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The Discipline of Worship

Voice Magazine

Pastor Michael J. Matiscik

 

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

The discipline of worship is an essential practice for the believer. Like breathing is necessary for life, so worship is necessary for knowing God. Both breathing and worship are practices that seem simple, but if you become proficient at both there are great advantages.   

The athlete or singer who wants to excel must be trained in breathing skills; this doesn’t just come naturally. Worship is no different—it is a discipline to master.   

Worship comes from a heart that truly desires to acknowledge who God is and to demonstrate love to Him. But it is a heartfelt discipline that takes work.  And the practice is an endless one—for we worship God on earth now, and we will worship Him in heaven for all eternity.     

A.W. Tozer said, “I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.”1   

Do you see worship as something that just happens? Do you see it as a discipline? Is this a practice you are working at? Growing in? Putting thought toward?   

This article is a wake up call to see worship as a discipline at which to work and build upon. I want to motivate you to not only practice it but master it as a discipline.   

The discipline of worship is unique among the spiritual disciplines. It can stand alone, but it also applies in every other discipline—prayer,meditation, singing, reading of Scripture, study of Scripture, serving, confession, etc.   

The discussion of worship can fluctuate between a Sunday service and day-to-day activities. At times this fluctuation blurs what kind of worshipis under discussion.    

The focus of this article is on practical elements of worship—not just the outward actions, but also the inner motivations and understanding tied to each practical step. A pastor can instruct people to bow one’s head in prayer, kneel for communion, or stand to sing, but the congregant needs to have a heart to show such reverence.    

Worship Defined   

I am defining worship as:   

Giving adoration to God through appropriate acts of praise that recognize His greatness, His honor, and His position. These acts are done in corporate or individual settings, and according to standards given by God and pleasing to Him. These acts will be expressed either:   

  1. Internally in heart actions or mental assent,or  
  2. Externally through words and deeds.   

Acts of adoration such as being prostrate, bowing, kneeling, raising hands, singing, and even giving mental assents or verbal shouts of praise are some ways to extol God’s greatness, honor, and position.   

Practical Action Steps in Worship   

Since practice leads to mastery, here are five action steps to help the believer in practicing worship.

1. Choose to Worship Actively, With Intent.     

And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”  (Mt 14:33).   

Worship is a choice. Worship is an action where you put your focus on God. The disciples in the boat verbally acted to give worship directly to Jesus.    

There are at least thirteen Hebrew and Greek words used for “worship” in the Bible. These words emphasize some type of action towards an object of adoration. The emphasis, then, is on the doing of worship. Also, other words like falling, blessing, or praising when used in worship contexts indicate an action of homage as well. You must work at worship rather than passively absorb it.   

We must purposefully choose to engage in worship as we think about God’s greatness, honor, and position. We can bring this mindset to a Sunday corporate service or a personal time of Bible reading on a Monday.    

Psalm 95:6 states, “Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”   

We all must make a conscious decision to practice worship. Do not let it just be something that happens. Like prayer, I have found, if I do not schedule time, it does not happen as often as I would want. I believe we need to make a conscious decision to worship more frequently. When attending a service, acknowledge, “I am here to worship.” Or when having your daily devotions: “I am here to worship.” It sounds too simple, but it can keep us from simply going through the motions of religious duty.      

2. Choose to Regularly Attend Corporate Worship Services   

Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.  (1 Ti 4:13)   

Regular attendance at corporate worship is something God expects of us.   

Worship is practiced, encouraged, taught, and modeled in corporate services. A church service could include reading God’s Word, exhorting from the Word, or studying the Word, as in 1 Timothy 4:13. Other practices from Scripture for the church are singing, praying, and giving. No matter what practices are done in a service, God must be the focus—not the musicians, the pastor, or any other service participant. Those serving and leading should point the congregation toward worship of God.    

This gathering reinforces that we are members of God’s family. We get to physically “see” that we have a spiritual connection to one another. Yes, worship can be done individually, but meeting as a group takes away the emphasis on self. The gathering reminds us why we pray “our Father” instead of “my Father” (Mt. 6:9). During the week, the world pulls us away from God. The corporate meeting pulls us back to God and keeps us all on the same page.    

We must also be aware that to not be a regular attender violates the explicit instructions of the Bible. Hebrews 10:25 warns about “not for saking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  No one has the right to say, “I worship God at home, in my own way.” God does not recognize that mindset of individualism, no matter how strongly one tries to justify staying away from the corporate service.    

When you choose to attend corporate worship:   

  • You choose to acknowledge God’s greatness by valuing God over anything else happening during that time.   
  • You chose to recognize God’s honor as worthy of an action. Like attending a funeral or a birthday party for a friend, attending a service shows you want to honor God.   
  • You choose to acknowledge God’s position as being more important than your own. You recognize that God is the authority you need to know and obey.      

3. Discern Biblical Practices for Your Worship.   

But Nadab and Abihu died when they offered strange fire before the Lord.(Nu 26:61)   

God sets standards for worship, and they are revealed in His Word. The third step is to discern biblical practices for your worship. This applies to both corporate and private worship.    

If we, as believers, are to know God, we must strive to understand His criteria for a relationship with Him. We are responsible to know God’s standards that will please Him. This is not just the pastor’s and elders’ responsibility. Church leaders are called to make sure worship is correct, and it is generally leaders who decide the content of a local church’s worship service, but it our responsibility as well.

Believers need to be warned about wrong worship practices. It is not healthy to be in a service where ecstatic speech is modeled or where being “slainin the Spirit” is practiced. These incorrect practices are not pleasing to God even if done at home. Improper worship practices are not done in a vacuum and do have negative consequences. It is imperative that as believers, we take it upon ourselves to know what is appropriate and what is not for corporate and personal worship practices.   

There are many opinions on how church worship services should be conducted. The reason for the variety in styles is not preference alone but is also due to differing hermeneutics. Different Bible study methods result in different forms of worship. Believers need to use good study skills to discern what is biblical and what is not.   

We must understand why we in the IFCA are not charismatic, liturgical, or emergent in worship form. It is because we subscribe to the grammatical-historical method of interpretation of the Scriptures. IFCA churches are different from other evangelical churches because we believe our form is what the Bible teaches. Yes, we can have preferences on the start time of a service, how many songs are sung, and even how long the pastor preaches, but the service content still must adhere to biblical standards.   

Also, regarding our preferences, it is important to realize that these often get blurred with God’s standards. Sadly, statements like this are often made in Christian circles: “I did not like today’s music; I don’t feel as if I worshipped today.” Instead of rating performances, be it of musicians or even preachers, we as believers need to focus on what in a service pleases God.    

By properly discerning what worship acts to practice, you put effort into your knowledge of God. Acting on that knowledge then shows you recognize how God explicitly wants His greatness, honor, and position valued and acknowledged.    

Mastering worship discipline then, in elevating His wishes over your preferences, you avoid offering him “strange fire.”        

4. Guard Yourself from Idolatry    

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 Jn 5:21)

In practicing worship as a discipline, we must actively guard ourselves from idolatry. We should not put anything above our regard for God.    

Idolatry is not just an Old Testament sin of worshiping a gold statue. Anything can be an idol. We can make idols of our wealth, our health,our spouses, our children, our sports teams, our gardens, our hobbies, and—dare I even say it—our cell phones. Yes, all those items and many more can become idols in our lives.    

To be clear, none of the above things is sinful to have, but if we make them the object of our adoration, God knows. We need to watch what our passions are and where those passions are directed.    

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.  (Col 3:5)

Maybe you don’t honor a statue of the Virgin Mary or a ceramic Buddha, but you can secretly have idols in your heart of almost anything. Idols such as the neighbor’s wife, car, or house to any other passion you might have. So, challenge yourself by asking, “What idols have I allowed to slip into my life?”    

Idolatry is a significant violation of worship of the true God.     

5. Actively Put Worship into Every Part of Your Life   

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spiritand truth.  (Jn 4:24)

Worship must be active in every part of your life. You cannot compartmentalize your life and hold any area back from God.    

What Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4 has resonated throughout the ages as the fundamental understanding of worship. Jesus made it clear that worship is something more than a corporate assembly of God’s people. The idea of the Spirit opens up the locale of worship to everywhere, and the concept of truth speaks to the standard that must be met by worshippers.   

To make worship a practical discipline beyond the Sunday service, do this: Take any area of your life—marriage, parenting, praying, working, serving, recreation, and even resting—and ask yourself how the recognition of God’s greatness, honor, and position has impacted that area of your life.   

Make that self-analysis more than a one-time practice. This should be a lifetime practice. It is an excellent habit to put into your life.    

The list of applications is endless, just as the knowledge of Godis endless. If the woman at the well applied the truth Jesus gave, she recognized the need to broaden her worship even to her relationships with men. She needed to repent of whatever she idolized incorrectly and change her behavior and lifestyle to honor the true God.   

It takes effort to stop and think about various parts of your life and actively say, “How have I brought worship into this activity, into this aspect of my life?”     

Conclusion

Are you ready for eternity? These practical steps are just starters to master the discipline of worship. We must realize worship takes effort, and a continued one at that.    

We must not think of worship as simple, or something that just comes naturally. Yes, a young child can sing. But it is the trained singer that hits the high note on Broadway. A youth can run and win the elementary school race. But it is the disciplined athlete that wins in the Olympics.    

A new believer can worship and do so in a way pleasing to God. But, as we mature in our faith, we hone our skills in worship of God. Such maturity is then blessed beyond a Sunday service, in a life ready for eternity.

Footnote   

1. Tozer, A.W., Smith, G.B., Mornings with Tozer; Daily devotional readings: April 17 entry, “NOT READY FORHEAVEN?”, United States, Moody Publishers, 2015. 

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