Worship in Practice
Over the last two Sundays we have considered the topic of worship. The heart behind this was to make space to focus on worship, especially in light of the changes we’ve made in this Covid world. When we initially discerned the need to focus on worship, it was during the time we could meet – but without singing! Seeing things changes so rapids only underlines the need to be clear on what worship is, why it matters, and how we express it.
In the last blogpost, I reviewed what worship is, and how it is in all of our hearts, manifesting itself in our activities and priorities. Don’t forget you can listen back to the messages on our YouTube channel, too.
In this post I will recap the key points from the second message.
Worship in Practice
A key passage on the subject of worship is found in John 4, where Jesus is speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well. He remarks that worshippers “must worship in spirit and truth.” This means:
- Worship that is filled with spiritual zeal and emotion is insufficient without a true understanding of God, as revealed in His Word.
- Worship filled with truths about God, but done in an obligatory, perfunctory way is also deficient.
As David expressed in Psalm 40:6-8, it is not the acts of worship per se that God delights in: it is the heart of a worshipper. God delights in those who have a true knowledge of God, and delight in Him in truth.
Singing in Various Forms
It’s not difficult to see from the Bible, from church history and from the contemporary church that singing is a major aspect of Christian worship. We don’t need to look far in the Scriptures before encountering the command to sing out in praise – see Psalm 47 and 98 for examples. Sing, sing, sing! we are instructed.
Not all of us naturally desire to express praise in this way. That’s fine; we are all different. However, what we must do is reserve our deepest and most profound joys for God and God alone, however we express them. If we are dispassionate about God and the gospel, yet excitable about lesser, worldly things, what does that reveal about our worship?
As well as loud and exuberant praise, we also saw how the Psalms validate intimate, personal worship as appropriate. You can see this in Psalm 5, for example. We quickly see that the Book of Psalms covers a whole spectrum of praise.
Singing in Various Styles
The Church, throughout history, and indeed the people of God, have always had different ways and styles to sing praise. Indeed, from the Psalms we can see that a variety of instrumentation was used, from stringed instruments to percussion such as tambourine and cymbal. Anyone who argues that percussion is disallowed from contemporary worship should go back to the Scriptures!
From acapella to pipe-organ to contemporary band, it seems to me impossible to declare any particular style of music off-limits, provided it meets the purpose of worship.
Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
That is, the praise music has a purpose in teaching and admonition for the church. If the music we offer is lyrically rich with truth, and the melody is singable and memorable to aid retention of that truth, then you have something useful for worship!
In the current climate, where we are not currently able to come together, it would be easy to think that our worship is impacted. I argue that our worship is not and cannot be impacted: only how we express it is impacted. For worship resides in our hearts. The worshipping heart simply needs to look for alternative ways to express itself. Here are my five thoughts:
Remember the Reasons for Worship
Keeping before our eyes the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, deliberately recalling the wonder of our salvation, is the primary way to stir up our hearts in worship. There is more profound or glorious truth than the fact that the perfect, infinite and righteous God condescended to take the form of a man, so as to suffer and die in our place, thereby enabling us to receive the free gift of salvation through simply placing our faith and allegiance in God. This is true for us in every season of life!
Reflect on what we Still Have
Being unable to physically come together is disheartening and upsetting. However, it would be remiss of us not to take advantage of what we still have. The Lord has seen fit to make video technology ubiquitous in our day: even the most basic smartphone today is capable of video calling, and – assuming you have internet connectivity at home – you can do it for free. Here at Calvary, Lord willing we will continue to provide praise music each Sunday, and I encourage you to enter in: stand to sing like you would on a Sunday.
Prioritise Personal and Family Worship
How do you express worship at home? Have you thought in those terms? Daily setting aside time to read the Word should be done as an expression of worship, and not as a perfunctory act. Have you considered including praise music, and actively singing praise with it, rather than as background music? Perhaps you could do this as a household?
Consider the Full Spectrum of Worship
We worship in multitudinous ways. Singing praise is just one! Any act that we do that comes out of a pure heart that longs to please God is an act of worship. Your work can be worship, if you do it with sincerity of heart, as Paul outlines in Colossians 3:22. Your giving can be worship, if it’s done for God and because of God, prayerfully asking the Lord to use the funds for His purposes. Paul says he was eager to remember the poor in Galatians 2:10; that’s because he had worship in his heart.
Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
For us as a church, we’ll need to look to other ways to worship corporately, too. It’ll look different, depending on whether we can meet or whether we are online. On Sunday we read together from the Psalms, something we’ll do frequently. While at home, we’ll continue to use praise music for worship.
Remember that it WILL get better
My final thought is to keep in our minds and hearts that things will get better. Our worship was never perfect: nothing ever is in this current epoch. But the Day will come when we see our Lord face to face, and our worship of Him will be utterly perfect, utterly fulfilling, utterly glorious in every respect. Until then, as Psalm 84:5 says, we take strength from God, and keep in our hearts that we’re on the “highways to Zion” – we are on a journey to Heaven where all the trials and struggles of the present time will be forgotten.
How is the worship in your hearts working out in these days? How can you encourage others to worship? What ideas do you have for corporate worship?