First Baptist Church

FBCW – “Body Builder” 3/08 

Spiritual Disciplines
Part 5:

Imagine going to church one Sunday morning and instead of entering into a worship center, you find yourself in a Starbucks-style coffee house where you mosey up to the counter and give the barista your order of a double latte grande or maybe a carmel macchiato with extra whipped cream.  Once your order’s been filled, you make your way over to a table by the window or an overstuffed, comfy chair and gaze up at one of the multiple monitor/tv’s that have been placed throughout the café to bring you the morning service that is going on in the worship center next door via video.  Now this might sound like a great idea to you…having a worship time where you can chit-chat, sip your java while casually listening to the morning message and if that’s your style, this is available at different churches throughout the US.  Is this wrong?  Is it sinful to “worship” in this way?  Why or why not?  My hope with this article is to help you understand better what worship is, why we do it, who it is ultimately for and why we need to be disciplined about it and then you can make your own decision: to sip or not to sip.First of all, what is “worship?”  Worship comes from the English word “worth-ship,” which is to give proper worth or value to something or someone.  For a Christian this means “to ascribe the proper worth to God, to magnify His worthiness of praise, or better, to approach and address God as He is worthy.  As the Holy and Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, the Sovereign Judge to whom we must give an account, He is worthy of all the worth and honor we can give Him and then infinitely more.”[1]  As the One who has saved us from the pit of hell through the death of His very own Son, this alone should command our full and complete worship.One of the biggest problems regarding worship in modern times is it’s “man-centeredness.”  Worship has become, in many instances, all about us; that it should serve to meet our needs.  In this realm, worship services often become very entertainment oriented and the “worshipers” are more like spectators, even mentally grading the “performance.”  Drama often replaces sound teaching and preaching becomes a give-the-people-what-they-want routine, focusing on man’s agenda as opposed to God’s.  In this kind of a church, the sermons become more topical versus textual as well as shorter with less Biblical information and more stories and anecdotes.  Preachers opt for feeding ‘warm milk’ from the pulpit instead of ‘steak and potatoes.’  They prefer to preach candy-coated sermons instead of the whole counsel of God because they don’t want to offend somebody by preaching Biblical truth.  In the long term, this kind of self-centered worship can terribly corrupt ones right understanding of the Scriptures as well as their theology.That being said, what does God say about how we are to worship Him?  We see wonderful examples of worship in the Bible such as Isaiah’s vision of God “sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple (Is. 6:1)” and then the Seraphim calling out in v. 3 “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”  We see an even fuller picture in Revelation 4:8-14 when the four living creatures, the 24 elders, thousands upon thousands of angels along with every created thing in the heavens and on earth were “saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” 13And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever (Rev.  5:12-13).”  These passages describe worshiping God in a way that brings honor, respect, reverence, awe and glory and I would put to you that this is a difficult thing to do while sipping your cappuccino, letting your eyes wander out the window or while engaged in small talk with your neighbor on the next couch over.John 4:23-24 is a wonderful passage that probably best and most succinctly describes how we are to worship God.  Here, Jesus is talking with the woman at the well when He says to her, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  We can look at three great truths from this passage.  1. God seeks people to worship Him; that is, He desires it and even commands it (Ps. 95:6; Matt. 4:10).  Of course the premise here for true worshipers is that first, they are true believers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.2. God says we are to worship Him “in spirit.”  Notice the little “s” here.  Not God’s spirit, but our spirit.  We are to worship God with our spirits, our souls, and hearts.  We are to worship Him from the inside out, not the other way around.  Jesus said about the Pharisees and scribes while quoting the prophet Isaiah, “This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. 9But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men (Matt. 15:8-9).’ ”  In other words, it doesn’t matter how spiritual the song is or how poetic your prayer, if it isn’t coming from a sincere heart, it is hypocrisy and worth nothing to God.3.  God says we are to worship Him in “truth.”  This means we are to worship Him according to the truth of Scripture, His Word.  In so doing, we will bring to our worship a heart that is Biblically informed about the great God we serve and His many promises to those who have placed their faith in, Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  “In this sense, our worship is governed by what we know and believe of God.  The better informed we are, the better we can worship.”[2]Worshiping God “in spirit and truth” means thinking about God while we are worshiping Him, whether it be through song, Scripture, sermon or prayer.  We don’t want to be singing, “Holy, holy, holy…” while we are dreaming of sinking our teeth into a Miller’s burger or fantasizing about being on the river after service.  Worship needs to come from a focused mind and heart; it is something we sometimes have to discipline ourselves for so we’re pre-occupied with God and not a pot-luck.  This should occur in our everyday lives as well, not just on Sunday mornings.  “There is a sense in which all things done in obedience to the Lord, even everyday things at work and at home, are acts of worship.”[3]  Of course, this should not substitute for the direct worship of God, privately or corporately.Remember too, emotions shouldn’t drive our worship but they should rather be a by-product of it.  We don’t worship so we feel something, we worship to bring God glory.  Yet, when we meditate on the truth of God while worshiping, this will often kindle emotions of worship and we often experience a wonderful sense of personal blessing.  So even if you find yourself without the feelings of worship, continue the practice of worship, all the while praying to God that you still might offer Him your best.  Romans 12:1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”So what do we mean when we say that God-glorifying worship might require discipline on our part?  Let me ask you this, have you ever felt like you were a little rushed getting out of the house to go to church?  Or maybe while getting ready to go or on the way there was the moment that you decided was the best time to tell your wife you didn’t like her hair style or for your wife to inform you that she cleaned off your workbench, but not to worry, she simply threw everything away.  Or maybe the kids were throwing fits about having to wear church clothes or breakfast got burnt or everybody was tired because they stayed up past midnight watching movies and then you couldn’t find your Bible or your car keys and then there was more ice on the windshield than you were expecting, not to mention the fact that you simply never set aside the time to sit down together and just pray for the day, your own hearts and the worship service you were about to attend!  Is this you or do these kinds of things, as our former pastor, Jack Hughes, would say only happen to those living “back east?”Of course they happen to all of us!  Then what happens is we end up letting these things rob God of our proper worship which also robs us of the joy and blessing that comes from right worship.  So what do we do?  We discipline ourselves, our families, our lives so that when we show up for worship service on Sunday morning or any other time of worship, we can give God all of our heart, mind, soul and strength; so we can give Him the kind of worship He desires, commands and certainly deserves.  How do we do this?  You set your priorities straight so God and your worship of Him is at the top of your list.  This might mean that you go to bed at a reasonable hour on Saturday night, and that you lay out the kids clothes and round up everybody’s Bibles the night before.  Have breakfast planned so there are no new decisions to make or argue over.  Give you and your family more time than you think you’ll need and then you will also have that time to read Scripture before you go.  And lastly, before attending any worship service, pray, pray, pray.  Pray individually and/or as a family.  Pray for the pastor, the Sunday school teachers, the service, the worship leaders, the choir, etc.  Pray for a God-glorifying service, not a self or man-centered one.  You ever wonder what the deacons and I are doing in that little room off to the side right before Sunday service begins?  We’re praying!Worship is also a spiritual discipline in that it is something to be cultivated, grown and worked at.  Yes, “it is the response of a heart in love with God,” but we must also see it as a means to godliness in that the more we truly and rightly worship, the more we will become like Christ.[4]  Don’t be someone who worships his work, works at his play and plays at his worship, but take it seriously and start asking yourself the tough questions like “what did God think of my worship?” and “what did I give to God” versus “what did He give to me?”  And most importantly, remember God’s omnipresence while worshiping - the fact that He is there in our midst, seeing and hearing everything, even the silent murmurings of our minds.   What would Jesus think of your worship if He were sitting in the pew next to you…because He is.  Worship Him “in spirit and truth.”                 

[1] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p. 87.

[2] R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, p. 114.

[3] Whitney, p. 88.

[4] Whitney, p. 94