Many people have commented over the years on how the focus of worship should be on God. We know the influence our consumer driven society has had, and we have witnessed the danger of “me” centered worship. When we make worship about us, we distort worship. We should never make ourselves the focus of worship, but at the same time worship involves our hearts and minds. If we completely neglect the human element of worship, then we also distort worship. We are to love and worship God with our entire being. In Hebrews 12, the writer lifts the curtain for us to see what is happening in worship, and it is amazing (Heb. 12:1-2, 18-24). We should be excited each time we get to assemble with the saints and praise our Creator.
One of the problems that often occurs in worship is we try and change what other people do while neglecting the role we play in worship. If our hearts and minds are not given to God in worship, then we are not worshipping. We cannot change what other people do, but we do have control over ourselves. Meaningful worship begins with us. It begins before we ever arrive at the church building. It begins by adopting the proper attitude and coming prepared to praise our Almighty King.
Here are five reminders that will transform your worship.
1. Worship involves focusing our minds on God.
If all we can think about in worship is how so and so does this or that, then we are not worshipping God. If our focus is more on the person leading worship, or the person we are sitting nearby, then we are not worshipping God. When we find ourselves distracted by something in worship, we must do our best to not dwell on it. We cannot remove all distractions from worship, but we do have control over whether or not they will capture our thoughts. Often the distractions we encounter in worship are no more than our personal preferences. We like a certain style of song. We prefer one worship leader over another. We like the way one person prays compared to others who lead prayer. We must not allow our preferences to come between us and God. We must strive to dismiss distractions and turn our attention toward our heavenly Father.
2. Worship involves submitting to others.
When we make worship about using power to get our way, then we are not being Christlike. The advice Paul gives in Philippians 2:3-8 would solve 99% of church problems if we would follow it. When we are distracted by the way someone does something in worship, our first response should be to submit to one another and to “count others more significant than ourselves.” Instead, we often want to use our power and influence to change what we do not like. We may complain to our family, and then our friends, and finally we take it to the elders. We think, “Maybe, if I complain enough, then the elders will do something about it.” We want worship our way. It does not matter if your way is singing 18th-century hymns, or if it is the most contemporary worship available. When we demand our way, we are bowing our head to the god of consumerism or individualism, and worship is no longer about the community joining in one accord, but about the preferences of the individual. We must strive to “maintain the unity of the Spirit” (Eph. 4:3) in worship.
3. Worship should lift our spirits and refresh our souls.
If we leave worship feeling worse about ourselves than when we came, then something is wrong. True worship is uplifting. It is good for our soul. When worship becomes a battleground, it wears on people. When we come to worship to fight or complain, then we leave tired and frustrated. This is not what worship is about. Worship is the one place where we should put our differences aside and gather around the table. When we come to worship, we should be able to let go of the problems of the world. We should turn be able to turn our frustrations over to God and leave feeling like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders. Worship centers us and reminds us of our identity and who we serve. We were designed to worship, and it should feel good to come together.
4. Worship should encourage us to be better Christians.
It should unify us, not divide us. If we are being torn apart by our worship, then we are not properly worshipping God. In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul chided the church for being divided when they took the Lord’s Supper. Because they were focusing on themselves, Paul said, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat” (1 Cor. 11:20). They were eating the Corinthian’s supper, not the Lord’s Supper. Worship had become about their own interests. They were not being shaped into the image of Jesus, and therefore they were distorting worship. When we come together we are to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). This is the purpose of worship. We are to be bound together by love, not torn apart by our likes and dislikes. Worship should make us better human beings.
5. Worship should shape us into the image of Jesus.
We become like what we worship. If worship does not cause to look more like Jesus, then we are doing something wrong. If it doesn’t draw us closer to God, then we need to examine our heart. If we are not being transformed by our worship, then we are missing out on something. Worship should be transformative! It is not about what I like. It is not about getting my way. It is not about how fast we can get through a service. It is not about showing off. It is about coming into the presence of God and forever being changed.
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