Summary: Biblical ingredients from the Songs of Ascents to prepare for true worship of God.
Some of us have seen the poster with two pictures. On the right is a man in rags sitting on the sidewalk with a cup in his hand. On the left is another man in rags sitting on the sidewalk with a cup in his hand. The caption reads, "One failed to prepare; the other prepared to fail." The outcome was the same.
When we don’t prepare to succeed, we are preparing to fail. In worship as in life, preparation makes the difference between success and failure.
Over the last three weeks, we’ve looked at certain ingredients to prepare us for success in true worship of God. We used the word, P.R.E.P.A.R.E., as an acrostic to hang the seven ingredients from the Biblical recipe for true worship. The P stands for "pursue peace with believers." The R stands for "repent of sin and selfishness." The E stands for "expect God to fulfill His promises even in the negatives of life," and the second P stands for "progress toward integrity at all times." The A stands for "affirm God’s character, work and relationship with us." The second R stands for "rejoice in what we affirm about God."
We finish this mini-series today by looking at the seventh ingredient in the Biblical recipe for true worship found in the songs of ascents in the book of Psalm. Again, this collection of psalms were sang in preparation for worship of God, and all we are doing is identifying and applying the themes of these songs to our own preparation for worship of God.
Ingredient number seven to help us prepare for true worship is listed in Psalms 122 and 134. The last E in PREPARE is "encourage other believers to worship God." We do this by promoting a biblical worship environment and biblical worship involvement.
A biblical worship environment is identified in Psalms 122:1- 9, which read, "I rejoiced with those who said to me, ’Let us go to the house of the LORD.’ Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel. There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ’May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’ For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, ’Peace be within you.’ For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity."
The psalmist points to the joy of worshipping God in the designated place, in Jerusalem. Furthermore, the believers have a real concern for this place, that God’s truth and judgment be present. Also, the worshipper should take part in seeing that the place of worship would have peace, security and prosperity (or well-being). Promoting biblical truth, peace, security and prosperity in our church creates a biblical worship environment.
Today, we place little importance in the worship location or building because with the Apostle Paul, we recognize that the believer, not the building, is the temple of God’s Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, when we gather in corporate worship, we gather in an environment that either encourages or discourages true worship.
How do we encourage other believers to truly worship God? We make sure the truth of God dominates the place of worship. In answer to a Samaritan woman about the question of worship, Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.... Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24)."
We encourage true worship of God by providing the truth of God to worshippers. The songs sung, the sermons preached and the sharing offered all need to align with God’s truth found in His Word, the Bible. One of my nightmares is that someone gets up during Christian share time and says something unbiblical, like "God told me to leave my wife and move in with my secretary." We’ll still love you, but believe me, we will correct all lies in order to ensure a biblical worship environment.
Two years ago, I went to a Buddhist Temple in Mill Valley, as a part of my seminary class assignment. The teacher in the Buddhist worship was expounding from the movie, "American Beauty." The thrust of his message was to find oneself through following our heart’s leading. That’s American relativism and not even true Buddhism, which seeks to deny rather than follow one’s own desires.