Intro: Are you here tonight to worship God? Let me ask you that question in another way; Are you here tonight to rejoice? Those two questions are the same. Rejoicing is an inherent element of worshipping God. As the Psalmist calls for worship, he calls for rejoicing.
- Psalm 9:1-2 – I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. 2 I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
- Psalm 40:16 – Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, “The Lord be magnified!”
note: we are going to reference the OT Psalms in our lesson. These Psalms do not help us to establish the activity of worship, as they are associated with a previous covenant. But, as divinely prepared songs of worship, many of them provide a picture of the emotional element of worshipping God. They expose the heart of the worshipper, such as David.
Our topic this evening is the” rejoicing worshipper“. And my first observation is that, when it comes to true worship, there is no other kind. We will notice how in our study worship and joy are connected.
I. Fundamental Thoughts about True Worship: We begin with a scripture that you know and, no doubt, you will consider often. John 4:24 – “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
A. Almost everyone would agree that true worship involves outward activity. Worship in an act. The word itself carries the idea of bowing down (Hebrew), or kissing the hand of (Greek). The acts of authentic worship are according to the truth revealed by God Himself. We can only truly worship God as He chooses.
B. Yet Jesus makes it clear that true worship is a spiritual activity. No matter what the act, the heart (spirit) must be engaged. Matt 15:8-9 – “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'” Since knowledge, will, and emotion are all elements of the heart (mind), true worship is not accidental, unconscious, or ritualistic.
1. Notice the parallel between the phrases “honor Me” and “worship Me” in Jesus’ words. Worship is essentially a way of honoring God. My worship does not add to His honor, but acknowledges it, and ascribes His worth and glory to Him. Psalm 96:6-8 – Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. 7 Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Give to the Lord glory and strength. 8 Give to the Lord the glory due His name;
2. I like the definition that worship is “gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth.” True worship is not coerced, nor is it the mere ritual of obligation. It is the action of a submissive and redeemed heart toward the One is worthy.
II. The Affections of the Worshipper: Now let us talk about ourselves. If worship in more than just outward acts, what are the emotions or affections that make worship authentic? Again the Psalms are helpful. This is not intended to be exhaustive, or in any way limit what the emotions involved in worship. But consider these:
• Silence: perhaps the first response of the human heart toward God is stunned silence. “Be still and know that I am God “(Psalm 46:10) “The Lord is in His holy temple, Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” (Hab. 2:20)
• Awe; Reverence: God is transcendent and we called upon to fear Him. Reverence is an essential element of worship and the only proper approach. Isa 8:13 – The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread (NIV) Psalm 96:8-13 – Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. 9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.
• Contrition: God’s worthiness stands in great contrast to our unworthiness. Thus we come acknowledging our sinfulness. Ps 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise. The Publican’s emotional response to God in prayer was, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” There is no place for arrogance or entitlement in worship.
• Longing: mingled with our sorrow over our sin, is a longing for God. Ps 42:1-2 – As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? God is not just a religious curiosity. He is the quest of our heart. Ps 63:1-3 God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. 2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. 3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.
• Gratitude: God responds to the contrite heart, and delivers me. As one whom God has saved, there is the unbridled affection of thanksgiving. In the 100th Psalm, the psalmist calls on God’s people to “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. ”
• Joy (gladness): In conjunction with all of these powerful and essential affections of worship is joy. Psalm 5:11 – But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. (NIV) Other words in scripture that express this emotion of worship are gladness and rejoicing. In both the O.T. (Hebrew) and the N.T. (Greek) the words denote both the inward emotion, and the outward expression. In fact, Rejoicing or gladness were such integral attitudes of worship, the words are used to express the whole process of worship. The feast day of the Jews was referred to as “your day of gladness” (Num. 10:10)
III. The Joy of Worship: Do you worship God because you have to, or because you want to? Are you glad to be here? Does worship itself cause you to rejoice?
A. Joy is embedded at both ends of worship.
1. It is the catalyst for worship. In Acts 14, after Paul healed the crippled man at Lystra, the people though they were incarnated gods and wanted to worship them. Paul rejected their worship and called on them to turn from idols and worship the true God who “did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17) The gladness that God has created in my daily life drives me to worship Him. I desire to exalt Him and sing His praises. I cannot quit saying thank you; I am possessed by a longing to draw closer to Him and know Him better.
2. It is the fruit of worship. The true worshipper is glad as he praises God – the activity of worship brings joy. David said, “I was glad when they said let us go up to the house of the Lord.”(Psalm 122) Praising God is what we were made to do. The rejoicing worshipper is, in a very real sense, doing just what he wants to do. He is gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth.” True worship is not coerced, nor is it the mere ritual of obligation. It is the action of a submissive and redeemed heart toward the One is worthy.
IV. Not Settling for Substitutes: I want to take a moment and consider negative side of this issue. For every good divinely given gift, there is a satanic substitute. It often masquerades as the real thing, and many are deceived into settling for the inferior substitute instead of the gift God intended for them to have. (sexual gratification for true love and intimacy in marriage; money and possessions for true contentment and security, etc.) This is true of joy as well.
A. Excitement vs. Joy: The rejoicing we have been studying about is not mere excitement or happy feelings. In our entertainment oriented society many in religion today attempt to “create” the joy of worship through external stimulus; such as dimming the lights, upbeat music or creating a pep rally atmosphere. We must resist this temptation to settle for less than God intended us to have. Although rejoicing in worship is to be expressed, and we should not be afraid to express it, it is not about the externals. It is more than excitement. It is the fruit of an intimate and deep relationship with God.
1. My two new granddaughters. As I hold them I want them to know me, recognize my voice… I want to see them smile. I hold Charlotte and stare at her as she sleeps. Sometimes she smiles, and I wonder if she is smiling because I am holding her, or she is dreaming about her Pops… but probably not – maybe just gastric reaction. She is ticklish, so I can touch her face and she will smile. I look forward to tickling her later and seeing her smile. But that is not really enough. I do not want to force her to smile. I want to see expressions of joy that reflect her true feeling toward her Pops. Joy that flows from the knowledge of a relationship is the true joy God intends us to have. .
a. Many religions today are playing a laugh track of excitement in order to create a joyful worship. Remember shows with laugh tracks. They played a recording of laughter to accentuate the funny parts of the show. Laughter designed to stimulate laughter. People laugh on cue.
2. In addition, the rejoicing that God desires in worship is not derived through making ourselves feel good about what we are doing. It is not delighting in what we are doing in worship or how we are worshipping, but delighting in Who we are worshipping. The joy that God intends for me to get from worship is not rooted in me. I do not rejoice because I am doing it right. It is rooted in God Himself. Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. As I worship God I delight in HIS character, love, compassion, mercy, holiness, strength, grace. These honorable qualities are best understood and seen in comparison to my weaknesses. Thus I can, and must rejoice, in my own weaknesses, as they give more honor to God. My humility becomes the only true environment for joy.
V. Creating Joyful Hearts: How do we become rejoicing worshippers? How can we increase the joy of worship in our assemblies? The key to our spiritual activity is the words of God’s Spirit. He provides the joy through His message. It is good news. Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon on emotions of worship and made the point that there must be heat in the heart and light in the mind; but no more heat than is justified by the light. Our Joy flows from the revelation of God.
A. Nehemiah 8 – One of the most exciting worship periods recorded in the Bible. Rejoicing all over the place. Notice what happens: All the people are gathered together near the gate of Jerusalem and Ezra, the scribe brings the book of God, the Law of Moses. (8:1)
1. He reads the words of the Law from the morning to the middle of the day! The people paid close attention to what he was reading, and the Levites helped them understand it. (v. 3) The people stood up as he read the book, and exhibited reverence for God’s words.
2. In 8:6 it says Ezra blessed the Lord, the Great God. This does not mean that Ezra procured a blessing for God, but that he gave God the glory for His blessings… He gladly honored Him for all that he had done and gave thanks for his words and law.
3. The people responded with a chorus of Amens, raised their hands, bowed their heads, and worshipped God with their faces to the ground. They were sorrowful over their failings and began to mourn. They were contrite and longed to know more from God.
4. v. 10 – But Nehemiah told them to not mourn, but to rise up, keep the feast as the Lord had commanded and rejoice – “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Keil and Delitzsch describe this joy of the Lord as “a joy founded on the feeling of communion with the Lord, on the consciousness that we have in the Lord a God long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth…. This joy is to be to them a strong citadel or refuge, because the Almighty is their God.” Nehemiah points them to the true source of the joy that God intended for them. It was not derived through ceremony or external stimulus. It came through a proper understanding of God’s word. God’s words led them to reverence, contrition, and fear. But their worship could not be complete without rejoicing. So Nehemiah urged them to rise up, obey God, and rejoice in the mercy God was extending. Notice that their joy arrived in the same context as the conviction of their sin. They were to delight in the God of their salvation.
5. If we want to increase the joyfulness of our assemblies we need to commit ourselves to the understanding and proclamation of God’s word. We need to get to know our God better, and rise up and obey Him. Warren Berkeley wrote… The emotional component of true worship is the result of one’s informed relationship with Deity. We need to wonder at His creation, long for words, weep over our sins, visit the cross and the glory of the empty tomb. We need to contemplate His power, grace, compassion, mercy, holiness, justice, concern for the weak, triumph over the powerful, His love for all; His love for me.
• We do not create Joy, God does. Because Joy is the spontaneous song of the saved, the never-ending condition of the acquitted.
VI. The Rejoicing Worshipper in a World of Sin. The citadel of joyful worship is so crucial for us today. Our world is changing for the worse minute by minute. The moral parameters of our society that we trusted in and took for granted are disappearing. Where can we go? We can go to worship God. The joy that comes from worshipping God is a fortress for us. The God we worship is sovereign, and rules over the nations of the world. The God we worship is holy, and will not allow wickedness to prevail. The God we worship is merciful and gracious. He will forgive our failings and sustain us in times of temptation. The God we worship loves us! A passage for our times…
• Hab 3:17-19 – 7 Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls — 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. 19 The Lord God is my strength;
One last message of Joy from the Psalms…
• Psalm 63:3-5 – 3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You. 4 Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. 5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.