...and so should we
This material is borrowed from messages given at the worship services of Salem Bible Church on January 24, 1999 by Pastor James Delaney
Another way the angels praise the Lord was with great enthusiasm. In Revelation 5:12, notice that the angel, in Heaven, (this is good worship – worship that is pleasing to the Lord) were saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb." They did not mumble. They were not falling asleep. They were excited… thrilled! What we see here are angels around the throne of God with great enthusiasm for God, and no one else – just God. Being right there in His presence thrilled them and it caused them to have zeal and enthusiasm in their worship. You know, when we sing, it is right for us to be enthusiastic. It is right for us to have some zeal and life and emotion and feeling as we sing these songs. How can we possibly mumble the words, "How great Thou art?" We noted earlier, when the angels of God were watching God create the universe (in Job 38) it says they shouted loudly. They shouted out for joy. Read Psalm 150 sometime. It is a great psalm of praise where they praised God with a loud voice. They praised Him with sounding cymbals. They praised Him with great enthusiasm. The whole psalm is about zeal and excitement for God. That is basically the main gist of that psalm. That is the way the book of Psalms ends, on a loud and wonderful note of praise and worship for the Lord. Enthusiasm – it is not something the church leaders are responsible to orchestrate. Enthusiasm for God has to come from the heart. It is not something that we can whip up. It is not something that we can manufacture. It is not created by choreographers. It has to be found in our hearts, even before we arrive at church, or it is not going to happen. The excitement and the enthusiasm we see when God is worshipped in the Scriptures, is a heart that loves God and wants to offer that love, praise, worship, and adoration to HIM. That is really what worship is all about. We come to offer unto God our praise. It is not the preacher’s responsibility to stir people up and to try to conjure up a man-made enthusiasm. A worship service is not a pep rally. It is not that we are to try to stir up excitement if it is not in the heart already. Enthusiasm for God is not going to be produced by loud amplifiers or purple microphones or swaying in the isles or by turning on strobe lights. It really does not help a bit. Those external things can create a sense of excitement, but not excitement for God.
The Bible says that it is our responsibility to enter into HIS courts with praise and worship and enthusiasm in our hearts already. Psalm 100:1-4 says, "Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." Notice verse four, "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name." Notice how the psalmist tells his readers to come to worship God. When they came into the courts to worship God, they were to come with that praise in their hearts already. They were to come into the courts, the place they were to worship, already prepared for worship. They were to have a heart full of thanksgiving already when they got there. It was not something to be whipped up at the service. They were to enter into His courts with praise and worship, and thanksgiving and excitement and enthusiasm for God.
We often hear the illustration that we come to church to get our ‘batteries charged’ once a week. I do not like that illustration. If I am reading Psalm 100 right, the psalmist expected the worshipers to come with their batteries already charged up. They were expected to spend all week loving God and serving God and worshipping God, honoring Him in their day to day life. When they got together for corporate worship this was to be an exciting, thrilling time for them… the climax of a week already spent praising God!
Psalm 96:8 says, "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts." Notice again, when the worshippers came into the courts of the Lord they were to have something with them. They were to come with the offering already. They were to come prepared to offer and to worship unto God. They were not to come lifeless, with an empty heart, and with no zeal for God. They were to come there ready to worship. Keep that in mind as we look at Hebrews 13:15 which states, "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." Here we discover from the book of Hebrews that we as Christians, as we gather together to worship, we are also to bring an offering unto God. We do not bring an animal and sprinkle the blood. But we are still required, (every one of us - not just the pastor or the choir members or the song leader), to come into His courts already with an offering. Our offering, we are told here in verse 15, is a sacrifice of praise. This is what we offer to God. We come here with a heart full of thanksgiving and excitement and enthusiasm and praise. We say, God, this is for You. The worshipper is expected to bring his offering when he comes. It is not the responsibility of the church or the church leaders to make worship exciting. Worship by its very nature, (if we know Who God is), is already exciting. We can worship in a grass hut. We can worship in a cave. We can worship in a glass cathedral. The external environment does not make a bit of difference. It is God! HE is what worship is all about. And, God is exciting!!! Just think about whose presence we are coming into. We are coming before God! In a very real sense, the local Church is the habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph. 2:22)
Now, we do not see God, but if we think, if we meditate on what we are really doing here, instead of drifting off, it is exciting to come into the habitation of God! Genuine excitement over God must be brought to the place of worship. I cannot make you excited over God. The preaching of the Word is not going to do it. Preaching is to point us in the right direction. But, if our hearts have been weaned away from the things of God all week long and we have been just feasting on the things of the world, spiritually, we are going to be "out of it" when we come here to worship. We are not coming prepared. Only YOU can do that. Only you can prepare your heart for worship. It is not the pastor’s job. It is not the choir director’s job. It is not the choir’s job to stir us up and create some kind of external excitement. They do that at political rallies. They do that at football games. But, that is not what church is all about. We are to come here all prepared to worship God. That is why we have been encouraging people since we first opened the doors here, that five minutes before the service starts, let us keep it hushed and sit down so that we can open our Bible and meditate and think about God – prepared to praise.
There really is not anything boring about true worship. I know that some Christians are bored when the rest of the Body is worshipping. But, that is not the fault of the worship style or format. That is not the fault of the Body. Bringing in a celebrity or rock band will not enhance real zeal in worship. The problem is that the heart of one member is not rightly related to the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other reason. God is exciting. Coming into His presence is an exciting thing. David wrote, "In thy presence is fullness of joy" (Ps. 16:11). The only time worship is boring is when our heart is not right and when our focus is not on the Lord. If you want to put your focus on the preacher, it will be boring. If you want to put your focus on God, He is thrilling. There is a big difference. God’s Word is not boring. It does not mean that the message or the way it is delivered is exciting. But, the Bible truth itself is not boring. It is exciting. It is fascinating. It is thrilling and it will thrill our hearts the rest of our days, if our heart is right. As we sing these great hymns of the faith, they do not need to be spiced up with electric guitars. Some of the godliest men that have ever lived have penned the words of some of those hymns. Men who have been through great experiences with God have written out of sound doctrine and a love for God, something so much deeper than the trash and the silliness that is being promoted today. These songs, the great hymns of the faith, can excite us if we love the God we are singing about. The answer is not to bring in a big band. It is not to get Michael Jordan to come here and say a few nice things about Jesus. We do not need a nationally known speaker. We are not here to create excitement. We are not here to create hype over God the way the world does. It just is not the church or the church leader’s responsibility to try to make worship exciting. We would miss the whole point. It is all about God and nothing else. God, (if we know Him as we should), is thrilling. Real excitement, and real joy, and real enthusiasm come out of a heart that is sold out for Christ. It is a heart that is sold out and loves God. The excitement and joy in worship come from a heart that is in tune with God. If our heart is in tune with the world, if our heart is in tune with something else, then the new song of God is going to sound a little drab.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:31-33, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." Paul is saying here that there is something that we can learn from a husband and wife relationship that is to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the Church. Christ loved the Church and He gave Himself for the Church. When two people love each other, what really matters is being together. It does not matter where you are. Two people that really love each other can have a thrilling time at McDonalds. You do not have to be at the Tavern on the Green, if you really love each other. "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith" (Prov. 15:17). Two people in love can have a thrilling, exciting time just being together. They do not need all kinds of gimmicks. They do not need all kinds of external trappings. They do not have to be in Disneyland. They do not need to have all kinds of loud noises around them to get them stirred up. They love each other. That love is where the excitement comes from.
When it comes to worship, Paul says, there ought to be that same kind of intensity between the Church and Christ. We do not need all these gimmicks. Christ is what worship is all about. If we love the Lord with all our heart, we can worship God in a grass hut and it is thrilling! Believers can enjoy God just as much even if they are meeting together in a cold shack in Albania, listening to a foreign missionary butcher their language and stumble through his message. But they are getting truth from God’s Word and it can excite their hearts and souls and turn them on fire for God – if their heart is right. You see it really is not the preacher. It is not the choir. It isn’t the choreography. It is not the building. It is not some famous guest speaker that comes in or pretty flowers that make a worship service heavenly. It is Christ and nothing else. If we love Him, we will love to worship Him. If our worship is boring and drab there is something wrong with our heart. Maybe it is interrupting our schedule. Maybe it is a weariness. But, worship ought to be about God. And you know God is still pretty exciting. When our hearts are flooded and filled with the things of the world, there is not much room for God there. God is not going to be as exciting, the spiritual life is not going to be as thrilling as it used to be when I first got saved. Back then, every little morsel was new and sweet and exciting. And we loved God with all our heart and were thankful to Him. Everything was just bubbling over with excitement. Now that we have been saved a while, well, maybe… has God changed? I don’t think so. "For I am the LORD, I change not" (Mal. 3:6). What did change? If God is not exciting to us any more, if the Bible does not thrill our hearts like it used to, if worship does not thrill our soul, then our hearts have changed. It is not the responsibility of the church leaders to rearrange the way we "do worship." It is the responsibility of each of us to rearrange the priorities of our hearts. Maybe our hearts need to be shaken up a little bit. Make Christ the center of our lives – then we can enter into these gates with thanksgiving, then we can enter these gates with an offering unto God. The Lord will be delighted in that kind of worship. And then even a formerly boring little church which meets in a grass hut (with no celebrities; no big bands; no gimmicks; no exciting programs) will be a thrilling place to be. Why? It is thrilling because we are in a room full of people that all love God.
It does not matter if the preacher’s sermon is thoroughly mediocre, or if the choir goes a little sour, their only job is to point men to Christ. That is all the pastor is here for. That is all that the choir is here for. That is all the song leader is here for. If we look to HIM, our heart will be excited.