Worshipping God - Introduction to Worship

The divine priority is worship first and service second

Worship is our first or foundational ministry. It is not our only ministry, but the one that all other spheres of ministry should be built upon. As one peruses Scripture the constant thread of worship runs through the lives of those who were intimate with their God and used mightily by Him.

(Psalm 42:1-2)

As the deer pants for streams of water,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

A desire to know God, to meet with Him. This is the key to Spirit-filled worship of God. Without this desire to stand in His presence, worship becomes a fruitless experience. Throughout the church today we can see a fruitless style of worship — worship without expectation, worship without the manifest presence of God.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:9 that "Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man all that God has prepared for those who love Him." Paul was speaking not only of our coming heavenly existence, but also of our existence here and now!

Paul goes on to say that through God’s Holy Spirit, we are able to enter into and know the deep things of God. Because the depths of God are without measure, we should never be satisfied with our knowledge of Him. There will always be more and more for us to know and experience. The life of the believer should be marked by a desire for an ever-expanding knowledge of God. We must come to the realization that God by His Holy Spirit desires to lead us into His depths.

We believe this because the Scripture tells us that we have within us the Spirit of God. Since this is true, we too can enter into the depths of God.

Without this understanding, we approach God vainly, simply satisfied with the fragrance of God, and not God Himself. God wants us to enter freely and fully into His depths with the Holy Spirit as our guide. I have found that when we give ourselves over to Him — our mind, our emotions, our bodies, and our will — we not only have access to the deep things of God, but to the very heart of God.

Worship is one of the most Biblically documented activities in all of Christendom. From Genesis 4:4 through Revelation 22:8, we find the Word of God filled with examples of encouragement and commands to worship God. However, even though we can find over 540 worship-related scriptures, the church today fails to heed their message.

Worship is of fundamental significance to the life of the individual and to the corporate life of the church, yet we rarely hear it taught as a discipline or practice in the gathering of believers. We have made room in our gatherings for special music, special speakers and special events. But we have failed to give time or priority to the activity of worship. We certainly wouldn’t be willing to do without the preaching and teaching of the Word. But the fact is, teaching the Word, special events, or simply gathering ourselves together doesn’t justify the use of the term "worship" to describe our services.

Worship is for God

Nearly all that we plan and do is centered on man. Even though our prayers are spoken to God, our main concern is that He blesses us. The scriptures say that we are to bless the Lord! Worship is not a spectator sport! It is an action taken on our part and directed to God. It is God-centered. It is God’s command! And it is the privilege of the saints.

As we survey the Word of God, a picture of God’s people develops. We see a humble people, a people who show reverence and honour to God. And we see God responding to His people by stirring up their hearts to praise and thanksgiving. They dance with joy, lift their hands in thanksgiving and bow low in respect — an activity we find both foreign and uncomfortable.

Jesus said, "God is a spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in Truth." The Father is renewing His people, seeking those who are willing to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. One of the ways He is doing this is by restoring a Biblical form of worship to His church.

He is drawing us into an intense, intimate and expressive worship — worship earmarked not only by outward expressions of worship such as bowing, kneeling, lifting of the hands, but worship which causes us to come before Him with a renewed expectancy. This worship is not satisfied simply with an intellectual knowledge of His reality. We are coming together with an expectation of His manifest presence to give expression to this reality.

For so long we have been proud, vain and ignorant. We have taken what was once the altar of God, and turned it into a stage for man. We have given praise and glory to individuals, churches and programs, when in reality anything that a church, program or individual can do that is worthy of praise has come about as a result of the blessing of God.

When we give our praise to man, we rob God of the glory due His name. It hurts and even destroys those whom God has called. They start attributing the fruit of God to their own abilities and develop a taste for the praise of men. Let’s love our ministers, encourage and pray for them. At the same time let’s bless God and give praise to Him.

It is time to obey God’s first and foremost command. It is time to return to our first love, to do what we were created for, in our closets and also in the congregation, openly and unashamed.

Remember the story of Martha and Mary. Jesus was teaching at their house and Mary was sitting listening — soaking it all in, while Martha was busy working and serving. As she scurried around, Martha was getting more and more irritated at Mary for not helping her. She finally interrupted Jesus and asked Him to make Mary help. Jesus told her that Mary had chosen a better thing. Not that Martha wasn’t doing a good thing — serving. After all, Jesus has called us to be servants.

In his book "Celebration of Discipline", Richard Foster says, "The divine priority is worship first and service second" (p. 140). Our lives are to be punctuated with praise, thanksgiving and adoration. Service flows out of worship. Service as a substitute for worship is idolatry. God declared that the primary function of the Levitical priest was to "Come near to me and to minister to me" (Ezekiel 44:15). For the Old Testament priesthood, ministry to God was to precede all other work. And that is no less true of the universal priesthood of the New Testament. One grave temptation we all face is to run around answering calls to service without ministering to the Lord Himself.

It is time to return God to the central focus of our gatherings. We should not only speak of Him and about Him, but we should speak to Him, sing to Him, and give Him the glory, honour and praise that He deserves. It is time to choose a better thing!

God is calling His people back to a true understanding of worship. This call involves a "rediscovering" of the Book of Psalms as the psalter of the Community of God. In the Book of Psalms we see relationship and intimacy with God as primary. Psalm 145 especially illustrates this:

"I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise Your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.
One generation will commend Your works to another; they will tell of Your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendour of Your majesty, and I will meditate on Your wonderful works.
They will tell of the power of Your awesome works, and I will proclaim Your great deeds.
They will celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.
All you have made will praise You, O Lord; your saints will extol You.
They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your might, so that all men may know of Your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.
The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.
You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made.
The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.
He fulfils the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.
My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever." (Psalm 145:1-21)

With this call is also a "change" in the emphasis of our "worship services" — they’re being changed from being "man-centered" to being "God-centered".

"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." (Romans 8:5-11)

As the citizens of the Kingdom of God we are to seek the things above. God is re-establishing the Divine order of ministry — we to Him, Him to us, us to "our neighbours". In other words, God is reclaiming ownership or possession of His Church.

The results of our misunderstanding concerning worship:

Disobedience: Not making room for worship.

Lack of intimacy with God: "... but the people who know their God will display strength and take action." (Daniel 11:32b)

Lack of fulfillment in our relationship with God.

God commands worship in His prescribed ways. The Scriptures and the Spirit must be our guide.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26)

"Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you." (Exodus 25:8-9)

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24)

"You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’" (Matthew 15:7-9)

The importance of Worship

First of all there is simply the weight of biblical documentation and emphasis that indicates the priority of worship — not just the amount of references (over 540), but the broad spectrum of individuals and settings in which worship is highly esteemed. Through this Biblical documentation it is established that worship is God’s priority for man.

"Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, My mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear." (Isaiah 45:22-23)

"Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:4)

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

"And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 10:12)

The Westminster Confession of Faith sums up this point as well as anything that has ever been written, stating that "the chief end of man is to praise God and Glorify Him forever".

The emphasis and the practice of worship that is demonstrated and encouraged in the Scriptures is distinctly different from that which is practiced and emphasized in the church as we know it today. There is a difference between what we say we value and believe, and that which we practice.

Our services tend to focus on ourselves. In contrast, the gathering together of people in the Scriptures focused on God and worshipping Him.

We give great priority to intellectual knowledge of God and His Word, yet the very purpose of His Word is to give us instruction and understanding so that we might have intimate communion with Him.

Worship as explained by Scripture

In establishing an explanation of worship, keep in mind that there is a broad spectrum of activity that gives expression to worship: praise, thanks, glorification, adoration, blessing and rejoicing. These are essentially intertwined with worship and are not easily separated. Individual definition can and will be given for each, but they are all ingredients that produce worship.

All of the above terms have been used to come to the following explanation of worship:

"To revere and pay homage to God; the act of profound adoration; to give God the glory due His name; to bow down before Him; to fall at His feet; to be as a puppy at his master’s feet; to turn towards and kiss; lifting our hands in absolute surrender, drawing near to God, blessing and ministering to Him in fearful awe, giving ourselves over to Him in loving affection; to do so by the Spirit in honesty."

"Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the Lord had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshipped." (Exodus 4:29-31)

"Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ‘Amen! Amen!’ Then they bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground." (Nehemiah 8:6)

"When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, ‘He is good; His love endures forever.’" (2 Chronicles 7:3)

"Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I will sing to the Lord, I will sing; I will make music to the Lord, the God of Israel." (Judges 5:3)

Therefore I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing praises to your name. (2 Samuel 22:50)

I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; before the ‘gods’ I will sing Your praise. I will bow down toward Your holy temple and will praise Your name for Your love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word. ... May all the kings of the earth praise You, O Lord, when they hear the words of Your mouth." (Psalms 138:1,2,4)

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23-24)

"That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth" (Philippians 2:10)

"Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God, all you His servants, you who fear him, both small and great!’" (Revelation 19:5)

Genesis 24:52
Deuteronomy 6:13
1 Chronicles 29:20
Psalm 96:4
Psalm 99:5,9
Matthew 28:9
Revelation 7:11-12

Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words for "worship":

Hebrew and Greek words for "praise":

Combining the above for an explanation of "praise": Praise is essentially the act of expressing thanksgiving to God; boasting in/about Him; confessing one’s need of Him; magnifying Him or making music (instrumental or vocal) to Him. Praise can be soft or loud — it is not always loud. It involves a wide spectrum of expressions such as speech, shouting, singing, dancing, instrumentation, or various physical postures. Praise is indeed a wide-ranging expression in one’s relationship to God.

There are many words in Hebrew and Greek which we translate "rejoice". The following are the most commonly used:

Combining the above for an explanation of "rejoicing": Rejoicing in the Lord centers in the unbridled releasing of joyful emotions in our relationships with God. The recurrent word "exult" (leap for joy, to be very glad or elated) most reveals what rejoicing in the Lord is all about. As one studies the Scripture it is surprising to see how many verses tell us to "rejoice in the Lord". In fact the apostle Paul tells us to "rejoice always". We express rejoicing by speaking to Him, shouting to Him; dancing to Him; leaping or twirling about; clapping our hands to Him; or simply making merry in our hearts. It is easy to see why this form of expression to God is so looked upon or considered "carnal", for the enemy knows also that the "joy of the Lord is our strength". (Nehemiah 8:10)

All will worship God: Those who have gone before us and all those that come after us.

"All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before Him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and He rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before Him — those who cannot keep themselves alive." (Psalm 22:27-29)

"All the earth bows down to You; they sing praise to You, they sing praise to Your name." (Psalm 66:4)

It is written: "‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God.’" (Romans 14:11)

"This is what the Lord says — the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel — to Him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: ‘Kings will see You and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen You.’" (Isaiah 49:7)

"Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles." (Zechariah 14:16)

"Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to Your name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed." (Revelation 15:4)

Worship is a voluntary discipline done in obedience. It is optional only in the same sense that the study of the Word, fellowship, and prayer are optional. In other words, it’s not!

"Then I saw another angel flying in mid-air, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. Worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’" (Revelation 14:6-7)

"Then David said to the whole assembly, ‘Praise the Lord your God.’ So they all praised the Lord, the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the Lord and the king." (1 Chronicles 29:20)

"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care. (Psalm 95:6-7)

Worship of God is the natural response of the creation to the realization of who the Creator is. It can’t be stopped.

As He went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When He came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’" (Luke 19:36-40)

"Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)

We worship God for who He is.

"Sing to the Lord, for He has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world." (Isaiah 12:5)

"I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies." (Psalm 18:3)

Worship: Our First Ministry

Worship (worship/praise/rejoicing) is our first or foundational ministry. It is not our only ministry, but the one that all other spheres of ministry should be built upon. As one peruses Scripture the constant thread of worship runs through the lives of those who were intimate with their God and used mightily by Him. The following are some reasons why we believe that all of God’s people are called to "minister unto Him" as their "first ministry":

The "first" and "foremost" command is to love God with our whole being.

Exodus 20:1-4 (Ten Commandments)
Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (Second Law)
Matthew 22:35-40 (Lord Jesus)

Relationship with God and a continual revelation of Him are tied to worship.

"Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." (Hosea 6:3)

"‘But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 9:24)

Mankind’s fall into darkness and depravity began when he ceased worshipping the true God.

"Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble." (Proverbs 28:14)

(Proverbs 29:1; Romans 2:5; Hebrews 3:13).

When one ceases the worship of the true God, any and all forms of "false gods" must take the place of worshipping the Eternal God.

Spiritual strength is tied to worship, as revealed in Scripture.

"The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him." (Exodus 15:2)

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint ... So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 41:10)

Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10)

"As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights." (2 Samuel 22:31-34)

"To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." (Revelation 1:5b-6)

To be worshippers in His Kingdom of priests is our spiritual heritage. From Genesis to Revelation we see God gathering unto Himself those who come near to worship and have relationship with Him, and those who reject Him and turn further and further away from Him.

Noah — "But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord." (Genesis 6:8; 6:9, 22)

Abraham — "There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord." (Genesis 12:1-9; 13:18)

Teacher by example in Israel’s worship — "David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals." (2 Samuel 6:5)

King Hezekiah restores worship which brings God’s reviving presence (2 Chronicles 29:1-36). In the first year of his reign he re-opens the temple doors (v. 3). Hezekiah (leader) reports before the people their sin in neglecting the worship of the Lord and His Temple (v. 4-9). He gives them the new vision (v. 10,11). The Temple is cleansed in preparation for the Lord’s presence (v. 12-19). King Hezekiah leads the people by example into worship of God (v. 20-24). Hezekiah re-establishes the ministry of the Levite singers/musicians (v. 25-30). Hezekiah urges the people to come near and dedicate themselves to God (v. 31-36).

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:19-25)

"To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." (Revelation 1:5b-6; 1 Peter 2:4-10)

Where is God’s temple? The proper place to worship God was a source of contention even in the time of Our Lord’s earthly ministry. The Samaritans believed that Mt. Gerazim was where God honoured man’s worship. The Jews countered that only in Jerusalem could men properly worship God. Jesus revealed the inaccuracies of both these viewpoints in a conversation with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. (John 4:3-26)

"You worship what you do not know" (John 3:22a). True worship results from revelation; we can’t dictate to God the "hows" and "wheres" of worship; "We worship what we do know" (v 22b). True worship is based upon revelation given by God (Romans 9:1-5) "... for salvation is from the Jews." (v 22c)

God’s eternal plan of salvation is one plan.

Only as we come to worship God with faith in Jesus’ work is our worship received (Philippians 3:3).

The hour "has now come when the true worshippers ..." (v 23a)

Because of Messiah’s work to restore man, the place of true worship is in the spirit of man (individually/collectively).

Jesus was/is the Temple of God (John 2:19-21). Jesus forms His followers into the new Temple of God:

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

"Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple." (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Ephesians 2:19-22)

"You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood." (1 Peter 2:5a)

"For such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers." (John 4:23b)

God is actually seeking (desiring) a people who will worship Him.

Those who worship led by the dictates of the Spirit according to truth are truly worshippers. (Philippians 3:3)

"God is spirit." (John 4:24a)

God’s essence is spirit; thus our spirits must be united to Him to experience true worship.

Knowing God (relationally) allows us to share in eternal life. (John 17:3)

Thus we are brought into God’s oneness. (John 17:21; Revelation 21:1-4)

"Those who worship must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24b)

What is worship in spirit?

Philippians 3:3 tells us that we are the true circumcision who worship in the Spirit of God. Worshipping under the Spirit’s influence, guidance and promptings. Worship that is not only mental but spiritual. Our body expresses the worship that is coming from our spirits.

What is worship in truth?

Three-fold meaning:

Worship that is centred in the Person and work of Jesus Christ
"For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh." (Philippians 3:3)

Worship that is according to the truth of the Scriptures which reveal how God desires to be worshipped.
If we desire to experience God’s presence in our worship, God commands us to worship in spirit and truth.

How do we worship?

It is important to realize that the Scriptures reveal to us the ways God desires us to worship Him. Even as He declared to Moses in Exodus 25 "to make everything concerning the sanctuary after the pattern God showed him," this same command carries into the New Covenant. These Old Covenant patterns were merely types or shadows of the real essence. They were only ‘pictures’ of the true heavenly scene. It remained for the prophets and especially the apostle John to give us actual glimpses of the very throne room of God. In these scenes we see the heavenly throng as they freely worship the Lord God and the Lamb. I believe the following three passages from the book of Revelation reveal the "heavenly pattern" of worship which the church is to model and enter into. For the scriptures declare to us "our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20). And in Colossians 3:1: "If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."

The heavenly pattern: Revelation 5:6-14; 7:9-12; 19:1-7

"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And when He had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:

‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them kings and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshipped." (Revelation 5:6-14)

"After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’
All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’" (Revelation 7:9-12)

"After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.’ And again they shouted: ‘Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.’ The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshipped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: ‘Amen, Hallelujah!’
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!’ Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: ‘Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.’" (Revelation 19:1-7)

As we read these three passages, four general characteristics of their worship stands out:

I believe there is a wide spectrum of worship/praise/rejoicing that God wants His people individually, and His congregations collectively, to experience. The Spirit guides us into a full-rounded experience of God. We must let the Scriptures, ministered by the Holy Spirit, conquer our fears, inhibitions or traditions concerning our worship of God. 

Earthly expressions by God’s saints

Musical worship/praise (zamar, zaw-mar)

Singing to Him (Psalm 147:1,7; Colossians 3:16)
Choruses, hymns, psalms.
A basic level — can become mechanical.

Instrumental praise/worship (zamar)
Types: brass, stringed, percussion, wind/reed (Psalm 150:3-5g).
Effects: banishes darkness (1 Samuel 16:14-16; 22,23), invites God’s ministering presence (2 Kings 3:1-16; 2 Chronicles 29:25, 5:11-14).

"Everything that has breath" (Psalm 150:6)
Musical: non-verbal, melodies or harmonies.

Singing new songs (Psalm 144:9)
Most intimate expression
Personal, first person, intimate adoration
Spirit-inspired songs from our hearts
Direct (not memorized or learned) expressions of faith
Can be done with our minds or spirit (1 Corinthians 14:15).

Vocal worship/praise/rejoicing

Speaking of His greatness and goodness
Eagerly utter, bubble over with (Psalm 145:6-7, 11-13, 21).

Speaking with other tongues (languages).
Holy Spirit — our spirit — God
Analogous to a river or worship/praise/rejoicing.
Speaking of God’s mighty deeds (Acts 2;11)
Glorifying God (Acts 2:11)
Giving thanks (1 Corinthians 14:17).

Shouting joyfully to Him (Psalm 47:1; Ezra 3:10-13)
Not noises or screams; loudly spoken praises.
Purpose: expresses His "triumphantness" (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Effects of joyful shouting: breaks down barriers, puts us into contact with Him (Joshua 6:5).
Psalm 89:15: A blessing for those who know the joyful shout.
Banishes clouds of oppression, that we might receive the Son!

Presenting our bodies (Romans 12:1)

Lifting up holy hands:
Nehemiah 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:8
Thanksgiving, surrender, dependence
Offering up our hearts (Lamentations 3:40).

Kneeling (Psalm 95:6-7)
Humility, meekness, submission
Blessing Him (literal Hebrew meaning)
Earnestness (Luke 5:8).

Bow low with our faces to the ground:
Nehemiah 8:6; Genesis 18:2; Psalm 95:6-7
Fear, respect, reverence.

Lying prostrate or falling on our faces:
Revelation 1:10-17; Numbers 14:5; 16:22,45; Daniel 8:17; Ezekiel 1:28, 44:4
Total awe, fear, reverence.

Standing in His presence (Psalm 134:1; Deuteronomy 10:8)
Acknowledgement of royalty; service.

Clapping our hands (Psalm 47:1), releasing of joy and thanksgiving.

Dancing before Him (Ezekiel 15:17-21; 2 Samuel 6:14-15; Psalm 149:3; 150:4)
Releasing of joy, thanksgiving, celebration of His victoriousness.
Types of dancing:
Karar: to move quickly, twirl (2 Samuel 6:14-15);
Mecholah or machol: a company or round dance (Exodus 15:20; Jeremiah 31:4,13; Psalm 149:3; 150:4)
Raqad: to leap, skip about, jump, spring about wildly (1 Chronicles 15:29); "dancing in the Spirit."

Renewing our minds (Romans 12:2)

Hebrew words for meditation:
Hagah (haw-gaw) (Joshua 1:18): to meditate or mutter upon. Meditation — obedience — prosperous path — wisdom.
Siyach (see-akh) (Psalm 119:15): To ponder, i.e. (by implication) converse with oneself (Psalm 119:9-14).

Christian meditation: involves filling your mind with God, His goodness and beauty; it involves a detachment (from the world) and an attachment (to God). It is inner communion with Him (listening to Him — speaking to Him). It involves wholeness of personhood or individuality.

Pagan meditation: involves emptying your mind, allowing for anything to enter your mind; detachment from the world. It involves loss of personhood and individuality. It involves merging with the impersonal, cosmic mind. In Transcendental Meditation there are seven stages or degrees from a "waking state" to "mind out of gear" — this involves a person turning over his mind to something or someone other than himself ... (!)

Types of meditation:

Focuses of meditation:

Meditation exercises:
"Celebration of Discipline" by Richard J. Foster: "palms up, palms down".
Palms up: receiving from Him.
Palms down: casting burdens (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7).
This keeps us current with God.
"Alone with God" by Campbell McAlpine
Scripture meditation: internalizing and personalizing God’s word ...
"The Other Side of Silence" by Morton Kelsy
Imagination: creating scenes (memories) of intimacy with God; transporting yourself into scriptural narratives.

The fruitfulness of worship/praise/rejoicing. What happens when we worship?

Enter His depths — changed into His likeness.
Conviction of sin — dethrone self, enthrone God.
Filling with the Holy Spirit.
The Lord speaks to us — individually/collectively.
We fill our minds with Him.
We bless Him.
God prepares our hearts.
Our enemies are scattered (2 Chronicles 20).

Hindrances to our ministry to Him. If worship of God is so natural, then why do we find it so difficult?

Deception: interference of the satanic kingdom.
Unconfessed sin in our lives. (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:2)
Guilt: not receiving His grace or forgiveness. (1 John 3:18-20)
Fear: of releasing inner feelings, of rejection, of men.
Ego: self-image (praise is becoming: Psalm 147:1).
Wrong concepts of God — must daily "see" God. (Psalm 73; Isaiah 44:14-16)
Cultural: social upbringing; lack of teaching.
Spirit of heaviness, mourning, self-pity. (Isaiah 61:3)

Conclusion: the Lord is the fountain of living waters

Premise established: "How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light." (Psalm 36:7-9)

Its necessity for spiritual life: "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death." (Proverbs 14:27)

God is appalled when He is forsaken: "‘Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,’ declares the Lord. ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’" (Jeremiah 2:12-13)

Man is degraded when God is forsaken: "O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You will be put to shame. Those who turn away from You will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water. Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for You are the one I praise." (Jeremiah 17:13-14)

Worship in "spirit and truth" releases the fountain within: "Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?’
"Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’" (John 4:10-14)
"‘Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.’
The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am He.’" (John 4:23-26)

The inheritance of worshippers of God: "He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.’" (Revelation 21:6-7)


Copyright © 1987 Worship Resource Center/Vineyard Ministries International. All rights reserved. All quotations are from the New International Version.