What’s the Big Deal About Worship?
by Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor
FBC, Spanish Fort, Ala.
Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse shares, “As we were leaving Beaumont, Texas, we saw a large sign along the highway calling upon people to acknowledge God. ‘Go and worship God in the church of your choice,’ we read. We pulled to a stop in front of a red light. Another car drew alongside us. A child’s voice read the sign and said, ‘Daddy, what does worship mean?’ The father replied, ‘It means to go to church and listen to the preacher preach.’ Could there be a more horrible definition? Worship—three or four hundred years ago it was pronounced worth–ship—means the acknowledgement of the worth that is in our God.
Worship in heaven is described in terms of God’s angels and sons falling before Him, saying, ‘Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever’ (Revelation 7:12).”
Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) writes, “If our lives and ministry count for anything today, we must solemnly resolve to make time for God. It is not easy. Some people won’t like it, but somebody else wouldn’t like it if we did some other way, so that doesn’t matter.”
“A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ ‘You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘But now entreat God’s favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘Nor will I accept an offering from your hands. For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations,’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘But you profane it, In that you say,
‘The table of the Lord is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.’ You also say,
‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?’ Says the Lord. ‘But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished—For I am a great King,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘And My name is to be feared among the nations’” (Malachi 1.6-14).
What is the big deal about worship? Let’s think about it.
I. The Practice of Worship
Dr. James Barr Walker (1805-1887) writes, “There is in the nature of man, or in the circumstances in which he is conditioned, something which leads him to recognize and worship a superior being. . . . Man is a religious being— HE WILL WORSHIP.”
Dr. J. I. Packer states, “To worship God is to recognize his worth or worthiness; to look God-ward, and to acknowledge in all appropriate ways the value of what we see. The Bible calls this activity ‘glorifying God’ or ‘giving glory to God,’ and views it as the ultimate end, and from one point of view, the whole duty of man (Ps. 29:2; 96:6; 1 Cor. 10:31). Scripture views the glorifying of God as a sixfold activity: praising God for all that he is and all his achievements; thanking him for his gifts and his goodness to us; asking him to meet our own and others’ needs; offering him our gifts, our service, and ourselves; learning of him from his word, read and preached, and obeying his voice; telling others of his worth, both by public confession and testimony to what he has done for us. Thus we might say that the basic formulas of worship are these: ‘Lord, you are wonderful’; ‘Thank you, Lord’; ‘Please Lord’; ‘Take this, Lord’; ‘Yes, Lord’; ‘Listen everybody!’
This then is worship in its largest sense: petition as well as praise, preaching as well as prayer, hearing as well as speaking, actions as well as words, obeying as well as offering, loving people as well as loving God. However, the primary acts of worship are those which focus on God directly—and we must not imagine that work for God in the world is a substitute for direct fellowship with him in praise and prayer and devotion.”
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
These passages call for sacrificial living and sacrificial giving.
The first appearance of the word, “worship” is in Genesis 22:5, where Abraham’s faith is confirmed, when he obediently offered his only son, Isaac, to the Lord.
The first act of worship is recorded in Genesis 4:3-5, “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering.” Hebrews 11:4 provides the following divine commentary, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”
Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) shares the following on the phrase found in Genesis 4:26, “then began men to call upon the name of the Lord”: “not but that Adam and Abel, and all good men, had called upon the name of the Lord, and prayed to him, or worshipped him before this time personally, and in their families; but now the families of good men being larger, and more numerous, they joined together in social and public worship: or since it may be thought there were public assemblies for religious worship before this time, though it may be they had been neglected, and now were revived with more zeal and vigour; seeing the Cainites [descendants of Cain] incorporating themselves, and joining families together, and building cities, and carrying on their civil and religious affairs among themselves, they also formed themselves into distinct bodies; and not only separated from them, but called themselves by a different name; for so the words may be rendered: ‘then began men to call themselves’, or ‘to be called by the name of the Lord’; the sons of God, as distinct from the sons of men; which distinction may be observed in (Genesis 6:2).”
Dr. J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) writes, “We must give up the vain idea of trying to please everybody. That is impossible, and the attempt is a mere waste of time. We must be content to walk in Christ’s steps, and let the world say what it likes.”
“Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.”
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’”
II. The Precept of Worship
The worship of the living and true God must be based upon a personal relationship with Him or it is meaningless. In fact, we must be in fellowship with Him to genuinely worship Him.
Someone points out, “Where Joshua, who is a foreshadowing of Jesus, spoke of serving God in ‘sincerity and truth’ is the same spot where Jesus, who is the fulfillment of Joshua, spoke of worshipping God in ‘spirit and truth.’” Joshua 24:14 reads, “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!” John 4:23-24 reads, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) writes, “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, then falsehood that comforts and then kills. It is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie.
It is impossible to find anyone in the Bible who was a power for God who did not have enemies and was not hated. It’s better to stand alone with the truth than to be wrong with a multitude. It is better ultimately to succeed with truth than to temporarily succeed with a lie.”
John 4:5-26 reads:
“So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?’ Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’ The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’”
Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer writes, “Worship is not an external activity precipitated by the right environment. To worship in spirit is to draw near to God with an undivided heart. We must come in full agreement without hiding anything or disregarding His will.”
True worship requires a real relationship with the Lord, a respectful reverence for the Lord, and a relevant response to the Lord.
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) writes, “God seeks and values the gifts we bring Him—gifts of praise, thanksgiving, service, and material offerings. In all such giving at the altar we enter into the highest experiences of fellowship. But the gift is acceptable to God in the measure to which the one who offers it is in fellowship with Him in character and conduct; and the test of this is in our relationships with our fellow men. We are thus charged to postpone giving to God until right relationships are established with others. Could the neglect of this be the explanation of the barrenness of our worship? (Matt 5:24)” Matthew 5:23-24 reads, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
III. The Priority of Worship
A mega-church pastor touting one of the “theatre takeovers,” recently instructed his congregation and all Christians to attend a movie on opening weekend instead of going to church. The movie is receiving mixed reviews. It is amazing to see how many substitutes there are for worship these days. Hebrews 10:24-25 speaks of the priority of corporate worship. Here we read, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” The purpose of assembling ourselves is for worship. Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) used to talk about idol [I-D-O-L] worship, idle [I-D-L-E] worship and ideal worship.
Malachi reveals a time in the life of the nation of Israel when true worship did not hold a high priority. Dr. Terry W. Dorsett reminds us in his book titled, Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity, “When Malachi finished his ministry the Lord did not speak through another prophet for 400 years.” After that time of silence, the woman at the well expressed her concern to Jesus about the location of worship. He brought things into focus through His statement about genuine worship (John 4).
IV. The Profit of Worship
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe, former pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, writes in his book titled, The Integrity Crisis, “True biblical worship so satisfies our total personality that we don’t have to shop around for man-made substitutes.”
Remember the story of the woman at the well. Jesus told this woman that God is seeking for worshippers. John 4:23 reads, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: for the Father is seeking such to worship him.” The Greek word used here for seek is zeteo (dzay-teh’-o) seek for, desire, or to demand. God is looking for and demanding true, sincere worship. If we fail to worship God, not only corporately and privately, we are we in disobedience to the desires of our Lord.
Dr. Robert W. McIntyre writes, “The whole of you needs worship—and the part of you that will live forever needs it most.” Ben Patterson writes, “We who worship the true, living God would be better, if not completely different, if we worshiped Him better. For to worship His as we ought is to become what we ought.”
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe shares the following in Real Worship, “Worship is the believer’s response of all that he is—mind, emotions, will, and body—to all that God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience, and its practical side in objective obedience to God’s revealed truth. It is a loving response that is balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.”
Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer writes, “If we haven’t learned to be worshippers it doesn’t really matter how well we do anything else. Worship changes us or it has not been worship. To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change. Worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience.”
Dr. Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) writes, “Fruitful and acceptable worship begins before it begins.”
V. The Prudence of Worship
Prudence means “wisdom,” and a secondary definition of “prudence” is “the careful management of something.” A synthesis of these two shades of meaning would be, “the wise and careful management of something.” In the case of Malachi 1:6-14 we could say, the Israelites lacked prudence in their practice of worship. Their worship was careless and thoughtless in that they disregarded the One they were “worshipping.” They were dishonoring the One they were supposedly honoring. Many people in our day have the same attitude toward worship. In the pursuit of “relevance” there is a loss of reverence for the One who does not leave us in the dark about how we are to worship Him. 2 Timothy 3:1-9 reads, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.” Those who merely have “a form of godliness” have an empty expression of worship. Dr. John Henry Jowett (1864-1923) writes, “We leave our places of worship and no deep and inexpressible wonder sits upon our faces. . . . There is nothing to suggest that we have been looking at anything stupendous and overwhelming.”
For some worship is a wildfire of emotion. True worship is not out of control it is a demonstration of those under the control of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:22-23). In the name of worship there is a tendency to return to the scene as Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments when the children of Israel were dancing naked around a golden calf. I understand a pastor recently preached his sermon related to shame without his clothes. Therefore, I know things are moving in a wrong direction. When anything goes, everything goes, including the clothes. Recently, I saw a YouTube video featuring a church service with several members of a congregation running through the sanctuary like we did after church in the fellowship hall when I was three years old. One fellow ran up to the choir loft and did a flip and landed in the baptistery filled with water, he made a big slash, another fellow took off his suit coat and threw it toward the pulpit and it landed over the head of the one leading the hymn. Many people want a style of worship that is nothing more than a circus sideshow. Woe to those who make a mockery of the worship of the living and true God! Rev. John C. Neville warns, “Worship is one thing and entertainment is another, and it is dangerous business to play lightly with holy things, to tickle the senses in place of calling men to bow their hearts in faith and repentance.”
Worshipers today face the danger of freezing with formalism or frying with fanaticism without becoming lukewarm as the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:14-22). While we must beware of wildfire and strange fire we need the refiner’s fire to purge and purify us. 1 Corinthians 14:40 reads, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” If worship is not in order it is out of order.
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe explains in Real Worship, “Most Christians are too busy to worship, and many church services are so filled with man-made promotion that God is almost forgotten. People go to church to be spectators at a religious program, not participants in spiritual worship. They spend their time in counting, not weighing! As long as there are ‘results’ nobody cares whether or not God was pleased as His people gathered to honor Him and offer Him spiritual worship….the missing ingredient is worship….ascribing to God worth and not ‘using God’ to produce the results we have already planned.”
Robert Grant (1779-1838) issues this impassioned call:
O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
We must keep all these things in mind when we hear many people inside and outside of the church asking, “What is the big deal about worship?”
Donald Grey Barnhouse, Let Me Illustrate: Stories, Anecdotes, Illustrations, “Worship,” “Worship God,” (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1967), 362.
James Barr Walker, Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1799), 1-2.
J. I. Packer, Your Father Loves You, (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986), 15.
John Gill, John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, “Genesis 4:26” [Online Bible]; Accessed: 03/07/14, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/genesis-4-26.html .
J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, St. Luke, Vol. 1, (New York, NY: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1859), 230
Preaching Daily, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Today’s Extra…Illustration: Truth, Accessed: 03/05/14, https://us-mg205.mail.yahoo.com/neo/launch?.partner=sbc&.rand=64hp2bmtqt1b0
Erwin W. Lutzer, Pastor to Pastor: Tackling the Problems of Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1998), 80.
G. Campbell Morgan, Accessed: 03/07/14, http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/w/worship.htm
Terry W. Dorsett, Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity, (Raleigh, NC: Lulu.com, 2012), eBook.
Warren W. Wierbse, The Integrity Crisis, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), 119.
Albert M. Wells, Jr., Inspiring Quotations Contemporary & Classical, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988), #2964, 221.
Wells, Quotations, #2967, 221.
Warren W. Wiersbe, Real Worship, (Nashville, TN: Oliver Nelson,1986), 27.
Erwin W. Lutzer, Men of Integrity, Vol.1, No.1.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, The Books of Esther, Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, “Ecclesiastes 5:1-21,” (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1907), Accessed: 03/07/14, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/7883/7883.txt .
Wells, Quotations, #2961, 221.
Wells, Quotations, #2966, 221.
Robert Grant, “O Worship the King”, (1833).
Dr. Kirksey is author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com
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