Worship is fun. If your church has a good worship team, people will be punctual for church and no one will want the time of praise and worship to end. God’s presence satisfies, heals and directs. This is what we’re made for. Worship time at church is unique in that it is guarded. Our daily lives are not typically monastic, so Sundays provide a rare hour or so of worship time where cell phones are tucked away and delivery men do not knock on the door. It is a highlight in our week because we can truly focus on God’s beauty, perfection and love. Worship draws us to His side and fills us.
Some of us step into the depths of worship as the first note is played on the keyboard. Some of us step over an invisible threshold to peace and bliss as the first word of the first song is sung. For other people, worship is a journey. For people who have been wounded by earthly fathers or former church leadership, healing may have to happen in order to bring down a wall of distrust between them and God. For these people, worship is a struggle. Praise is truly a sacrifice where seeking His face is hard, and the struggle, in itself, is an earnest act of submission and obedience (see Hebrews 13:15).
God’s presence satisfies, heals and directs. This is what we’re made for.
This is hard to understand if you are a person for whom worship is second nature. People who admit to their difficulty in worship can be judged. It can be assumed that all barriers between us and God are sin-laden. A person can spend years trying to figure out why they love God so much but can’t seem to focus on Him in worship. Freedom to worship comes when a process of healing, through God’s attention and grace, is complete. These same people then embrace the freedom to praise with a gratitude, sincerity, humility and passion that can only be appreciated in its abundant wholeness by God Himself.
There is sometimes confusion regarding righteousness and worship. Zealous worship is not always synonymous with maturity, though it may be. Jesus condemned the ostentatious prayers of the Pharisees. In Matthew 6:5 he said,“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Similarly, ostentatious worship exists. Not all worshipers are focused on God, and even if they are, they may be worshiping wholeheartedly next to a person that they hurt with unkind words just before the service started. God sees the whole picture while we may have blinders on.
Corporate worship is a beautiful thing. It is a time when we take our eyes off of ourselves and one another and focus, in unity, on our King. His presence increases as we clear our mind of distractions and cleanse our hearts of sin. We are all loving God, together. Worship is not a discipline in and of itself, however. The fruit of worship should extend to our relationships when the music stops. And truly effective worship will only begin with a cleansed heart that was kept clean through the prior weeks’ daily communion with God. We should always enter worship with our hearts right with one another, too.
The fruit of worship should extend to our relationships when the music stops.
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus gives us the two most important commandments. He says,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”
Jesus lists these two commandments in order: first priority–love God, second priority–love your neighbor as yourself. I John 4:19-20 explains the connection between these two commandments;
“We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”
When we love God, He speaks to us. John 10:27 says “My sheep listen to my voice.” During worship He pours His love back onto us. He fills us with His Holy Spirit and brings us revelation, comfort, direction and conviction, and so much more. We should leave our time of personal or corporate worship having communed with God. He may simply receive our love. Or another time He may simply give His love as we rest in His presence. Another time He may give us understanding and speak to us. Always, He equips us with what we need to do to fulfill His purposes for us that day. He prepares us for the relationships that will fill the very near future.
During worship, God may convict us through the Holy Spirit. James 1:22-25 explains how we need to act on the word that we hear from the Lord;
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
The Greek word used for “word” here is logos which means “a word, speech, divine utterance, analogy” (see Strong’s). To leave time spent with God, where we hear from Him, and step out the door and do what He told us, will result in blessing. To not do so will leave something important to Him undone. Many times, His directives involve our “neighbors.”
Loving God alone does not fulfill Jesus’ commands. Worshiping 24/7 may seem like a great thing to do, but it does not complete our call.
In John 13:35, Jesus sets His second commandment as the standard for true lifestyle evangelism. He says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It is hard to see so much hurt in Christian churches. It is even harder to see hurt caused by brothers and sisters. It is hardest yet to see hurt that comes out of relationships in churches where worship is anointed and powerful, but relationships are strained. It is sad that this happens. But Jesus saw it coming.
Jesus’ prayer concern for unity in His church was a result of foresight. In John 17:22-23, He prays,
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-- I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Psalm 133:1 says “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” A wonderful way to bless God is to reach out to His people around us. He is pleased when we end our songs of praise and devotion and continue to love to one another out of humility and kindness. When we do so, our praises are weightier and His Kingdom expands, giving Him the glory.