We sing a hymn from time to time called “True Worship” (HFW #178). The hymn is a prayer to God to help us never lose sight of what is important in worship. God and giving praise to Him. But how do we praise Him? What are the acts that give praise to Him? The New Testament shows us several things that are done when Christians assemble that give praise to God. We want to consider four this morning and offer a few practical applications for how we can improve our worship.
Teaching that Equips:
Since this is the sermon of the hour, let’s start with teaching that equips. From the earliest days of the church, one of the things Christians did when they were assembled was participate in either teaching or receiving teaching that equipped them for service.
- Ephesians 4:11-16 tells us that God gave some as teachers to equip or make complete so that all of us would know what God expected of us and that we would live in the way God wants us to live.
- Acts 2:42 we read of the first Christians that “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
- Acts 20:7 says, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.”
From these few passages (and there are more), we see that Christians, when they met together, routinely received teaching that encouraged and equipped them for further service in God’s kingdom. But how can be more devoted when the message is preached?
- First, recognize that it is the Word of God being delivered. This fact should immediately arouse our interest in the particular subject at hand. Note how the first Christians were devoted to the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42). Not because it was the apostles but because the apostles were delivering the word of God.
- Secondly, find more than one way to engage with the material presented. The more ways we engage with what was taught, the more we learn the material. Three additional ways to engage with the sermon would be, 1.) Take notes. 2.) Discuss the sermon with your friends or family. And 3.) immediately put something from the lesson into practice either by direct application in my life or through a better understanding so I can teach others.
Devoted to Prayer:
We know from the Scriptures that prayer is vital for the Christian. We are admonished to pray for one another (James 4:16) and to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And Jesus taught that prayer is an incredibly personal and private affair. But it is not exclusively a private thing.
When Christians come together, another act of worship we find is that they prayed together and for each other. On the day of Pentecost, we see that the Christians were devoting themselves to the prayers (Acts 2:42).
There is a partnership between the one giving the prayer and the one who says amen. Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:15-19 makes the point that all things should be done (in worship) so that it is understood and builds up. While the context deals with spiritual gifts that are no longer present today, the principle taught still stands.
How can I be more devoted when we pray together? I want to offer two suggestions—one for those who have the privilege of leading prayer and another for those who say amen.
- Those who lead – I would suggest we try and feel the great privilege it is not only to pray to God but to lead my brethren in prayer.
- Those who say amen – Listen intently. We are not passive when we pray together. We are jointly praying. So, I should endeavor to listen and think about what is being prayed for. And if it is true, I can say a hearty amen.
Sing With the Understanding:
Another element of worship is singing praises to God. Singing in a group has been found to have several benefits, including building bonds between people (thus strengthening unity) and aids in memorization. It is no wonder then why song is in worship. It not only glorifies God but also helps His people to grow further closer to Him.
- Ephesians 5:19, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
- Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
- 1 Corinthians 14:14-15, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.”
How can I improve my worship in my singing? The application is in the verse we just read. It has nothing to do with pitch, intonation, or musical ability. If I want to be more devoted to God in song, I need to understand what I am singing. Meditate on it. Let the words dwell in me.
Do This in Remembrance of Me:
One of the main reasons why Christians assemble is to partake of the Lord’s supper. The Lord’s supper is that memorial which Jesus left His people to remember His life, work, and atoning sacrifice.
- We read back in Acts 20:7 that the Lord’s supper was the reason why the disciples were gathered together on the first day of the week.
- It is the only element of worship confined to the gathering of saints (1 Corinthians 11:17, 18, 20).
- It is to remember Christ’s body and blood given for you and me (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
A few points of application so we can improve in our partaking:
- Think about what you would say if you had to explain the significance of the Lord’s Supper to someone. What would you say to help someone understand the gravity of this feast?
- Pick passages out to read while you are partaking of the supper. The crucifixion accounts, Hebrews 10, Isaiah 53 are all excellent passages.
- 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 – We need to examine ourselves to see if we correctly understand the supper. Am I thinking of the atoning death of Christ? And we may extend this point out further, how am I living? Because my actions will show my understanding of what Jesus did for me.
A Final Challenge:
Prayers, songs, the Lord’s Supper, and preaching are all equally important. All require my attention and participation. And that there is the challenge for me to be fully attentive, fully appreciative, fully aware of what I am doing when I join my brethren in worship.