Chapter Four

 

PREREQUISITES FOR WORSHIP

 

1 Chronicles 16:29ĎGive unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.í

 

There are prerequisites before we can go up to worship.A worshipper must leave behind the old baggage of the world; otherwise it is not possible to go up to worship.Worship must begin with a longing for God.We can be stopped from going up to worship by being occupied with the affairs of everyday life. These things are not wrong and as followers of Christ we can still be occupied with these things, but a worshipper is more than a follower.A follower will keep the person he or she is following within sight at all times, but it is not necessary for a follower to seek after a close and intimate relationship. A worshipper cannot be satisfied with just being a follower.A worshipper has one desire and that is a close and intimate relationship with Christ.A worshipper cannot change direction. This is the only life he or she can live. The course has been set; the bridges have all been destroyed; and there is no going back.

 

The desire to worship the God who is 'more present' in His temple must be joined with the desire to approach God in a right manner.Music is able to move the emotions and produce the feeling of peace in our spirits.But this does not mean we have gone up to worship.We can be inspired by nice singing and even feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, but worship is more than this.†† We must always go up to worship in our hearts and minds.Believers in Christ are the dwelling place of God and our hearts and minds are the temple of the Holy Spirit.We cannot worship if our hearts are given to wrong desires, and our minds are filled with worldliness.†† We must approach God in obedience to His word; we must bring the fruit of His holiness with our lives; and we must approach Him with godly fear and reverence in the knowledge that the God we are going up to worship is the loving God who hates sin.God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) and unrighteousness cannot dwell in His presence.

 

Obedience is essential in worship

Obedience is a requirement of worship.If we desire to go up to worship then we must be willing to obey the Lord's commandments.Jesus told His disciples; 'If you love Me, keep my commandments' (John 14:15).†† What was His commandment?Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment at the Last Supper.He washed His disciplesí feet as a servant and told them: 'A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.'(John 13:34).Loving one another was not a new commandment; the Old Testament commanded, 'love your neighbour' (Leviticus 19:18).The new commandment was 'as I have loved you'.This love is radical.It is the kind of love that counts it all joy to sacrificially pour out our lives for one another.It is a love that will never react in anger, but will always seek to glorify the Lord.

 

When I look back on my Christian life, I am aware that the reason I have not always walked in this love is because I have not understood how to work this out in practice.I think there is a good reason for this.We should not blindly run and obey the orders of the most dominant person.God has given us brains to work things out.Being too weak to stand against those who would try to gain advantage over us is not godliness; it is weakness of character.God doesn't expect me to be a doormat for everyone to walk over, but love is to be the standard by which we serve each other '...by love serve one another' (Galatians 5:13). This means serving one another without self-interest.

One Sunday morning I visited a church with a large congregation.I wanted to observe what the meetings were like because people often spoke about this church.The service was excellent.The preacher was very good, and the praise and worship group was very professional, but there was no fellowship. The only people who spoke together were the ones who came in together. If a lonely person was in the congregation, it is certain that he or she would have gone out just as lonely, and nobody would have known. I know that churches like this arrange other meetings for smaller groups so that there can be real fellowship, but many opportunities are lost because we do not know how to reach out to the people around us.

 

How can we overcome these barriers? Here is the answer. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that the inhibitions that stop us reaching out to others will be under the control of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is the great blessing associated with obedience. If we are willing to obey the Lord then the Holy Spirit will fill us with His love.Peter said that the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey Him. 'And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to them that obey him.' (Acts 5:32).

 

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit then the love of Christ in us will make us more concerned about the needs of others, and less concerned about our own interests. This is the only way that we can obey the Lordís command to love as He loved.If we would learn to be clothed with humility; empowered by the Holy Spirit; and filled with His love, then reaching out to others who are around us will happen naturally.

 

 

Donít quench the Holy Spirit

We will quench the moving of the Holy Spirit if our love for Christ is substituted by a love for a particular church or organisation. Many have fallen into the trap of thinking that their church or group or denomination is the only upholder of truth. It is a trap because we will then focus our attention on the organisation and lose sight of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our eyes must always be on Him. He is the truth. If we love Him we will love His word. We must always go directly to His word. The most difficult obstacles that we face in regard to walking in obedience can come from those who are closest to us.If we are afraid to obey scripture because of the teaching of our church then we cannot be worshippers.It takes great humility and courage to obey scripture in the face of opposition from other believers who have been close friends for many years.

 

Scripture warns us not to quench the Spirit, 'Quench not the Spirit.Despise not prophesyings.Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.' (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21).The Holy Spirit will be quenched when preconceived ideas stop us from obeying scripture.We are told not to despise prophecy, but we are also told to 'prove all things'.Those who accept prophecy without examining whether it is in line with scripture are being disobedient.But those who reject all prophecy are also disobedient. The scripture also tells us 'Wherefore, brethren, desire to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.'(1 Corinthians 14:39).People who love the scriptures will sometimes forbid speaking in tongues.We must be careful not to quench the Spirit because of an interpretation of scripture that makes disobedience appear sound doctrine.

 

If we desire to worship then we must allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into higher realms of worship.If we are disobedient to the scripture in regard to the Baptism with the Holy Spirit then the highest level that we can reach in worship is the level of the surrendered life.The Lord wants us to move to higher realms of anointed worship through obedience.When our lives are under the leadership of the Holy Spirit then the fruit of the Spirit will produce the character of Christ in us, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit will empower us to worship on the higher levels.

 

We must worship in the beauty of His holiness.

Another requirement for worship is approaching God in holiness.It is called the 'beauty of holiness' in scripture because it is the nature of God in the life of the believer.Morality and legalism can never be a substitute for holiness.We cannot worship with either of these because self-righteousness has no place in worship.†† We cannot worship on the basis of who we are or what we have done.This is never acceptable to God.We must worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness; it is His life in us that brings forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit as an offering to the Lord. 'Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.' (Psalms 29:2).

 

True worship is entirely the work of God in the life of the believer.The life of the believer cannot be separated from the life of Christ.The worshipper presents Christ to the Father every time he or she worships and the Father delights in His Son.The worshipper rejoices in the knowledge that his or her life is 'hid with Christ in God'.'If you have then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with him in glory.' (Colossians 3:1-4).We must set our hearts on the things that please the Lord. The heart is the centre of our emotions and desires. Whatever we give our heart to, these are the things we will seek after.If our heart is filled with unholy affections and desires then we cannot go up to worship because our heart will seek after these things. We must have pure hearts and a clean mind. The Bible says we must bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ' (2 Corinthians 10:5).

 

Worship is not just an outward expression it involves the innermost part of our being.This is what Jesus meant when He spoke about worshipping in spirit and in truth.If our thoughts are impure then we cannot worship.Holiness requires our thought life to be pure.Paul wrote:'Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.'(Philippians 4:8).

 

Knowing God as our heavenly Father should never cause us to approach Him in a casual manner.God is love, but He is also holy and He cannot deny Himself.His love can never deny His holiness.God cannot ignore sin.If we desire to worship we must go up to worship walking in obedience to the word of God, and bearing the fruit of holiness.A true worshipper seeks to glorify the Lord with every thought, every action, and with every word.

 

Worship must be in godly fear and reverence

Whoever desires to draw near to God must also approach Him with godly fear and reverence.This means recognising the nature and character of God and approaching Him in a manner that is worthy of His name. 'Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:' (Hebrews 12:28).God is love, but He is also a God to be feared. It is not a fear of judgement because the blood of the Lord Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John1:7), and we can come boldly into His presence (Hebrews 4:16).It is a holy fear that draws us to worship in a right manner.The book of proverbs says, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge'(Proverbs 1:7)and 'The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous run into it, and is safe.' (Proverbs 18:10).

 

In the Acts of the Apostles God moved in power through the body of Christ.But God dealt severely with those who did not approach Him with godly fear and reverence.The fear of the Lord was upon the believers, but even those outside were afraid because they knew the power of God was with the disciples. 'And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders done among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomonís porch.And of the rest dared no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)'(Acts 5:11-14).When the power of God is manifest there will also be a manifestation of the nature and character of God.†† The same power that brought healing to the lame man, brought death to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).God was Ďmore presentí with the early church and hypocrisy could not be ignored.The anointing would have been lost if sin had been ignored.The chastisement of the Lord is a sign of His love for the church.A worshipper will learn from it and then go up to worship in a right manner.

 

Having right motives in worship is not enough

When David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem his desires and motives were good and right.The people rejoiced with great joy.But having right motives was not enough.David brought the Ark of the Covenant on a cart instead of being carried on the shoulders of the priests as commanded in the book of Numbers (Numbers 7:9).The consequences were terrible.God killed a man because he put his hand out to make sure the Ark of the Covenant did not fall off the cart.The man was concerned about the safety of the Ark, but God dealt severely with him.'And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.And when they came to Nachonís threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. ' (2 Samuel 6:5-7).

 

The people were excited because the presence of God was coming to Jerusalem.They worshipped with joyfulness and with right desires, but God was not being approached in a right manner.This tragedy teaches us that having a desire for the anointing and drawing near to God with right motives is not enough.We must always approach God in obedience and reverence.God looks at the heart, but how we approach God is more than the good intentions of the heart.If we do not approach God on the basis of His word then we are approaching God in an irreverent manner.

 

Worship involves every area of our lives.Our desires, motives, actions even our thoughts are all acts of worship.We cannot worship in a casual manner.If we desire to gain the honour and respect of the world, or to enjoy its pleasures then we cannot go up to worship.The worshipper must have one desire, to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.Music and singing have the power to stir up emotions, as well as to calm and refresh the soul.This is why music is a huge industry.But worship is not singing a particular style of song; it is glorifying the Lord in a manner that is worthy of His name.Going up to worship means approaching God with the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and in obedience to His word.We must come into His presence with reverence in the knowledge that we are accepted in the Lord Jesus Christ.He is the One of whom the Father said, 'In Him I am well pleased'.†† When we worship in the beauty of holiness then it is Christ in us who worships the Father through the Holy Spirit.The life of the believer is hid with Christ in God so that his or her life cannot be separated from the life of Christ.What confidence and joy this provides in going up to worship.

 

 

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