Spiritual Disciplines: Worship

We continue our reading of Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life together this week by turning our time and attention to the topic of Worship. If you’d like to know more about what we’re doing, you can read about it here: Will You Read Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life With Me? Last week, we learned how the discipline of prayer helps us grow to be more like Christ. In that post, we discovered that meditation on Scripture is the fuel for our prayer life. 

“The rigid rehearsal of a routine,” Whitney said, “is not the same as rightly practicing a Spiritual Discipline.” Don’t hold onto things too tightly. Hold them loosely instead. Our goal in studying the Spiritual Disciplines is that we might grow in Christlikeness, not that we would morph into strange creatures so weighed down by activities and routines that we completely miss their purpose. Remember that we are after growth in godliness not a growing to do list! 

Summary  

“Worship,” Whitney says, “is focusing on and responding to God.” It’s why we are here, and our purpose for eternity but what does it look like and what does it have to do with our growing in Christlikeness? 

Most picture standing and singing without end when they think of worship and specifically heaven. Popular culture and poor teachers of Scripture have done us a disservice by allowing this image to of worship to remain in our minds. Singing songs to and about God can be worship, but there is more to the worship of God than songs and hymns. 

Nearly any practice can be turned into a moment of worship. “To worship God,” Whitney said, “means to ascribe the proper worth to God, to magnify His worthiness of praise, or better, to approach and address God as He is worthy.” There is no shortage of opportunities to reflect back to God His worth. Drinking a cup of coffee while watching the sun erupt over the horizon can cause praise of the Father to overwhelm your heart. When spontaneous affections for God rise in your heart, you are worshiping God. 

“The more we focus on God,” Whitney said, “the more we understand and appreciate His infinite worth.” It’s not simply that we allow our mind to drift to occasional thoughts of God but rather our intentional focus upon Him that constitutes worship. Focus is key in our understanding of what it means to worship God. Only when God is the center of our attention can He be uppermost in our affection.  

We aren’t to focus our minds towards vague thoughts about God, however, but upon specific attributes and truths about Him found in Scripture. “all worship of God—public, family, and private worship,” Whitney said, “should be based upon and include much of the Bible. The Bible reveals God to us.” God has revealed Himself to us generally through Creation, more specifically in the Bible, and most deliberately in His incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.  

The Bible therefore is central to our proper worship of God. For it is within Scripture that we learn of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is Scripture that we find example after example of faithful men who loved God, yet remained heavily tainted by sin. We see how God intentionally pursued them and in turn see how He has done the same with us. “As we meditate on this and begin to discover more of what it means for God to be holy,” Whitney said, “the Holy Spirit causes the desire to worship Him to overwhelm us.”

This brings to mind Jesus words to the women at the well in John 4:23-24. There he reveals this powerful link between worshiping in spirit and truth. “Before we can worship in spirit and truth we must have within us the One who is the ‘Spirit of truth’, (John 14:17), that is, the Holy Spirit.” Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, true worship can not happen. 

“The Holy Spirit,” Whitney said, “opens minds to the truth of Scripture and awakens hearts that were dead toward God.” He aides us in finding new occasions to praise God each time we open our Bibles. We see new and different things that while present before, did not catch our notice. As we meditate on Scripture the Holy Spirit is at work to kindle our emotions towards worship. 

Worship in truth is worship according to the truth of Scripture.

1.) We worship God as He is revealed in the Bible, not as we might want Him to be. We worship Him according to the truth of who He says He is: a God of both mercy and justice, of love and wrath, who both welcomes into heaven and condemns into hell. 

2.) Worship according to the truth of Scripture means to worship God in the ways to which He has given His approval in Scripture. In other words, we should do in the worship of God what God says in the Bible we should do in worship.”

The title for this and every chapter includes the words “for the purpose of godliness.” Whitney’s book is not concerned merely with our learning new and interesting things about the Spiritual Disciplines. He is more concerned with helping us see how each is given to us by God for our growth in conformity to the image of Christ.

What about worship conforms us to His image? 

“Godliness without the worship of God,” Whitney said, “is unthinkable.” We can’t grow to resemble the character and grace of a God we spend little time beholding. “The worship of God makes believers more godly,” Whitney said, “because people become like their focus.” What we choose to think about shapes us. If we fill our minds with good, pure, honorable things the same will ooze out of us. 

For all we have learned worship to be in this chapter, we must come to grips with the reality that it is both a public and private affair. The one is meant to feed the other. Our private worship of God in meditation upon Scripture and prayer is meant to fuel our corporate worship on Sundays. We will seldom worship a God on Sunday that we haven’t spent time with in private all week long. The opposite is also true. 

Reflection

I’ve often taken worshiping God for granted. I wrongly assumed that all He wanted from me was a few moments each morning and an hour on Sunday. That idea couldn’t be farther from the truth. God not only desires a deeper richer relationship with us, but has gone to great links to secure it. Why would I not meditate on His Word, thank Him for all He has done for me in Christ and all He is doing in my life through the power of the Holy Spirit? My failure to understand how sweet an invitation to spend time with Him is, is shameful. 

Reading this chapter was the kick in the pants I needed. “We minimize our joy,” Whitney said, “when we neglect the daily worship of God in private.” I’ve found the same to be true about the neglect of public worship as well. I rarely miss my private devotional time. It’s part of my morning routine. But too often I allow myself to miss the joy of gathering with other believers for corporate worship. Sure, there are valid reasons why we miss Sundays, but my heart is the real issue. It should bother me to miss seeing and worshiping with my church family. It should be as important to me as my daily time in Scripture. 

Next Week

We will continue with the next chapter (chapter six) of the book next Sunday. We may be in the middle of this series, but it’s never too late to get the book and join in. Click here to see what ground we have covered so far.  

Your Turn

I’d like to hear what stood out to you in this week. Please post your reflections, and thoughts in the comment section below. If you have shared your thoughts on your own blog, please link to it as well. Do not feel the need to be profound or to share something new. Simply share what caught your eye, or stirred your heart as you read. 
 

Look To Christ Not Self-Discipline

The default position of the human heart is set towards earning. We assume that we must work and work and work to achieve absolutely everything, including God’s praise. 

“We all automatically gravitate toward the assumption that we are justified by our level of sanctification…We start each day with our personal security resting not on the accepting love of God and the sacrifice of Christ but on our present feelings or recent achievements in [religion]. Since these arguments will not quiet the human conscience, we are inevitably moved…to a self-righteousness which falsifies the record to achieve a sense of peace.” —Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life

Hit pause for a moment before heading out the door to worship or whatever it is on your calendar this day. Look at your heart and life. Consider its defaults position and ask yourself examining questions. Questions like, “Do I place too much stock in my own self-discipline?” Or, “Have I come to believe that I am saved by my own efforts and will?” Better still, “If someone were to look at my life, would they conclude the same?” 

I struggle and fall into this trap far too often. I can allow how I am doing and how disciplined I am to become the measure of my relationship with God. I feel close and pleasing to Him when I am doing well; and distant and displeasing when I fall short. 

Neither of those things is true. My standing before God does not change regardless of how early I get up, how much time I spend reading the Bible, or how I pray. It also does not shift or change when I choose to sin. 

Right behavior and discipline are not the foundation of our relationship with God. Christ’s is. He measured up in every way we fall short and more.  

Look to Christ for security instead of at your subjective performance. It’s a far more stable foundation. It will not fail. 

Thanksgiving 2016

The Pilgrims and Indians held their now famous feast almost 400 years ago. As settlers in a world wholly different from their own, they faced hardship at every turn. If not for the providence of God their grand adventure would have ended in tragedy. Of the 100 or so who disembarked the Mayflower a year previous only 50 survived the harsh New England winter. One can only imagine the tears they shed and the despair they felt. These Christian Pilgrims had to be questioning the decisions they’d made and the God who had led them this far. 

Fleeing religious persecution, these brave souls sailed to the New World with the idea of building a settlement on Christian principles. Their biggest dream was to live all of their lives to the glory of God and for every aspect of it to be ruled and directed by the principles they found in God’s word. Talk about a lofty aspiration. The Pilgrims no doubt believed the Lord would honor and bless their plans. One year in and it certainly didn’t look like it. 

Then one day an Indian named Squanto walked into their camp, speaking perfect English. The story of how Squanto changed the fortunes of the Plymouth settlement is fascinating. It is a tale and testament to God’s sovereign care and provision for His people.

The temptation when we read stories like these is to view the plot and characters as wholly different from ourselves. We aggrandize the players and put them on a pedestal, when they and their story aren’t that markedly different. Time and space may separate us, but we find ourselves within the same unfolding story of God’s grace and in the same position of dependence upon Him. The Pilgrims recognized this and hit pause for a few days to stop and thank the Lord for His provision and care.  As we eat turkey, watch football and gather with family and friends today, let us do likewise. 

We have so much to be thankful for. Let us look to the Giver with a grateful heart and genuinely say, “Thank you.” Thank you not only for the daily provision of bread but for the ultimate provision of His Son that we may have life eternal.