Summary: Corporate worship is strengthened when members are (1) consistent by practicing the presence of God through the week (2) expectant by embracing God’s promise to meet with them, etc.
How do we go to higher ground in our worship? That has been our theme for the last couple of messages. We found first that worship must proceed from the heart—from our innermost being. Jesus put it this way in John 4:24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”1 The most fundamental issue in worship is the condition of the heart. In Luke 7 we have an example of pure worship: a woman who bows at Jesus feet and out of pure gratitude for His mercy washes His feet with her tears, wipes them dry with her hair, and anoints Him with costly, fragrant oil.
With the foundation that we have laid, today I want to share Five Ways to Enhance Your Worship Experience. They are actions that you have to take in order to benefit from them. Just knowing about them doesn’t help much. Implementation is everything. But there are some things you and I can do if we want enhanced worship experience. My focus this morning is on our corporate, public worship experience. What can each of us do to make our gathering together in worship more rewarding?
I. Be CONSISTENT in your pursuit of God and in your worship.
Practice worship during the week, so that you are already in touch with God when you come to the corporate meeting.
God instructed Moses on how to build the tabernacle. There was first an outer court, then a holy place, then the Holy of Holies. God’s manifest presence was in the Holy of Holies on the Mercy Seat. Nobody just walked right into Holy of Holies. There were preparations. Coming into God’s presence was not something to be taken lightly. Even the priests had to wash themselves and put on holy garments in order to function in the Holy Place. The instruction in Ps 29:2 is “Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” God taught Israel to approach Him with reverence because He is holy. There was an appropriate procession into intimacy with God. It began in the outer court, proceeded to the Holy Place, and culminated in the Holy of Holies.
When we come together we proceed toward God from where we are when we begin. So if I have been walking in the Spirit all week, I can move into spiritual worship easily and quickly. On the other hand, if my mind has not been set on the things of the Spirit all week, then I have a huge adjustment to make as the congregation draws near to the Lord in worship. The process of drawing near to God in our worship is affected by the spiritual condition of everyone in the room. It’s a reality that we can’t ignore. The first few songs are usually a process of just trying to get us all on the same page entering into the corporate presence of God.
God corrected Israel for thinking they could live one way all week; then enjoy His favor at the Temple by simply switching to a more religious mode. Listen to what He told Israel in Amos 5:21-24 “I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.” God gave them a similar message through Isaiah in Isaiah 1 and 58.
Living out of step with God all week long is not the right preparation for an awesome worship service on Sunday morning. It’s actually an exercise in hypocrisy and invites a religious spirit rather than the Holy Spirit. It’s like the Pharisees who loved to say long prayers in public to be seen of men (Matt. 6:5). God’s favor simply cannot rest on that. It doesn’t matter how talented the band is or how many people are in the building, if that is going on, God is not pleased. I don’t think we are doing that.
But we can be more conscientious about practicing the presence of God throughout the week. Just being mindful of Him; talking with Him throughout each day; worshipping Him during the week prepares us for corporate worship. In Psalm 145:2 David said, “Every day I will bless You….” It’s a good way to start your day. He even said in Psalm 119:164 “Seven times a day I praise You….” The idea here is worship as a lifestyle, not just something I do once a week on Sunday morning.