The Elephant in the Sanctuary: Spiritual Disciplines that Enhance Worship – Part III

Part III: What’s the Big Deal?

            From the beginning of creation, there has been instilled in the human heart the act of worship.  Whether the object of worship is work, beauty, family, or money, the human heart has always become infatuated with the worship of another.  For the human heart that has accepted Jesus, the yearning of worship must be directed to the one who is their Creator.  Often this yearning gets displaced with the enticing objects of this world.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, ““No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Whether it is wealth or the love of earthly objects, it is impossible for believers to be in love with earthly things concurrent with spiritual matters.  When talking with the Samaritan woman, Jesus taught her that many seek God but in the wrong way.  God looks at the heart not what it is on the outside.  The human heart seeks worship but only God knows how to direct the heart toward something greater.  He directs them toward Himself.  The culmination of spiritual development ends in true worship to God.

            During the time of the early church, early Christians relied on the instructions given by Jesus and passed down orally through the disciples.  Paul, Timothy and others wrote these instructions and gave further instruction on the basics of the Christian life. The history behind the spiritual development of the Christian comes from Israel’s heritage of worship to God throughout the Old Testament. Many scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments provide examples of worship with spiritual maturity. The following scriptures capture the maturity of the spiritual life through the lives of those in the Bible that culminate in worship.

Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” (Genesis 22:5)

And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12)

So, the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped. (Exodus 4:31)

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him; Worship the Lord in holy array. (1 Chronicles 16:29)

Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. (Nehemiah 8:6)

While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God. (Nehemiah 9:3)

For they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and of his son Solomon. (Nehemiah 12:45)

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will worship before You. (Psalm 22:27)

Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. (Psalm 95:6)

Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His holy hill, for holy is the Lord our God. (Psalm 99:9)

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. (John 4:21-23)

[Dedicated Service] 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. (Romans 12:1)

As the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So, they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”  [Good Order in Worship] What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. (1 Corinthians 14:25-26)

And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.” (Hebrews 1:6)

By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. (Hebrews 11:21)

And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God. (Revelation 7:11)

            These scriptures provide a background of references to worship where people either were commanded to worship God, or they spontaneously fell and worshipped because of a direct encounter with God. The commandment to worship God is found in the Bible from the beginning of time to the end – existing with Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel all the way forward to Revelation; in the final times all people bow down to worship Him. Andrew Faiz, in his book about private worship, notes that worship draws us near to God privately even while we are in a corporate setting. He observes that, “This other worship for all of us in the pews, each individually each in their own way, each with different concerns and weights, is a private matter, our personal conversation with God.”[1] God speaks to His people personally in private conversation and as a people corporately.  Once a believer truly encounters God through corporate or private conversation, they are changed forever. While it is commanded strongly to worship God, few people take the time to spiritually develop their private time with God to deepen the relationship they have with God.  Only if believers have experienced God through the spiritual disciplines can they expect to find Him in the corporate worship experience.  The early church was encouraged consistently to worship God in purity. Today, people have lost interest in worship due to the malformation of their spiritual development.  If worship leaders and worshipers are not in tune with God’s presence, it is not surprising that corporate worship today appears frivolous. 

God created man in His own image and gave him the gift of free will, therefore humans were given the choice to worship God. In giving them free will, the worship He receives is pure; by proclaiming everything as good, we see that God gained pleasure from His creation; He was pleased with what He has made.   In Genesis 1:27-31 we find,

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the [an] surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

While God loves worship, it is not for Him alone, worship is advantageous to the believer as well.  Worship provides a place to put one’s beliefs; a place that is larger than the earth and controls every part of the world. Fully worshipping God provides a place of strength, peace and rest.

            Jesus knew what God desired in worship and Jesus provides an answer concerning the greatest commandment, “’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”  These two commandments give the theological foundation for the existence of the followers of Jesus Christ.  It explains that loving God is foremost in our relationship with God.  To love someone, you must know that person, enjoy their presence and give time and effort to the relationship.  Spiritual growth through the disciplines of the Christian life provide the foundation needed to gain strength and depth within the relationship with God, our families, our friends at church, and our neighbors throughout our community and the entire world.

Those who are worship leaders have a high calling and must be adamant on pursuing their relationship with God in their own private closet.  The purpose of this book is to encourage and provide necessary tools for worshipers to help them grow in a deeper and more intimate walk with Christ. My prayer is to provide Christ’ followers good skills to create their own personal daily worship time so spiritual transformation will enhance their corporate worship.

Questions We Need Answered

             First, what common factors of personal worship directly influence the quality of corporate worship to worshipers?  This question will help determine if common factors provide spiritual transformation that intensifies the experience for the worshiper.

            Second, does personal worship through the spiritual disciplines ignite passion in worshipers that otherwise attend for other reasons?  If these worshipers come for other reasons, will spiritual development help change their mindset?

            Third, does it make a difference in the overall quality of worship if worshipers are spiritually in-tune with the Holy Spirit?  Does it make a difference within the lives of worshipers without affecting corporate worship?

            If you have read this far, I hope you will continue as we journey together to find out if spiritual transformation through the spiritual disciplines are really important to the quality of worship we experience.

Stay tuned for Part IV

[1] Andrew Faiz, “Personal Conversations: Worship is often a very Private Experience” Presbyterian Record (November 2013): 6.


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