The Worship Workshop

 

Articles to read and be blessed.

In Spirit & Truth - by Colin Owen.

I would like to begin by drawing your attention to Hebrews 12:

Hebrews 12:28-29, NIV

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,

29 for our "God is a consuming fire." {Deut. 4:24}


I start here because we seem to have lost sight of the awe of God. There is much I could say about 'happy clappy' stuff, but for now we need to concentrate on God, because He is telling us something here that we have definitely missed. If we miss verse 28, 29 follows straight on. There are 3 items here:

1. Thankful.

2. Worship.

3. Acceptably

Let's look at each for a few moments.

Thankfulness:

How often do we come to God in a state of some sort. Tired, angry, frustrated..... Sound familiar? How often do we come to Him feeling really thankful for all that He's done for us? If we could have a glimpse of that lake of fire, I'm sure we would improve in the thankfulness department very rapidly.

Worship:

The word translated here as worship is:

3000 latreuo latreuo {lat-ryoo'-o} from latris (a hired menial); TDNT - 4:58,503; v

AV - serve 16, worship 3, do the service 1, worshipper 1; 21

1) to serve for hire

2) to serve, minister to, either to the gods or men and used alike of slaves and freemen 2a) in the NT, to render religious service or homage, to worship

2b) to perform sacred services, to offer gifts, to worship God in the observance of the rites instituted for his worship

2b1) of priests, to officiate, to discharge the sacred office.


Seems to mean service really. You will probably agree, that there's not much here to do with music, although you can serve God by singing for Him, and you can minister to God by singing to Him, (even with a voice like mine!).

Acceptably:

To me this is the crux of the matter. If we are to worship God acceptably, then we need to answer the question, acceptable to who? Verse 29 leaves us in no doubt at all, that we are to worship (serve, minister to) God in a way that is acceptable to HIM. Surely having read and understood this, we must conclude that there are ways that are unacceptable. Aaron's sons discovered this the hard way when they offered 'profane' fire to God. He burnt them alive in their offering! Aren't you glad we live in the day of grace!

Oops:

We seem to have made a boo boo! You see, we have decided to worship God in a way that is acceptable to us. This is in fact what we now do in our churches. If you think I'm off my trolley saying this, ask yourself this question. How do I feel when I go to someone else's church and the songs are not what I'm used to? If you are honest, you now know what I mean. Of course you may never go to another church, or only to churches of the same type as your own, in which case you won't have a clue what I mean, so!

The Great Divide:

It's like this. On one extreme you have the traditionalists, on the other the charismaniacs! And crocodiles swim up the middle. I say this to our shame. The trads' think the maniacs are loopy, and the maniacs think the trads' are dead. As a rule, one wouldn't be seen dead in the others churches. What glorious division we have, and all because of music. It's mainly the music that divides us. It's certainly music that is the most obvious 'divider'. You see, we worship God in a way that is acceptable to us, and the yard stick we use to judge 'acceptable', is our musical taste. I don't think God cares a fig about the style of music we use, He looks on the heart, not the manuscript. And believe me, you can worship God with a traditional Hymn, and you can worship God with a modern day chorus. It's the heart that counts, not the tempo! It's the heart that counts, not the line up of the band!

Three way Split:

Whilst I'm here, let me sound a note of warning. We are nurturing a third faction musically. The youth. We now have the alternative service, just for young folk. The devil is using music to take the young people out of our services on the pretext of relevance, we are allowing our perception of musical relevance to divide us, which is making music a god! We seem to think that youth means loud, and age means quiet. Why? You don't read in the Bible of split worship, a time for the youth and another for the old folk, this is because their worship wasn't based on music, it was based on sacrifice. The whole concept is alien to scripture! We should all come together to worship as they did in the Bible, because worship is relevant to all ages, it's music that's not relevant. That's why I keep saying that music is not worship. The problem is that church leadership is encouraging it to happen. If there's one thing that unites a body of believers, it's worshipping God together. Coming into His presence as a united body is the best tonic for all church ills.

We are actually allowing record companies, Christian pop artists, music publishers, and song writers, to dictate to us the way we should worship. They are doing it by dictating the songs we sing, actually, it's the market that's doing the dictating, no sales no interest. And we are just letting them do it. It's like the TV. One channel gets an Australian soap, so they all have to have one (or two). One channel gets an American hosted soul baring talk show, and they all have to have one, it's a copycat world, and we the church are just the same. What one church gets others must get also, especially from the high profile churches. I wonder just how many 'clones' there are of Hillsongs, Toronto, and Brownsville? We are bandwagon Christians, copying something that others do no matter how worldly, or wacky it may be. One church laughs, so we all have to laugh, and you're not spiritual if you don't. How easy we make it for the devil to throw up something shiny and have the church run after it. I'll say it again. We are just allowing it to happen.

All of the above error arise out of our mistaken theology that music is worship. Take music out of the equation and all of the above problems vanish!

Question:

What does God want from us His worshippers? If He is looking for acceptable worship, we must surely make an effort to find out just what it is He wants. You might think that this is all a bit infantile, but having been in many church meetings both large and small, it's painfully obvious that the answer most would give to the above question is, 'pass'. So, where are we going to go to find the answer, to a worship seminar, or the church that has the latest album out, Brownsville, Toronto, where? If you go to any of the above you will miss it. What God wants from you in worship, is personal to you! Not a copy of someone else.

Only the Bible gives us the true answer, and only the Bible is 100% reliable. Most of what we have today as worship, is an improved version of an earlier attempt, ie. better musicianship. When I was a lad we had the Elim chorus books. They would be laughed at today because of their simplicity, a nine year old could play them on a ukulele, and I did! The songs made no demands either on the congregation or the nine year old, they just left the way open for us to focus on the Lord. Not so now, we must be more sophisticated, musically sophisticated that is. In fact we've become so musically sophisticated that God can't get a look in. Crazy? Try asking your congregation to worship the Lord without any musicians and see what they do!...... See the page on perfectionism!

So, what does the Bible say that God wants from us in worship?

John 4:23-24, NIV

23 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.

24 God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth."

There you have it. Simple isn't it!

Spirit & Truth:

The phrase "in spirit and truth", is bandied about in charismatic circles these days quite freely. Having been to many church meetings over the years, it is blatantly obvious, that very few have any idea at all as to what it means. For a start, much of the church of today is unfamiliar with the 'Spirit' aspect. By this, I mean that the Holy Spirit is acknowledged in prayer, and in the Bible etc, but as to His manifestation in church life and meetings, many are (I'll be kind) naive. True there has been a resurgence of Pentecost over the last decade or two, but this has barely touched some churches. Many are only just getting curious about Him, even at this late hour.

This is dreadfully so in some sections of the church, the word tongues still causes ructions in some places, much as it did 50 years ago. If only the King James translators had used the word 'languages' instead, non of this controversy would have happened. After all, you can't get wound up about speaking in other languages, can you! And tongues is just an old fashioned way of saying languages.

Tongues?

The reason I'm going on about tongues is this. In some charismatic circles, they think that to worship in spirit and truth simply means to sing in tongues, but I have a problem with this thinking. True, Paul does say, "I will sing with my spirit, but I will sing with my understanding also". He says the same about prayer. But what else does the Bible say. For a start, not everyone can sing (or speak) in tongues, even in charismatic churches. Why? Two reasons:\

1. Not everyone is baptised in the Holy Spirit!

2. Not everyone who is baptised in the Holy Spirit speaks in tongues!

Point 2 can be quite contentious in some places, but the Bible is clear:

1 Corinthians 12:27-30, NIV

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?

30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? {Or other languages} Do all interpret?


There can be no mistake that we are reading about Spirit baptised believers here, and it's clear that not all speak in tongues. Baptism in the Spirit had a high priority in the early church, what a pity it doesn't today.

With regard to point one, this is sadly true, some go through life without this wonderful blessing. I believe it's true to say that some Christians actively resist the Lord in regard to baptism in the Spirit, whilst others just have trouble receiving Him. Does this mean then that these brothers and sisters can't worship the Lord acceptably? I think not. God accepts worship that comes from a loving heart, whatever language you sing in.

It's God who gives the baptism in the Spirit, it would be unfair to say the least, if God only accepted tongues as worship in spirit, but didn't give all Christians the ability to speak in them. No, it has to be more than that. So the question is, what does the phrase mean "Spirit & truth". Let's take them in turn.

Spirit:

Read the following verse:

Romans 12:1, NIV

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual {Or reasonable} act of worship.


NKJV
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [which is] your reasonable service.

Now read it in 3 other translations:

ASV
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service.

BBE
1 For this reason I make request to you, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you will give your bodies as a living offering, holy, pleasing to God, which is the worship it is right for you to give him.

NRSV
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Get the feel of it? Offering your body is, "acceptable" to God, and He regards this physical, "sacrifice" as spiritual. This really is the key to Spirit and truth. Your body, being used as a sacrificial offering, is accepted as a spiritual act of worship. This is where it gets personal, the way you offer your body is personal to you.

It's like giving a gift to a friend or loved one. You take time to think what they might like, you go and find one, spend money on it, wrap it nicely, and surprise them with it. What a shame we can't surprise God! You see, He knows everything, but we should really treat our worship of Him in the same way, finding out what He wants, and bringing it to Him as a gift personally. Now that's worship!

Truth:

From now on Truth gets a capital T, because Truth isn't a thing, or precept, He's a person. In John 4 23-24 we see the phrases, true worshippers, and, in spirit and Truth. The Greek words used here are:

True worshippers:


228 aleyinov alethinos {al-ay-thee-nos'} from 227; TDNT - 1:249,37; adj AV - true 27; 27

1) that which has not only the name and resemblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name, in every respect corresponding to the idea signified by the name, real, true genuine

1a) opposite to what is fictitious, counterfeit, imaginary, simulated or pretended
1b) it contrasts realities with their semblances
1c) opposite to what is imperfect defective, frail, uncertain
2) true, veracious, sincere

In truth:

225 aleyeia aletheia {al-ay'-thi-a} from 227; TDNT - 1:232,37; n f AV - truth 107, truly + 1909 1, true 1, verity 1; 110

1) objectively
1a) what is true in any matter under consideration
1a1) truly, in truth, according to truth
1a2) of a truth, in reality, in fact, certainly
1b) what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man, moral and religious truth
1b1) in the greatest latitude
1b2) the true notions of God which are open to human reason without his supernatural intervention 1c) the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians

2) subjectively
2a) truth as a personal excellence
2a1) that candour of mind which is free from affection, pretence, simulation, falsehood, deceit

The point of giving you this information is to try to make it clear just what God is asking of us. The above word for truth is the same word used in John 14 v 6, where Jesus affirms, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." To worship the Father you must come to Him through Jesus Who is the Truth. If I can describe it like this: God is looking for the character of His Son Jesus in us, or, the lifestyle of Jesus manifesting itself through us.

Jesus was a servant - "offer your bodies," He went about 'doing' His Father's will - "offer your bodies," He became the servant of all, even to death on the cross - "offer your bodies". He didn't just pray about the hungry, He 'fed' them - "offer your bodies," He didn't just pray for the sick, He healed them - "offer your bodies." He didn't just take pity on the poor, He loved them - "offer your bodies." He didn't stand by and let evil go on in the temple, He took a whip and threw it all out - "offer your bodies." He spoke with determination to the Pharisees, He called them what they were, hypocrites, vipers, blind, corrupt - "offer your bodies." He prevented the self righteous from stoning a woman to death - "offer your bodies." He went in amongst the sinners, where they were, in order to save them - "offer your bodies." He has called us to GO - "offer your bodies." He wants our lives to be a sacrifice as His was - "offer your bodies."

The point is made, a true worshipper does the above, at least in some measure. The character, nature, and Spirit, of Jesus, is the character, nature, and spirit, of the true worshipper. And every bodily act of sacrifice is accepted by God as a spiritual act of worship. If you really want to be a true worshipper, become a servant. To worship God, is to bow to His will for your life, just as Jesus did.

One last point:

If worship was merely singing, whether in your own language, or a tongue, then Jesus was a lousy worshipper. There is only one reference in scripture to Him singing.

The Lord bless you as you serve Him,

Colin.