Summary: Sometimes our worship assemblies can be dull. But by turning to Psalm 84 we can learn how to put the fire back into our public worship.
Sometimes a congregation’s public worship can just be downright cold and lifeless. Therefore, in an attempt to revive their dead services, many churches change worship styles, or songs books, or preachers. While these changes may perhaps bring life back into a dead service, they are temporary fixes at best, because these remedies only focus on the externals. The only way to truly bring the fire back into our public worship is first change our hearts. Using Psalm 84 as a guide, let’s learn three ways to put the fire back into our public worship.
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of host! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of host, my king and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!” (Psalm 84:1-4)
The Psalmist had an appetite for God. His hunger for God is clearly seen in the words: longs, faints, crying out to Him (KJV).
Everyone has hungers within them. A hunger for companionship and community, for involvement in something greater than themselves. Others hunger for perspective, knowledge and understand of the world around them. Still some possesses a gnawing hunger of emptiness, restlessness, or that hard to explain, gut feeling that something is missing in their lives.
One reason our public worship can, at times, be cold and lifeless is because we have ruined our appetites. We have satisfied our hungers with the junk foods of the world. We have attempted to satisfy our hungers an excesses of food and drink, or entertainment, or work, or studies, or sex, or drugs, or worldly companions, or worldly organizations. Consequently, it’s no wonder our worship is half-hearted at times, we have been gorging ourselves on the junk food of the world we don’t come hungry for God and we don’t worship Him with fire and zeal.
When God’s people of old were consumed with idols and wicked living, they would do something that was simple and dramatic; they would fast. Joel 2:12-13 is a good example: “‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’”
Fasting was a sign they were serious about turning back to God. I challenge you, to get serious about putting the fire back into our public worship by fasting from all the proverbial junk in your life that you have been gorging on. Cut out all those things that are stealing your hunger for God. If you do that, you’ll be well on your way to putting the fire back into our public worship. But there’s more…
“Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, of God of Jacob” (Psalm 84:5-8)
Focus with me on the words, “in whose hearts are the highways to Zion” meaning the worshipers had prepared their hearts to go to the public worship in Jerusalem. (The NIV says, “whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”) Moreover, their hearts and attitudes transformed wilderness into of joy. Don’t miss that point, when worshipers prepare their hearts, they strengthen the hearts of those around them.
I ran across this quote attributed to Timothy Keller recently that I think will help us understand the idea of coming prepared for worship:
“Public worship is only the manifestation of private worship. The reason our public services are dead is that our private devotional life is dead. The ‘quick fix’ of injecting more upbeat music into our services may seem to solve the problem, but we have ignored the disease that will destroy us, unless we seek God’s cure. Our church congregations fail to sing with conviction because the song isn’t in their hearts before they come to the service.”
Did you catch that, “Our, public worship is only a manifestation of private worship.” I believe that is so true. So do you prepare yourself for the public worship on Sunday by privately worshiping God Monday – Saturday?
We understand this principle, especially in the sports arena. Athletes prepare themselves for the big game with practices, drills and film study. They realize that without preparation they will not be able to perform at a high level and will not win. The same is true with us. It’s awful hard to “stir up love and good works” in others (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25) when we haven’t prepared our hearts beforehand.