Summary: How are you supposed to worship? Perhaps no question sparks more controversy across American than that question. And what we find is that the answer is often based on your previous experience and your culture and generation. Regardless, we find that there
How to Approach Worship?
There’s the story of a young rabbi who found a serious problem in his new congregation. During the service, half the congregation stood for the prayers and half remained seated. Each side shouted at the other, insisting theirs was the true tradition. Nothing the rabbi said or did moved toward solving the impasse, Finally in desperation, the young rabbi sought out the synagogue’s 99 year-old founding rabbi. He visited him in the nursing home and poured out his troubles. “So tell me,” he pleaded, “was it the tradition of the congregation to stand during the prayers?” “No.” answered the old rabbi. “Then it was the tradition to sit during the prayers?” “No.” answered the old rabbi.” “No? Well what we have is complete chaos! Half the people stand and shout and the other half sit and scream!” “Ay…” said Rabbi, “that was the tradition!”
How are you supposed to worship? Perhaps no question sparks more controversy across American than that question. And what we find is that the answer is often based on your previous experience and your culture and generation. Regardless, we find that there are two things which contribute to answering that question. The first is how you understand worship and the second is how you approach worship. We’re going to look at both this morning.
In our Scripture this morning, we find that there are four characteristics. First, worship is collective. Three times in verses 1 and 2 we read, “…Let us…” While worship is individual during the week, the psalmist states that worship on the Sabbath is meant to be congregational when the people of God come together as one to worship the Almighty. Second, worship is God centered. Say it with me, “Worship is not about me.” Again. Worship is not about us and getting our needs met. That’s radically different than what most believers think when they come to worship. It’s a time when we set aside all the thoughts and activity of our lives which focus on us and instead focus all of ourselves on God. Verses 3-4 say, “For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.” It’s a time when we are reminded how great God is. John Piper, the Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, writes, “Our joy (in worship) shows the supremacy of God’s value.”
Third, worship is vocal. Our Psalm today calls us to shout aloud, sing for joy and extol the Lord with music and song. Many times, that’s a far cry from the worship we experience in church. One man observed this after attending church the first time as a Christian: "I was 53 years old when I found out there was a God. The shock and wonder of that discovery has never worn off in the more than 20 years since. But I’ve had another shock in my life, almost as great as the first. In fact, it happened the very next Sunday…"I’d never been to church in my life, and I remember how eagerly I awaited that first Sunday. I’d just had a glimpse of God Almighty – me, an alcoholic, a drug addict, rich, lonely, and miserable – and already I was beginning to know what it really was. And now, on Sunday….I went to church, and of course you know what I found; bowed heads, long faces, and funeral whispers…..At first, I was sure this was just one isolated experience. But, as time went on, and I attended other churches in various parts of the country, I made a bewildering discovery. These long-faced listless people were present in every congregation. How could they come into God’s presence Sunday after Sunday without breathing in the joy that danced in the very air?" Too often we think of worship as quiet and solemn. We may worship God in our heart or even sing quietly, but God is longing for us to sing to Him with all of our hearts and even shout His praises.
Fourth, worship is vibrant and vigorous. The Psalmist tells us our worship is means to be filled with joyful praise, grateful hearts and much exuberance. The terms employed here describe activity we’re more likely to see at an LSU or Saints football game than in a church sanctuary. Our Scripture calls us to “Shout for joy!” as we praise God with great exuberance.
If this is what worship is meant to be, then how are we to approach worship? First, worship begins with a right relationship with God. David in Psalm 24 says we are to come to God in worship “with “cleans hands and a pure heart.” What we do or how we live is important so much so that the Hebrew people understood worship not as just what happened in the temple but as all of life given to God in worship. What we do, our conduct and our conversation is our worship and it impacts how we worship corporately. If we come into this house and say one thing but then leave and go do another, our relationship is not right with God. Our hands and our heart must be clean and pure before the Lord including the lives we lead.