How do we worship? What are we “allowed” to do while still being reverent before the Lord, worshiping in spirit and truth? What is God's desire for our worship? Does God give us the right to pick and choose how we worship?
Over the course of this 5 Part devotional, we will discover and learn about the ways that we can actively worship God when we come together as the gathered Church. We are told in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth that our mere existence, even eating or drinking, can be worship to God; so we understand that our worship is not confined to a time or a place—it is a lifestyle. This mini-series is intended to develop our worship as it pertains to the intentional physical and spiritual acts that we do during our time of worship at church. Granted, these things can (and should) be done whether we are at church or not. My hope is that our church, and believers everywhere, will experience true freedom in worship together—a glimpse into what heaven may be like one day. God desires us to worship in this way. Let’s learn together.
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)
Part 1: In Spirit and in Truth
1. In Spirit
- “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17 (NIV)
- “Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.’”John 3:5-6 (NIV)
- “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 (NLT)
- “Well then, what shall I do? I will pray in the spirit, and I will also pray in words I understand. I will sing in the spirit, and I will also sing in words I understand.” 1 Corinthians 14:15 (NLT)
- Jesus made it clear that upon our salvation, we are reborn in the Spirit. He has left us His Spirit to comfort and help us until His return. This is not an “either/or” situation, it is a matter of being born of flesh and spirit. We are born of flesh as soon as we enter the world, but we are born again in spirit when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. “God’s Spirit energizes and excites our spirit.” (David Mathis, desiringGod.org) Paul made a reference to the difference of worshiping in spirit and truth in the 1 Corinthians passage, stating that he had times when he would pray and sing in spirit (in words he could not understand), and he had times when he would pray and sing in truth (in words he could understand). In this chapter, Paul is talking about the proper way to use the spiritual gifts of speaking in tongues and prophecy. In Deuteronomy, we are shown that God’s desire is for us to love Him with all of our heart, soul and strength. In order for us to worship Him in this way, we have to know who it is that we love, and we have to understand why we should worship Him in the first place. This is where the “truth” piece comes in. Our knowledge of God will inspire our worship.
2. In Truth
- “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’” John 14:6-7 (NLT)
- “For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.” Colossians 1:4-5 (NLT)
- “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Romans 12:1
- We worship Truth Himself. The more time we spend in communion with Him, the more He will reveal to us and the more we will understand. Our faith and love for God and others are inspired by the truth of the gospel and what God has done for us. We worship Him because we understand the gospel message, the Good News that the world does not understand and refuses to believe. “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.” (John Piper, desiringGod.org)
- We are called to worship the Lord in spirit and truth, and there is no way to do one without the other. We worship in spirit because we are born of the Spirit, and we worship in truth because we know the truth that has been revealed to us. These things together should inspire worship and love that involve all of our being. Whether the worship atmosphere or the circumstances around us are conducive to moving us or if they are grating against us, our hearts for worship should not be hindered or swayed. The heart of worship is the heart, and we are worshiping the One who has captured both our hearts and our minds. We worship in spirit and truth.
“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 (NLT)
Part 2: Our Voice
- "I will praise the Eternal in every moment through every situation. Whenever I speak, my words will always praise Him.” Psalm 34:1 (VOICE)
- "Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” James 3:9-10, 13, 17 (NLT)
- We use our voices all day long. We are shown in James 3 that our tongues can be used for good (promoting heavenly wisdom) or evil (promoting jealousy and selfishness). We need to be sure that we are using our tongues for good rather than evil, choosing to "praise the LORD in every moment through every situation.” The way that we speak to one another will reveal what is in our hearts. Are our words glorifying God in every situation?
- "Come, let us worship in song, a joyful offering to the Eternal. Shout! Shout with joy to the rock of our liberation.” Psalm 95:1 (VOICE)
- "At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music. I cannot shout any louder. Eternal One—hear my cry and respond with Your grace."Psalm 27:6b-7 (NLT/VOICE)
- "Moses and Aaron then went into the tent of meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.” Leviticus 9:23-24 (NIV)
- We can offer shouts of praise to the Lord. Most often throughout scripture, the time to shout to the Lord is when we are joyful, when our hearts are glad or delighted. In fact, we are told to offer shouts to the Lord as a “joyful offering.” The passage in Leviticus reveals how our shouts can be offered. We can (and should) offer the Lord a shout of joy and happiness, but we can also offer a shout of praise to the Lord out of reverence and fear. The people of Israel had just sacrificed sin offerings and burnt offerings to cover their sins, but they did not know that their offering was received until fire shot from the Lord’s presence and consumed it. Their response was to shout for joy and fall on their faces in reverence. Are we overwhelmed with joy in Jesus, God’s perfect atoning sacrifice, to the point that we would shout for joy and immediately fall on our faces?
- "Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” Psalm 96:1-2 (NKJV)
- "I will sing to the Lord as long as I live. I will praise my God to my last breath!” Psalm 104:33 (NLT)
- "Praise the Eternal! It is good to sing praises to our God, for praise is beautiful and pleasant.” Psalm 147:1 (VOICE)
- "When you are filled with the Spirit, you are empowered to speak to each other in the soulful words of pious songs, hymns, and spiritual songs; to sing and make music with your hearts attuned to God; and to give thanks to God the Father every day through the name of our Lord Jesus the Anointed for all He has done.” Ephesians 5:19-20 (VOICE)
- "The Eternal your God is standing right here among you, and He is the champion who will rescue you. He will joyfully celebrate over you; He will rest in His love for you; He will joyfully sing because of you like a new husband." Zephaniah 3:17 (VOICE)
- We sing to the Lord simply because we are alive today. He chose to give us life, and He chose to give us a second chance to spend eternity with Him. Today, we are forgiven, saved, and set free, and we have a reason to sing. When we sing, we are joining in one voice with all the heavens and the earth to praise the Lord, and to Him our singing is beautiful and pleasant (or fitting). When we are filled with the Spirit, a natural response is to sing because our hearts have been attuned with God’s. Also, we are told in Zephaniah that God Himself celebrates and sings joyfully over us. If God does all of those things for broken, sinful, rebellious people, how much more should we be doing for a perfect, sinless, holy Savior?
- We can worship the Lord in so many different ways with our voices. Whether we are shouting for joy, singing songs, or simply honoring Him with our speech, are our voices glorifying God or promoting ourselves?
Part 3: Our Hands
1. Playing Instruments
- “He stationed the Levites in the temple of the Lord with cymbals, harps and lyres in the way prescribed by David and Gad the king’s seer and Nathan the prophet; this was commanded by the Lord through his prophets.” 2 Chronicles 29:25 (NIV)
- “Make music to the Eternal with the harp; sing a beautiful melody with the harp and chorus. With trumpets and horns, fill the air with joyful sounds to the King, the Eternal.” Psalm 98:5-6 (VOICE)
- “The Lord will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the Lord.” Isaiah 38:20 (NIV)
- “Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.” Psalm 150:5 (NLT)
- The use of instruments in worship is mentioned all throughout the Bible. The worship leaders would often prepare the way in a battle, walking before the soldiers, giving God the praise before any fighting had even taken place. The Bible is clear that we should make music to the Lord with everything we have available to us, so our church encourages the use of a variety of instruments in worship. God commanded men to make music with cymbals, harps, and lyres in His temple, setting aside a specific group of skilled musicians to lead the worship.
- “Clap your hands, all of you; raise your voices joyfully and loudly. Give honor for the True God of the universe.” Psalm 47:1 (VOICE)
- “Let the rivers clap their hands in glee! Let the hills sing out their songs of joy before the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth.” Psalm 98:8-9a (VOICE)
- When clapping in worship is mentioned in scripture, it is mentioned as a way to give honor to the Lord. By definition, in context, clapping can be used to express approval or show a joyful response to an event or situation. Clapping is also used to encourage or praise a person or object; so people would applaud the rulers and kings in power over them. Years ago, it was very normal to simply clap along to music, just like when we tap our feet along to the beat. The word “clap” used in Psalm 47:1 is the Hebrew word, taqa’ — an emphatic expression of joy or an exultation. We clap because God is our Lord and Savior, the King, and we clap because of all that He has done for us.
3. Lifting Hands
- “Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven and say, ‘We have sinned and rebelled, and you have not forgiven us.’” Lamentations 3:41-42 (NLT)
- “Listen to my voice. You will hear me begging for Your help. With my hands lifted up in prayer, my body turned toward Your holy home.” Psalm 28:2 (VOICE)
- “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in front of the entire community of Israel. He lifted his hands toward heaven, and he prayed . . . “ 1 Kings 8:22 (NLT)
- “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” Psalm 63:4 (NIV)
- “Consider my prayer as an offering of incense that rises before You; when I stand with my hands outstretched pleading toward the heavens, consider it as an evening offering.” Psalm 141:2 (VOICE)
- We can lift our hands to the Lord for a variety of reasons. The lifting of hands often expresses lament or shows the need of help or forgiveness; however, it can also be used as a part of our offering of praise in worship. When we lift our hands to the Lord, it is a sign of humility, surrender, and submission to Him—we need Him! It is also a way to show reverence or adoration. We can (and should) lift our hands both as we sing to the Lord and as we pray and talk to Him, seeking His help and direction in every situation.
- Our hands play an important role in our worship. We use them to clap and play instruments to create the music we sing along to; we use them to reveal our heart posture before the Lord; and we use them to express our emotions to the Lord, whether they be joyful or distressed. The lifting of hands in worship and prayer can be seen as a humble offering to the Lord.
Part 4: Our Physical Posture
- “Come, let us worship Him. Everyone bow down; kneel before the Eternal who made us.” Psalm 95:6 (VOICE)
- “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored. When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.” Ephesians 3:12-15 (NLT)
- “Lay yourself bare, facedown to the ground, in humility before the Lord; and He will lift your head so you can stand tall.” James 4:10 (VOICE)
- We bow to the Lord in worship, recognizing that He is the One who created us. He is the LORD, the Eternal One, and bowing to Him reveals our reverence and submission to Him. We also bow before the Lord because of all that He has done for us. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been given the option of eternal life, and we are given the freedom to enter confidently into God’s presence. A true understanding of this should draw us to our knees. We also bow in humility before God, recognizing that He is the one in charge, not us. Upon accepting Jesus as our Savior, we recognize Him as the Lord over our lives.
- “I tremble in fear of you; I stand in awe of your regulations.” Psalm 119:120 (NLT)
- “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” Nehemiah 8:5-6 (NKJV)
- “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ …” Jeremiah 6:16 (NLT)
- “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk 3:2 (NIV)
- Whenever we begin a worship set at church, we have everyone stand. Simply put, it makes sense to stand while we worship and sing, but why do we do it in the first place? Thankfully, the Bible has given us some examples. We stand in awe of who God is. This is almost more of a posture of heart, rather than a physical position. In Nehemiah, we read that the entire assembly of people stood to their feet, shouted, lifted their hands, and fell to the ground, bowing in worship to the Lord as soon as Ezra opened the Bible. If you read the preceding verses, you will find that Ezra was reading them the Book of Moses, the Law book. (They were reading about lineages and laws, not about the saving grace of their Savior-to-come, Jesus!) We stand as we seek and search for God’s path, waiting to move and step where He will lead us. We stand in awe of all that God has done for us, believing that there is more to come.
- “So let the music begin; praise His name—dance and sing to the rhythm of the tambourine, and to the tune of the harp. For the Eternal is listening, and nothing pleases Him more than His people; He raises up the poor and endows them with His salvation.” Psalm 149:3-4 (VOICE)
- “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!” Psalm 30:11-12 (NLT)
- “And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.” 2 Samuel 6:14-15 (ESV)
- “Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!” Psalm 150:4 (ESV)
- “Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’” Luke 18:16-17 (NLT)
- We can dance before the Lord. Really, all of the actions regarding our physical posture could be denied their value on the sole belief that God is a God of order, but dancing seems to get the most attention. (“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33 (ESV)) This passage is talking about the proper use of spiritual gifts in worship—more specifically, about prophecy and tongues. In certain church cultures, dancing is prohibited on the sole belief that God is a God of order, regardless of what other scriptures say. We are given multiple accounts in scripture that promote dancing before the Lord. Furthermore, Jesus tells us to receive His kingdom like a child; when we see children participating in worship, they are free, unhindered by their own opinions, fears, or circumstances. We tend to restrict ourselves so often because we do not want to be seen as a distraction or embarrassment; meanwhile, David, a prominent and powerful king, made a fool of himself (in man’s eyes) as worship before the Lord, and God honored him.
- The way we present our bodies physically in worship reveals so much about what is going on inside of us. Whether we are bowing or kneeling, standing or dancing, it should reflect the worship that is taking place internally. In moments specifically created and set aside for worship, we should be intentional in connecting our internal emotions and understanding with our external expressions. God desires for us to love Him with all of our strength—what would that look like for you?
Part 5: Our Spiritual Posture
1. Our Minds
- “It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, ’Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!’ Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. Then I said, ‘It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’” Isaiah 6:1-5 (NLT)
- “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT)
- “For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6 (NLT)
- “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
- Worship begins with what we know. The more we know about God—His infinite wisdom, love, power, sovereignty, holiness, faithfulness, omniscience (the list goes on)—the more compelled to worship Him we will become. As we discover and learn about God’s attributes, we will realize that we cannot even begin to comprehend His greatness; and the more we know about what God has done for us, the more we will desire to worship Him. He is the Creator of the universe and everything in it—He spoke it into existence. God sent His Son to die in order to save us. Jesus chose to die for us in submission to the Father because of His great love for us, but God raised Him from the dead, conquering hell and the grave. The Holy Spirit has been given to every believer as a promise of the glory we will receive in heaven one day. Our understanding inspires our worship.
2. Our Hearts
- “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45 (NIV)
- “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Matthew 6:21 (NLT)
- “Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life.” Proverbs 4:23 (VOICE)
- “May the words that come out of my mouth and the musings of my heart meet with Your gracious approval, O Eternal, my Rock, O Eternal, my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (VOICE)
- “All my heart will give thanks to You, Eternal One. I will tell others about Your amazing works.” Psalm 9:1 (VOICE)
- God desires our whole heart, so it is natural that we should love Him fully in every situation; however, what goes in is what comes out. We need to be feeding ourselves scripture and meditating on it day and night, allowing our hearts and minds to be made full of what is good and pleasing to the Lord. God desires to reveal more to us, and He often does so through reading the Word. If our treasure is in Christ, our hearts will be in Him as well. There are many things that vie for our love, so we need to be on guard, protecting our hearts at any cost. Let us love Christ deeply and fully.
3. Our Souls
- “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 (NLT)
- “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17 (NKJV)
- “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh …” Philippians 3:3 (NKJV)
- We worship the Lord in spirit. As believers, we have been given the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, and as we worship, we rely on His Spirit, rather than our own flesh and understanding. We have been set apart to do this for God, and He desires for us to worship Him in this way.
- The spiritual posture of our bodies needs to be developed and maintained in order to have a properly functioning physical posture. God desires and deserves everything from us, internally and externally, and every fiber of our beings need to work together to give that to Him. Our minds, hearts, and souls will dictate the way in which we respond in worship to our Savior. Is your spiritual posture leading you to serve and focus on yourself or worship the Lord regardless of your current circumstances or preferences?
*Please note that this devotional continues on “Respond: A Call to Authentic Worship (Part 2).”
Worship Director / Central Church