is going on. They enjoy a good
rock-concert as much as the next guy. The words make little difference
to them. In fact, black gospel music became popular in Japan. They saw
an American movie, I believe it was called "Sister Act" that was filled
with black Southern Gospel music. They fell for the style, and came out
with groups singing these same Christian songs. There isn't a mass
conversion to Christianity in Japan, just a culture appreciation.
3. Can We Worship Our Own Way?
I was at a "Worship Only" gathering. They sang a song whose
chorus repeated, "Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes Lord . . . . Amen". I
thought, "Simple, but it really says a lot." True worship says, "Yes
Lord!" I couldn't help but feel sorrow at the same time. I wondered how
many of those singing really were saying that in their lives. How many
sat in congregations with women ministers teaching? How many went home
afterwards to turn on the TV sitcom? How many of the women sent their
children off to public schools, so they could have their "careers" or
"children breaks"? How many men gazed at women other than their wives?
How many, who did many such things, lustily sang, "Yes Lord" with hands
raised in worship to God?
At this service, I didn't know what to expect. I had never
been there before. The speaker was a man and the music group was
comprised of a few others. His wife was at the piano. At first, all
appeared right, but I found out his wife led the group and the
congregation in the worship singing. She cued as to how long the song
and chorus continued. Half way through the evening, she started
publicly leading a prayer. Her husband gave a figurehead leadership,
but she was leading the congregation. The scriptures forbid such
leadership by women (see Women study). So, how does God view such
worship? Worship offered with the rebellion of those who refuse the
position of women ordained by God. I believe such worship, tinged with
this sin, would have pleased God more if it had never been offered.
Once the woman began leading the prayer, I was no longer in doubt as to
the sin being practiced. I didn't sing with them any more. The
fellowship was cut off by open sin.
To worship God and live undiscerning, or hardened in some
area, is to invalidate the worship. To do so is the same as the Old
Testament Levites and Priests entering into the tabernacle without the
proper sacrifices. The reverence and fear of God came first, then
There's a powerful lesson in David's dancing before the
ark. When David got the ark, to bring it to Jerusalem, he did it
unacceptably with a wagon and non-Levite. David led the ark with music
being played. The non-discerning worship ended with a fatality (1
Chronicles 13:7-13). Later, David corrected the sin and finished the
journey with Levites and poles. This time, he not only led with worship
music, his joy was freed properly in his breaking out mightily dancing.
In approaching God in the right way, true, unfettered worship flows.
If we don't approach God on the basis of purity (1 Peter
4:17), just like Uzza, we're better off not approaching at all! It
won't be to our honor before God. He will not overlook rebellion when
our gift of praise is offered:
22 And Samuel said, Hath
the LORD as great delight in burnt
offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold,
to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
1 Samuel 15:22
11b . . . Praise the LORD
of hosts: for the LORD is good;
for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the
sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. . . .
Joyous expression of worship doesn't mean true worship.
I've seen joyous expressions of worship in cults. Truth must always
prevail. Like Jesus said, ". . . worship him in spirit and in truth"
John 4:24b. Truth speaks holiness, for error and lies cover up holiness
4. What Is Acceptable Worship?
Beauty of Holiness
A holy God must be approached in holiness. We find an
interesting phrase in the Psalms:
2 Give unto the LORD the
glory due unto his name; worship
the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
9 O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before
him, all the earth.
There are two aspects here. The first would be the
of the Lord, who is clothed in holiness. This would be describing the
The second would be our approaching the Lord to worship Him
as a holy people. Put into a negative phrase, one could say, "Don't
approach God for worship until you've dealt with your sins." If this
was clearly understood, it could revolutionize the Worship Service.
As far as the holiness called for in both ways, Peter put
some weight behind this:
15 But as he which hath
called you is holy, so be ye holy
in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy;
for I am holy.
1 Peter 1:15,16
Take a look at some verses from the Psalms. You'll notice
worship is to be approached with the fear of the Lord being a primary
ingredient. You'll also notice, the person who comes to worship God
better check his life to make sure he's living godly. The man who
praises God is also to be one who delights in God's commandments:
7 But as for me, I will
come into thy house in the
multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy
23 Ye that fear the LORD,
praise him; all ye the seed of
Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
23 Whoso offereth praise
glorifieth me: and to him that
ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.
9 Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at
his holy hill; for
the LORD our God is holy.
1 Praise ye the LORD.
Blessed is the man that feareth the
LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.
If we approach God to worship, and holiness wasn't
both sides, the beauty would be gone. Sin would be an ugly remaining
stain. Worship is not a one-sided affair. It's an act of love. The
worshipper and the one worshipped. Without one or the other, it doesn't
A man may express his love for his wife and tell her how
beautiful she is, but how could such adoration be expressed if either
party were gone? Now take this man who's adoring his wife. Assume he's
an adulterer. He tells his wife how wonderful and beautiful she is, but
his heart isn't fully after her. If she knew his unfaithful heart, what
could she possibly make of such adoration? She would find it repulsive.
She would say, "You don't really find me wonderful, or else you would
be satisfied with me alone. Your praise, rather than being satisfying
and flattering, is an act of deceit and treachery!" When we approach
God, telling Him how wonderful and beautiful He is, yet love things He
abhors, we likewise turn an act of beauty into something defiled.
The Woman at the Well
Jesus made a clear statement on the subject of what's
acceptable worship. When Jesus met the woman at the well, he addressed
the issue of worship. For this you need a little background in
Samaritans. When Israel was carried away into captivity, the king of
Assyria brought in other nations to settle the land. The Lord sent
lions among them to slay them because of their idolatry. They attempted
to remedy God's wrath by serving Him as well as their idols (2 Kings
17:24-33). When the captives returned to Israel, they refused to
worship with these "Samaritans". In Jesus' time, the Samaritans still
had their worship of God, with their own traditions. The Jews and the
Samaritans would have nothing to do with each other. They each had
their own beliefs as to the right way to worship. The woman at the well
was a Samaritan. This woman raised the 'us Samaritans versus you
Jews' objection. We worship in such a way, but you Jews are different.
Look closely at Jesus' answer in this account:
19 The woman saith unto
him, Sir, I perceive that thou art
a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that
in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith
unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in
this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship
ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the
Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers
shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh
such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must
worship him in spirit and in truth.
Jesus made it clear the approach to God wasn't an open
issue. Only one way was correct, and Israel was the revealer of it. He
went a step further than the standard defense. He added another
important lesson. Even if one is Jewish, unless he truly knows God, his
worship is unacceptable. Jesus pulled out two defining points of true,
acceptable worship. First, we have "spirit". What does He mean by
"spirit"? That's a very heavy subject. Since "spirit" is the core of
true Christian life and service, it's covered continually through the
New Testament. It starts with the new birth from John 3:3. It continues
in the spirit as discussed in Romans chapter 8. As Romans 8 points out,
flesh is death and spirit is life. The two don't combine. Either the
worship is pure in spirit, or defiled in flesh. If it's defiled, it's
not offered in spirit. I've seen a Christian lie and abuse his
neighbor, then turn around and praise God in a worship service. He had
a big smile on his face and looked so peaceful. Flesh can be very
To help avoid deception of the flesh, Jesus raised the
second point, "truth". Spirit always follows truth. If there's deceit
or treachery, it can't be in spirit. Truth matters, like Jesus said to
the Samaritan claim. We cannot worship our own way and it be
acceptable. Only truth is acceptable, only truth is spirit.
Jesus said, "the Father seeketh such to worship him." This
shows us the Father is particular as to who worships Him. It's like the
illustration of that man and wife.
The theme of acceptable worship continues to flow in this
passage, as to worshipping in truth and spirit. Notice who seeks the
worshippers here, the Father. Notice also how we're to worship, "in
spirit". There are no capitals and lower case letters to distinguish
proper nouns in the original Greek writings. The word "spirit" can
refer to both our spirit, or the Holy Spirit. In this passage, I
believe it's both, for the believer has the Holy Spirit abiding in his
spirit (Romans Ch. 8). The Holy Spirit gives us the manifestation of
true heartfelt worship. Notice Paul's comment in Romans 8:26 of how the
Spirit prays with our spirit to God. He brings out what we're unable
to. We approach God by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). In 1
Corinthians 14:14-17, we have praising and thanksgiving by the gift of
tongues. The Holy Spirit is the originator of such tongues, yet the
worship is directed to God.
Direction of Worship
From additional places to this Samaritan woman account, we
find Jesus is worshipped and accepts it (Matthew 2:11; 14:33; 28:9;
Luke 24:52; John 20:27,28). We find the Father directs worship to
Jesus, and Jesus directs worship to the Father (John 12:28; 13:31,32;
14:13; 17:1,5; Acts 3:13). We never find either the Father or the Son
directing worship to the Holy Spirit. We find the Holy Spirit directing
worship to Jesus (John 14:26; 15:26). (Compare Satanic imitation of the
trinity in Revelation 13:1-15. False prophet, imitation of the Holy
Spirit, seeks to cause the world to worship the Antichrist. The
Antichrist and the dragon, imitation of the Father, send glory back and
forth to each other.) Understand this clearly: God is in three persons,
but how we approach Him is directed and guided by God. We don't decide
it ourselves! Many songs of worship, and even prayers, are directed to
the Holy Spirit. He doesn't want it that way. He screams, "No, look to
Jesus!" In the spirit, the Spirit doesn't worship Himself. Even the
doxology has, "Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost." The fact of the
triune God is wonderful, but the manner of worship is awry. I've heard
people shouting out "Praise You Holy Spirit!" This isn't biblical, it
isn't according to the Spirit.
Acceptable worship will find its approval outlined in the
record of truth, the Bible. It will be according to true life in the
Spirit, not in just custom and habit, or even vogue. Acceptable worship
is not circus material. It's brought forth in the utmost seriousness,
with due consideration for whom we're approaching. True worshippers are
seen again here:
3 For we are the
circumcision, which worship God in the
spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the
The line drawn between spirit and flesh is clear.
Pursue True Worship
God designed us to appreciate romance. He should be adored
in a romantic flare. Compare these two:
A man brings a young lady flowers and presents them with
an, "Oh, here, these were a good deal."
Another young man presents his lady friend with flowers
saying, "I wanted something that expressed my love for you. I'm not
very imaginative, so fell back on the old standby of flowers."
Which of the two do you think the ladies would sense the
love coming from? Hopefully, you can tell the difference!
Do you care enough to worship God according to what pleases
Him and not yourself? If you can't be bothered to rid yourself of the
money changers and sellers in God's house of worship, don't think you
really care. True worship starts with sacrifices, personal cost. It
means confronting yourself, and the brethren with whom you worship. It
means taking all the measures to insure your offering is worthy. When
these measures are taken, God will rejoice in your offering.
As a congregation, take stock of how you worship:
1. How can the flow of the Spirit be insured a freehand to
2. What do you do that stifles the flow?
3. What do you do that helps the flow?
4. What do you do that protects against becoming fleshly?
5. What do you do that opens the door to receive
6. Even though worship is a joyful experience, are you
still able to sense the underlying fear and trembling of approaching a
holy God? The honest evaluation that sings "Yes Lord!", but at the same
time is not so cocksure one can't help asking, "Lord, please let it be
Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible