Worship depends upon the state of a person’s heart before God, and since no one can know with absolute certainty the condition of another person’s heart, it is always best not to judge. Words and deeds can give clear indication as to whether or not a person knows the Lord. Such is the case of a person that persecutes a Christian unto death. Ultimately such a person can come to Christ, as did the Apostle Paul, but he certainly was not a Christian at the stoning of Stephen.
The topic that I would like to explore in this blog might be better understood by asking the question, is the environment that we find ourselves on a Sunday morning conducive to heartfelt worship? Does the time you spend on Sunday morning with believers encourage you to worship? Worship being defined by that state of being that bows low before the throne of God and acknowledges that He is Lord and Master of my and your life, with all the rights of creator and Savior. Worship is that state of being that transcends mere intellectual ascent and includes the full involvement of a man including emotions and a willingness to serve God, which is evidenced by obedience. The following elements are necessary to lead a congregation in worship.
THE 1ST ELEMENT THAT PROMOTES HEARTFELT WORSHIP IS PRAYER. All relationships are built upon communication and the most basic mode of communication is speech. Prayer is speaking to God. Therefore, in order for a service to be worshipful it must have people that participate by leading the congregants in prayer. It should be a given that those who participate must themselves be in a state of worship. The person that is entertaining sin, (Psalm 66:18) will not be heard by the Lord, therefore, a person in such a state, should not participate in leading others in worship. We recognize that any Christian could be in such a state at any time, therefore, constant and intimate accountability among leaders is a must.
There are prayers that are centered on worshiping God for who He is, and prayers of thankfulness for what God has done. There are prayers of contrition, when we acknowledge sins committed against God, and seek His forgiveness. There are prayers of intercession that express our need of the God, who alone can meet all our needs. There are prayers that war against the enemy of our souls and look to God as the conquering king. Such prayers can be contained in a single prayer time or as separate times of prayer during our worship service. To the extent that a worship service lacks prayer, it also lacks the element of worship.
THE 2ND ELEMENT THAT PROMOTES HEARTFELT WORSHIP IS PUBLIC READING OF SCRIPTURE. It is amazing how such an elementary part of a worship service can be overlooked. I lost track a long time ago of how many services I have attended that did not set apart a special time for the reading of Scripture. When Paul wrote to Timothy, His son in the faith, and disciple instructing him to focus on what was important when shepherding the flock of God he told him, “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” (1 timothy 4:13)
The public reading of scripture is not just to fill time. These days, when so many churches try to make service exciting and try to avoid anything that could make the time boring, the reading of Scripture could be observed as just that – dull and even wearisome. However, no matter how dull some Scripture readers can be, reading the Bible places the emphasis of worship where it belongs – on God’s words and thoughts and turns the attention of the worshipers toward Him.
THE 3RD ELEMENT THAT PROMOTES HEARTFELT WORSHIP IS PSALMS, HYMNS AND SPIRITUAL SONGS, EPHESIANS 5:19. As we all know there are many types of music and everyone of us has his or her own preferences, but we do not attend church to please ourselves but God. If we would worship well we should place His interest above that of our own, which means we should sing songs that are pleasing to Him. How do we know what songs please the Lord, the same way we know everything else about pleasing Him and that is from His word.
The Psalms are songs and from them we get an idea about what kind of song would please Him. The Psalms or Bible songs are found in the middle of the Bible and focus on what’s in the heart of man. There is an honesty in the Psalms that is wonderful and absolutely necessary if one is to worship God in the way He wants us to. Throughout the centuries men and women especially gifted to create lyrics and tunes have gathered a great collection of songs to honor God and be honest about our sinful condition. How sad it is that most of that compilation is overlooked in order to satisfy ourselves with music that makes us feel good. I have attended many services and to hear the music you would think that Christian people only praise God. But read the Psalms and you get praise in the midst of men sick with sin. I am always raised to a higher level when I read from the Psalms because it is there that people praise God with honesty and humility.
THE 4TH ELEMENT FOR HEARTFELT WORSHIP IS THE BREAKING OF BREAD. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42 Make no mistake the breaking of bread was so important that the early church devoted themselves to doing it. There are just 2 ordinances in the church of Jesus Christ, one is the Lord’s Supper and the other is baptism. In the breaking of bread we remember that our Lord was broken, dishonored, forsaken, and punished for our transgressions. At the heart of the Christian faith are the sufferings of Christ, which is the heart of worship.
There is latitude within the directives of the New Testament as to how often any given church remembers the Lord’s death as a matter of corporate worship. The most important thing to remember is the seriousness with which we remember our Lord’s death. When writing to the church at Corinth the Apostle Paul took the matter extremely serious and recorded that members had fallen asleep (passed on to the next life) that failed to do so. On the other hand, to worship through properly remembering the Lord’s death is hugely edifying to the body of Christ.
THE 5TH ELEMENT OF HEARTFELT WORSHIP IS BAPTISM. Like the Lord’s supper we are given the latitude in the exercise of such an ordinance, especially since the saving of souls is according to God’s discretion. According to Luke, “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” Acts 2:47b. The important matter, like the Lord’s supper, is that baptism be taken seriously as a testimony to a believer’s separation from the world.
Worldliness is always a temptation to God’s people. It was in the time of Israel and it is today. Therefore, the time during worship when believers testify to their separation from the world through their death to it and their new life in Christ, can also be extremely edifying. Baptism should never be minimized as a stimulus to heartfelt worship.
THE 6TH ELEMENT OF HEARTFELT WORSHIP IS FELLOWSHIP. The people that do not run out of church and show how little they care about others in the flock after service are a means of building up the body. Fellowship is partnership in the Gospel. As partners we are called to come along side, embrace, and be a help to our brothers and sisters in the faith. When the church comes together the fellowship we experience or the lack thereof either builds up or tears down the body.
Not everyone can stay every week; I realize that reality. However, if you attend a church where the constant experience is people that rush in and rush out as a regular part of the worship experience, then you might want to ask why.
THE 7TH ELEMENT OF HEARTFELT WORSHIP IS EXPOSITIONAL PREACHING. I have left this element for last for a reason. There can be no meaningful worship apart from the reading and preaching of the Word of God. Preaching is not all there is to worshiping God, as I hope this article will communicate. However, without a good diet of expositional preaching all the other elements cannot happen well. God communicated His will through His word, and pleasing God in worship is impossible apart from His word.
All that we know to be true, concerning the most important matters in life, which are spiritual, come from the Bible. All preaching is not the same. In a very tangible way, preaching reveals the respect that the preacher has for the scriptures. If the word of God is preached with a great deal of respect, which means the expositor takes pains to make sure everything taught is consistent with the context of the chapter, book, and entire Bible, then the preacher respects God’s word. Unfortunately, the opposite could be true as well.
Expositional preaching is different from topical preaching because it places all the focus on the way that the Bible was written. It is very easy for the topical preacher to draw from his own thoughts, but expositional preaching when done properly places all the attention of the preacher on the text.
What could be more important than the right kind of corporate worship that is meant to lead God’s people into fruitful private worship.