It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. Philip Ryken says that we should emphasize: “the priority of worship. This is what human beings were made for: to give praise to God.” John Stott said: “Christians believe that true worship is the highest and noblest activity of which man, by the grace of God, is capable.” So, what is ‘true worship?’ James Boice helps us out when he says: “Many people worship with the body. This means that they consider themselves to have worshiped if they have been in the right place doing the right things at the right time…In our day this would refer to people who think they have worshiped God simply because they have occupied a seat in a church on Sunday morning, or sung a hymn, or lit a candle,…or knelt in the aisle. Jesus says this is not worship. These customs may be vehicles for worship. In some cases they may also hinder it. But they are not worship in themselves. Therefore, we must not confuse worship with the particular things we do on Sunday morning.” So, we can get to North Avenue early, sing all the songs, have our Bibles open on our laps following the text, fellowship with others after the service, and even in all of that we may not have partaken in true worship.
Boice continues: “In addition, however, we must not confuse worship with feeling, for worship does not originate with the soul any more than it originates with the body. The soul is the seat of our emotions. It may be the case, and often is, that the emotions are stirred in real worship. At times tears fill the eyes or joy floods the heart. But, unfortunately, it is possible for these things to happen and still no worship to be there. It is possible to be moved by a song or by oratory and yet not come to a genuine awareness of God and a fuller praise of His ways and nature. True worship occurs only when that part of man, his spirit, which is akin to the divine nature (for God is spirit), actually meets with God and finds itself praising Him for His love, wisdom, beauty, truth, holiness, compassion, mercy, grace, power, and all His other attributes.”
So, true worship is worship that is done in spirit and in truth. As Jesus says in John 4: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John Piper helps further explain this: “Worship must be vital and real in the heart, and worship must rest on a true perception of God. There must be spirit and there must be truth. . . . Truth without emotion produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half-full) of artificial admirers . . . . On the other hand, emotion without truth produces empty frenzy and cultivates shallow people who refuse the discipline of rigorous thought. But true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.”
Similar to some of what Piper said, Bryan Chapell adds that: “true worship requires enthusiastic, respectful, and grateful praise of God, that is doxology (from the Greek word for praise). If God’s people gather to worship without evident gladness, awe, and security in God’s redemptive provision and providential care, then their worship is defective.”
So, as we prepare for worship, we want to prepare to worship God in spirit and in truth. We want to prepare to partake in true worship. We do not want to partake in worship that is defective. If our affections for God are low, then let’s race to the cross as Jerry Ediger would say. Let’s run to the throne of grace. Let’s open up God’s Word and ask God to stir us up as we read from say Colossians or Philippians, or a Psalm. Another thing we can do is to text or call our friends and ask them to pray for us. Tell them that your feeling dry spiritually and that you need their prayers. If your affections for God are strong today, then text or call your friends with something encouraging that you read. Maybe it was a verse, or a song, or an article, or a sermon that encouraged you. Let’s all seek to obey Hebrews 3: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
I will see if I can encourage you guys with something I read this week. I read this from J.I. Packer (who turned 90 yesterday): “The older I get, the more I want to sing my faith and get others singing it with me. Theology, as I constantly tell my students is for doxology: the first thing to do with it is to turn it into praise and thus honour the God who is its subject, the God in whose presence and by whose help it was worked out.”
Let’s be sure and pray for the service tomorrow. Specifically let’s pray for Ian, Erin, and Ethan who will lead us in worship. Let’s pray for Jerry as he will lead us in our time of confession. Let’s also lift up Mark at the throne of grace as he will be opening up God’s Word to us. Mark will be preaching on Genesis 39. The ESV text is below:
Picture from here