The Holy Spirit & Worship

      It is an unfortunate circumstance that the church is divided as it is today in regard to music. However, it is nothing new. Just check out Ed Stetzer's blog to get a brief rundown on the division that has occurred over the years in the history of the church:

     Astonishingly at one time our beloved hymns were at one point thought to be 'worldly' and was termed contemporary. Many ignore this fact. We have forgotten that all things known today was at one point new.

     Charles R. Swindoll wrote a book that is a fascinating read. Recommend it to all. It is called 'The Church Awakening.' I find it encouraging, saddening and challenging. Great book. Anyhow, he wrote a chapter in the book called 'Worship: A Commitment...Not A war'. In it he identifies three area's that fuels 'worship wars', as he coined it, in America's churches. I'd like to give those to you.
   The first is "personal preference". Worship wars are fueled by people's preferences. Preference over music is not a bad thing and we all have them, as long as that preference does not become a stronghold in our life to the point that what other's prefer is all out wrong because it is not your preference. I like to think of this as chocolate ice cream versus vanilla ice cream. If someone like's chocolate ice cream but not vanilla does not mean someone else's vanilla ice cream is inferior because you like it less.

    Another is "the priority of pleasing self". This is when personal preference becomes out of control. When we come to God's house to worship Him and don't like something about the service because it is not what we prefer, we make the service all about ourselves. Now this is easy to do. But many will leave a church if they do not get what they want in the music and will go find somewhere else that will feed their itching ears. Thus, church is all about them instead of God. This is consumer Christianity and not the way of Christ. Dangerously religious.

      Then there is "tradition". Worship wars are fueled by tradition. Doing things the way we have always done them and when something new is introduced, war breaks out. Little compromise. Tradition can be a bad thing but it also can be good. I fear that for some of the church, it has stepped too far out of the box and has made God's church into a enterprise. Worship teams are more honored that Jesus. Preachers are more exalted than the Father. And the Gospel is watered down to fill the seats.

     God is not as nearly concerned with the type of song, the form of expression or the atmosphere of the sanctuary as much as He is concerned with our hearts. Worship has nothing to do with the song we sing but the One we worship. We often forget that. It is more of a lifestyle. In fact, I believe the Scripture teaches clearly that worship is about glorifying God in everything you do through the name of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31/Colossians 3:17) So, what does God consider a true worshiper?

    In John 4 Jesus is having a conversation with a samaritan woman. She is unnamed and it is a lengthy conversation. Towards the end the conversation comes the topic of worship. Mostly because Jesus called her out for her sin and she did not want to talk about that. She stated, "Our father's worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship" (4:20). She is making worship about a matter of place. Jesus responds with this, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father" (4:21). Jesus responds that worship has nothing to do with location as much as it has to do with who you are worshiping: The Father. Jesus makes it known that the object of our worship is God. It is not about the song selection. It is about God. There is no power in the song, there is power in the name of Jesus.

     Jesus continues to say, "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews" (4:22). Not only is worship about the Father, worship is about knowing the Father. Worship has nothing to do with the song but has everything to do with knowing God. It is possible to get so wrapped up in our preferences, our priorities and our traditions that we forget who we are worshiping! We forget why we worship! We all can be guilty of this! Jesus pointed this out to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:1-9. Jesus called them out for being so traditional that for the sake of their tradition they made "void the Word of God." Even calling them "hypocrites", and then saying, "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." Strong language. The truth is that when we do things for the sake of tradition, it can make the Word of God void in our hearts, which can lead us down a road of hypocrisy and make our worship of God vain. Tradition if left unchecked can make one lose their intimacy with Christ. Your relationship with God becomes just a routine.

   Not only so but when our worship of God becomes a tradition, just something we do because we have always done it this way, one can lose their joy. I speak from experience. When our worship of God becomes tradition, just a religious exercise, we can easily cease to find delight or happiness or joy in worshiping God because we have ceased to find him exceptionally good and satisfying. I have discovered in my own life, that when my relationship with God becomes traditional, I have difficulty seeing God as exceptionally good and satisfying. This is not a music issue but a heart issue.

   Jesus was not finished, he continued, "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth..." (4:23a). Worship is not about the music it is about how. True worship begins with a heart that is sincere, genuine, authentic and real. True worship begins internally and overflows externally. A true worshiper worships God 'in spirit'. Meaning they are lead by the Spirit. They are born again by the Spirit of God. A true worshiper worships God in "truth". Their worship of the Father is based on the reality of the existence of God and accepting the testimony of Jesus Christ. They worship from the belief that God has sent His Son to die for them and so they worship Him with thanksgiving.

   Then Jesus tells her, "...for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (4:23b,24). Why must we worship God in 'spirit and truth'? First because that is the kind of worshiper God is seeking. Secondly, because "God is spirit'. He is the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, Jesus makes it clear that there is no other way to worship Him. Jesus stated, "those who worship him MUST worship in spirit and truth'.

     Three conclusions we can take away from Jesus' teachings here. First, true worship is not about traditional versus contemporary but about who you are worshiping, knowing who you are worshiping and that God's Spirit abides in you and you have accepted the testimony of Jesus. Secondly, worship is more than worshiping God with your lips but worshiping Him with your heart. Thirdly, worship is about finding God as exceptionally good and satisfying, with a heart overflowing with joy knowing that He has saved us by the blood of His Son when He did not have to.




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