Spiritual Discipline Series
This year, Expository Files will features 12 articles on Spiritual Disciplines For Every Christian. Our writers will convey to us from the Bible, the simple disciplines that need our attention, to please God and be effective, disciplined people.
We are commanded to worship God (Matt. 4:10; Luke 4:8; Rev. 19:10; 22:9; cf. Exo. 20:2-8). We have apostolic examples of the early church gathering together to worship the Lord (Acts 2:42, 46-47; 4:23-31; 5:42; 12:12; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:18-34). W.E. Vine defines worship: “to make obeisance, do reverence to” (from pros, “towards,” and kuneo, “to kiss”). It is act of homage or reverence. Strong also adds the thought: “to fawn or crouch to, that is (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore) - (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand).”
Throughout history man has forgotten the importance of worshipping God. Through prophets like Isaiah and Malachi, Jehovah condemned the nation of Israel and Judah for their selfish and undisciplined worship. Please notice they worshipped God, that is they went through the motions and ritual ceremonies of worship, but they actually failed to honor God. Isaiah prophesied “they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways: …they delight to draw near unto God;” yet when they fasted, they did so out of “strife and contention.” “In the day of your fast ye find your own pleasure, and exact all your labors. Behold… ye fast not this day to make your voice heard on high” (58:2-4, ASV). They fasted with ulterior motives and therefore did not honor God. In like manner, Malachi wrote, “A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I am a father, where is mine honor? and if I am a master, where is my fear? ...Ye say also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith Jehovah of hosts; and ye have brought that which was taken by violence, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye bring the offering: should I accept this at your hand?” (Mal. 1:5, 13) Again, notice how they desired the favor of God, yet continued to offer profane sacrifices to Jehovah.
My prayer is that no one reading these words would ever be guilty of such laziness and deliberate selfishness in their worship toward God. I believe the very fact that you are reading these words indicates that you have a spirit that seeks to know and draw nearer to the Great King. Such desire is the beginning of a disciplined life.
We Are To Worship and Honor God!
Jesus teaches, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” He punctuates the statement by saying: “For such doth the Father seek to be His worshippers” (John 4:23-24). God not only desires for man to worship Him, but He expects such honor. This Divine expectation has been seen throughout history.
Jehovah told Moses to remind the Israel nation “thou shalt worship no other god: for Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exo. 34:14). When tempted of Satan, Jesus declared a resounding truth: “It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:8-10; cf. Deut. 6:13). When John dropped to his knees to worship at the feet of the angel to whom he spoke, the angel said, “See thou do it not: I am a fellow-servant with thee and with thy brethren the prophets, and with them that keep the words of this book: worship God” (Rev. 22:8-9). Worship God.
“service” is worship.
Jesus told the Samaritan woman that a time would come when men would no longer need to travel to a specific location such as Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim to worship God, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth…” (John 4:23). Jesus further informed his disciples, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). We certainly recognize that there are times when we must assembled together to worship God according to His pattern. Worshipping on the first day of the week we partake of the Lord’s Supper, lay by in store, and sing one to another (1Cor. 11:18-37; Acts 20:7; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:19; 1Cor. 16:1-2). Assembling and fellowship are necessary for the provoking of love and good works (Heb. 10:24-26); But there are also times when we stand alone with God in prayer, song or Bible study. In these times of private worship and devotion we commune with God.
It is interesting that Paul told the Athenians “The God that made the world and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:24-25). Although God demands and deserves worship, He does not need it. Asaph wrote in the 50th Psalm “I will take no bullock out of thy house, Nor he-goats out of thy folds. For every beast of the forest is mine… If I were hungry, I would not tell thee; For the world is mine, and the fullness thereof. …Offer unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving; And pay thy vows unto the Most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psa. 50:9-15). Please notice, God wants us to be thankful! We need to constantly remind ourselves and express gratitude. How can we ever repay or requite our heavenly Father? Since we can never repay Him, we must ever serve the Master. He desires that we pay our vows to Him. We must be faithful to our covenant relationship. He expects us to understand our dependence upon Him. We must call upon Him in prayer.
We must come to understand that worship is not about God’s ego, but is more about our needs. Worship benefits the worshipper when his heart is humbled and becomes submissive to the Creator. This is why God seeks true worshippers. He loves us and wants to bless us. Blessings flow when we understand who God is, and worship Him according to His will. He knows what is best for us.
The prophet Micah echoes this thought, “Wherewith shall I come before Jehovah, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? will Jehovah be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Mic. 6:6-8) God requires that man be just, kind and humble. Man must discipline himself. He must develop and demonstrate these beautiful spiritual attributes in his life, and then his sacrifices and worship will be true and acceptable, for his heart is right with God.
How Does One Develop And Maintain A Healthy Discipline
In God-Honoring Worship
If worshipping and honoring God is for my benefit, what can I do to derive the most spiritual benefit out of it? I suggest three areas in which to improve our discipline:
(1) Desire to worship God. David wrote, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of Jehovah” (Psa. 122:1). Like David, our hearts should look forward with joyful expectations of worship. Again he wrote, “One thing have I asked of Jehovah, that will I seek after; That I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of Jehovah, And to inquire in his temple” (Psa. 27:4). Do you desire to dwell with God on a daily basis? Your delight will be evident in your worship.
(2) Daily devotions and private studies throughout the week are not only delightful periods of worship and ‘dwelling with God’ but they also give us strength in preparation for the first day of the week. Let us make ready.
(3) Get adequate rest. A good night’s rest helps one to be attentive to the Lord.
(4) Continual prayers should offered throughout the week in anticipation of the approaching Lord’s Day. Pray for and implement sanctification. Enter into worship with a consecrated mind and sanctified spirit. To this point David wrote, “Ascribe unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name; Worship Jehovah in holy array” (Psa. 29:2). The ESV translates this phrase, “worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness,” and the KJV, “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” When coming before the Lord in worship we need to plan ahead of time concerning our spiritual attire. Just as the Aaronic Priesthood sanctified themselves and wore their priestly garments to worship God (Exo. 28) so should the worshipper be consecrated, set apart in the beautiful and honorable decoration of holiness. The discipline of forethought and attentive preparation should be given to our worship.
In Prayer we humbly approach our heavenly Father. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Like the sinful publican we often cannot “lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven…” (Luke 18:13) In public prayers we need to carefully listen to the words that they might be our words and that we might be able to truly say “Amen,” acknowledging a heart that is in tune with th,”e worship (Acts 2:42; 4:31; 12:5, 12).
We cheerfully Sing because we are happy to worship God (James 5:13). Teach and admonish one another “with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God” (Col. 3:16; cf. 1 Cor. 14:15; Psa. 96:1-13). Think about the words and how they apply to your personal life; and then think about the impact you are having on others as you raise your voice in song and urge them to march onward to Zion through a victorious faith. Sing earnest praises to God for He alone is worthy of all praise. Sing the beautiful prayers of dependence that relate to our God how we need Him every hour, so we ask the Lord to be with us. Singing is a powerful way to worship God both in the assembly and in our private times.
When partaking of the Lord’s Supper one must be sure to “prove himself” lest he be “guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:23-29). This involves a self-examintion of one’s worthiness or genuiness. It is not done for the purpose of refusing to partake of the memorial feast, but rather to correct the heart and prepare it to partake in an acceptible manner. He thinks about Christ and the positive impact that His death, burial and ressurrection has had on his life. Discipline and concentration is imperative. Memorializing and reflecting on the horrific sacrificial death that demonstrates God’s magnificent love for me.
One is to purposely “lay by him in store, as he may prosper” a Free-will Offering from his heart. This gift is to be offered cheerfully, “not grudgingly, or of necessity” (1 Cor. 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:6-7).
When the Scriptures are read or proclaimed, great interest and disciplined concentration should be exerted. In the days of Nehemiah, when the scriptures were read publicly by Ezra the scribe, the people literally stood up in reverence. The men, women and children intently listened to the reading from early morning till midday. They worshipped the Lord and wept as they heard the words of the law (Neh. 8:5-9). Do we ever weep tears of sorrow or gladness when reading or hearing God’s message to man? Do we take the message personally? In the New Testament, Cornelius and his friends showed a similar the respect toward God’s word. They gathered “in the sight of God, to hear all things that have been commanded thee of the Lord” (Acts 10:33). Like new born babes, they longed to hear the Lord’s word (1 Pet. 2:2). They took the message personally to heart and obeyed it (Acts 10:48). What an honor and privilege to have God speak to us through His revelation (1 Cor. 2; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
(1) Determination is needed. Worship is hard work; it should not be engaged in an auto-pilot mode. It takes self-control, concentration, humility and reflection. It is a selfless act. It is a process of the will, and not the emotions.
(2) Praise God. Worship God. Focus on God. God must take the primary place before, during, and after worship. “Exalt ye Jehovah our God, And worship at his holy hill; For Jehovah our God is holy” (Psalm 99:9). This is one of the greatest benefits for man: the elevation of God and dethroning man’s selfish vanities (Matt. 15:7-10; Col. 2:23). “For great is Jehovah, and greatly to be praised…” (1 Chron. 16:25).
Reflection and Application.
Upon departing from the assembly or going about one’s busy life after private devotions one should take the worship experience with him. We recall the joy, glory and privilege of boldly approaching the throne of God (Heb. 4:16); A closer relationship should have been forged between God and myself. After worship our attitude should be as David asked of God, “That I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of Jehovah…” (Psa. 27:4).
We are to be challenged by the Word that we read or the lesson they we studied. We are challenged to make application to use that ‘Truth’ in our lives. We may see the need for repentance and changes to be made in our life. Let us do it! Let us allow our time of devotion and worship to change and alter our lives for better and richer service in the kingdom of God. Let us leave the house of God stronger and more determined to live with God eternally!
Returning to Isaiah’s
chapter we are reminded that if we will worship God with discipline (i.e.
“…the fast that I have chosen,”
“Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy healing shall spring
forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of Jehovah
shall by thy rearward. …If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing
thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, and the holy of
Jehovah honorable; and shalt honor it, not doing thine own ways, nor finding
thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine
shalt thou delight thyself in Jehovah; and I will make thee to ride upon the
high places of the earth; and I will feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy
father: for the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it.”
(vs. 8, 13-14).
By Danny Dowy
From Expository Files 23.3; March 2016