Monday: A Very Important Subject

Sermon: How to Worship

In this week’s lessons, we learn what worship is and what it means to worship in spirit and in truth.

Theme: A Very Important Subject

Let me share a quotation with you: “Christian worship is the most momentous, the most urgent, the most glorious action that can take place in human life.” These words are by the noted Swiss theologian Karl Barth, and they undoubtedly find an echo in the hearts of all who truly know God and earnestly desire to serve Him, regardless of their opinion of Barth's theology. 

But in spite of the obvious truth that the worship of God is important and even imperative for Christians, it is a sad fact that in our day much that passes for worship is not worship at all. And many who sincerely desire to worship God do not always know how to go about it or where to begin. And so they ask questions such as, "What is worship anyway?" “Who can worship?” “Where can one worship?” “How does one worship?” 

It is my experience that few books or sermons ever attempt to deal with these questions directly, and even fewer are helpful or of lasting value. So what I want to say about worship, while it's not profound and while it doesn't deal with all of the questions that people will have, nevertheless, will, I trust, be helpful. I trust it will be the sort of thing that can help most people understand more about worship, and worship God more effectively and more meaningfully. 

One Bible student has indicated an aspect of the problem in these words: "Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold right opinions, probably more than ever before in the history of the Church. And yet,” he writes, “I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was ever at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church, the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called ‘the program.’ This word had been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us."1

Well are these words true, even in part? Are the questions that I have just put forth true questions, genuine ones? If so, then this is a subject that we should consider. And we should turn for an answer to the words of Jesus in which He spoke particularly about worship. He said, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in Spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23, 24). 

Now we want to look at these words in detail. But before we do, we need to see that worship itself is an important subject, and that these are important verses for dealing with it. In Philippians 3:3 the apostle Paul spoke of worship as one of the three great marks which reveal the presence of the new nature within the Christian. He wrote, "For we are the circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh." Now most Christians would quickly acknowledge the last point, which is a matter of holding to the true gospel: we're saved by grace, not by works. Many would also think highly of the second point, because it's obvious that joy should be present in the Christian life. And yet I strongly suspect that not many think of the worship of God as a mark of the presence of the new nature within. And yet, in this verse it is included along with two other essentials. 

1A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1948), 9.

Study Questions:

  1. According to Philippians 3:3, what are the three marks of the Christian’s new nature that Paul mentions?
  2. Why might we tend not to think of worship as one of these marks?

Reflection: A. W. Tozer observed that true spiritual worship was at a low ebb in 1948. What worship practices in the evangelical Church might Tozer find troubling if he were to observe such worship today?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message from Psalm 95, “How to Worship God.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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