I want to discuss worship and its importance to the intimate walk with Christ. The subject of worship is not something that can be left out when discussing spiritual intimacy with God because spiritual intimacy is fueled by worship. Many do not understand what real worship is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “the act of showing respect and love for God especially by praying with other people who believe in the same God: the act of worshipping God…”
One of the greatest hindrances to real worship is our religious busyness. As we get on our religious treadmill, we find ourselves getting trapped in a form of legalism that can hold us with a “death-grip” if we’re not careful. It leaves us with a priority system that is upside down. This can affect individuals, churches, or even whole denominations. Most of us are quick to confirm that, of course, we live by what Jesus said! But, that is much like a husband responding to his wife’s question whether he loves her, by saying, “Of course! I’m still here, aren’t I?” If we want to make any claims of being a close follower of God, we need to prove it by making Him LORD! That means we allow Him to guide us through every detail of our lives and that He has the last say on any decisions we make. Everything we do needs to fit within the guidelines of Mark 12:30-31:
“Love the LORD our God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
Many Christian people want to live their lives however they please and don’t understand why God must be so “demanding”! Why does He insist on having so much control over our lives; in fact, why would He care? There are 7 billion other people in this world! Why should I ask Him what I should do for a career? Why should I ask Him to lead me to the spouse He wants me to marry? His preferences may be different than mine! Why can’t I pick my own? Why does it matter to Him how I live each day as long as I am a good person? Don’t I have any freedom? It is, after all, my life! The sad thing is, in this person’s life, God has a pretty low place on their priority list–until something goes wrong. Then we wonder why God failed us! God is more than willing to step into our lives when we have made a mess, but the least we can do in return, is to live for Him–as He directs!
God knows exactly what is ahead in our lives and so He knows what it will take for us to be able to complete our course. I know a man who became a follower of Jesus Christ many years ago and was told then by the Lord that he should not plan on ever getting married. That would be a difficult thing for most anyone to accept. Yet, after seeing what God has done with his life and where God has sent him since then, he now understands! This man’s name is Pastor R****, founder of “House Of Blessing.”
A person that walks in intimacy with God will allow Him to guide every detail of his life. This person will also find themselves with a growing desire to worship God at all hours of the day–not because he feels he has to do so, but because it is something that is becoming a vital part of His relationship with God! King David was a worshipper! He unashamedly worshipped God at all times of the day and wrote songs about it which were recorded in the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. In fact, when the ark of the covenant was being brought back into Jerusalem after having been away for a number of years, David was part of the entourage welcoming the ark back into the city. As it was being brought in, David was so excited the Scriptures say he danced before the Lord with all his might. He intended to honor God with everything he had. The Biblical passage is found in 2 Samuel: 6:14-16; 20-23:
“David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal, daughter of Saul (David’s wife), watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart…When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, ‘How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!’
David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel–I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.’ And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”
There are many lessons to be learned from this passage of Scripture but I will touch on only one for now. Worshipping God, and what style or means a person uses, is between the person and God Himself. We dare not criticize them for it because it is God they are worshipping and it is God that knows their heart!
Every single one of us has only one life to live as a mortal on this earth. How we live it will have much to do with the station God puts us in during His millennial Kingdom. This was discussed in some detail in the series on “The Conflict of Faith and Works”. Would we rather live this short life to serve our own purposes or would we rather serve our KING, and “finish well”, as He urges us to do?
“Immediately after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, at the height of the temptation in the wilderness, we find Jesus saying in Matthew 4:10: “…Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”
In our modern era, too many “Christians” equate their schedule full of church activities with walking intimately with God. The two are not the same. An intimate walk with God must begin with true heart of worship, not lots of “religious” activity. It must be our highest priority in life because GOD is our highest priority in life. His will must mean everything to us! An example of this is found in the story of Jesus visiting with His two friends, the sisters, Mary and Martha. Luke 10:38-42 gives us the details. The “Message” version of the Bible reads:
“As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed Him and made Him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word He said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. ‘Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.’ The Master said, ‘Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it–it’s the main course of this dinner, and won’t be taken from her.”
It is hard for me as an individual to fathom that God’s love for me is so deep that He very much desires an intimate walk with me! Living a life of worship for my Master opens a door to a depth of relationship that goes beyond anything you or I can imagine. Yet, so many of God’s people miss it! One of my favorite Scriptures in the Bible is found in Jeremiah 30:21b:
“I will bring him near and he will come close to me, for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me? declares the LORD.”
This is an astonishing Scripture! God makes a promise that He will draw anyone near who will devote themselves to be close to Him! The only loser in this proposition is the one that decides God is not worth the effort! That will not be me! I pray it won’t be you either!
Many question why God desires the worship of man so much. We know it is not because He needs His self-esteem built up. He does quite well without us. It is however for OUR benefit when we make worship an integral part of our walk with God. Someone said, “Worship is a verb. It is not something done to us, nor for us, but by us.” Any Christian life that lacks worship becomes stale and stagnant. A stale and stagnant Christian life will of necessity be lacking spiritual intimacy with God. Worship puts the spiritual spice to the believer’s life and keeps his spiritual juices flowing. If true worship (as a verb) is part of our life, it keeps us from having religious form without the power that God intended to go with it. A lack of worship leaves us with a routine without a relationship with God, and living without purpose. Another person said: “It’s amazing how much easier the wheels of moral life spin when we take time to worship God.”
Below are several strong points the Bible makes about worship:
Worship MUST be a way of life
As will be said in many ways throughout this series of articles on our walking in intimacy with God, worship of the “Lover of our Souls” incorporates the whole life of a Christian. It is not a part-time ritual. The thing that is missed by so many is that our life is lived for one main reason. It is lived for God, with Him as the indisputable Head of the priority list of what our own life’s agenda is all about. Everything else is secondary! How many of us really do this? Sad to say, in reality it’s a small percentage–just as the “Bride of Christ” is a small percentage of those that think they are included. Colossians 3:23 tells us:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
The believer’s total and loving surrender and obedience is an act of worship to the Lord. As contrary as it is to human nature, the sacrificial life has always been and always be the most satisfying life! With that in mind, we’ll look at Romans 12:1-2:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (The Message version)
In other words, All of everything in my life; my stewardship, separation, reverence, holy living, service, and obedience are to be acts of worship rendered up to God. Worship is not just “acting holy.” Our entire life’s agenda, I mean the real unabridged, totally exposed agenda must be under the Lordship of the Spirit of God. Nothing less is good enough; it is not true submission to our KING, nor is it true worship. We can’t afford to fool ourselves. 1 Peter 2:5 adds this:
“you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
All of God’s saints were intended to function as a priesthood, but sadly too few really do. I remember some years back, one of the wives in a church that I was pastor of asked me if she could participate as a worship leader in the church. She also approached me quite often with special things that she felt the Lord had given her to share with the church body. I found myself in a difficult position because her home was a chaos. Her relationship with her husband was not at all good. The things that came out of their mouths when they got into a verbal yelling matches with each other were less than what should come out of the mouth of any believer that was living a life of worship to our Master. It wasn’t even so much that it was a slip-up here and there; it was a way of life, and had been for some time. I had to decline this lady for those reasons. In fact, I had been withholding her from sharing some of the special “words” from the Lord she said she had for the rest of the Body. The entirety of our lives must be a continual act of worship, no matter what it is we are involved in. 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 says once again some of the very things pointed out in Romans 12:1-2 and goes like this:
”So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God–even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
Personal time every day to focus ourselves on God (and nothing else)
David, a shepherd boy, warrior, and later as King was one of the greatest examples in Scripture of a man who loved his alone time with God. He was not only a poet, but also a musician who wrote music. He was also proficient on his instrument, the harp. Psalms 63:1-8 gives us a good taste of David, the worshipper:
”O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory, because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods, with stinging lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me.”
Psalms 119:62 says:
“At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.”
Psalms 119:9-16 is also full of confirmations of how important that intimate, soul-searching, meditating on God’s Word, time is:
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”
God gives us all 24 hours in a day. I hear people make the comment all the time that they wish they had 30 or more hours in a day so that they could get everything done that they have put on their schedules. Obviously, we can never change the alloted time we have to use, so what can we do in this very busy culture we live in? We only have one choice! We have to manage our time better. This means setting our priorities right and then by holding ourselves to living within the hours we have and making sure that our priorities are taken care of, from #1 on down. If we put God first, all other things will fall into line. For most people, that means that they will set the first slot of time of their day aside for God. During that time, they do everything possible not to allow anything to interrupt their communion with God. Psalms 5:1-3 makes mention of that special time in the morning:
“Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing, Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”
Another of the many Scriptures mentioning the morning “manna”, just like the Israelites were provided with in the desert, is found in Psalms 119:145-149:
“I call with all my heart, answer me, O Lord, and I will obey your decrees. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. my eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. Hear my voice in accordance with your love, preserve my life, O Lord, according to your laws.”
Here is a concept that is a big foreign to us in our time, but David seemed to know quite well. It is described well in this anonymous quote:
“The Bible world is the real world. When you spend time alone with the Lord, you are in contact with reality, the things that matter most, the things that will last.”
What a concept! The Bible world is the real world? I’m not so sure that very many of us really see life this way. The Bible teaches us that the spiritual life is more real that the physical life is. We are used to seeing everything through our five senses. The spiritual world cannot be seen this way.
In our time of personal devotion and worship, we are also building a deeper and deeper relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Through this we get a handle on eternal reality. This helps us keep things in perspective as we should. John 15:4-8 speaks of this:
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches, If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
I was given a suggestion once from a friend that I have since passed on to several others. For those that want a real impacting time alone with the Lord, sometimes it is worth going to a little more effort than normal. We are aware of what communion is all about. Most of us however take communion only when it is celebrated in our local church fellowship. For some churches, it is once a month, others less often than that. I have also been in churches that partook of communion every week. I have found that it can be a very special time early in the morning with just myself and three others in attendance. I have met with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and what a meaningful time it can be! Jesus did not stipulate how often to participate in communion. He just said, “As often as you do, do this in remembrance of Me…” So, this is what I do, and the Lord is always there to meet with me.
One thing that is so important is never to let our devotional life become a ritual. If we do, it will serve no more purpose than any of the other “religious” habits we take on. It must be kept fresh and alive. Our heart has to be in what we are doing and not just the habit we’ve developed. Self control and self-discipline is important and necessary, but it can also be the source of another form of legalism if we’re not careful.
Our purpose needs to be definite. Philippians 3:10-11 gives us a great purpose for our devotional life with the Lord.
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
1 John 1:7-9 gives us another purpose that is easier when we are communing with the Lord than in any other place, and that has to do with examining ourselves. As the Lord shows us areas of problem, we clear things between us and the Lord by confessing it, and then enjoying the cleansing process. Oh, what a relief it is! Here is how John penned these words through the inspiration of the Spirit of God:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
How many of us have not needed special strength for one reason or another? Discouragement attacks us, we have a difficult situation enter into our relationship with a good friend or family member. Maybe a sickness or unexpected tragedy has caught us off guard. Maybe you have been disappointed because all of your efforts have been overlooked. Maybe you have been wrongly accused. God sees it ALL and keeps very good records. He promises to bring order and righteousness to every situation. Healing has also been promised by the Great Physician. Isaiah 40:27-31 has some great encouragement. As you read these words, it is hard not to prostrate oneself before Him and worship!
“Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?’ Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
No one can stay spiritually healthy unless they take time alone with God. This is one of the reasons it is so very important for us to make sure God has the #1 spot on our priority list. We lose out when we fail with our priorities. A.W. Tozer summed it up well when saying:
“God is trying to call us back to that for which He created us, to worship Him and to enjoy Him forever!”
The devil is the one that will do his best to keep us from our commitment to spend quality time alone with God. He hates the strength and wisdom we receive from the Holy Spirit. The devil also knows he stands completely exposed in the light of God’s Word. A quote the devil may have written says this:
“Save precious time by skipping your devotions.” The Devil
To Be Continued in Part 6