Texts: Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8-9; John 4:19-24.
Why is the subject of praise/worship so dear to the heart of God, and why did He lay so much emphasis down through the ages on true worship? How can worship enhance and increase our efficiency and effectiveness as saints and workers in His vineyard?
The Bible provides us with ample answers to all of the foregoing questions. Furthermore, our Lord Jesus Christ emphasized in His teachings that worship was structurally and functionally designed by God as a means whereby mankind can come into intimate relationship of fellowship with Him.
Jesus also taught that true worship should be centred on the Person of God, (Who is the Sole Object and Main Audience), rather than on a place or a geographical location, (which is the subject, its dynamics, mechanics, or techniques).
Our objective therefore, in this study, is to explore the ways and means by which we can increase our intimacy with God through a re-discovered lifestyle of genuine, true worship.
What is Worship?
The very first mention of 'worship' in the Bible is found in Genesis 22:2. From the Hebrew lexicon, worship is known as SHACHAH (pronounced SHAWKAW), meaning to 'prostrate in homage to royalty or to God; to bow down, to crouch low, or to fall down in worship.'
The English word 'worship' was derived from the old English word 'weorthscipe', which is a compound word that was modified to 'worthship' because of its cumbersome pronunciation, and then later contracted to its present spelling, 'worship'.
The Collins English Dictionary defines worship as, " the act of showing profound religious devotion and respect or veneration to God or to any other person or thing considered to be divine, and therefore, worthy of admiration or adoration."
Worship, therefore, is:
To express reverence, admiration, veneration or a high sense of awe to God, (II Samuel 6;6-11);
To bow low before God, (the Sole Object and Main Audience), in worship; and it is also to make obeisance, (Revelations 4;8-11;5:11-14;7;11-12; 11:16-17);
To recognize and esteem the worthiness of God, and to make a suitable response to that worthiness of His, (II Samuel 22:4; Revelations 4:11; 5:12);
To enter into a relationship of intimacy with God, which can be expressed through fellowship with Him, (Genesis 3:8-9; Psalms 42:7);
To become naked and exposed (that is, very vulnerable) in the presence of God, and not be ashamed or feel the loss of one's dignity or prestige, (II Samuel 6:14, 16, 20-23);
To enter into a sacred and divine activity preserved and reserved by God for the heirs of salvation, who operate in the New Testament Dispensation of Grace, whereby 'Deep calls to Deep', and whereby we can cry out, 'Abba Father' and get His response, (Psalm 78:4-6; 102:18).
Furthermore, worship is:
An attitude of gratitude. It is the reverent occupation of the human heart with its creator.
- It begins from a heart full of gratitude.
- It springs from the depths of meditation on God's immense greatness and worthiness.
- It conveys to God from us our sense of inner awareness and awe of His Almighty worthiness and the veneration we have for Him. And
- It culminates with an outward expression of our admiration for God through effusive songs of adoration.
An overflow of our overwhelming joy. In worship, our emotions are naturally, fully and totally involved. They flow forth in seamless, silken smoothness, with no inhibitions whatsoever. And they pour forth spontaneously, with all caution, decency and moderations thrown to the winds!
Such worship activities may be expressed through:
- Hands-clapping, feet-dancing, hands-waving, knees-bowing, loud-shoutings, clamorous cacophony, effusive acclamation or joyful singing;
- Reverential silence, quiet reflections, full bodily prostration or genuflection, deep groaning in the spirit, and a high form of solemn assembly;
- Fasting, praying and general confession of sins and personal shortcomings to God in His presence.
An outpouring of our soul in deep expressions of worship. This is expressed through reverence, veneration, awe, wonder, fear or adoration.
- This expressive form of worship usually precedes a time of total consecration to God's ultimate will and divine instructions, (Mark 14:33);
- This form of worship also precedes a time of great awakening, revival, or a mighty harvest of souls into God's kingdom; usually through evangelistic campaigns or musical outreaches through, for example, Street Praise Evangelism.
What Jesus Taught About Worship:
1. He taught that there is true worship, (John 4:22-24), and there is also false worship, (Matthew 15:8-9; Isaiah 29:13).
- Whereas true worship is centred on God as the Sole Object and Main Audience, false worship is offered through just the lips, but never from the heart.
- Whereas true worship focuses on the personality of God as the Almighty Creator, false worship is centred around the celebration of a mere geographical location or religious building.
- Whereas true worship is uninhibited, spontaneous and extemporaneous, false worship is rather too mechanical, liturgical, and passes as a mere parade of fleshy manipulations.
- Whereas true worship adores and glorifies God for His greatness, majesty and worthiness, (and not necessarily because of what He has done or has not done for us), false worship naturally tends to draw attention to ourselves, to portray us in the eyes of others as people of intense and deep piety that is, in the eyes of the less-discerning and unsuspecting world.
2. Jesus taught that true worship must be centred on God (as a Worthy Personality Who is immensely qualified to receive our worship), and not on a mere geographical location.
- The Personality of God should be the sole focus and object of our worship.
- The attributes of God should be the sole cause of our celebration of worship.
- The immutable nature of God should be the sole cause for our expressions of gratitude.
- The holiness of God should be the cause of our great admiration, veneration and adoration for Him.
3. Jesus taught that true worship is characterized by FLOW and FORM patterns.
- The 'in spirit' phrase refers to the flow pattern. Flow in electricity is the right amount of current that is transmitted from the main source.
- The 'in truth' phrase also refers to the form pattern. Form in electricity is the right wiring and recipient facility installed to forestall possible short-circuiting or burnout.
It requires the flow and form to produce the desired result, which is electric current (or power generation)! So too, flow and form in worship are required to serve as a safe guard or a guarantee against burnout, fuse cuts or short circuiting.
Take away either of the patterns and there will be disaster, death and destruction waiting to happen! The Flow and the Form must always be present in our worship in order to ensure its acceptability in the eyes of God.
4. Jesus taught that God still seeks after true worshippers today. His ultimate intension is to qualify every one of us, redeemed saints, as potential transcendental worshippers!
As transcended worshippers, the saints will be used to fill up the great vacancies created in the heavenly choir, when Satan, as the ex-music director, swept away a third of the angels, who joined him in high treason.
5. Jesus taught that true worshippers must always worship God because that is what we've been created and saved for, and that is exactly part of what we shall continue to do in heaven and for all eternity long. So, the sooner we come to terms with this fact, the better we will begin to appreciate the need to cultivate an intimate worship lifestyle of God. This in turn, will go a long way to help us dismantle and discard all our long-cherished and much-valued misconceptions about the ministry of praise and worship.
6. Jesus taught that true worship is first stimulated in the spirit of the believer, then it is experienced in his soul, and finally, it is demonstrated in the physical, [or the body].
In much more simplified terms, true worship, which is a vertical relationship relative to God, is a three-dimensional activity, involving the three component parts of man spirit, soul and body.
7. Jesus taught a three-dimensional role of true worship, which is to be expressed in the Church as her major functions, namely:
* The Up-reach Activity which is praise/worship, freely and joyfully offered to God. Our individual as well as corporate worship should be an up-reach activity for God and Him alone.
* The In-reach Activity which is mutual edification through the process of Body Ministry for every believer. This is mostly expressed through gathering sinners to save them; nurturing the saints to groom and grow them in grace, and teaching the believers how to be equipped, perfected, empowered and sent forth to disciple other souls, (II Timothy 2:2; 3:16-17). Indeed, this should be the Vision Statement of every true church organization raised by God for core ministry work.
* The Out-reach Activity which is aimed at reconciling sinners and mankind in general to God through the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such activities may be expressed through City-wide Evangelistic Campaigns, Door-to-Door Neighbourhood Evangelism, Street Praise Evangelism, City Prayer Walks, Community-based Development Projects, and Missionary Outreaches to the interior hinterlands and rural areas.
How to Develop Intimacy with God through Worship
1. Discover God's Fatherhood over your life, (Matthew 5:43-45; John 20:17). Jesus made numerous references to the Fatherhood of God over His life. In fact, the Dake's Annotated Reference Bible has over one hundred and forty  of such references.
2. Develop your spiritual sensitivity to divine issues.
3. Work towards your emotional stability and maturity. Be more ruled by your heart, and not by your head or emotions.
4. Cultivate a lifestyle of genuine humility whenever you are in worship.
5. Always practise God's presence wherever you are, and be conscious that God is always everywhere at the same time.
6. Submit totally to God's control, and the spiritual authority of the church, and all those put in positions of privilege or power over you.
7. Work on your spiritual maturity, and endeavour to grow up in the ways of God.
8. Always be open-minded and receptive to the Spirit of God Almighty.
9. Shot your mind to all forms of external or internal distractions that won't allow you to concentrate in God's presence.
10. Enter into worship with an attitude of proper and prior prayer preparation.
11. Grow rich in your study of God's word to be able to understand His mind on this and several other spiritual issues.
12. Consciously walk in love towards all saints and everyone.
13. Endeavour to always purify yourself through,  the washing of the water of God's word, (Ephesians 5:26);  the purging or cleansing of your heart and soul through the power of the Blood of Jesus Christ, and,  the daily confession of your sins of omission and commission, thereby, creating for yourself a gateway of unbroken fellowship of intimacy with God, (Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; I John 1:8-9).
14. Always make God the Sole Object and Main Audience of your worship activities.
15. Always maintain a tender conscience that is devoid of offence towards God and mankind, (Acts 23:1; 24:16).
16. Cultivate a healthy family altar where worship should be central and always freely offered.
If we can always put the foregoing into regular, consistent and conscientious practice, we will certainly be able to experience an intimacy of fellowship with God through a lifestyle of heartfelt worship!
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