What Is True Worship?

Isaiah 6: 1-8

"Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.
"
-- By George Adkins

If someone would have asked you why you were coming to church, what would you say?
Would you have said that you're going to Bible study?
Would you have said that you're going to church?
Would any one have said: "I am going to worship!"
It is important for us to worship together.

What is worship?
What does it mean to worship?
There are so many misconceptions.

Many have the idea that just because they have been to a church building that
they have worshiped.
Unfortunately, that may not be true.
A person could come to the church building every time the doors are open,
and still never worship.
Worship is not watching somebody perform.
Worship is something we do.

We cannot go to the Bible and find an order of service, but there are certain ingredients
of worship that are seen in the Bible.
We know that prayer has a prominent place in worship.
Scripture reading was involved in worship.
Preaching and teaching was involved in worship.

On several occasions Jesus would read a passage of Scripture, then close the book,
and then, speak to the people.
We know that worship in the New Testament was open, enthusiastic, informal, evangelistic and edifying.
The prophet Isaiah gives us some of the key the ingredients of all true worship.
This is seen in Isaiah 6:1-8.

Many times people come to the service, and then go away saying,
"Well, I just didn't get anything out of it."
That might be because they made no preparation to worship.

The first ingredient of worship is preparation.

We do not casually worship God.
We prepare to worship God.
Our scripture passage says: "In the year King Uzziah died I saw the Lord!"

Isaiah had been to the temple many times, and he had many experiences
while he was there.
But, at this particular time, his heart is uniquely prepared to worship.
He is driven to the house of God because of intense sorrow.
He is driven to the house of God because of the grief of his heart.
He has lost one that he loved, and in that grief, and in that sorrow, his heart is prepared,
and his heart is conditioned.
He is reminded again of his inability to face even the most simple relationships of life
apart from God.

Preparation is extremely important in worship.
We must ask God to speak specifically to us, and to bless us and lead us
into a new experience with Him before we go to worship.
How many of us have made that kind of preparation before we came to worship today.
Preparation is vital to a meaningful worship experience.

God would remind us that we should not carelessly come into His presence.
We didn't come to a ball game, and we didn't come to a rock concert.
We have come into the presence of Almighty God.
So, we must prepare ourselves for worship.

The word, "sabbath" comes from an old Hebrew word.
One of the roots of that word means, "Stop doing what you are doing."
This explains the problem we have with worship.
We just cannot stop doing what we are doing.
How often when we come into worship, and we are thinking about tomorrow, about the family,
about business, and what we're going to do when this service is over.
It seems we cannot stop doing what we are doing.
This is one thing that it means to worship God.
"To stop what we are doing."

We must prepare ourselves for worship.
Preparation is always a part of worship.

Praise is the second ingredient of worship.

Our scripture passage in Isaiah describes the praises of the seraphim to God.
Praise is always part of true worship.
When we read the Psalms which were used in the worship in Old Testament times,
we find many examples of praise.

In Psalms 43: 4-5 we read:
"When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude,
I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise,
with a multitude that kept holy day.
For I shall yet praise Him
."

Another psalm which many have memorized is Psalm 100:1-4:
"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.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name
."

Every true worship experience includes praise.


Worship involves participation.
Worship is not something we watch.
It involves participation.
Participation includes singing, offerings, prayer, among other things.

We participate by singing.
Singing is at the heart of all worship.
The entire Book of Psalms is an expression of Hebrew singing.

Psalm 47:1, 6-7: "O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
Saying praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding
."
Singing is a means of participation.

We also participate in worship with our offerings.
There was always a place for offerings in both the Old and New Testament.

Paul reminds us to bring our offerings for the collection upon the first day of the week
when we come to worship. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
We haven't completely worshiped until we have brought an offering to God.
Jesus emphasize this in Matthew 5: 23-24 while underscoring the importance of a right attitude.

In addition to singing and giving, we participate in worship by Bible reading.
We worship in order to listen to the voice of God.
We come together to hear the Word of God to our hearts -- to listen to what God has to say to us.
What God has to say is just as fresh and as relevant as life itself.
When we listen to it, we are amazed at its impact on our lives.

We participate with our prayers.
Prayer is a vital part of our worship experience.
And that prayer is far more than the prayer that is voiced from the pulpit.
It is far more than the invoking of God's blessing upon the service -- though it is this also.

The prayer to which I am referring is the prayer of confession to God.
If we are going to involve ourselves in real worship, we must confess our sins to God.

This is the pattern for worship in the Old Testament.
Such prayer was an important part of Isaiah's experience in the temple, and it is significant
that it occurred in the house of God.
It occurred in the house of God because the house of God is set aside for worship.

When we have come apart to worship, to listen to the sacred message of God,
we have prepared our hearts for God to really enter into our lives.
The house of God is important!

We give our lives building up the house of God, the building of God, so we can bring people
to God.
So, we must never minimize the building dedicated to the worship and service of God.

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us something of our behavior in the house of God:
"Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear,
than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God:
For God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few
."
(Ecclesiastes 5:1-2)

This passage reminds us that we need to weigh carefully the words that we speak in God's house.
We need to evaluate the words we speak in worship.
He charges us not to just come into the house of God and go through the motions of worship.
We must be still and listen to what God has to say to us.
We need to be less quick to speak and more ready to listen to God.
We need to open our hearts to Him, and say no more than that which is necessary.

Our words may simply be, "O God, be merciful to me a sinner."
We come into the presence of God in worship as we confess our sins in prayer.
The Word of God speaks of a great day when the people came together to worship God.
"And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed
their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God
one 4th part of the day; and another one 4th part they confessed,
and worshiped the Lord their God
."
(Nehemiah 9: 2-3)

Confession is at the very heart of worship.
We have not really worshiped until we have confessed our sins to God.
Unless we confess our sins, we are like the Pharisee who came to the worship service
next to a publican.
The Pharisee said, "Oh, Lord, I thank you that I am not bad like this fellow -- this publican."
He was a hypocrite, and he was self-righteous.
The Scriptures tell us that the Lord condemned him for his attitude.

If we come into a worship experience, and do not confess our sin, we are like the Pharisee
because worship always involves getting things right with God.
That is the purpose of worship.
It is an event that brings us to God.

God cannot tolerate sin.
God cannot overlook my sin.
Before I can come to my God, I must confess my sin.

So, when we come into a house of worship, we come believing God and trusting God
and confessing every known sin to Him.
And when we do so, we are prepared for a new experience with God.

We also participate in worship by commitment.
The result of the prayer of confession is commitment.

We have not worshiped until we have confessed our sins and committed our lives to God.
We do not worship just because we come into a building, and sit looking and listening
at the preacher.
Even if we hear God's word, it does not mean that we're understanding with the understanding
of our hearts.
There must be a commitment.
There must be a time when we bow before God and claim what God has provided for us.

Isaiah cried out, "Woe is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips,
and I dwell in the midst of unclean lips
." (Isaiah 6:5)
Isaiah confessed his sin to God, and he was forgiven.
The seraphim touched his lips with live coals indicating that forgiveness.
Isaiah confessed his sin of the lips, specifically, and his sin was forgiven.

Then, he heard a voice say, "Whom shall I send and who will go for us?"
Isaiah responded with the commitment, "Here am I, send me." (Isaiah 6: 8)

We're not going to hear the voice of God until we come through confession to bow
at the feet of God in worship.
Then, we will hear that voice because God has a place of service for everyone of us.

There are no unimportant people with God.
Everybody is somebody with God.
God has something significant for each one of us to do.
For every child of God there is a voice that speaks to us and says,
"Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"

It may be across the street, around the corner, in the next county, or in the next state,
on the west coast or the east coast.
It may be overseas to some land whose language we cannot speak.
When the call of commitment comes out of our worship experience, it is the voice of God.

If we have confessed our sin, and laid our hearts bare before God, we can say,
"Here am I, send me."
Worship always climaxes in a commitment to God.
It results in dedication of life to Him.

When commitment does not occur in worship, that it is a tragedy.
For instance, let me illustrate.
Luke 4 and Matthew 13 record the occasion when Jesus went home to Nazareth.
He went into the synagogue and read a passage from Isaiah concerning the Messiah.
He closed the book and said, "Today the Scripture is fulfilled in your lives.
You are seeing it happen.
I am the One Isaiah was talking about
."

Matthew, in recounting this event said, "And he did not many mighty works there
because of their
unbelief." (Matthew 13:58)
They did not believe Him.
They refused to trust Him.
They refused to commit their lives to Him.
And because they did not take that step of commitment, tragedy occurred in their lives.
They missed the blessings that God had prepared for them.

Their failure to commit themselves to Him resulted in anger and frustration.
And He did not perform mighty works in their midst.
Do you not wonder how often that happens today in our houses of worship.

When we refuse to commit ourselves to God, we often turn our service into criticism and hostility.
We go to the house of God, and nothing we hear pleases us.
We find so many things to criticize, and that destroys our worship experience.

Because of of our lack of trust, our worship experience is aborted.
When we do not respond to Jesus, hostility is the predictable result.
That is why commitment is so important.

God wants to call some who are here to salvation, and God wants to call some
who are here into His service.
It will not happen unless we let it happen.
That is what commitment is.
Commitment is the surrender of our lives to God to take our lives and do with them
whatever He pleases.
"Hast Thou, O Lord, a work to do? Here am I, send me! The field is white, the labírers few, Here am I, send me! Over mountain, plain or sea, Here am I, send me! Iíll go to the ends of the earth for Thee, Here am I, send me! O touch my lips with fire divine, Here am I, send me! The dross consume, the gold refine, Here am I, send me! A lowly vessel at Thy feet, Here am I, send me! O cleanse and for Thy use make meet, Here am I, send me! My heart now longs and yearns to go, Here am I, send me! To reap Thy harvest here below, Here am I, send me!" And when you say, "Here am I, send me!"
That is worship!

Sermon adapted by Dr. Harold L. White